When students arrive at school at 6am, you know something is up. In this case, these students were up for a big challenge, along with students from 5 other countries all from different time zones. Together about 100 students engaged virtually in the United Nations Student Conference on Leadership Development (UNSCLD). The final outcome was a Plan of Action which when implemented will help to combat human rights abuses.
Burnaby students participated in the UNSCLD with great respect, interest and motivation. They took on the task of editing and polishing the Plan and of adding their comments regarding global education, the environment and food security. All participating students voted on the importance of the final document, but getting to this point had taken two months. Students from Mexico, New York, Canada and India were videoconferenced live, while students from the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were watching via webcast and sending in comments and questions by email.
Posting and engaging online at UNICEF’s Voices for Youth website was the first step for Burnaby students. This was the stage where they became “experts” on one topic. UNICEF is very enthusiastically promoting the website as a way to have youth (eventually) from every country in the world contribute their ideas and understanding in order to gain a more global understanding, and connecting via videoconference pushed these goals even further. In the words of Liz Kingsworth, from the Omega School in Chennai, India students were “there to hear, respect and include many divergent needs and solutions and to have ours respected and included, and that the task was to see how we can help each other achieve these solutions. There is so much potential for everyone to support each other when different contexts are understood. For example, although some points concerning people with disabilities were very specific to one group, our students were imagining they could learn about sign language from those students and other ways to work with differently ‘abled’ people [in India].”
Burnaby students met at the Centre for Dialogue at Byrne Creek Secondary on March 3rd, 2014 for this unique opportunity. Burnaby is fortunate to have videoconference equipment which provides such events.