Students Half a World Away Begin Meaningful Exchanges

You know that moment when everything starts to click—when you realize that theory has become practice and plans are coming to fruition?  That happened for me the other day on my way back from Houston. I stopped at a gas station and, being mindful of the dangers of texting while driving, I checked my email while parked.

What I saw in my inbox was the beginning of a flurry of communication amongst all the players in the WOWi project—from both sides of the Pacific.  On Friday, Sarah Venkatesh—a digital media teacher from Trinity Episcopal school in Austin—had shown her students photos and videos of the WOWi Cambodia team’s recent work with the students at Tchey school. They’d also viewed a video that Diana Gross—a teacher  assisting WOWi in Cambodia—had helped  Cambodian students to create over a month ago.

Trinity students in Austin view a video created by Tchey students in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Sarah’s enthusiasm was contagious, “I’ve been amazed and delighted by the photographs and videos Keith has been sending and by Diana Gross and Soy Sen’s stunning “Water Wells in My Village” video. We knew we were part of something very special, and we were all a little speechless.”

She went on to say that seeing images of the work there had made the project more tangible and easier to explain.  And then she set about adding to the exchange by putting together and sending shots of her students viewing the incredible movies and stills from Tchey school. In this way, she felt, the Cambodian students could see that they DO have an audience here in Austin.

Keith Hajovsky responded by email with matching enthusiasm, “The kids here are absolutely going to love seeing kids in Austin, Texas, watching THEIR video. I think it still shocks them to some degree that other people want to hear what they have to say. Wonderful.”

Trinity students watch Kim Smith work with students in Cambodia.

Sarah’s next task is to design a curriculum for her students around the following questions.

–What tech skills are essential to your success as a learner and a citizen? Are they similar or different?

–What does the line between the past and the future look like?

–What does “hi-resolution” mean and how much does it matter?

–Technology can help bring change and move people into the future but what should/can it preserve about a culture?

–If you were presenting yourself to a new culture or aliens from outer space, what would you choose to capture and how would you use technology to accomplish that? What would technology NOT be able to capture?

What is the relationship between art and technology?

At the same time, another Austin teacher–David Conover–is working with his students at Connally High to play an important role in this effort. They recently took photos of their favorite foods and are also finishing up a mini documentary on the high school soccer students, as well as the fashion/clothes that the students wear. They plan to share these next week. They are also finishing up video games that the Cambodian students can play in the future.

Stay tuned for more on the activities in Cambodia!

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