In order to make the Geography lessons richer and more interesting to my students, I started a series of video-conferences (or, more plainly, videochats) with foreign nationals from various parts of the world.
The aim was to collect information about the countries involved and look for confirmation (or correction) of the data learned at school through regular lessons. After each conference, the interview was discussed and analyzed collectively under my supervision. The students had their minutes but, if necessary, the videorecord of the conference was also at disposal. Finally, each students was asked to write down a report of the work made.
The 1st of December 2010 Niels L. Rasmussen, Danish PhD student at the university of Edinburgh, was interviewed by the VF class about Denmark. The chat was in English and I acted as an interpreter when the students were not able to understand. Unexpectedly, one of the issues which we discussed was the abuse of alcohol in Denmark.
The 3rd of December Sissi Korhonen, working for the Helsinki Documentary Film Festival, TV programmes' author and prospective PhD student in Paedagogy, talked about Finland in Italian, as she speaks it very fluently. This undoubtedly eased the chat. The student found particularly interesting what she told us about the cultural Finnish life (music festivals, mid-sommer celebrations, the Finnish (!) tango and so on), but what really amazed the students was the image of the snow out of the window during the chat!.
The 10th of December Juan P. Lewis, Argentinian PhD student in Edinburgh, was interviewed about Argentina and South America in general. As Juan graduated in History in Argentina, his chat was particulary informative about issues such as the slavery in Argentina (abolished by the mid XIX century), Che Guevara and the Cuban support to the guerrilla in Africa or the ethnic composition of the Argentinian population.
The 15th of December the last meeting (so far) took place with Brianne Preston, from Missouri, US. This meeting was particularly interesting and revealing, as the students were able, for the first time, to talk with someone coming from the country most represented in the movies and TV shows they watch everyday. Apart from this, the students were very eager to get informed about the university system in the US, about the food (although their tastes are rather conservative) and, of course, the social activities of American teen-agers.
At the end of this cycle of conferences, the students wrote down another, general, report in which they were asked to evaluate what they had learned.