Classroom blog idea: Keep your study abroad students connected

My colleague Cody is a highly gifted polyglot, fluent in 6 languages: Arabic, Moroccan, French, English, Korean and Japanese. I’d love to have her brain for 10 minutes, what’s that like?

Cody and I were talking today about PikiFriends, and she had one of those ‘why didn’t I think of that!’ ideas:

“You know those high school study abroad students who go away for a year or so? Have them use PikiFriends as a diary of their experiences.”

Can you see the potentials for learning?

Situation: Students in your school use PikiFriends (or another blogging platform). Two students go away on a study abroad program, one to France and one to Denmark.

Assignment: Both students write diary entries on PikiFriends on their profile page (parameters to be decided by the teacher – how often, free writing, topic-based, photos, 500-word minimum, etc.). Students back “home” follow up, reading, responding, commenting, discussing.

Benefits: With a computer with an internet connection, the study abroad students are given a voice and a captive audience (I wish I had that!). Reflecting on their experiences via focused blogging can facilitate deep understanding, critical debate, awareness of multiple perspectives on cross-cultural topics, and it all can be done enjoyably as they interact with their own peers.

The students and teachers back home not only ‘live through’ the study abroad students’ adventures, they can interact. This can branch off into many avenues within a curriculum.

Obviously, if these are ESL students it’s a goldmine of very interesting English input and output.

Conclusion: Every year in high schools around the world, there are a handful of students who take off for distant lands. I’ve seen it many times – one day they’re gone, and when they reappear they may look the same, but there’s a very noticeable change on the inside. Hey, what happened out there? Where did that light in your eyes come from? You say your classmates can’t understand what you’ve been through?

With a well-thought out classroom blog, we can all share and grow together enjoyably and with powerful educational implications. Thanks for the great idea, Cody.

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