Sunday, January 25, 2009

We have two students in the Finals!

It is late - 2 am here and you're in the late afternoon and probably wondering what is going on. Been a phenomenal day here. All of the students did a GREAT job with their student projects. Out of the nine teams here, we have selected four teams to be in the final video competition. Casey is on one of the teams and John is on the other.

Tayler and Katie did a great job and they'll go into another Web 2.0 tool competition tomorrow.

We ate dinner at the Souq tonight and did some souvenier shopping. Everyone had to get used to bargain hunting. Talk about rugs!! Kip is getting a new beautiful rug that I haggled down to the equivalent of about $40. (OK, so it is really for me!) US Money DOES actually go a long way here.

Dinner was very good and afterwards we had Haagen Daaz ice cream - yes Haagen Daaz!

We have worked from sunup till sundown trying to put so much into the visit, both cultural and learning. The students have shown great leadership and made friends from around the world. The conference has been a great success and we're having a meeting tomorrow to see if there is potential for sponsorship next year. Not sure of the location of this project, but we ate dinner with the CEO of HSBC Bank for the Middle East on Saturday night.

We've all discussed how our stereotypes of the Middle East are totally changed. We think we feel much safer here than in New York. Any city has its unsafe areas and unsavory characters -- Atlanta does too!

It is so important to look at the person. Yes, we have very different cultures, but the people here in Qatar are very nice. You know how sometimes some people come to Camilla from other places and they look down on us and are rude? Well, sometimes those same people come here and give Middle Easterners the wrong impression of US!

Southerners are perfect for doing well here. In fact, Ray Jones, one of our hosts with Qatar Academy is from Texas! That is because Southerners are polite. And saying "please" and "thank you" in Arabic go a long way because so few from America even make an attempt! It is beautiful to see the students as friends and pronouncing each other's names correctly. (This is something that makes anyone from any culture feel special.)

Many people here are expatriates, but even those that are not are also hospitable. We're working with high quality people here and it is a privilege to know and work with them.  Their school looks like a palace!

Really, when looking at the Middle East, we have to look at the Country. The Emir here has a goal to make Doha the Business capital of the Middle East just as Dubai has become the entertainment capital. There are so many cranes here it is unbelievable. More than 20 today were counted beside the bus and then we lost count! Building is going on everywhere! Sometimes the leaders see a building on MTV Cribs and decide to build it! You've never seen buildings like these!

The people here are delightful. Today, there was a beautiful Qatari woman who teaches at Qatar Academy. The room was full and she was about to sit on the stairs. A student from another culture saw her and moved over to give her a seat. It was a universal symbol of kindness and understanding of the humanness of us.

It has been a great experience. Mrs. Betty has been incredible to travel with and sometimes makes me feel old - SHE HAS SO MUCH ENERGY! It is a privilege to know that she hired me to come to Westwood and pushed all of us teachers to implement the project based learning approach that is based upon the latest educational research.

Thank you to all of the visionary supporters who encouraged us to go. So many people thought we were crazy, but we've worked with the people here from Qatar Academy for two years! We've met them at conferences and our students have partnered with them! Today, a student from Oman who worked with Joy this year in Flat Classroom showed her picture and talked about what a leader she was on the project!  What great students!

Can you believe that students at Westwood work on projects with students from Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Australia, Canada... and more I just don't remember?

If you want to see how amazing this is, below is the video called Shift Happens viewed millions of times on youtube. Look at the end of this video and you'll see reference to our own Flat Classroom project that started here in Camilla, Georgia. This video helps you see sort of what all of this technology stuff is about. 

Thank you to the Grandparents, parents, and so many people that help us keep our technology program going at the school. Goodnight from Qatar and I'll see you soon!

If you want to know more about what is happening, feel free to take a look at the Ning. Night y'all.

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