The Power of Blended Exchange

Group Photo Morocco And U S Students With Banner

Imagine having the opportunity to travel to Morocco as a high school senior, along with your fellow students and teachers, to meet your Moroccan peers with whom you had talked with on video conference every two weeks for the past year and shared with each other about such topics as important holidays, local landmarks, and food in your countries and cultures. In the spring of 2019, 24 high school seniors accompanied by four of their teachers from Ithaca High School in Ithaca, NY, a small city in upstate New York, took such a trip as a culminating event following their virtual exchange experience participating in iEARN’s “My Identity, Your Identity” project, which you can visit in the iEARN Collaboration Centre here.  

During the Ithaca High School students’ physical exchange experience in Morocco, they stayed with local host families and visited local landmarks in Rabat, the capital, with their Moroccan peers, shared meals and engaged in meaningful conversations with each other about a whole range of topics. Below, students Elena Cheung and Pamela Verret share in their own words what the experience was like, iEARN educator Steve Weissburg shares about the impact of iEARN projects on his students, and a video captures the blended virtual and physical exchange that students in the U.S. and Morocco took part in through iEARN. 

Pamela Listens To Her Moroccan Peers

Pamela with her Moroccan Peers

Pamela Verret, Ithaca High School Student

“My name is Pamela Verret and I became aware of iEARN in my junior year under Steve Weissburg, a lead teacher in the exchange. I was active in "My Identity, Your Identity," the online exchange between the students of my high school's Morocco Club and the students of schools in Beni Mellal and Meknes. 

This online exchange functioned as a pre-meeting, so when the actual encounter came we were well prepared. We knew names, interests, and had already "broken the ice," which made touring, dining, and the final goodbyes much more impactful. 

For me, meeting people goes hand in hand with learning; this trip was no different. I learned more about Islam as a way of life; about education and politics in a Muslim country; and about food, language, and everyday life. I am so incredibly grateful to the students and my host family for their patience; no matter how many times I mispronounced a word or asked an arbitrary question, they smiled and helped me along. 

This was my first time ever traveling internationally and thanks to the hospitality of the students and host families, I feel encouraged and even excited to travel and learn more about the world outside of my normal day to day routine.”

Elena And Her Moroccan Peers

Elena speaks with Moroccan students

Elena Cheung, Ithaca High School Student

“My name is Elena Cheung, and I was first involved with iEARN projects in freshman year when my Algebra 1 teacher, Todd Noyes, created Morocco Club. He asked us to communicate with Moroccan students over iEARN during class. Fast forward to senior year, I participated in the “My Identity Your Identity” project.

I envisioned Morocco to be a conservative country, so I was surprised to meet Faiza. She was incredibly passionate about social justice issues. Talking to Faiza made me stop and think about my privilege. I have the freedom to say what I want, love who I want, and have control over my own body where I live.

During our exchange, I lived with a host family and experienced the daily life of a Moroccan teenager. I knew walking down the streets, I was clearly different from my Moroccan friends, but I felt deeply connected and similar to them. Geographically, we are distant, but we will forever cherish the memories we created. I urge all students interested in learning more about a culture to participate in both an online and in-person exchange; there is so much in this world that we have yet to discover, and understanding other people is crucial in having empathy towards others.”

Student Presentations

Students present on their iEARN Project to their peers

Steve Weissburg, Ithaca High School Teacher and iEARN Educator

“I have been involved with iEARN for about five years. Some of the other projects I have done are the Water is Life project, and I am the facilitator for the Global Math project, for which I have led students through a lot of other projects, including the STICK - Measuring the Circumference of the Earth project, the Golden Ratio project; and activities, such as Geometry in your Community and World Population. 

The greatest impact has been to enable my students, many of whom have very limited cultural experience, to interact with students from all over the world. I always find it interesting that many of my struggling students develop a greater motivation when they have an opportunity to interact with students from other countries. I am often surprised by what I learn from my students through these opportunities.”

Video of iEARN 2018-2019 Blended Exchange between Ithaca High School, U.S.; Victor Hugh School & Language Academy Center, Beni Mellal, Morocco; Le Portail du Savoir School, Meknes, Morocco and International School, Qatar.