Guest Blogger #2: Silvia Tolisano

My Wonderful World is thrilled to introduce our second guest blogger, Silvia Tolisano. Silvia is the Technology Integration Facilitator at San José Episcopal Day School in Jacksonville, Florida, where she has established a Global Studies program. In this first of three posts, she describes how she uses Web 2.0 technology and a lovable teddy bear named José to bring the world–and 21st century learning–to her students.

Part I- Global
Studies- Making Connections with the World Around Us

I am sure you have heard of the saying: Geography is all
around us? When I first arrived in the United States, almost 20 years ago,
I learned quickly that for many people that did not seem to be the case. I had
the following kind of conversation more than once.

 “Where are you from? Argentina? Are
there a lot kangaroos there? Ohh, that is Australia, Well I got the “A” right
and it is down there, isn’t it?”

Becoming a teacher later on, I knew it would be important
for me to instill in my students a sense of “Where in the World” are we, in
relationship to other countries, people, cultures, customs, and traditions.

I was instrumental in establishing a Global Studies program
at San José  Episcopal Day School, a private elementary school that serves
students from pre-kindergarten through 6th grade. Geography skills
play a significant part in forming connections with a greater world: a world
that is bigger than our own backyard in Jacksonville, Florida/USA. Our goal is to make geography
real and tangible for the students by creating connections for and with them.
Being or feeling isolated versus being connected to places around you makes a
difference in the interest level of students.

Through a grant from the Jessie Ball duPond Fund, myself and
another teacher were able to travel physically to China in 2006 (
Egypt in 2007 (

Through the use of web 2.0 tools, we were able to take our
students along virtually. Daily entries
to the travel blogs kept the school and the travelers connected, while photos,
video clips, audio files and video conferencing brought the experience to life.
The school was transforming their traditional
classroom, blurring the boundaries of space, time and closed walls. Opening
these dimensions created opportunities for students and teachers alike to
become engaged co-learners.

 We took the school mascot José, the Bear, on the trip and
reported the travel adventure back from the bear’s perspective. Each grade
level spent a day in school, before the trip, bonding with the stuffed animal
and sent him off with a special trinket, accessory or outfit to take on his
journey. The desired connection was evident for the children, when they would
see José wearing “their” present in a photo or video from the Great Wall of
China or in front of the Pyramids in Giza.

Students were eager to follow José and us, the teachers, on
our adventure. We mapped our trip on Google Earth ( ) and added
screenshots to our blog entries.

Since our trip was in the winter holiday month of December,
it was especially exciting for our elementary school students when they read on
the blog ( ):

The airplane flew an amazing route. Can you tell from the picture
where we were flying over?

That is right…. THE NORTH POLE!!! WOW.

No, we could not see anything below, since it
was dark. So we cannot claim a Santa Clause sighting. We are sorry…

The captain of the plane informed us that we
flew over Newfoundland, Labrador, East of the North Pole, Siberia, Mongolia and
then across China South to Hong Kong.”

Once José had returned from his travels, it was not long
before students started asking, if they could take the Bear on a family
vacation. The school received a donation from Build-a-Bear ( for 50 additional identical twin brothers,
sisters and cousins of our school mascot. Students and their families are
checking them out in record numbers and returning them with a souvenir from the
country that they have visited, along with pictures of the student with the
Bear or blog posts. The father of one of our school’s families has been
deployed to Kuwait
this past school year (
He took a Travel Bear with him and has been communicating through a blog with
our students.

Once the Teddy Bears return to Florida, the stuffed animals are placed on a
shelf under the name of the country it has visited, the photo is added to a
wall collage and a teddy-face sticker is placed on the location of their
travels on a giant world map.

Students are mesmerized and linger for a long time in front
of these items in our computer lab.This proved to us that personal connections,
like a classmate’s picture, a story of a familiar character, or personal object
will support sustained interest and enthusiasm in a subject.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
Technology Integration Facilitator
San Jose Episcopal Day School

Professional Blog- LANGWITCHES – The Magic of Learning
through Technology

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