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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The Global Teenager Project: Promoting Worldwide Education Through Technology

Bonnie Bracey Sutton

Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation

Several years ago, I was in Africa with teachers from places that were just pinpoints on the globe to me. There were participants from Argentina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Latvia, Macedonia, Madagascar, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Romania, South Africa, Ukraine, and more. We came together to learn to use technology in new ways and figure out how to survive with low funding, how to raise funds, and how to be effective. (Funding is a dance that is different in each country.) As an American teacher, I had my eyes opened by the stories of teachers who work in circumstances we can't imagine.

As national facilitators and coordinators for the Global Teenager Project (GTP), we were meeting to strategize for the coming year and to receive updates and training. This face-to-face meeting was critically important so that we could share ideas and get a perspective on the world from different cultural viewpoints.

Today, the GTP is a virtual network of more than 250 secondary schools in the developing and developed worlds. The project's goals are to improve the quality of secondary school education by introducing schools to the exciting new applications of information and communication technologies (ICT) and to promote intercultural awareness and sensitivity by opening up regular, lively classroom debates in a safe, structured environment.

Most schools in both developed and developing countries have not yet harnessed ICTs for a specific purpose, such as collaborative and international, intercultural learning and exchange. The GTP offers this to be realized through the Learning Circle concept.

This is how it works. Twice a year, under the guidance of facilitators and country coordinators, groups of eight to ten classes from schools from around the world link up via the Internet to form a Learning Circle. The circles, which operate in English, French, and Spanish, do not impose content on anyone. The content is formed by the participants themselves and, as such, reflect local context. Schools can experiment with new, different, and exciting approaches to both learning and teaching, while sharing their findings with other schools.

I believe that the success of the GTP lies in its simplicity. It provides schools with a tried-and-tested, inexpensive, and easily sustainable ICT package. These qualities are attributed to the fact that it is "locally owned." Everyone involved in the GTP is looked on as an equal stakeholder. Feedback is actively encouraged from all. This enables the GTP program officers to constantly improve and refine the project.

If you want your high school class to participate, go online to the Global Teenager Project for instructions.