Using Multiple Student Perspectives to Break the “Single Story”

This Monday, we co-presented a session with Jennifer D. Klein from PRINCIPLED Learning Strategies and the World Leadership School at the Global Education Conference 2014. The session, “Using Multiple Student Perspectives to Break the Single Story” discussed three underlying principles that helped form the WorldVuze experience and our philosophies toward global education.

These principles are that Global Education should:

1) Break the “Single Story”;

2) Be engaging and relatable for students; and

3) Be Equitable.

If you were not able to make it to the session, do not fret, you can watch it on your own time here!

You can also learn more about Global Education at this wonderful and free online conference here. It will be running all week until Friday, November 21st.

Join Our Online Session at the Global Education Conference 2014

We are thrilled to be joining the Global Education Conference 2014 this year. Join us on Monday, November 17th at 10pm EST in our conference session “Using Multiple Student Perspectives to Break the Single Story” that we are co-presenting with Jennifer D. Klein, the founder of PRINCIPLED Learning Solutions and Director of Professional Development at World Leadership School.

During the session, we will discuss the underlying principles behind the WorldVuze technology and their implications to global education. Find out how you can make learning about complex local and global topics engaging and relatable for students, bringing humanity and empowering the individual, while not losing sight of the big picture and the collective.

Themes discussed in this presentation include: uncovering bias; student centred learning, student voice, equitable global dialogue, and inquiry based learning.

Join by following this link, then select your time zone and find our session under Monday, November 17th at 10pm est:


Quick Tip – Finding Patterns in Answers on WorldVuze

We have created WorldVuze to present information in a way that will allow you and your students to easily sort and find patterns in answers to questions and dig deeper to understand why they and their peers are thinking the way they do.

Take a question asked by a Grade 5 class from the International School of Geneva in Geneva, Switzerland: Do you think animal testing should be allowed? So far, 44 students from 4 countries have answered this question. There are many ways your students can sort through these answers.

1) Students can examine a pie chart of the answers

2) Students can filter the answers by how students have answered the question. For example, first by looking at the answers of students who said “yes” (choice a); then looking at the answers of students who said “no” (choice b); and so on.

Sample question: What were some common reasons cited by students when students answered “yes”? How about “no”?

3) Then students can further filter answers by country, region, age, gender, and time. For example, you may want your students to compare answers between the “United States” and “Sweden”, or from students in one province of Canada “Ontario” to another “Saskatchewan”. Students can also use the pie chart, which adjusts to the filters they have set, to quickly capture a visual comparison.

Sample question: What are the similarities and differences between answers coming from students in Sweden compared to the United States?

Additional Questions you may want to add:

You can ask your students questions about the quality of the information they are receiving. How many answers will you need to find a real pattern?

You can ask students to reflect on the answers they read and examine whether any of the answers had changed the way they are thinking about the topic or the way they thought other students would have responded. This is what we call a “mindshift”. They can then share their mindshifts, if they have had any, on the question page itself!

There are so many examples of classroom lessons that we will continue to share, but we also want to hear from you! What are some creative ways that you are using WorldVuze in your class?

Why do students think WorldVuze matters?

WorldVuze wouldn’t matter if students didn’t care. Before we began our pilot in April, over 300 students answered a pre-pilot survey where 92% said they are more interested in school when they “care about what they are learning”.

Young people will need to address complex and multi-layered global challenges in their life time – the environment, politics, health, food, energy, the economy. For the same reason that these issues are complex and multi-layered, they are easy for people to feel disconnected to, to feel overwhelmed in their immensity.

What we found out is this. Students are engaged when they are able to share their own opinion. Students are excited by questions that challenge their thinking. Students care about what other young people have to say.

By creating an environment where students have an outlet to engage in meaningful global dialogue with other students their own age, students develop a deeper interest in these challenging and complex topics. At the end of the pilot in June, 92% of students shared that WorldVuze helped them care more about what they are learning.

It is this kind of fascination and curiosity we believe will be needed in our leaders who will ultimately tackle these challenges and effectively and collaboratively address them.

What Image Comes to Your Head When You Hear “Sierra Leone”?

When Hindo Kiposowa and his students from Bumpe High School in rural Bumpe, Sierra Leone enthusiastically joined our pilot last spring, none of us would have anticipated what would be coming. One of the first questions asked by the class at BHS was “Do you know anything about Sierra Leone? Please describe what you know or what you would like to know.” 

Many students who had responded were not aware of the country, while others piped in. Over a short period of time working with Hindo, I came to know a person committed to education and a person determined to empower his students to bring change to the Bumpe community, the country, and the world.

The dream for the school in April 2014 was to have their own computer centre. With this technology, access to resources could be expedited and students and teachers would have a greater connection to the world at their fingertips. Hindo had sent a document outlining his yearly plan to cover a range of topics with his students from: careers, technology, education, health, peace, environment, agriculture, entrepreneurship, and law.

So how were the students in his class engaged on WorldVuze without the computer centre you might ask? It was through the determination of Hindo who worked with his students and on his own time came home and used his own resources to communicate with me to share his students’ questions. Prior to working with us, Hindo has had a long commitment toward global education, working with TakingITGlobal.

If you look up Sierra Leone in Google now, you will be hard pressed to see anything more than news about the Ebola epidemic. Without other connections to this place, will this become the new face of Sierra Leone?

In a recent article posted by the Guardian, it has been cited that there are 20 deaths per day due to Ebola in the country. It is hard to truly grasp what these statistics mean. Where do you find out how people living through this experience are thinking and feeling about it? In order to learn more, we need to first support each other in these most pressing times. If you were in this position instead, I truly believe that a person like Hindo would help you. He and his community are working tirelessly to ensure that the deadly Ebola epidemic does not claim any more lives than it already has.

Hindo and his students are setting up opportunities to connect to their classrooms. If you are interested in learning with them, please find out more by reading Jennifer Klein’s article, Ebola in Bumpe: Connect Your School to Real Grassroots Action. Most importantly, please show your support by donating to their lifesaving educational and sanitation initiatives here!

As a global community, let’s do our part to stop this epidemic. Our hope is that soon, when we bring up Sierra Leone, it will be a new topic of conversation.

‘Not So Silent Auction’ – Raises Voices for WorldVuze!

Last evening we held our first ever ‘Not So Silent’ Auction to “raise” voices on WorldVuze and are happy to say it was a great success with over 600 voices raised! A few thank you’s are in order. First, thank you to all who came out to the event and to so many others who did their part to chip in. Thank you to our in-kind donors for the evening: Blyss Salon, the National Ballet of Canada, Sweets from the Earth, David’s Tea, the Air Canada enRoute Film Festival, DeSerres, Sushi Kai, Rosedale Diner, The Toronto International Film Festival, Absolute Comedy, Starbucks, imagineNATIVE Film Festival, Reel Asian International Film Festival, Grazie Restorante, What a Bagel, Second Cup and Sweet Sensations Candy Buffet. Thanks also to Scallywags for hosting our event!

This is the first step in adding more student voices on WorldVuze.

WorldVuze is a place where every voice matters and every voice is equal, bringing together students from different backgrounds all over the world. This is important as multiple perspectives are critical to breaking down assumptions and for students to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, each other, and the world around them. We can only imagine what would happen if students had exposure to multiple and diverse points of view on a regular basis, especially starting at a young age!

For this reason, it is critical for the platform to be free for teachers and their students to use. Since most teachers have limited budgets, having to pay for the site would prohibit many from using it, limiting the number and diversity of our student community. This goes beyond simply limiting diversity between countries, but even within countries, cities and towns. The real power lies in bringing the voices of young people together that may not have otherwise had the chance to encounter one another.

We want to see as many students as possible around the world exchanging points of view with one another, however, the experience is not free for us to run or grow…

That is why we need your help! Help students to have a voice on WorldVuze. For every $5, one more student can join. The more voices, the more perspectives that can help each child shape their understanding of the world.

Stay tuned for our upcoming IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign where you too can help students around the world have a voice and learn together!


Uncovering Assumptions

Last spring we joined Nelson Mandela Public School in Toronto, Canada on a class visit and were able to witness an exercise in students uncovering stereotypes before our very eyes. The class had previously been investigating the topics of “child labour” and “racism” and wanted to extend their learning by understanding how other students in different countries thought about these topics.

Before they looked at the answers from other students, these Grade 6 students were asked to “predict” what they thought students from different countries who had answered the question had said. How did what students from different countries say either confirm or disprove their assumptions? Keeping in mind the limited number of answers contributed in our pilot (of 600).

This investigation led to a deep discussion. Students had come into the experience with an understanding that others can form “stereotypes” of them, but were beginning to uncover their own assumptions about the world and ask questions about their “mental models” of others.

This exercise in uncovering assumptions can be repeated with your own class questions and when delving into questions posted by others that interest your class!

How it All Began…

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!

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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!”

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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.