Intercultural communication

Today, as an end of the semester celebration and also as a part of our final unit on intercultural communication, the 21C Skills class went to the Asmara restaurant in Cambridge to try Eritrean/Ethiopian food. We sat at traditional tables- a wicker basket of sorts- and ate using injera, a spongy flat bread. Students enjoyed the sampling of beef, lamb, chicken and lentil dishes and shared everything family style. We discussed the importance and polite lends of washing hands before eating when your hands are your primary utensil ! One student remarked that it seemed rude to eat the bread that was underneath the food, noting how different situations call for different rules of etiquette. In our preparations for the trip, students researched other “know before you go” hints. Their project for this unit will be to create a corporate training video for a business who is sending employees to another country, providing information on etiquette related to greeting, gifts, dining, clothing, formality and other topics.  

Yesterday, our class had another intercultural experience. Mr. Costello presented to us in American Sign Language (ASL) through the use of an interpreter on Deaf Culture. He is a teacher at The Learning Center for the Deaf and provided us with information about what daily life is like in Deaf culture, as well as some of the challenges faced and tips on how to interact when communicating with a deaf person. I know that I personally learned a lot and they students asked many good questions. 


Self-help videos for Wellness Week

In December, Nipmuc students and faculty participated in a Wellness Week, sponsored by our Counseling Center. The week was very well-received and really enjoyed the opportunity to spend 30 minutes practicing yoga, de-stressing with glitter and getting a 10 minute chair massage. The lead-up to the holidays is fun, but can also be very stressful! Finding time in our busy schedules to squeeze in shopping, baking and celebrations can be difficult.

As a part of our unit on time management, the 21st Century Skills class spent a significant portion of class time over the course of 3 weeks reading and discussing self-help books in small groups. These “literature circles” (a concept borrowed from our English department) allowed each group to read a different book and take responsibility for their time both in and out of class, hopefully applying some of the time management strategies that we had previously reviewed in class.

I chose the books on recommendations from other faculty members. They were The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, Mindset by Carol Dweck and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (also chosen as a book for the STEM students this year). Students were assigned a role or roles for each day of discussion, filling out a notes sheet customized for each role, which included: diction detective, discussion leader, artist, reporter and bridge builder.  Discussions were in-depth and interesting to listen to, allowing me to take a step back and admire my students’ leadership skills.

As a culminating project, each group created a video using role play to explain some of the most important points contained in each book. The videos will be uploaded to the Wellness Week website as a resource for the Nipmuc community during our next wellness week in the spring. I’m working on getting them all online so that I can post them here but I’m having some technical difficulties at the moment!




#nipmucdigcit: debate, edchat and a guest speaker

Last week was an exciting one for our 21st Century Skills class! We spent time participating in a debate, joining in an #edchat on Twitter and listening to a parent guest speaker. As part of our unit on digital citizenship, we continue to spend time talking about our digital footprint and its impact now and in the future.

As a collaborative venture with Mrs. Lee and her students from Help Desk (Block F), we participated in a formal debate. The first scenario involved a choice between two job applicants- one more qualified but with a digital footprint that was questionable. The second scenario used this video about being the “first follower” as its jumping off point for a discussion around whether or not to comment on someone else’s negative post about a teacher online. Students were very well prepared and insightful in making their points and even decided to go to 3rd lunch in order to not interrupt their debate!

Our guest presenter, Mrs. Margaret Hartwig, gave us her perspective as a recruiter for on both scenarios when she came to class on Friday morning. She showed students a tool which her company is now using that allows them to quickly and easily access a potential applicant’s social media postings and explained that one’s digital footprint will be come more and more important as time goes on. She also mentioned that  the field you are entering (finance vs. a software company) will also make a difference as to what may help/hurt you when considering your social media postings.

But coming back to the second half our our time with Mrs. Lee’s Help Desk students… After our debate in class, we took to Twitter to participate in the inaugural #nipmucdigcit edchat on digital citizenship. Here’s a copy of the transcript of our discussion. I think the students really enjoyed the fact that someone from “outside” of Nipmuc joined in on our chat (as well as Mr. Armitrano and Mr. Clements) which made the task feel very authentic. Everyone brought up great ideas as they answered the 3 questions Mrs. Lee proposed.

Our next (and last!) unit will be on intercultural communication and we have another parent speaker coming – exciting!



The rules of social media

Currently, in 21st Century Skills we are discussing social media and the role it plays in our lives. Before the break, students worked in partners to create informational posters for some of the social media platforms they use the most: Instagram, group texts, Snapchat, Youtube and Brighten. In addition to identifying the distinguishing features of each platform, students provided a list of “rules” to help an inexperienced user avoid pitfalls and  make the most of his/her experience. I definitely picked up a few helpful tips and gathered some new insights into platforms like Snapchat and Brighten that I haven’t used before.