What was our third international exchange like?
We spent the first week of June in Prague, hosted by ZŠ Mládí pupils and their families. Halfway from threats to opportunities, the Prague meeting was dedicated to closing the risk chapter and opening some creative possibilities of our smartphones.
Our Prague meeting started with an official opening at the Town hall of Prague 13 district. We presented our project to local authorities (the Mayor of the city district Praha 13 and a councillor for education) and to local television station TV13. After this nice welcome, we continued with our first activity – geocaching using our smartphones. International groups (Czech, Spain, Netherlands, Germany and UK), each consisting of 8 students had to find 3 places in Prague 13 Central Park where ice breaker activities and material for the meeting were prepared by teachers participating in the meeting.
After a successful quest, all the groups went to school where we continued the first day with our second activity – a video presentation followed by reflection. The videos were chosen by national groups of students coming to Prague and by Czech hosting students. We saw 5 videos the topics of which were funny but also alerting. Students proved to be very familiar with the topic of dangers of the virtual world which was very important information for the project. We could see that the first part of our project – knowing the risks of social media and virtual life – was successful.
The last Monday activity was visiting the Prague city centre. The students were not supposed to be only “tourists” - the purpose of our going downtown was also related with a virtual/real activity. Moreover, the students got a chance to explore Prague from its heights which gave them a nice overview of where they would be going later on Wednesday.
Two big activities were scheduled for the second day – an interaction with primary pupils and the first part of the main task/activity: the virtual/real activity.
The international groups spent the first two hours with their younger mates. First, they discussed their experience with social media and mobile phones and after that, they tried to put their conclusions in posters. Both the international students and the primary pupils showed interest in the topic and did a great job! At the same time, the younger pupils could see that communication in English is not difficult and that they can have problems similar to those of teenagers 4 or more years older.
The second half of Tuesday was dedicated to poster-making. The posters were supposed to reflect the foreigners' virtual experience of places in Prague. After two hours of preparation the groups presented their thoughts and feelings about places they would visit the next day – Wednesday. Some of them showed interest, some of them did not seem motivated – we learnt that virtual exploring of places can be fun but also that some of us don’t see much point in it.
On the day halfway through our meeting, the international groups accompanied by teachers visited some previously chosen places in Prague. In total, 6 areas in Prague were covered – Kampa island, the Zizkov tower, the Dancing house and Cyril and Metodej’s Church, the city park Stromovka, the Vitkov memorial and the Main railway station of Prague.
All groups were able to “live” their places and come back with a rich real-life experience.
Thursday was dedicated to a reflection of our previous visit to Prague city center. We started with a workshop by Skype. It was led by Mr. Ming Lee, an expert in user experience, who let students think about the differences between the real and the virtual way of exploring and knowing the world around them. The students and teachers involved found the workshop really interesting - both its form and its content. Our expert also prepared a short introduction to a “user experience” topic for teachers.
After the workshop, the completion of the last activity was easier – the students prepared the second part of their poster where they summarized the differences between their virtual and real experience. All groups were able to express their feelings and conclusions about these differences.
Friday was dedicated to final feedback about the meeting (discussed in our Central Park) and the visit of a “blind” exhibition. This unique experience – students spent one hour as “blind” persons in complete darkness exploring different places (a house, a street, a forest, etc.) – helped us understand that using our senses is sometimes not as uncomplicated as it may appear. Pupils could also learn how people with a handicap use smartphones and other IT products.
After this nice week, pupils and families had a free family day on Saturday.