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Voice of Experience
The Italian Adventures of an "Average, Every-Day Teacher"


The experience of being part of an international technology competition like Global Junior Challenge is unforgettable. I had the opportunity to present my project to more than 6,000 school students, teachers, consultants, and university-level educators. The Italian people proved to be warm and intensely interested in breaking through the language barrier that existed between us in order to understand what our work was all about.

The Global Junior Challenge has a strong humanitarian emphasis. I met people whose projects addressed HIV in Ghana and Uganda; eating disorders among the youth of Italy; and the lessening of the digital divide by teaching basic technology skills to youth in places such as the Philippines and Bangladesh. Professor Alfonso, a keynote speaker at the awards presentation, spoke about all of us being "prag-dealists" -- people who, while addressing our ideals of creating a better world for all people, use the power of technology to put those ideals into action. Six hundred and forty-seven projects were submitted to the GJC competition; forty percent of those came from under-developed countries. Eighty-five finalists were chosen and invited to attend the festivities in Rome. Six projects won.

In the end, I was one of the six who won the 2004 Global Junior Challenge award; my students' project won in the category was for students under 15 years old. I was not expecting our project to win -- I was just honored be there. However, it seems that our project's children's rights message appealed to the competition jury. Trophies and statues were awarded to six project categories and special cash awards were given to several projects from underdeveloped countries. This money will be used to implement and further develop the project.

The last night I was in Rome, I spoke with Albert, one of the winners from Ghana. This young man created a Web site to educate the young in Africa (starting with Ghana) about HIV. With no money to host his Web site, his dream was strictly conceptual. Over dinner he shared his dream and how he would use his money to benefit his country. Like many of the GJC participants from underdeveloped counties, there was a heavy seriousness about Albert. Thankfully, winning this award will give him the money needed to make that Web site a reality.

After spending three days with project designers like Albert, hearing them describe the meaningful work they do in the area using technology to educate people old and young, I could never have imagined that our little project would win. But it did! This award is much more than a "prize" for me. To be surrounded for three days by the likes of the other participants and to be listed as one of the prag-dealists of this competition was a privilege and an honor.

At the final awards ceremony, the mayor of Rome gave a poignant speech in which he referred to each GJC project as a letter of the alphabet that, when put together, send a strong message about the need for a better world. Technology is the conduit to help that happen. Pretty heady stuff for an average teacher from Calgary, Canada!

Click each link below to read excerpts from that day's journal:

Brenda Dyck teaches at Master's Academy and College in Calgary, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching sixth grade math, Brenda works with her staff in the area of technology integration. Her "Electronic Thread" column is a regular feature in the National Middle School Association's Journal, Middle Ground. Brenda is a teacher-editor for Midlink magazine.

Article by Brenda Dyck
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