May 15 My Town Completes Pilot Competition With 8 Schools

My Town – an international, non-profit initiative to develop global perspectives among students through collaborative and competitive projects – has successfully completed its first, pilot competition. Teams from eight schools around the world engaged with each other to describe: “An interesting or significant feature of my town.”

Collaborating online through the My Town website, each team developed and presented a video on their selected topic. The participating schools were: American Community School (Athens, Greece); Barbara Priestman Academy (Sunderland, England); BeiDa Senior High School (Taipei, Taiwan); Chittagong Grammar School (Chittagong, Bangladesh); Junior Middle School 2 (Shanghai, China); Nancy Campbell Collegiate Institute (Stratford, Canada); Nanshan High School (Taipei, Taiwan); and The Spinney School (Cambridge, England).

The eight projects covered a wide range of presentation approaches. Schools from Athens, Chittagong, Taipei and Shanghai created documentaries involving interviews, profiles and first person narratives, while a school from Taiwan filmed a role play illustrating a traditional Taiwanese festival. Schools from Stratford (Canada), Sunderland (England) and Cambridge (England) took artistic approaches and presented, respectively, a rap song on global citizenship, an avant garde light and visual rendition of bridges (both physical and metaphorical), and a digital photo montage reading of poems set to photos of Cambridge. The presentations applied a variety of innovative multimedia formats including original photographs and videos, drawings and animations, compositions and lyrics and multiple language formats. “We were quite staggered by the expressive range demonstrated by the students,” noted Paul Collard, Chief Executive at Creativity, Culture and Education. “The teams managed to cover a wide range of disciplines, from journalism, to performance arts, to storytelling, to academia. Based on the first pilot, the possibilities for My Town to tap the latent capabilities of teenagers around the world for critical thinking and creative expression are genuinely profound.”

The competition began with teams posting their original project idea and refining it during two weeks of feedback from the My Town community. After the ideas were finalized, students set out to complete their projects, posting photos from their fieldtrips or their brainstorming activities along the way. While competing with each other, students from different schools also worked together to strengthen each other’s projects. They shared opinions and offered advice on project documents. Outside of the projects, students engaged with one another through the My Town community wall, sharing perspectives on their traditions and lifestyles, as well as challenges faced by their hometowns. Discussions became vibrant and more open as students grew more comfortable with one another. Discussion topics included food, poverty, global warming, festivals and cultural misconceptions.

At the end of the competition, an awards ceremony was held in Athens, with representatives of three schools participating in person, and others by video dial-in. After the awards, the students and teachers participated in a global feedback and discussion session. Steve Medeiros, Dean, Academic Affairs and Institute for Innovation and Creativity, at the ACS Athens School, observed: “In the span of two months, we created a genuine community of students and teachers, both working together and competing against each other. The dynamic has been very positive. People spurred each other on, and helped each other achieve higher aspirations.”

Each student, team, teacher and student is being issued a certificate of international contribution from the Institute of International Education. In addition, selected teams, students and teachers are receiving tablet devices as awards. The award categories are best project demonstrating critical thinking skills, best project demonstrating creative expression, most improved project, most helpful team, top individual contributors, and best project from a school in which English language is not the primary medium of instruction. The principal sponsor of the awards is Quanta Culture & Education Foundation (Taiwan). Knowledge Platform (Singapore) managed the project and also sponsored some of the awards.

Reflecting on the pilot, Matt Van Pelt, the Director of Global Exchanges for Quanta Culture & Education Foundation, noted: “The core premise in designing My Town was inspired by the Delphic maxim ‘know thyself’: students can learn effectively by focusing inwards, and if they then need to present their discoveries to students from other parts of the world, everyone involved will broaden their understanding. The other premise was that we should focus students on their home towns because a town or city can be approached in a much more concrete way than, for example, a country. I think our pilot validated both premises.”

Feedback from participating students about their experience was overwhelmingly positive. Humayra, a student from Chittagong Grammar School, reflected: “It is a wonderful feeling to have won a prize, but our aim was to learn something from this international project and develop as better people in today’s world. We had severe political unrest in the country during the time of the project. Amidst this situation we managed time for the project and worked as a team online. Despite all the obstacles we had a lot of fun throughout the project discovering the unseen and unknown parts of our town and getting to know the lives of the people who always help us and make our lives easier. We also became more extroverted and gained knowledge about practical life.”

These reflections were corroborated by Shereen Ispahani, Founder and CEO of Chittagong Grammar School: “Our students decided to focus their project on the lives of ‘forgotten people in Chittagong’, such as nurses, drivers, maids and cleaners. They had to dig into the lives of these people. Students from different parts of the world asked questions about the project. Our students had to explain the context, and formulate the issues facing the people they profiled in a globally comprehensible manner. I think everyone came away with a more global, and more importantly, a more human understanding. My Town works, and we plan to support it in a deeper way going forward!”

The sponsors of the My Town initiative include: American Community School (Athens, Greece); Bestway Education (China); Chittagong Grammar School (Chittagong, Bangladesh); Creativity, Culture, Education (UK); Institute of International Education (USA); Jerry Hultin (Chairman, Global Advisory Board at Smart City Expo World Congress); Knowledge Platform (Singapore); Quanta Culture & Education Foundation (Taiwan); and WISE / Qatar Foundation (Qatar).

For additional information, please contact Amaani Hamid, Director Knowledge Communities, at Knowledge Platform (Singapore), at ahamid@knowledgeplatform.com.