In my preparations for attending the Thinkquest '98 conference, I read up on all the speakers knowing it would be an opportunity to connect with some great people. That's when I first encountered Ed Gragert and a visionary edge-ucation project, I*EARN (International Education and Resource Network). Read their goals and principles. The people that make up this international network are putting every one of them into practice.

I met with Ed and one of the teachers in the I*EARN global community, Adriana Vilela. Here are some excerpts from our conversation...]-[ CL ]-[

Ed, how did the inspiration for I*EARN come about and what catalyzed it into action?
    The vision for I*EARN was from one person, Peter Copen. He was first in the business community and then the alternative education field. In the late '80s Peter looked at the world in terms of what we were leaving the next generation -- environmental degradation, mistrust, misunderstanding, racism. At this time ICBMs were pointing across the ocean. There were real threats militarily around the world. He brought together some advisers and asked them how he could best leverage a small family foundation's resources to equip the next generation to work together on these issues. He was convinced that the way solutions were going to be found was to have students work exponentially using telecommunications to link together and work together. He wanted to foster in their heads from age 6 on the idea that they in fact could work together across borders, cultures and languages so that as adults, they would not go to the 30 second sound bite on TV in the evening news to find out what's happening in China. They would actually go to their peers in China and ask them, so that ultimately, as adults, they would both affect policy but also they wouldn't shoot each other. They would take for granted that you work together to solve the world's issues. Peter launched the initial project in 1988 to demonstrate that in fact kids could work together using low-cost telecommunication technologies, first between the U.S. and then the Soviet Union. I*EARN quickly branched out to a number of other countries. Today there are 50 countries involved.

    My background is international education. I had the incredible experience as a 17 year old of living for a year as an exchange student in Asia, attending high school, living with a host family, later on making that experience possible for others. What excited me so much about this application of the technology is that it was no longer just the privileged few who could travel because they had the means and were of the right age. Now entire classes, entire schools from the age of six and up could actually have an international experience by working together collaboratively. That's what excited me, particularly about how to really open the eyes of kids worldwide that there are in fact real kids out there and that you can work together and learn from each other.

Ed, what's your favorite story
that goes to the heart of what I*EARN is about?

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