Collaboration Communication Creativity & Critical Thinking

 

As a result of a recent conference held in Copenhagen Denmark the US Virgin Islands and the Danish TST program got off to a solid start. Discussions about collaboration between Denmark and the Virgin Islands had been going on for several years and a collaboration agreement was formalized last year. Educators from the Virgin Islands were invited to Denmark's Annual TST Conference held in Copenhagen in September 2014, with the goal of developing strong collaboration projects that would enable both teachers and students from both sides of the Atlantic to become academically engaged with each other.

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From past to present
Four teachers and four state and district administrators from the Virgin Islands traveled to Denmark to begin process of developing and expanding the collaboration between Denmark and the three islands, formally the Danish West Indies, now called the US Virgin Islands. Out of this meeting came connections that would link Denmark and the Virgin Islands using education as the conduit for exposing students to a common history, culture as well as experiences that would enhance their appreciation and understanding of themselves and each other’s heritage and past.

Cooperation and dialogue
The Virgin Islands educators were introduced to both a unique and different education system as well as groups of special dedicated Danish educators and students.
Opportunities to discuss possibilities for collaboration was one of the great benefits of this meeting. Bonds of friendship were established as teachers began discussions on the types of collaborative projects that would be most beneficial for their students. Creating meaningful connections that would enhance the experiences of students on both sides of the Atlantic was the main goal achieved from this initial encounter.

Virgin Islands teachers and administrators got an opportunity to visit a number of Danish schools and met with some of the teachers and students they would be collaborating with. The significance of these initial meetings were really critical in getting collaborative efforts going. This work will build upon earlier efforts to stimulate dialogue and collaboration among both educators and students from Denmark and the Virgin Islands. A more structured approach to educational collaboration is the goal that will be achieved in the end. Students are the center of this whole effort and will be the beneficiaries of this plan designed to provide enhanced learning opportunities for them.

These young people will have the world as their classrooms and their teachers will become the facilitators. Students will have the opportunity to be actively engaged in directing their own learning experiences and acquiring the skills and concepts that are necessary for their success in life. Dynamic learning experiences would be the order of the day as students would have opportunities to dialogue and exchange ideas and knowledge gained in this process.

The 4 C's

Collaboration would come as a natural part of the dialogue that will be established when students can work together on topics and projects for which they have a genuine interest.

Communication provides avenues for discussion and the sharing of ideas and even different points of view. Tolerance and an understanding and appreciation for different cultures and different ways of life would naturally come out of this process.

Creativity is one of the direct results that would naturally come out of projects designed to enhance student educational experiences. Teachers and students would have to be creative to deal with the challenges of time and distance in a cooperative effort. A six hour time difference and a distance of over 7000 km (4000 miles) poses some challenges that teachers and students will certainly overcome.

Critical thinking or problem solving is another natural product of this effort. Group work creates a collaborative effort that stimulates team work and problem solving. It helps to instill discipline and creates an environment that encourages a thoughtful approach to addressing obstacles and challenges faced by the group.

Having young people to come together to address issues and topics that are relevant and important to them through these approaches would only strengthen and improve their own learning experiences. They would begin to develop the leadership skills that would be necessary when they assume the roles that they are destined to fulfill - The Leaders of Tomorrow.

Lauren Larsen, Ph. D. Social Studies Coordinator

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