CyberFair Project ID: 3258

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Kashmir: Hope for the Future
Category: 2. Community Groups and Special Populations
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

School: Notre Dame Academy
    Toledo, Ohio, United States of America

5 students, ages 15, 17, 18 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 20, 2004. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 2004

Classes and Teachers: Jacqueline Konwinski, Judith Miller, parent volunteer; Josephina, Gretchen, Meredith, Marissa, and Elise

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Team

Marissa is eighteen and co-editor of the school newspaper. This position has helped her conduct interviews and do research for her 'past' section. She loves the New York Yankees, New York City, and enjoys traveling. Elise, a lover of that other big city, Chicago, enjoys dance, art, and looks forward to studying abroad in Africa. She is seventeen, drew our beautiful Global Café, researched present information on Pakistan, and used her skills to add an artistic flare. Meredith, fifteen, was our web wizard. She learned most of the coding in about two months and worked hard to compile all the information for the site. She enjoys singing, learning, preserving our environment and is curious about how things work. Josephina, seventeen, is a native Kashmiri and used her knowledge of current events to add a unique view to the 'future' page. She was the person we went to with questions and enjoys international politics, being a Victorian woman, and watching classic films. Gretchen, seventeen, is fascinated by aeronautics and dreams of becoming a pilot. She is enthusiastic about history, is artistic, and worked on 'present' information concerning India. Her determination and persistence kept the group focused and enthusiastic. Mrs. Konwinski is the AP History and Government teacher at Notre Dame. She kept us productive and was informative and helpful. She also compiled the survey results. Mrs. Miller helped our group with her wide knowledge of media journalism. Mrs. Miller saw the program when she was doing research for her business and told Gretchen about it. As we are all good friends and would bring unique qualities to the group, Gretchen asked the rest of us to participate. She asked our teacher, Mrs. K, to lead our group due to her extensive awareness of and experience with current events and history.

2. Summary of Our Project

Our project is comprised of different aspects of Peace and Democracy issues in the disputed territory of Kashmir. We first prepared a survey for area high school students to see what students our age knew about Kashmir. The results of these surveys prompted us to concentrate more on the basics of the conflict, as most students were not aware of the situation. We separated our research into the past, present, and future of the Kashmir conflict. In the past, we explored the history of Kashmir up until partition, what occurred after partition, and the events that led to the uprising in the mid-80's by the pro-independence militants. Our present pages explore the situation from the mid-80's until today from India's, Pakistan's, and the pro-Independence Kashmiri's perspectives. We explore the current problems of free elections, human rights, and judicial reform. In the future pages, we present five different solutions to the conflict. We examine the pros and cons of each solution, and then present our group's feelings on the best solution for all three parties involved. We also present what free elections, human rights, and judicial reforms entail, and how these three aspects of peace and democracy can be implemented in Kashmir. Lastly, we wanted to create a 'Global Café' for students to explore the Kashmiri culture and allow students to share their feelings on the conflict. We created a message board so that students around the world can discuss the situation. Pictures, arts and crafts, poetry, music, and recipes are also on the cultural pages. Our interviews with various individuals can be found on the 'Global Café', as well. Overall, we wanted to first educate students around the world about the conflict and what can be done for the future, and second, present cultural and social aspects of the region.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:1

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6

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

Our school has about 25 Dell computers with Windows XP in the library, and it is a busy place. Teachers take their classes to the lab with 24 more Dell computers to do research and use subject-based programs. Next door is the computer classroom with another 24 computers for technology instruction and classes in computer programming. In addition, each classroom and each office has a computer. All have Internet access. Research is easier, and it is great to type class notes, essays and term papers. A Director of Technology, a Network Technician and Microsoft Professional Trainer, and a business education/computer teacher coordinate the Technology Department.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

One obstacle our group faced was getting responses from those we contacted for interviews. We had difficulty finding phone numbers, so we emailed professors, government officials, authors, lawyers, and local experts. We dealt with this problem by re-contacting the individuals or finding others who could assist. We had a problem getting responses from some area schools to which we sent surveys. So, we had to make multiple trips to the schools in order to get replies. Some schools returned the surveys unanswered; however, the lack of responses did not greatly compromise our results. The sources were a bit overwhelming in their information. Therefore, it was hard for us to organize research in a concise and understandable manner. Our group had time issues, as we are all involved in AP classes, extracurricular activities, and community service. It was hard for us to find times to meet due to our busy schedules and where we live in relation to each other. As most of us are journeying along the college process, we were laden with college and scholarship applications. Looking back now, there were some funny instances that provided obstacles, but at the time, they were not so amusing. On one occasion, we were transferring information from a disk to our website. When the transfer was complete, we attempted to eject the disk. However, the disk's metal cartridge cover became stuck in the drive. One of our member's fathers had to dismantle the floppy drive in order to remove the disk. The disk eventually came out, but the metal part was lodged into the equipment, and took some time to take out. In another painful instance, the computer froze while we were typing the narrative, and our information was lost, causing us to start over.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Participating in Doors to Diplomacy has enlightened our group to not only the often-overlooked controversy concerning Kashmir, but also to our group member and friend's heritage. Even after this competition is complete, our high school plans to update our website and teach about Kashmir in the Current Events Club and possibly in a new Social Studies elective class, making local and international students of the future aware of the importance of peace in this area.

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

This project will be featured at our bimonthly Current Events Club meetings, which focus on national and international issues. Four of us study AP US Government and Politics, which requires knowledge of current issues. Our college preparatory school promotes holistic education and diversity. Our project addresses this Ohio Academic Content Standard best: Social Studies Skills and Methods for Grades 11-12. 'Students collect, organize, evaluate and synthesize information from multiple sources to draw logical conclusions. Students communicate this information using appropriate social studies terminology in oral, written or multimedia form and apply what they have learned to societal issues in simulated or real-world settings' (Academic 289-291). We collected, organized, evaluated and synthesized information from books, journals, interviews, survey, and websites. We communicate with a timeline, graphs, photographs, an original painting, music, and writing (paragraphs, essays, pros and cons, poetry, and conclusions) on our Kashmir website. This correlates with ISTE NETS Standards through responsible technology use by citing sources and following software use policies. Websites on Kashmir enhanced our learning and facilitated collaboration, which continues on our message board. Creative brainstorming produced photographs, colors, graphs, and other devices to enhance content. We developed five strategies for solving the Kashmiri conflict through government and other strategies addressed human rights problems and courts. Our project supports themes from the National Content Standards of the National Council for the Social Studies. We focus on Time, Continuity and Change with our 'Past, Present, and Future' approach. For Individuals, Groups and Institutions we emphasize the courts. We discuss the possible governmental structures for Power, Authority and Governance. We hope young people around the world will benefit from our website for Science, Technology and Society. Kashmir is an example of 'frequent tension between national interests and global priorities' and 'age-old ethnic enmities' in Global Connections.

Project Elements

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

To do this project, our group mainly used computers. At our school, we have a library with about 25 Dell computers with Windows XP. Each classroom has one Gateway computer that anyone can use. All five of us also had computers at home that we used in addition to newspapers, journals, and books. Many of our interviews were conducted using email so we were able to learn a lot about contacting people via the Internet. We used Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Adobe Photoshop, and Fireworks. We were also able to use scanners to transfer and place photos and pictures, like The Global Cafe, on the website. We used digital cameras for pictures of our high school's Student Council, of which two group members are a part. To form the elements of our site, I needed few programs. I wrote all of the code for most of the site. The only sections that needed extra programs were the Global Cafe and the navigation bars, which required programs that would automatically write the code needed. I did, however, have to learn how to work these programs. For the code writing, all I used was notepad, the book on code from which I learned the language, and the FTP upload program. These would be the programs I found most useful. However, our group never could have had the current Global Café if it weren't for the program Fireworks. This program automatically wrote the code needed and image maps needed for the separate photo pop-up links.

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

Our group took a grassroots approach to being ambassadors to our school, community, and international peers. We'll present our site to our school's Current Events Club. Our moderator asked the Social Studies teachers to inform their students about our project. Our school newspaper already wrote about our project, and we'll make a school-wide announcement promoting our site. Since our school has approximately 650 girls, we hope they take the initiative to learn more. Our school's Public Relations Department connects us to the community by issuing press releases to newspapers, television stations, local universities, churches and mosques. Since we attend a Catholic school, we'll contact the Catholic School Services, Catholic Chronicle and the Notre Dame Academy Tradition. Next, we interacted with teenagers from area high schools by sending surveys about Kashmir for them to take and follow-up letters inviting them to visit the website. We will inform the individuals we interviewed about our completed website. Our next plan of outreach is to email all the people we know to urge them to visit the site, give feedback, and inform others. We'll put a link to the website on our AIM profiles and away messages. Because together we know many people, this method of being 'ambassadors' will generate more people to our site. Also, we have access to hundreds of teenagers worldwide through Internet groups, such as the Michigan Muslim Youth Council and Global Young Leaders Conference, and message boards, such as College Confidential and Princeton Review. People are impressed with our work; for example, one family member said that he was impressed with our topic choice because it is important but usually overlooked. Mr. Seevers, the Desk Officer for India at the U.S. State Department, said, 'You and your colleagues have done an impressive job learning about the intricacies of Kashmir.'

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

Our project will bring much needed attention regarding the conflict in Kashmir to students and adults locally and internationally. Our project will make an impact in our school community. The idea of creating Social Studies electives focused on learning about Kashmir and the technology to update the website has been considered. The Current Events Club also plans to ensure our website's quality over the years and educate incoming members about the area's turmoil. Anyone who visits our website will come across the survey results of high school students and learn that the students lack knowledge on Kashmir. Since Kashmir's situation and culture is not well understood, those who visit our site will not only learn about the region's discord, but also about its fabric of life. People around the world also will get a look into our school community, as we placed photos of our student body government. Through these pictures, the international community can see how American high school students orchestrate free and fair elections. We formed relationships with the Technology Department at our school and used their expertise to answer questions about forming a website. We also have contacts with the local mosque, including members from Kashmir who provided interviews and first-hand accounts about Kashmir life, and students in our class whose parents come from India and Pakistan. We also have connections to the U.S. State Department, which clarified America's position on Kashmir's condition. In addition to us viewing the website, many of our family members, including parents and spouses, and faculty members of the Technology Department have watched the website's daily and weekly growth. Many of our interviewees were impressed with our in-depth research and questions. We have been told that we started something great at our school - something that will last for many years to come.

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

Our project resulted from many people's hard work and dedication. We asked Mrs. Konwinski after class one day if she would lead us in this project. She was excited about the whole competition and even re-arranged her lesson plan to accommodate our needs. Thanks Mrs. K. for your flexibility, willingness to help, and constant pep talks! Our parents helped us in different ways, too. Gretchen's parents set up interviews for us and tirelessly worked out problems that arose while creating the website. They also were kind in letting us take over their house many long nights in order to complete our research and website. Josephina's parents added a taste of how life in Kashmir is, literally and figuratively. They provided the authentic Kashmiri recipes, found through The Global Café and gave a detailed description of their homeland. Elise's parents gave some ideas that helped begin the project and helped Elise aesthetically place the elements in her Global Café painting. Marissa's parents traveled to the library to pick up books for her research and to an area high school to drop off and pick up some surveys. They also made sure that emails included all the necessary information and suggested to whom those emails should be sent. The Notre Dame Technology Department assisted Meredith with answers and advice. They gave her a USB memory card and suggested a program that made creating the navigation bars easier. Without the interviewees, who thoroughly answered our questions, we wouldn't have the critical, personal view on the conflict. While many adults aided us, it was the students who took our surveys and gave interviews that provided us with a teenage perspective. We would like to thank the Doors to Diplomacy Help Desk for answering all of our questions in a timely manner!

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

Josephina: The project was an emotional experience, as I feel passionately about my homeland. One lesson I learned was that the other side is also passionate about their arguments. I discovered that much of my knowledge about Kashmir was based on emotion and opinion; through this project, I now know facts and am prepared for a good debate! Gretchen: When I suggested this project to my other team members, I knew it would be a lot of work, but I never expected to enjoy it! Before we began this project, I knew virtually nothing about Kashmir, but I've learned much about working in groups, world problems, and even my friends! Elise: Before meeting Josephina, I never knew Kashmir existed. Through the years, I've gained more knowledge on the Kashmiri conflict, but it wasn't until this project that I truly understood it. I'm extremely grateful that I participated in this project, as it has given me a more worldly view, insight into my friend's life, and broadened my understanding of the Kashmir region. Marissa: I learned to organize ideas with a storyboard before creating a website. I assumed obtaining interviews would be easy, but even though the Internet allows us to connect with people around the world, they may not respond. Researching for this website provided me with a background of the situation and a better appreciation for my friend's past. I'm proud to be a part of this group of intelligent women who teach me so much. Meredith: Although I began learning how to create a website after we registered, I never minded the work because I really enjoyed learning it. I know this will be useful in the future. I hope to continue learning about creating websites and that many people will enjoy and learn from my first website.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 3258)

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