The One World Learning (OWL)
project approaches timely issues within the international development agenda with a non-traditional perspective. It follows the main points of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and focuses on those development issues which have to be addressed through conventional education. The OWL teleclasses emphasize the needs and interests of the actual participants, rather than relying on a general curriculum.
After completing a comprehensive preparatory course, the supervising teachers are able to support the participants in conceptualizing abstract development issues using entertaining and engaging activities. The students are encouraged to discuss some of the “big questions of life”. Meanwhile, they receive continuous assistance to help them dealing with matters, which are beyond the sphere of their comfort zone.
The primary aim is to promote understanding cultural difference amongst persons and groups. The specific objectives are to broaden the knowledge of students on issues that have high priority in the global development agenda (e.g. human rights, gender equality, multicultural knowledge, health and environmental awareness, economic way of thinking etc.) and to lay down a foundation for a sustainable, nonformal development education method.
The project is designed for secondary school students as they are the most inclusive members of the society and they are about to make important decisions regarding the continuation of their studies or beginning their career. Experiences people undergo between the ages of 14 and 18 will fundamentally determine their personal and work attitude that will further influence their environment and the community.
OWL is based on telepresence technology that enables the participants to have a realistic face-to-face communication experience and to use most elements of verbal and non-verbal communication. They take their seats around a virtual table and engage in discussion, as they would do in real life. The biggest advantage of the technology is that it remains practically invisible and that is does not require any technological experience from the users. Moreover, the realistic communication experience is also ensured by the fact that there is no delay between picture and sound.
The pilot project
was implemented between the Magnet High School (Ongata Rongai, Kenya) and the Berzsenyi Dániel Secondary School
(Budapest, Hungary). Eighteen students and two teachers participated in an introductory session and three 2-hour teleclasses. The objective of the pilot project was to determine the feasibility of the project concepts. Cisco Hungary and Cisco Kenya provided access to the telepresence facility used in this project. The teachers of the participating schools and ICDT
developed the content of the sessions based upon the interests and development needs of the students. This process was the simulation of the content development method that will apply in case of the actual project.
The analysis of the foregoing teleclasses showed that the dialogues between the participants contradict in many ways with the existing concepts of multicultural encounters and development cooperation. The meetings had brought attention to many – often surprising – issues that have been previously ignored, while other “important” problems seem to have less relevance in practice. Interestingly, none of the students had problems to get accustomed to the special environment. There was no sign of discomfort and they dealt with the situation naturally. Furthermore, it can be concluded that during the pilot project the students were extremely open and non-judgmental. Even topics like religion and sexuality did not create conflict. After the sessions the students referred to these issues as natural differences of opinions and they were interested in understanding the background instead of judging the other side. All in all, it was found that today’s youth need an entirely different education approach to address their needs and interests than the one which is used in traditional education.