Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Figuring Out the Middle East -- A Progressive Parochial School Takes 6th Graders to the Next Level

In 2007 the PEW Research Center for People and the Press issued the findings of their most recent study in which they concluded that, although people now enjoy easy access to media sources, the public's knowledge of current events has not been significantly enhanced. The Center's summary concluded that "changing news formats are not having a great deal of impact on how much the public knows about national and international affairs."

Within the school system, educators are looking for innovative methods to combat ignorance of world events among the student population. One effective strategy  involves video-conferencing classes that helps students gain new perspectives on world events by virtually transporting them to places in which they are taking place. Using this modality, JETS - Jerusalem EdTech Solutions provides students of all ages with an objective, well-rounded overview of the fast-moving events in the Middle East 

One long-time JETS client - the St. Agnes-St. Dominic parochial school in Memphis, Tennessee - expanded their program this year to provide their students with a new and creative way of learning about the Middle East. St. Agnes-St. Dominic and JETS have been conducting sessions on the Middle East with the school's 6th graders for a number of years. This year, they collaborated to create a 9-session mini-course on the Middle East complete with an asynchronous learning component so that the students can follow up on the video-conferencing sessions with additional activities. The activities are presented via the Haiku Learning Management System which allows for a high degree of student interactivity. Both the distance learning sessions and the Haiku activities incorporate the use of online tools and JETS produced multi-media materials that help students vitually experience the history and culture of the Middle East. The course provides an understanding of the ancient Middle East as a context for understanding modern events.

The 9-session class includes a wide range of subject material including
·      A Look at the Neighborhood: Then and Now
·      Uncovering Layers of History
·      The Cradle of Religions
·      Conflict and Warfare
·      Water: Then and Now
·      Economics – From Olive Oil to Oil
·      Leadership – Combining Pragmatism and Vision
·      Contemporary Issues
The St. Agnes – St. Dominic Middle East social studies class is the "next best thing to being there."

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