Thursday, May 18, 2006

Expanded Classroom

Good faculty SU workshop on Global Learning/Expanded classroom.

-Robert Bersson, Professor Emeritus of Art and Art History, James Madison University. "Responding to Art" is his textbook. Talked of his experiences as an art student in Italy 1964 - then traveling back to Florence with his James Madison students. Spoke of insider vs. outsider status of the global classroom - obviously becoming immersed in the culture has a more desired outcome.

Shared NPR story on tips for leaving the ugly American image behind when traveling:

One faculty in audience observed his best learning experiences were from his worst travel experiences. In India when his plane was cancelled and group stranded for 2 days - the hosts put the group up with Indian families... terrific opportunity.

-Erica Helm Chair, SU Dance Division
Spoke of her own global learning experience - her trip to Spain during her 2005 sabatical sparked interest in creating a stunning multimedia dance piece which I had the priveledge to see last fall about a medieval pilgrimmage across spain. Gorgeous. She will send me details on that which I will share later.

Random divergence: She poke of a group of Catalonian speakers in West Virginia who get together for coffee and chat each week - will also get more info on that.

-Julie Bean - SU Accounting graduate who I featured in my documentary about SU's Glocal Citizenship Project trip to Mali "Dance with the Baobab" is the essence of the expanded classroom. She approached our trip to Mali with a very open mind - had never really been outside the region before.

It has changed her life - she is now going to grad school.. and has started her own business called Crazy Beautiful Jewelry - making earrings.. the proceeds go to Malian women. All this because of how empowered and inspired she became from the Mali experience. She can be reached at

My take on the expanded classroom - what I know as a filmmaker is that visuals, character and story make a subject interesting. The same applies to an international experience - essentially students are walking into their own drama, meeting the characters, seeing connections. Important for those who take them there to be creative about intepreting the learning experience with and for the students. Small moments like Julie noticing that the houses were being constructed with scaffolding made of sticks - yet the cell phones were so sophisticated. That was a truly insightful comment - it says something about infrastructure - about how impoverished countries never got the landlines - they went straight to cell phones. Important to be creative about when learning is happening.

Also - big important point - this from Mr. Porteno - the media does a bad job of bringing and interpreting the world for us. An expanded classroom is the opportunity to become a primary source and take that back to our learning centers.

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