Before creating WorldVuze, we facilitated international classroom partnerships for four years between schools in Tanzania and Canada through our Tanzanian NGO, Cross Community Connect. In the process, we came across many obstacles with the tools we were using, ranging from time consuming facilitation, time zone differences, technical issues, and a lack of sustained meaningful dialogue. These same concerns were echoed by hundreds of teachers that we talked to over the years.
In the end, our greatest concern of facilitating one-to-one partnerships was exposing students to a “narrow” view of any place. Creating a connection between two classrooms, such as one class in Tanzania and one class in Canada, in isolation had the potential to reinforce stereotypes and give students a false confidence that by knowing these few perspectives, they understood a whole country or continent!
An example of this happening was when we asked grade 3 students in Toronto, Canada to describe their “biggest problem” as if they were a student from Uvinza, Tanzania (a village in Western Tanzania). The response was overwhelmingly, “water issues”. In fact, these grade 3 students were so confident the major problem in Uvinza was water issues they moved on to brainstorm how they would solve this problem and were prepared to ship the other class water bottles.
When we later showed the grade 3 students the responses from students actually living in Uvinza, Tanzania, they were shocked to find out that the most common problem sited was not “water issues” but dangerous animals, with water issues way down the list. Keep in mind this is again one class, in one village, not a city or a town, in one country in Africa…and by no means a full representation!! Nonetheless, learning these first hand perspectives stopped these students in their tracks and made them think “we should have asked them questions first!”
This confirmed just how critical it was to have a place where students could explore a diversity of perspectives from any one place, on any topic. Ultimately, we hope to see millions of students locally and around the world sharing perspectives, breaking down barriers between individuals from diverse geographic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds and in the process, help develop a generation of young people that are open to considering and understanding multiple points of view. We believe this is critical to forming meaningful and effective change.