Online Student Programmes – Building Student Voice
Posted: 23 January 2024
When we connect students’ in-classroom learning with the wider world, we know that it magnifies their understanding, broadens their horizons, raises aspirations, and builds their capacity to make a positive difference in the world.
One of the most accessible ways to bring a global perspective to the classroom, and connect students internationally, is to make use of online communications platforms. Round Square hosts on Zoom and students lead conversations across multiple time zones and cultural contexts.
Here are three activities we run on Zoom:
Round Square Zoom Postcards are weekly 60-90 minute zoom calls in which students, from a school that has volunteered to host, plan and lead a discussion on a topic of their choice. Postcards typically involve around 100 students from schools all over the world, with teachers chaperoning in the background, and logistical support provided by the Round Square Team. Topics range from the fun to the serious. One week we might be sharing hobbies, food, pets, school life, cultural celebrations, folklore, or festivals. The next week we could be talking about environmental challenges, homelessness, poverty, civil unrest, indigenous rights, antisemitism or the impacts of war.
“It’s always exciting for the students because the conversation topics vary from one week to the next, and they really do get an insight into the cultures and communities of the schools that host,“ says Chiho Nakagawa, a teacher at the Junior and Senior High School of Kogakuin University in Japan, whose students hosted a RS Postcard on the theme of Aggression and Peace. “Often, participating students are asked to send in photos or research in advance, to discuss on the call”, she says. “It’s very interesting, and good, for them to hear the different ideas from around the world, and to have the chance to voice their own in a multicultural setting.”
The multicultural profile of participants is one of the key success factors in RS Postcards, and is driven by the broad geography of the Round Square network. When students from the British Overseas School in Pakistan hosted a Postcard on the theme of “Ways to Speak Your Truth”, they were joined by more than 120 participants from 24 schools, representing Armenia, Australia India, Japan, Pakistan, South Africa, and UAE. And when students at Cate School in the USA hosted their postcard on “Immigration in a Global Context”, students joined the conversation from Argentina, Armenia, Canada, China, Colombia, India, Peru, Pakistan, UAE and the USA. During the call, they shared their perspectives on immigration issues, their country-specific situations, and personal experiences.
“Preparing for, and hosting, a Round Square Postcard is a great exercise in global-mindedness for our students,” says Will Holmes, Director of Community Engagement at Cate School. “Not only do they have to think about the relevance of their topic on a global scale, but they also have to employ a range of leadership skills including communication, facilitation, negotiation and diplomacy, in order to engage with an international audience. These are skills they might usually practice when they travel overseas, but through the Postcards they also get to connect internationally without the travel.”
Round Square History Labs invite students to explore the humanity in history. By bringing together students from across the world together to share their developing perspectives on major historical topics and events, Round Square History Labs demonstrate that there can be many sides to a story.
Each session tackles a different historical topic, and begins with a factual explanation crafted using artificial intelligence. Working in internationally mixed groups, Students then take turns to share how the same historical topic is viewed, taught and understood in their country, and the human impact it has had, contrasting their individual perspectives with one another and with the “purely factual” perspective of AI.
Participants are encouraged to look for similarities and differences in the ways in which they view a historical event or theme. They consider the extent to which their views are shaped by their context, country or culture, how their ancestors lived that history, and their personal perspectives. They consider how all these things can shape our understanding of history, and are encouraged to apply those same considerations to building capacity for international understanding and global cooperation today.
Recent, and upcoming Round Square History Labs topics include World War 2, Colonialism, The Cold War, the Roaring Twenties, Historic Leaders, and Civil Wars and Wars of Independence.
Round Square Language Labs enable Students to practice their language skills in a real-world context in sessions led by their peers who are native-speakers of that language. RS Language Labs have brought the curriculum to life in Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Japanese and Arabic, with more languages to be added in the coming year.
Language Labs run over consecutive weekly sessions, each led by students from a different school, which often brings cultural diversity. For example, Spanish Labs have been hosted by students from Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Spain, and French Labs have featured schools from Morocco, Canada and France. This mixture provides participating students with an extraordinary opportunity to build international understanding whilst practicing and learning a language from native speakers in different linguistic contexts, cultures and countries. “As an IGCSE Spanish student, the Language Lab was a great opportunity for me to practice my speaking skills in conversation,” Says Darrel from Brookhouse school in Kenya. “I was able to interact with students my age about our similar interests and learn the different ways Spanish is spoken in different Spanish speaking countries.”