The students in Janis Marchese's sociology at her Waltham High School classes have been studying cultural differences and what better way to learn about cultural variations than to skype with her daughter, Cara, who is in her second year of the Peace Corps program bringing health awareness to the farming region of Salcedo, Ecuador.
All of the students were genuinely interested in the Peace Corps itself, the arduous task of applying, cultural shock and generally what life is like living in Ecuador.
The students asked Cara all types of questions. They learned that Ecuador is a Democracy, but unlike that of the United States there are no term limits for its President. Since Cara has been in Ecuador the unemployment rate has gone down and the government is mandating that all teachers be tested in their knowledge of the English language. All students in all schools wear school uniforms, and Cara thought that the high school students might not like to wear the school uniform everyday, which is jeans with a matching jeans jacket. (my Sociology students certainly did not like the idea of school uniforms!) The students were surprised to learn that many Ecuadorians live without hot water, but as Cara explained she is one of the lucky volunteers to even have water. Cara explained the peculiarities of taking public transportation. Unlike in the U.S., people board the busses between stops to sell different types of foods, hand out pamphlets, make speeches, entertain the passengers and then jump off. Cara contrasted the gender roles of woman and men in Ecuador, and how the families in Ecuador raise their children. She described how the townspeople love to celebrate historical events with frequent public parades, how passionate they are for Soccer, and the different types of foods they eat. Chocolate is a delicacy in Ecuador and snicker bars and hershey bars, which are imported from the U.S., are expensive and locked away in glass cabinets. Cara told the students that one candy bar can cost up to $1.75, which is the same price for a gallon of gasoline! When shopping it is not surprising for a store clerk to hold up a $5.00 bill to make sure it is not counterfeit. Cara showed the students a cooked guinea pig, complete with grinning teeth, opened eyes and claws! When Cara told the students that the Guinea Pig is typically consumed as you would an ear of corn, they gasped. Toward the end of the Skype lesson, a couple of the Sociology students spoke Spanish with Cara. Not only did the students learn about the cultural differences some are thinking about the Peace Corps and when they asked Cara about having any regrets, she replied she had none, and that her overwhelming desire to bring important knowledge and awareness to a struggling third world country makes it all worth it.
The skyping was flawless and Janis Marchese worked collaboratively with Kevin Long, a Business Teacher and Instructional Technology Specialists who was instrumental in coordinating the technology of the event. An iPad, AppleTV (with monitoring) and an LCD were used and all connected through the High School's wireless network. Perhaps this use of technology may generate some ideas for potential use with other teachers and classes.