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LA News Archive The Schoolhouse

Hello From the Other Side
Posted 05/31/2016 01:00PM

Transforming LA’s Global Connection

by Allie Goodrich ‘13

Groton, MA – With the addition of the new Media Conference Center, Lawrence Academy has shaped its relationship with the outside world into one that doesn’t feel so “long distance.”

“In this age of globalization, it is essential to prepare students for the rapidly changing pace of international communication,” said LA’s long-time Director of Technology Mark Burkholz. “We intend to use this center to enable students to connect with researchers, scientists, authors, artists, and other classrooms around the world

“In this way we hope to expand the global view of our students in a more interactive and collaborative fashion.

“Students need to understand viewpoints from people in other countries and this can only be done by creating an environment that enables this type of communication,” he said.

Mr. Burkholz explained that the new Media Conferencing Center (or MCC) houses “A fully functional, standards-based, high definition Polycom video conferencing system.

“Anyone can connect to our system as long as they have a telephone or a computer or mobile device with an Internet connection,” he said.   

In the past week alone, the MCC has been used for audio interviews, junior seminar speeches, a Board of Trustee and Parents’ Association meeting, and a videoconference between Mr. Kevin Wiercinski’s Human Geography class and a refugee camp in Iraq.

Thanks to the MCC, the class was able to conference with a Canadian woman working with the United Nations, a Syrian documentarian and journalist, and a teacher from Erbil, Iraq.

“In October we did a unit where we were talking about mobility and specifically how it relates to refugees,” Mr. Wiercinski explained. “It took us about 6 months through coordinating with refugee groups to actually get access to some of these Iraqi internally displaced citizens that are in the war-torn areas of Iraq.

“It was fascinating for our kids to be able to ask questions, listen to their experiences, take the things that we had been reading about and we had been learning about and watching but then to actually interact…was a really tremendous experience.”

Mr. Wiercinski described the profound impact the session had on his students, as well as plans for similar opportunities in the future.

“With the follow-ups and conversations we’ve had with the kids since then, it’s really eye-opening,” he said. “[The MCC] is really another incredible tool that we have; when I plan class I can look out and see all the things that we want to do now.

“And as we start to think about units that are coming up it’s real easy to [ask ourselves]: Where can we get people like this in front of our students that we can talk to?

“We did it a few times this year and it only leads to further curiosity and interest in trying to get more people in front of our kids from around the world,” he said.

Head of School Dan Scheibe, present for the interaction with Iraq, agreed and further emphasized the flexibility the space has shown in just its first year of use.

“It’s incredibly comfortable and it’s served all constituencies beautifully,” he said. “So, it’s pretty much as we imagined it and only going to get better.”

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