Tucked away in serene Andover, New Hampshire lives Proctor Academy. A picture of New England - fall foliage and all - this independent high school is home to 360 innovative, spunky, and thoughtful students.
Last year Proctor Academy Teacher and Technology Integrationist Adam Jones had a brilliant idea to get his students connecting outside the limits of rural New Hampshire.
With the help of former colleague Lynne Kenney, Adam’s globalization students had the unique opportunity to work alongside a class in Alexandria, Egypt. The goal was to connect students across the world, share ideas, and root the course’s curriculum in real-world events.
A shared class of 26 students from Egypt’s Schutz American School and Proctor Academy would engage in asynchronous discussions about culture, current events, and politics. Students would talk about what’s happening in the world and what it’s like to be a teenager in each country.
The instructors had a vision for a course with a foundation in discussion and engagement, using connections with a class across the globe to ground course content in real people and real stories.
Rubrics would be a key part of course assessment. Technology would play a huge role in getting classes on the same page. And students would gain a unique perspective on world events.
To bring this idea to life, Adam and Lynne needed a digital platform that could make this vision a reality.
First off, Adam wanted to connect with students outside of his school, however, Proctor’s current school-wide learning management system was strictly used for internal communication. That was challenge number one.
And then there was the time difference issue. In New Hampshire, Proctor students were trying to get on the same page as a class that was six hours ahead.
As the two educators were troubleshooting and planning for their collaboration in late 2015, Adam was introduced to the free Chalkup platform. “Chalkup solved my problems because I was able to add all the students from my class and her class into one place,” he said.Chalkup's integration with Google, powerful discussion features, and intuitive design made it the best choice for the meaningful global engagement envisioned by both instructors.
“I was able to have a really easy discussion thread,” said Adam. “[With Chalkup] our two challenges were solved right off the bat, so we ran with it.”
The classes started each week with an asynchronous discussion within Chalkup’s discussion space, making the time difference no problem. In Adam’s classroom, the day started by talking through those discussions and pulling out key points made by their Egyptian counterparts.
“We had the kids make introductory videos,” recalled Adam. “We thought through what the Egyptian students need to know about us and we posted it as a discussion thread topic. They did the same as a response explaining who they were.”
The connection between the classrooms bloomed, leading to interviews between the students, which were conducted through Skype and Facetime. “Lynne and I worked on interview questions,” said Adam. “The content we were studying was terrorism: Why does it exist? How do we solve it?”
Adam required his students to ask a variety of questions, many of which related to terrorism in the modern world. Students submitted multiple drafts of the assignment and Adam used Chalkup’s rubric workflow to read and grade their submissions.
“I wanted to find an LMS that I could grade based on standards. And I wanted everything [we did] to have a rubric.” said Adam. “The fact that Chalkup allows me to do those two things is big. I can grade how I want to grade.”
A Future of Collaboration
With their interviews turned in, the partnership between Proctor Academy and Schutz American School is far from over. Lynne and Adam organized a trip for the Egyptian students to visit Proctor Academy in late May during which they debriefed on the course and developed strategies for future collaboration.
"Chalkup gave us the platform to delve beyond stereotypes and build meaningful interactions for our students." - Lynne Kenney
The educators reported positive feedback from students. Classmates described the digital space as a positive learning environment and the resulting course dialogue shattered stereotypes on both sides.
"Chalkup gave us the platform to delve beyond stereotypes and build meaningful interactions for our students that has changed their views, helped them develop new relationships, and stretched their worldviews," said Lynne.
“Chalkup was an essential component. This wouldn’t have happened without it,” said Adam.
You can learn more about Adam's classroom through his podcast Stories from an Experiential Educator.