the sally sisson blog

July 19, 2010

The Seeds of Global Citizenship: From Snail Mail to Skype

schylling-dc3-airplane.jpgAs a suburban school kid in the ‘70s, pen pals were the closest we came to cross-cultural exchange. These days we’d likely describe it as an authentic experiential-learning exercise, albeit a slow-motion one.

Pen pals | e-Pals

I still remember the name of my sixth grade pen pal: Riz Zainal Abadin. The name sounded so exotic and, well, peculiar. All those Z’s. Was the middle name a real middle name, or should I tack it onto the first name in salutations? Living south of Boston in a small town full of Smiths and Sullivans, my frame of reference was rather slim.

My friend Lydia and I would giggle when we got our bimonthly letters in the mail. We would repeat the names of our pen pals over and over, always in full.

“It’s a letter from Riz Zainal Abadin! Maybe someday I’ll marry him and move to Malaysia!”

sabah-malaysia-airline-map.jpgOur exchanges went something like this:

Dear Sally:

How are you?  Do you wear American blue jeans?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dear Riz:

Yes, I wear Levi’s.lychee.jpg

Do you eat lychee fruit?  Have you ever been caught in a monsoon?

aerogram2.jpgAerogram | Aerogramme

The letters were always printed with neat ballpoint pen on an aerogram. We’d use a letter opener to cut the crease at the top of the ultra-thin blue paper, or carefully peel one of the gummed tabs on the side, so as not to tear any of the words.

I think I still have a couple of those aerograms, tucked away in a box of old correspondence and birthday cards somewhere in my barn. (Note to self: Must call Lydia to see if she remembers the name of her pen pal.)

I cringe when I think how sheltered and politically incorrect I was back then. Thankfully today’s students are far more worldly and with it. The recent push for “global citizenship” in American schools and society is making an impact. So is the technology that’s enabling it.

Although the old-school purist in me is thrilled that some still send handwritten letters via snail mail, I have to admit that the use of technology in this area is brilliant. This is not technology for technology’s sake; it’s technology with a true purpose.

UnknownEngaging in real-time video conferences with students on the other side of the world is a powerful thing. It opens minds in ways previously unimaginable. Even in the smallest of small towns.

Here’s a post I wrote on the subject for the TECH TIPS blog on Discovery Education’s “Web 20.10” site:


TECH TIPS BLOG | Web 2.0: Break Out of Your Bubble

There’s been a lot of buzz about global citizenship lately. But with tight budgets and time constraints, this critical concept can seem like a daunting one to incorporate into your curriculum. Thankfully new Web 2.0 tools make it simpler and more efficient than ever to connect and collaborate with students and schools around the world–for free.

Online tools like wikis and web conferencing enable students to engage in cross-cultural exchange without ever leaving the classroom. Students spark friendships with virtual pen pals, immerse themselves in foreign languages with native speakers, and trek through virtual field trips without leaving their desks.

When students interact with real people from real places in real time, it makes for a meaningful, authentic experience and adds new dimensions of understanding. Kids begin to make connections between their own lives and those of kids in different parts of the world. They begin to challenge stereotypes, break out of their bubbles, and really get what it means to be interconnected.

Read full article here…

Tags: ,
Posted in: education, web 2.0

No Comments

June 29, 2010

TECH TIPS BLOG | Web 2.0: Multiple intelligences, multiple possibilities

My latest post on the Tech Tips Blog, part of the Web 20.10 site by Discovery Education and partners including Microsoft and SMART Technologies.

creative brainHow do I learn thee? Let me count the ways…

By now most American educators have embraced the idea of multiple intelligences—of different kinds of “minds” and different styles of learning.

Whether you subscribe to Howard Gardner‘s eight  kinds of minds—Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Spatial, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalistic—or the broader VAK (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) categorization, you recognize that teaching and learning is not one-size-fits-all.

No one expects you to customize a lesson in eight different ways for the eight different kinds of minds in your class. But with Web 2.0, it’s a distinct possibility.

images.jpgRead the entire post here:

Web 2.0: Multiple Intelligences, Multiple Possibilities


Digital collage tools from

Digital collage tools from

No Comments

June 17, 2010

Social Media 103: Twitter as Creative Writing Tool in the Classroom

tweetAfter writing the copy and content for “Web 20.10,” a Discovery Education website produced in partnership with Microsoft and SMART Technologies, I was asked to write an accompanying blog. The Tech Tips Blog touches on Web 2.0 topics found elsewhere on the site—like wikis, blogs, podcasts, Skype, social media sites and multimedia presentation tools for schools.

Here’s my post on Twitter in the classroom:

Twitter: The Ultimate Writing Tool?iphone

Will Twitter hinder literacy or help it blossom? It depends on who you ask. But more and more educators—many of them former skeptics—are now touting the use of Twitter as a writing tool. The micro-blogging platform is proving useful for all kinds of inventive exercises to hone writing skills, in and out of the classroom.

Read the whole blog post here:

Web 20.10 Tech Tips Blog | Twitter: The Ultimate Writing Tool?

What’s your take: A fun exercise in creativity? or the decline of Western civilization? Leave a comment and let me know…

homer brain

1 Comment