“When Mrs. Hough gave us the project I thought it was just another engineering project, I never thought we would actually design and create products that would be in Laos. Plus the project has grown so much, it is like a school wide project with cooking the food, making the movie, so many people are involved.”
Empowering Students to Globally Connect is a two-year project that started with three teachers who saw an opportunity for students at Mashpee Middle High School to connect with an Australian Professor and help the people of Laos. Our goal was to make a technology and engineering class project that connected to the real world. The students would be able to apply their engineering skills and see a global impact from their work. The outcome has been a global project that has impacted students not only in the Technology and Engineering class but many students throughout the school with the creation of a student produced movie. The original student movie has allowed for additional cross curricular opportunities within music, art, and culinary.
Empowering Students to Globally Connect started as a way to make technology and engineering have a real world connection. Students were initially tasked with researching the country of Laos with the end result creating a product that would improve the lives of its people. Initial research led to misconceptions that were clarified by Australian Professor Rachel Sheffield, who participates in mission trips to the country. Some of the information that Profession Sheffield shared included:
Mashpee High School students use their engineering skills to create products to better these students’ lives. Initially the ideas the students had and the products they created weren’t used for the original creation. For example, a student designed a strainer/colander assuming the Laos students would use it for noodles but he didn’t realize most of the foods the kids in Laos eat are soup. Instead the strainer is used to carry soap to and from the Mekong River for bathing. Other items were also created but we ran into a roadblock as we were not able to ship the products to Laos. Importing and exporting is not allowed by the Laos government which prevented the students from producing some of the items they thought would be helpful. We had to come up with an alternative way to help the Laos children. This roadblock was not obstacles for the students, as they decided to use PTC CREO Parametric software to design the strainer, shower caddy, and tic tac toe boards that could be 3D printed by Dr. Rachel Sheffield while she visited the country. The Laos children and the Monks that support them, enjoy playing with the boards and using the strainers.
None of us could have imagined how our meeting and connecting at a conference could lead us to this two year project and its far reaching impact on all of us. Our students showed their world to the Laos children who intern thought of our world as magical because of the advanced technology. The Mashpee students realized how lucky they are in the US and how easily they take for granted the basic things they have in life that the children of Laos do not have access too. The Mashpee students have come to realize the simple products they designed will have a far reaching impact which has changed them more than they realize.
Students involved in this project come from all grade levels and all abilities.
It allowed students who might not engage in a project typically because they feel it didn’t have meaning the opportunity to apply their skills in the real world. Many times your most reluctant learners are those that don’t see a purpose for doing the assignment, this project gave purpose specifically through the skyping sessions. The Mashpee students were able to see the effects their efforts in the classroom were having on the people of Laos through speaking with them and Rachel while she was there. Also, the core group that started the project were high school aged students in a Technology and Engineering class but the group has grown exponentially. We have included students from across grade levels and subject areas. Students involved in the project range from grade 8 through 12 and come from Culinary, Techsperts, Music, Art, Drafting, Engineering, and Technology. We have included students to film aspects of the project, Culinary assisted in creating a traditional Laotian meal for our culminating project, a music student is creating original score for the film the Techsperts are creating about the project, Art students are creating a special logo for our presentation at the International Society of Technology Educators (ISTE) Conference being held in June. These students don’t typically connect with each other but reaching across disciplines and interests has brought these students together in a way that may not have occurred otherwise.
The greatest challenge we had was the time difference. Dr. Sheffield lives in Australia and the time difference is 12 hours, this was true for when she was in Laos too. Trying to coordinate times to connect and skype was difficult. Also, in Laos they experience rolling blackouts so skype sessions were often interrupted or could not occur. Another issue was the temperature in Laos. Due to the heat and humidity the 3D printer often malfunctioned. The technology and engineering students also designed products that would fit the dimensions of our 3D printer only to find out the 3D printer brought to Laos was about half the size. They had to redesign their prototypes and adjust to product assemblies when designing in PTC CREO Parametric in order for the products to be printed. Although we had some challenges and some were completely out of our control we just kept at it. We rescheduled time to skype, changed printing days, and worked with the issues we were faced with. It would have been great to see more students but with our time difference it wasn’t possible.
Culminating experience, eating Laotian food and skyping with Dr. Sheffield while she was in Laos.
If you are thinking about a project to connect your students globally, here are some first steps to get you started:
Teaching Global Competence: https://asiasociety.org/education/teaching-global-competence-rapidly-changing-world?utm_campaign=crowdfire&utm_content=crowdfire&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter#61863287-tw#1516933155223
Amanda Hough is currently the Technology and Engineering Teacher at Mashpee Middle High School in her thirteenth year. Along with teaching Technology and Engineering she teaches High school Robotics and Engineering the Future to 8th graders. She holds teaching licenses in General Science 5-8, Technology and Engineering H.S., and has her Masters Degree in Administration K-12 Education. She is a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, Competitive Robotics Coach, and avid Maker. She is a member of MassCue and ISTE. She is presenting at ISTE and has partnered with International Professors to create collaborative learning experiences for her students. She was nominated as one of the top five STEM teachers of the year in Massachusetts by the Hall at Patriot Place in 2018. Amanda truly believes in cross age student teaching and collaborates frequently with teachers within her school district to create authentic learning experiences for all students.
Colleen Terrill is currently the Director of Instructional Technology for Mashpee Public Schools after being a 6th grade teacher for 15 years. She provides ongoing professional development for teachers in her district where she focuses on the importance of balance between technology and curriculum. Colleen is a regular presenter at regional and national conferences such as MassCUE, ACTEM, Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference, CoSN, Tech and Learning Live and ISTE. She was a Keynote Panel Presenter for the New England 1:1 Summit. She is also an Associate Professor through the Extended Campus Program at Fitchburg State University where she teaches Explicit Instruction as well as Technology Integration in the Classroom. She is currently pursuing her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership from Curry College.
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