Long-distance connections

Last week, a group of students at Brighton High School in Boston sat down in their morning class and started a conversation.

Nothing unusual there - but the people they were talking to were in Clarkstown, N.Y. The two classes were meeting by videoconference, something that a group called Global Nomads (gng,org) has been using to help kids from places such as New York, California, and the Middle East talk to each other about life since Sept. 11.

Meeting a group via TV screen is not ideal: Students sat in tight rows to stay in sight of the lens, and stood as they spoke. But within five minutes, you'd have thought these juniors and seniors, some from the city, others from the suburbs, were talking over a table at McDonald's.

Yes, they'd been affected: Jean in Boston said he quit his part-time job at Logan Airport, while Lisa noted the new focus on security. But Aiyana spoke positively of people realizing they needed to look out for their brothers and sisters, while Dominique warned against stereotyping, saying this was the United States. Christian in New York spoke of his dad's stories about working at the site, and another teen, who volunteers with an ambulance corps, encouraged peers to think of what they could do.

New York asked Boston what should happen in Afghanistan (fight, rebuild), while Boston asked who had had family in New York (several). They debated whether the US had had a false sense of security (yes), and whether the war would be long (ditto).

Much common ground emerged over an hour-plus of pretty lively exchange. But it might never have happened, had not the sharp eye of a video and some motivated "educators without borders" helped the conversation get started.


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