CyberFair Project ID: 1513

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Life on the Border
Category: 2. Community Groups and Special Populations
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

School: North Country Career Center
    Newport, Vermont, United States

400 students, ages from 13 to 18 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 15, 2001. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1

Classes and Teachers: Ms. deLaBruere's Computer Technology and Web Design Classes

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Our community includes the lake-side town of Newport, Vermont and its surrounding towns located on the south side of the United States/Canadian border. Immediately to our North is the French speaking province of Quebec, explaining why many families are from a French-Canadian background. We share Lake Memphremagog, with our Canadian neighbors. Our school district is the largest geographical district in the state, thus posing some unique challenges for Sharing and Uniting, even locally. Some students live 60 miles apart from each other. Thirteen towns send to our high school of approximately 1,000 students.

2. Summary of Our Project

Our project is a celebration of the Franco American culture present in our community. It will include a look at our Franco American community featuring 300 interviews and family scrapbooks,(the scrapbooks will contain photo galleries, recipes, family trees, video and sound clips, maps, and French articles); a partnership with our local newspaper resulting in a weekly student produced column; a Franco American Festival that includes cultural excursions, online exhibits, and live music, dance, and food; interactive ways to contribute to our site; and a video documentary

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:21-50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:more than 6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:4-6

E. Additional comments concerning your computer and/or Internet access (Optional):

Our school has a partial T1 (384) K. The technology classes that participated in this project are held in two labs (one with 20 computers and one with 15 computers). Each computer is part of a LAN that offers it full Internet Access. There are two web servers that are used by these classes. Each was built by students and is maintained by students. The French classes had access to 2 computers in its classroom and the academic computer lab which includes 30 computers with Internet access

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

Our first problem occurred the very FIRST day. We decided to kick off our “Life On The Border” project with a day long work session in the U.S. with a break for lunch in a Canadian restaurant. Walking 60 students through customs was our first problem. We had to leave one student border bound, because he didn’t have his passport. We did, however, bring him a doggie bag from the restaurant. School cancellations due to SNOW also became a problem, as it set us behind schedule. The biggest challenge was how to manage a project that involved 400 students. Students from two different wings in our school learned strategies to stay organized, communicate, and work as a team. Some of the students had little access and experience with technology. Tech center students shared some of their equipment with the academic classrooms, created instruction sheets, and provided training to help everyone meet their goals. They also created a web base database to collect information throughout this project. They created queries and reports to help them stay organized. This allowed students with Internet access to enter and update their information from home. Another problem was trying to fix "glitches" that we discovered along the way. It was difficult to find a time to FIX the database, since it was almost always "in use". Another challenge was the lack of technical support. We felt frustrated that we didn't have technical support to help us with this difficulties such as streaming video. However, it did force us to experience long hours of troubleshooting. Sometimes, we felt like giving up, but thanks to student perseverance, we were successful of in completing our project we can be proud of.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Not only did we learn that the contributions of our Franco American ancestors enrich our community, but we also learned that the varied skills and talents of different groups of students enrich our school community. Working together and appreciating each others gifts and contribution are key to a successful community building (both inside and outside of school)

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

The State of Vermont Learning Standards are divided into two sections (Vital Results) and (Discipline specific learning standards). This project meets (80%) of the Vital Results Standards and several discipline specific standards. The project also aligns to many of the ISTE (International Society of Technology Educators) standards. Integration of technology, academics, and leadership skills while building community are important parts of our curriculum and mission. This project achieved these goals. Students were "writing across the curriculum" (over 400 pages of student produced writing was produced). Students conducted research using primary sources (over 300 community members were interviewed). Student practiced leadership skills and teamwork to organize the project. Every academic class involved was assigned "CyberFair leaders" and "student technology mentors" to motivate, organize, and facilitate the process. The project also provided a hands-on approach to the study of French culture. The project also provided an excellent opportunity for integrating technology directly into the curriculum. Many students used scanners, digital cameras, and web based forms for the first time. Advanced students were challenged to learn Internet programming and creating special effects on the web. Creating a web base infrastructure to collect and publish data provided students with a authentic experience designing and using an online collaborative tool. The project also gave us a chance to show our community one of our STRENGHTS as an educational community--the integration of academic and vocational skills. Our educational community is currently considering a proposal that would move the voc-tec center into a new facility (off site). This project provided the community with an opportunity to see the benefits of being able to integrate academic and technical learning opportunities.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?

The project would not have been possible without access to a variety of technologies and information tools. The 300 students enrolled in the French program had access to two classroom computers, a digital camera, and the school’s computer lab. The 100 students enrolled in our technical center met daily in a networked lab with a scanner, a video capture card, a digital camera, and full Internet access. Through a partnership with "Vermont Institute of Science Math and Technology (VISMT), we also had access to COLD FUSION Server technology. Tech center students were introduced to this skill and requested more training so that they could build this year's CyberFair project using this technology. This turned out to be one of the KEYS to success in this project.

We also had access to video production equipment through the PEG (Public Education Government) Access studio located in our school. A partnership with the local newspaper allowed students to experience the tools and techniques necessary for producing a weekly print supplement in our local daily newspaper. Students used tape recorders, telephone, email, and video cameras to their interview our community. Some of them even conducted their interviews in French. Scanners, digital cameras, video capture, and tape recorders were used to create the scrapbooks. Another unique aspect of this project was that it involved in the sharing of resources between the academic and technical wings of our school. The technical students set up one of their scanners in the academic wing for the duration of the project. The academic students frequently came over to the technical center's classroom to use their computers and equipment. The project truly involved the spirit of SHARING and UNITING two components of our educational community which are currently in danger of being separated.

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.

Our Franco American project has given students countless opportunities to work with our community. We started by a organizing a "kick off" to the project that included a day long brainstorming and planning session held in the United States, with a break for lunch in Canada. This international experience included 60 students and 10 community members. The energy flow as incredible and the word started to spread into the community about what we were doing. We continued to spread the word by developing a partnership with the local newspaper, where we prepared a weekly column featuring some aspect of our project. Some community members told us that they buy the paper every Wednesday to ready our LIFE ON THE BORDER column. As of this date, we have published 12 weekly columns. Three hundred students with tape recorders, video cameras, digital cameras, and notepads gathering information is bound to call attention to itself. Three hundred families started to dust off old photo albums, recipe books, musical instruments, and more. One family even offered to dig out its old "silent 8 mm film reels". We purposely organized our project to allow the momentum to build over a period of time and culminate in a community celebration. We have planned this community celebration to be the same night as the CyberFair Awards ceremony. Planning our project to be a 6 month celebration producing (print, digital, and live) activities, has given us numerous opportunities to be ambassadors. We believe that the Franco American Festival planned for May will be a a success because of the momentum we have built during this process. Adding components to our project outside the "web" helped us reach more members of our community.

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

We purposely planned our project so that it would impact our community on a larger scale than would be possible with a web site alone. The project has been good PR for our school starting with the kickoff day where 60 students and 10 community members walked across the border for lunch and worked together all day to plan the project. Our weekly column in the local newspaper features a recipe, some Franco American memories, and a profile of a local community members. We have heard that many people "go out and buy the paper on Wednesday, just so they don't miss our "Life on the Border" column. The experiences that our students are sharing about their interview experience are another example of the impact on the community. Grandparents, relatives and neighbors are dusting off old souvenirs, photo albums, citizenship papers, and more. Our online Scrapbooks, are providing our community with a way to preserve traditions and memories in a time when the culture is slowly getting lost. The generation that immigrated from Quebec is growing older and our project is providing our community to "capture" some of the traditions and memories that may soon be gone forever. Even though many of us have parents and grandparents who learned French as a first language, most of us struggle to learn French in school. This will impact our future generations as we will be able to pass on these memories and traditions. Our Festival will yet provide our Franco American community to truly SHARE with us their music, dance, food, and the spirit they brought to the United States. It will be a wonderful opportunity for this community to bond together in helping us experience the Franco American Spirit through this Festival.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

Our project would not have been possible without such a wonderful and supportive community. Three hundred community members provided us with stories, memories, recipes, songs, dances, music, and more. They lent us their photo albums, dusted off their citizenship papers, and sang to us. Ten local community, including our mayor, local business members, and a Franco American performer, met with us to help kick off and brainstorm the project. Our local newspaper editor and staff provided us with the opportunity to reach our community every week by helping us publish a weekly column. Three local web designers have provided us with input and suggestions. One of our CyberFair Alumnae helped us "fix" our server during his Christmas break. We also have developed a partnership with one of our state organizations (The Vermont Institute of Science Math and Technology). They provided us with the opportunity to experiment with Cold Fusion and web base database. It allowed us to learn some high tech skills. We were fortunate enough to be receive support from two retired English teachers who graciously agreed to review our interviews and serve as writing mentors. It was also exciting how members from different communities throughout the school mentored and helped each other. A music student created midi’s for our site. Two animation students helped us with Flash and graphics. Video production students are helping us with a documentary. Technical center students served as mentors for other students learning technology.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

The project was filled with discoveries. We learned that some of the traditions that we thought were unique to our family, were really quite prevalent amongst our neighbors. We learned that we were not the only one who "hung their stockings on New Year's Eve" or whose aunts and uncles broke out into French "answering songs" while the cousins played "the spoons". Each week new discoveries were made. A week before the web site was launched, we discovered that a every Wednesday, a group of French Canadian community members gather at the Old Bobbin Mill Restaurant with their instruments and sing and dance the morning away. Probably the biggest surprise was how "big" the project got. The momentum just kept growing and our energy, interest and enthusiasm grew with it. The upcoming live community Festival will surely be a testimony to the success of our project.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 1513)

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