Edwin H. Gragert
Group name: I*EARN
Speaker: Edwin H. Gragert, Ph.D.
I*EARN works in 47 countries, involving over 3,000 member schools. Most countries have I*EARN staff, often affiliated with the Ministry of Education, and a support structure to work with schools in their country. Students range in age from 6 -19. Each countryﾕs ratio of age ranges differs, but the overall levels of schools are approximately:
Ten years have passed since the students in New York and Moscow exchanged their first e-mail messages in 1988 through I*EARN.
In those early years, messages were conveyed by high-speed dial-up calls between the San Francisco, USA and Moscow, in what was then the Soviet Union, every twelve hours on the one telephone line connecting the two countries.
The world has changed greatly in these past ten years. Old barriers and borders have fallen and changed. Communications, ideas, products and people flow easily around most countries in the world, with the exception of a small few isolated locales.
The I*EARN network, like educational telecommunications in general, is also different in many ways now. Teachers have gained valuable experience in how to conduct collaborative educational projects in multilingual and multicultural environments. Students go far beyond e-mail and they live in over 45 countries--each one with a unique cultural, socio-economic and technological environment. Internationally, it is much more complex in 1998 than ten years ago. Yet, the technology has been remarkably easier to install and use in the classroom.
Despite these changes, the underlying principles of I*EARN have changed little since 1988. And in this continuity I believe there are some lessons for the general field of educational telecommunications. I*EARN is not a network based on technology, but rather on the human connections and community that the technology makes possible.
The first of these principles is that I*EARN projects and new program initiatives are from the "grassroots." That is, they come from the teachers/participants themselves and are not handed down from a centralized structure. I*EARN participants clearly determine the direction I*EARN takes. This enables participants to feel an ownership over the projects and ultimately over the I*EARN network as a whole. Government agencies and national organizations have a key role to play to facilitate active engagement in project design and participation by their countryﾕs teachers and students through low-cost access to the Internet, teacher training, materials, validation for the teacher time and creditation for the student learning that accompanies and is enhanced by on-line educational work. This conference is evidence of the Japanese governmentﾕs commitment in this regard.
To give voice to students who have been excluded in the past requires the second I*EARN principle: that a program needs to honor the learning/teaching styles in the countries/cultures in which it operates. Education is not conducted the same in each country. This simple and obvious fact is often ignored when designing and delivering on-line projects and networks.
The third principle is that learning also happens outside the classroom and that the learning gained within needs to be shared through action with the broader society and world. We encourage students to be involved in enhancing the quality of life on the planet. It is this action/service component that gives purpose to I*EARN and empowers students to know that they as individuals can, when they join with others nearby or throughout the world, play a role in the solution to the issues that face humanity.
My fourth principle is that all of us need to collaborate to create a de-centralized, yet tightly knitted web of intertwining organizational relationships. In order to maximize this interaction, students should be able to work with as many of their peers as possible--inside and outside of school--as part of a global community. For example, students who are also a member of a scout program, YMCA or environmental club should be able to work on collaborative projects with peers in after school programs, 4-H rural groups, a UNICEF development project and public library.
I feel strongly that these four principles will enable educational telecommunications to continue to provide opportunities for teachers and students to learn together into the 21st Century. In my opinion, it is adherence to these principles that will enable I*EARN and others to equip students in the future with tools that will help them flourish.
I*EARN is planning programs in new countries in conjunction with international organizations and development agencies, including within Asia. Key to this expansion will be the enhancement of on-line teacher training and enhanced ease with which member teachers can identify project partners and meet curriculum needs. Increasingly tools will be implemented to integrate multimedia and video-conferencing into classroom project work.
475 Riverside Drive, #540
New York, NY 10115, USA
Edwin H. Gragert, I*EARN-USA
International Education and Resource Network
475 Riverside Drive, #540
New York, NY 10115
Join educators from over 40 countries at the
I*EARN International Conference in Chattanooga,
Tennessee July 12-18