Monday, June 08, 2009

Teachers Without Borders off to Africa

While many educators use Web 2.0 tools to make global connections, some educators are actually making these connections by traveling directly to countries where resources are scarce equipped with XO laptops, digital cameras, Flip Cameras, and incredible commitment to bridging the digital divide. I've invited Sharon Peters to be a guest blogger for Infinite Thinking this month to share with you how she and fellow educators are making global connections through Teachers Without Borders, and how you and your students can participate in their efforts to bridge the digital divide.

---- from Guest blogger Sharon Peters ----

Teachers Without Borders is off to Africa

At 59 million, teachers represent the largest group of educated professionals in the world. If you are able to read this blog post, very likely you are NOT one of the millions of those teachers who lack access to professional development and enrichment resources. Teachers Without Borders (Canada affiliation) is an organization of teachers helping teachers in order to foster and promote adequate teacher training in areas of the world that desperately need it.

In my experience, teachers are also those with the biggest hearts. During the last 12 months, I have had the incredible privilege of working shoulder-to-shoulder with inspiring teachers from Canada, the U.S., South Africa and Kenya as we rolled up our sleeves together and shared resources, methodologies and practices. I have learned so much more from my new colleagues than I contributed and I can see a substantial difference in my own teaching approaches. Last July and August, I served with a team of Canadian teachers facilitating workshops for science, math, English and ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) educators in South Africa and Kenya over a period of six weeks. We were the first teams of TWB Canada to be deployed. My experiences profoundly changed my world view, my priorities and my attitudes about learning - and ultimately affected how I ask my students to consider becoming global citizens.

Frankly, I cannot imagine more effective professional development than to work cross-culturally with other dedicated teachers from around the world. We return to our own educational communities greatly enriched and empowered. To develop relationships with teachers in politically and economically challenging situations permits us to give voice to teachers we may otherwise ignore due to lack of media attention or awareness.

Over a period of nearly seven weeks in July and August, I will be returning to South Africa and Kenya as a team leader of ICT teachers who will facilitate workshops for educators ranging from newly appointed elearning specialists to teachers who have never touched a computer before . Our team faces enormous challenges and will be stretched to the limit in ways we cannot yet imagine. Our team of Americans and Canadians will be joined by in-country facilitators this year. Many of these educators have not yet had the opportunity to facilitate professional growth for their colleagues. Our model is to ask increased participation of in-country educator facilitators every year so that by the fourth year of our presence in a community, we can hand over the PD to the in-country educators.

As an educational technologist, I see the incredible potential that online tools and environments offer to educators to connect, collaborate and share on a global level. Many teachers may not yet have access to the technology or they may lack adequate instruction on how to harness and exploit the tools available to them. Meeting teachers face-to-face in their contexts and creating relationships with them greatly facilitates the possibility of sharing resources and approaches. I witnessed many educators who eagerly desired to learn more technology and computer skills when I was in Africa. There was a profound sense of a need to "catch up" to the developed world, in terms of skills and access to the Internet. My experiences have also forced me to recognize and question how culture and ideology is implicitly embedded in technology tools and approaches. These are very important issues that must be considered as we facilitate content for our workshops. We are in new territory here where there are few guidelines or "how-to" manuals. Fundamentally, though, I think we are on the right track through the model of partnering with in-country educators who provide cultural and historical interpretation.

We need your help!

Teachers Without Borders is a relatively young organization. We are working on a model to build capacity and sustainability. Not all teachers are able at this time in their careers to consider going abroad and working on an overseas team. There are certainly other ways in which you can help.

  • Consider making a tax-deductible donation. TWB raises money through grants and donations to cover our on the ground expenses while we teachers are asked to raise money toward our travel costs to the host country. As you know, most teachers are not able to pay for this out of pocket. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help us cover our travel expenses. If you are in Canada, you can give donations here. If you are in the U.S., please go to this link and be sure to specify that the donation is directed toward the TWB-Canada team members.

  • Consider making donations of used digital cameras, laptops or flash drives. I will be at NECC in Washington D.C. (probably hanging out at the Bloggers Cafe) in late June and will be happy to connect with anyone who would like to pass resources along to me. John Schinker, another team member, and I will be leaving from NECC to travel to Africa.

  • Consider making a donation of a Flip camera (or similar camera) to kick off a classroom exchange between your students and students in South Africa. We are partnering with Edunova in the townships of Cape Town to establish classroom-to-classroom partnerships. If you pass along a camera, perhaps with some embedded content on it from your own students, we will give it to a committed teacher in South Africa who will establish and maintain contact with your class.

  • Consider joining our TWB community to communicate with other global educators and to develop resources for teachers in other parts of the world.

For more information or for an American or Canadian address to which you can send equipment, you can contact me at speters at and you can follow our blogs throughout July and August:

Jody Meacher:

Zac Chase:

John Schinker -

Lois McGill-Horn

Sharon Peters:

Noble Kelly: