My Nonprofit Reviews
Kristi Rennebohm Franz
Review for iEARN, New York, NY, USA
I have been an iEARN teacher since 1994 when my first grade classroom of students began doing curricular projects online with schools in China, Kenya, Argentina, Russia, Japan, Netherlands, Nicaragua and other schools in the United States. iEARN was amazing from our first experiences when we were communicating only through text -based email using a dedicated line to send and receive messages about water habitats, shared common cultures of caring in our communities, and how to help one another from school to school, community to community. During the next twelve years, the young elementary students in our public school classroom learned how to build understanding with global peers in science, math, social studies, world languages, art and service learning. We added new technologies as they came available including digital images, websites, video production and video conferencing to meet face-to-face. All students in the class participated from September to June in multiple iEARN projects. They realized they had an important role in making a difference in the world while they are in school not just when they became adults. They assumed that doing school projects with classmates on multiple continents was the definition of school learning. They learned to read and write by communicating with global classmates and teachers. They learn how to thoughtfully and generously respond to the needs of one another locally and globally, especially in difficult times of war, earthquakes, hurricanes, natural resource scarcity. They learned the importance of comfort, empathy and care during times of illness and medical emergencies. They learned the importance of all students having access to education. They learned about one another’s cultural commonalities as evidence of how we are alike worldwide and learned that one another’s cultural differences are opportunities to see, hear, dialogue, understand and embrace cultures and languages not previously familiar to them. Differences were opportunities to learn, commonalities opportunities to affirm; commonalities and differences both embraced as positives. The growing of community with global peers generated hope in these young children that, indeed, they were part of a complex and connected world where they each had a place alongside one another and where each of them could contribute to making a difference.
As one first grader said in a posting to thank iEARN teachers for helping her learn to read and write, “Thank you Ms. McLane (iEARN teacher in Seattle) and all my teachers around the world! I couldn’t have done it without you!”
As a teacher, being a part of iEARN was an incredible way to teach and learn as it was possible to connect globally with schools, teachers and students on every component of our classroom curricula. Our classroom work took on real world importance when the students knew that quality work resulted in incredible communications beyond the walls of our school, beyond the rural wheat fields of our community to places and people everywhere we could possibly connect. Student performances soared because they cared about being able to participate in the iEARN project conversations and make positive contributions with their work! There can be no greater privilege as a teacher than being alongside the young children in our classroom and their K-12 peers as, together, they found ways to make the world a better place day after day by working hard with care and responsibility for community near and far! Many iEARN teachers would agree...teaching and learning through iEARN is how and where school communities are moving our world forward. When students have the opportunity to take on important concerns, needs and challenges in a real world process of collaborating with global peers, they see that making a difference with what you know, understand and imagine possible during their school years, leads to making positive differences in the world as a lifelong endeavor!
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iEARN is an enduring global community of students and teachers who are making real world contributions through their project work in ways that are inclusive of all students and accessible through the basic as well as innovative new technologies, thereby bridging the digital divide globally. Students are learning how they can use technologies to make their world a better place.