From Rwanda to Helsinki

Oceans and borders present few obstacles in today's wireless world. The Center for Educational Technologies maintains an international reach. In particular, the Challenger Learning Center offers the perfect vehicle for reaching out to students in other nations through its e-Missions™ program. In 2011 the Challenger program notched its 15th country in which it has delivered e-Missions, and this one was special.

Challenger conducted its Moon, Mars, and Beyond e-Mission™ via Skype for students at the Kiziba refugee camp in Kibuye, Rwanda. According to Erin McDonald, a Wheeling Jesuit University graduate who is now serving at the camp as part of the Jesuit Refugee Service, the camp is home to 6,000 youngsters, all refugees from eastern Congo. The camp has a nursery school, a primary school, and a secondary school, which is comparable to a grade 7-9 middle school in the United States. The camp has two computer labs, each with about 22 computers running on solar power and a weak wireless Internet connection.

The other countries served with e-Missions are Kyrgyzstan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Argentina, India, South Africa, Republic of Georgia, Japan, Italy, Korea, Northern Ireland, Australia, and England.

Another international outreach effort happened closer to home. Dr. Karolina Kiil, a researcher in the School of Art and Design at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland, spent a couple of days learning about the NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future program during a visit to the Center for Educational Technologies as part of a mission that also took her to the Ohio State University. One of her current areas of research is LEGO robotics as an area of art and technology instruction. She met with Wheeling-area Girl Scout troops who are participating in LEGO robotics competitions. She said it was great to meet people involved in the subjects she's researching. She added that she is also involved in studies about the relation of technology and girls.

Kiil said her inspiration for the trip to Wheeling arose from an article titled "Classroom of the Future" published in a popular Finnish science magazine, which featured an interview with Dr. Laurie Ruberg, associate director of the Center for Educational Technologies. Kiil's visit was made possible through a long-time correspondence with Ruberg, based on this Finnish story about the Classroom of the Future program.
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