When I was a 6th grade social studies teacher, I perceived an unmet opportunity: the State Standards told me to teach about countries through concepts very far removed from everyday life. Moreover, the textbook I was using doesn’t have anything about how people really live. My students, who are all international, had no reason to feel connected to people abroad.
How might we enable social studies teachers to pique their students’ curiosity for global cultures?
In 2015, I started a video series called Our World, which serve as a resource for starting conversations about students’ cultures. In each video, a narrator speaks about their home country in one of that country’s native languages (there’s also subtitles). They talk about things like language, nature, food, festivals and legends. Layered on top are video clips and pictures that illustrate what the narrator says.
I contact participants, co-design scripts with participants, and edit the videos.
Spring 2015: I’m teaching 6th grade social studies. I ask a friend from Vietnam to make the first video, which I show to my students. We have a rich conversation about family norms, fresh food and a shared love of soccer. The video provided the spark for my students to compare and contrast their cultures with his.
September 2016: I attend Startup Weekend Education in Providence, Rhode Island, and pitch Our World to other attendees. The idea gathered enough interest for a team to be formed. I take a leadership role in developing a (shaky) business plan and presenting. The final pitch for Our World was met with enthusiasm by the judges.
March – April 2017: I attend a series of workshops at the LearnLaunch educational technology accelerator in Boston, gaining helpful feedback from entrepreneurs and experts. They pushed me to try testing different kinds of videos.
May 2017 – present: I record the first Our World dialogue video, a departure from the monologue videos. I intend on experimenting with other models and asking teachers for feedback on what they’re most interested in.