Each year Mount Gilead Senior English College Prep students wrestle with questions like, “Is high stakes testing beneficial?” “Should school be year round?” “Should foreign language graduation standards be raised?”, and “How should calamity days be handled?”
For the past seven years, Senior English Teacher Jessica Gerber and District Librarian Deb Logan have been working with students to answer their questions.
Through their work with students the involved faculty has begun to answer their own question, “How do you engage and prepare students for the future in a constantly evolving, global world of information and the ever expanding world of information technologies?”
Every year, Gerber and Logan find new ways to improve and update their student research project. One of this year’s updates gave Mount Gilead’s students an opportunity to interview students in France via Skype about their educational system.
“Cool,” “awesome,” and “great” were a few of the words students used to describe the experience of using Skype to interview the French students. Senior Monika Hudson went on to say, “This English project was a learning experience. Not only did I learn more about the technology we use today, I also got to learn about how other countries use it as well. When talking to the people from France, I realized they do not have as great of technology as we do. This was an amazing experience, not only for me but for my classmates.”
“The project got me thinking a lot more about my subject [technology in education] and the different ways it’s used everyday around the world,” said student Kyle Blanton. “(It was) cool to talk to kids that were the same age as us…and learn how an average day went in their life.”
The project builds on basic research practices. After using the Web and databases to research their individual education reform topic from a variety of viewpoints, including legal, local, state, national and global, students also conduct original research on their topic. Each student constructs an original online survey to send to at least fifty participants.
One of the final phases of the research process is when students interview actual experts. Ohio Representative Mark McClain joined education experts like Mount Gilead Superintendent Jeff Thompson, and Mount Gilead’s three principals in the Mount Gilead Middle/High School Library to answer the students questions about education.
This year, the expanded project gave students access to a new group of experts. Mount Gilead students interviewed high school age French students live on Skype. While the Mount Gilead seniors explored a global perspective on education, the French students had an authentic opportunity to practice their English.
Italian exchange student, Giulia Medici observed that “Being able to talk with students from other countries is really useful, because most of the kids I met here do not know much about what is outside of America…” Giulia believes “that talking with people that are used to a different ways of living, thinking and behaving is important and makes students open their minds and think outside of the box.”
New perspectives on education were not the only things students valued about the project.
“We learned different methods of communicating with them [the French students] by acting things out and using a whiteboard to write numbers down,” student Jenna Shipman stated. “It was a cool experience to get to meet the kids and form some friendships over Skype.”
Warren Stratton wrote, “I enjoyed the senior English project all around. It opened my eyes to what goes on behind the scenes in the education system.”
“Having to write a 10 page paper on education reform has hopefully helped prepare me for writing many papers in college,” said Senior Kyle Landes.
Collaborating French teacher, Madam Bérengère Demon writes that after the experience her students are now more excited about learning English.
Next year, Gerber and Logan are hoping and planning to provide opportunities for our students to interview students in more countries.