Effective education requires not just teachers who are prepared to teach, but students whose hearts and minds are open and ready to learn. For many children living in poverty, the daily circumstances of their lives can hinder this readiness -whether because of hunger, lack of adequate housing, or other physical and emotional challenges.
Partnership with Children developed its Centre for Capacity Building to address these concerns in the New York public school system, assisting both teachers and students in creating an environment where learning can take place effectively. The Centre multi-faceted approach includes train-the-trainer sessions, parent workshops, peer mediation and other activities that address the academic, emotional and social needs of students.
In 2010, Partnership was offered the opportunity to replicate the program in the Detroit public school system. For Training Director Carolyn Parker and her Supervisor of Training and Outreach Ruthie Kalai, this meant travelling in person to Detroit in order to leverage their years of experience refining and improving the training curriculum. It also meant extensive use of remote learning technology, in order to reduce time on the road and maximise interaction between staff in New York and Detroit. Using Skype, the trainers were able to supplement their visits with face-to-face workshops held over video calls. This saved time and money, and literally enabled staff to be in two places at the same time.
Through this experience with free video calling, Parker and her team realised that the technology would also be an ideal format for student participants from high schools in different cities to become acquainted and share lessons learned. This led to the development of a Peer Mediation summit, featuring a game-show style “Detroit vs. New York” contest between 15 students from each city, and a “Peace Pact” where they could discuss the use of Peer Mediation principles in their everyday lives.
“Our experience has shown that peer mediation works,” noted Michelle Sidrane, Executive Director of Partnership with Children, addressing students at the Skype-enabled event. “We know that when you use these skills, you help each other, your schools and your communities.”
By giving students the opportunity to meet and learn in an interactive capacity, Partnership sees Skype video calling as an exciting and effective new tool in developing social and emotional learning in public schools. As Skype CEO Tony Bates noted, “The use of Skype in Detroit’s inner-city schools is one more humbling example of how our technology can be leveraged to enrich the lives of some of the country’s most vulnerable children helping to ensure their academic success.”
Content contributed by Jonathan Streeter – Partnership with Children