When Australian John Halse was asked by local schools to help wire their computers and organize online projects, he couldn't have expected his volunteer efforts to become a vocation! Halse founded SchoolWorld, a global program that listens to teachers and offers technological advice, online projects, and help in connecting with other educators. Now sponsoring more than 50 projects, SchoolWorld has announced even more exciting new endeavors that target teachers in the United States. Included: Information about the Endangered Species Project and Books Without Boundaries, two of SchoolWorld's 50-plus online projects!
The problem with technology is that teachers are overwhelmed by it and lack experience in effectively utilizing it in the classroom, says John Halse. "Most teachers lack an understanding of how best to find resources on the Internet. They spend many hours looking for programs and projects, but they don't know where to look," Halse tells Education World.
In 1996, after helping to wire schools near his home in Australia, Halse recognized that there was a global need for an organization that would provide advice to educators and help them connect with their international peers. That realization led Halse to found SchoolWorld Internet Education. "SchoolWorld enables teachers to work outside of their classrooms," explains Halse. "We have many schools in the United States working hand in hand with schools in other countries. SchoolWorld matches schools so educators and students can teach and learn from one another."
SchoolWorld provides what Halse describes as "basic content" for educators. "That way, we stay one step ahead -- not four or five steps ahead -- of most educators, which is the case with many programs," Halse explains. "Our philosophy is that it's not up to SchoolWorld to tell teachers what they should have. Instead, we ask them to tell us what they would like."
The designer and coordinator of the SchoolWorld program, Halse resolved that the nucleus of SchoolWorld would always be free to schools. A core of dedicated volunteers runs most of the projects. He processes more than 3,500 messages a week from teachers and students who go to the site seeking assistance in a wide variety of facets of computer use.
"The best part to all of this is that we have experienced teachers helping and teaching the less experienced," Halse states. "In SchoolWorld, nationality is no barrier. We have U.S. teachers participating and assisting teachers in Iraq, Russia, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, and many other countries. We have students from these countries participating in the same projects together and communicating with each other."
SchoolWorld might have more than 50 SchoolWorld Internet Projects running in various forms at any time, Halse tells Education World.
For six years, Canadian Karen Walkowiak has worked with SchoolWorld's Endangered Species Project, one of the site's original projects. The project remains SchoolWorld's most popular; more than 800 student reports are now on display on the project's Web page.
"When I joined SchoolWorld," recalls Walkowiak, "I was new to the Internet and was searching for a way to share my enthusiasm for the value of using the Internet in the classroom while demonstrating to my then grade-four students and the parent community that online publishing had its merits."
Walkowiak easily adapted the Endangered Species Project to the curriculum. With the assistance of parent volunteers, Walkowiak sent her students' animal projects to Halse, who published the work online. The students were thrilled, and the parent community was impressed!
Walkowiak says, "The SchoolWorld Endangered Species Project has evolved to be one of the largest education-based species projects in the world. It provides an opportunity for students to select an endangered or threatened mammal, reptile, insect, or plant; research and write their reports; provide pictures and photos; and submit them to the SchoolWorld site."
Books Without Boundaries is the inspiration of Chris Hockert, a computer lab teacher at Clifton Hills Elementary School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The project supplies student-made books to children in refugee camps around the world, Hockert explains to Education World.
Books Without Borders (BWB) helps students "gain an understanding of what it must be like to live in a refugee camp and how important books and school supplies are to open up the world to children," explains Hockert. "Once we had contact people, usually teachers, in an area, we started sending books."
BWB has made more than 75 shipments of books to countries such as Nigeria, Brazil, Vietnam, Uganda, and Morocco since the beginning of the project. The Philippines and Kenya will be added soon. Among the books written by students are books that focus on their communities, families, pets, and places of interest and books that spotlight students' stories or poems.
Claudia Borio of Brazil has been the recipient of many packets of student-made and donated books. "I work with various associations and projects, helping children from slums around my city of Curitiba, state of ParanÃ¡," Borio tells Education World. "Many books were given to community libraries in those poor areas, some were sent to a leper hospital, and many others were given to children at the RecrianÃ§a Project, a rural area very much afflicted with poverty.
"The books were always received with great happiness, although many of those children don't speak English," Borio adds. "For the most of them, it was their first and only book, to be looked at, to be cherished."
In April, SchoolWorld introduced another new feature -- The SchoolWorld Hotline. The hotline is being piloted in nearly 60 U.S. schools. Teachers in those schools can use e-mail or a toll-free telephone number to ask any question relating to computers and Internet use in the classroom. The hotline is intended to be a national service by the end of the year.
SchoolWorld is also releasing its first education publication for K through 12 teachers this June. The publication, EdBytes, is offered in Adobe Acrobat PDF format directly from the Internet and covers all areas of education in monthly issues. Features include articles, interviews, computer assistance for Mac and PC users, special features, lesson plans and ideas, and more.
"EdBytes will feature the newest and best in technology integration, implementation, and origination," says Kristen Hammond, CEO of EduPuppy and editor of the new publication. "We will highlight the teachers and innovators who are doing truly amazing things within all areas of technology."
All schools are welcome to join SchoolWorld. The service is free, but schools must register and appoint a contact teacher. Individual teachers and students are not able to register at the present time.
Article by By Cara Bafile
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