TakingITGlobal – Inspire, Inform, Involve

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Educator Stories
Get inspired! Read the stories of educators helping their students build a better world.

United States

TakingITGlobal’s interactive network of teachers, schools and organizations from across the world offers an ideal tool for studying nearly any global conflict, including the charged conflicts and challenges of life in Palestine, the current regional focus of the Research Journalism Initiative (RJI). The multiple resources and voices brought into the classroom by TIGed enable students more nuanced explorations and experiences, helping to develop pluralism and global empathy. Perhaps even more importantly in today’s global climate, exploring myriad resources, particularly the individual stories and voices of other young people, develops students’ ability to critically evaluate the biases of traditional media sources in their presentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to understand that every global conflict includes a wide range of perspectives and “truths” to consider.

Resources like TIGed allow politics to become more about people than the policies of governments. One of RJI’s goals is to foster action by young people, helping them find constructive ways to direct their pain or confusion over global injustices. We have found that the more our students think of their global counterparts as humans who strive to fulfill their needs and define truth for themselves, and the more our kids authentically understand those needs, the more they feel drawn to respond. TIGed’s links to organizations provide many ways for students to get involved, and the philosophical connection among students, teachers and organizations is motivating and inspiring. There is great comfort and power in being part of a network of people working toward the same benevolent goals, and everyone involved in the TIGed experience can feel that constructive connection.

RJI is a new, educational non-profit still trying to develop infrastructural and financial stability. When we discovered TIGed, we were in technological paralysis because of the lack of funds for web design. We were looking for many important tools; as RJI facilitates direct communication between Palestinian and American/European young people, we needed resources such as TIGed’s virtual classrooms, blog and live discussion capacities, and the ability to post student work and educational resources in a variety of forms. TIGed saved RJI thousands of dollars in web design, providing the exact tools we needed at a low cost to our young organization, and connecting us to a powerful international network of educators working toward the same goals.

One of the biggest challenges for most teachers is time, and any innovation to curriculum requires an initial investment of time and energy. However, as educators begin to see the value of interactive media’s role in international education, the advantages provided by a TIGed virtual classroom become worth the investment. Virtual classrooms allow informal interaction between young people, providing exactly the kind of social networking which today’s computer-savvy kids use so much in their free time. Much like Facebook or MySpace, TIGed creates a way for young people to interact with the world through the technology they love, but under the guidance of teachers.

Especially impressive is how flexible the website is; this has allowed RJI to be innovative in the design of our virtual classrooms, which include teacher- and course-specific classes, but also topic- and gender-specific rooms. For example, RJI has developed a Teacher Forum as one of our virtual classrooms; this space is designed as a resource room for RJI teachers. There, RJI’s specialists in international curriculum development can post bookmarks to good resources, answer questions through blog discussions, post sample lesson plans, provide information about new RJI resources available to teachers, and offer many other curricular supports.

The benefits TIGed has provided are best shared through two examples from RJI’s Poetry of Witness classroom. I teach this unit in my Creative Writing course in America, but I also had the great privilege to teach an expanded version of the course at An-Najah University in Nablus, in the West Bank. Students in America explore the photos and poetry of students in Palestine, and then write poems either about or in response to the images and ideas they’ve been exposed to. This exchange creates a powerful international dialogue through artistic expression, and the sense of empathy, profound understanding, and even the urge to respond is more than evident in the poems below, inspired by the photography of Mohammad Faraj, a journalism student in the West Bank. My students continue to post their creative writing from both Palestine and the United States even well after completing my course, and they give each other feedback, support and, most importantly, an audience. Watching young people find new creative ways to communicate and understand each other is inspiring; it suggests that resources like TIGed have the capacity to build bridges and really change the world, one young person at a time.

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