Though frustrating at times, minor audio issues and a temporarily shaky Internet connection weren’t enough to shut down an interactive teleconferencing event last week between a handful of Brookstone High School students and several teens from two Iraqi high schools in Babil Province.
Organized by the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division currently stationed in Iraq, the Global Cultural Exchange Skype Event was the second attempt in months to connect American and Iraqi teens through video teleconferencing technology.
Nine students from Brookstone’s Technology Integration class had about one hour of “face time” with four Iraqi girls from Al Hillah High School for Girls and five Iraqi boys from Al Waeli High School for Boys on Wednesday. During the session, each student discussed their musical and extracurricular interests and swapped stories of how a typical teen in each country prepares for college.
“It’s been really cool because I’ve used Skype before and I’ve done things like this before, but it seemed to me that the Iraqi children are so different,” said Brookstone sophomore Caitlyn Molnar. “So it’s really cool to see that they’re really not that different.”
Sgt. Christopher Urbano with the 3rd HBCT said it took about six weeks to organize the event, mainly because he and other brigade leaders had to work out the logistics of bringing about a dozen Iraqi educators and students onto the unit’s military base in Kalsu, Iraq.
“Every time you do it, it gets a little bit better,” Urbano said. “The hardest part is coordinating with the locals.”
Jennifer Page and Eric Jones, both Brookstone seniors, had the task of showing their Iraqi counterparts a typical day in the life of an American high school student. The plan was to put together what’s called an animoto — or slideshow — using pictures of various landmarks around campus. Page and Jones photographed the school’s new bell tower and Cougar Cafe snack bar. They also captured students conversing in the hallways and working in the classroom.
“We were just trying to give them a better understanding of how our school is,” Jones said.
Molnar focused her animoto presentation on music — a popular topic among Iraqi students. One Iraqi teen, Omnia Abdul Kareem Yehia, told Molnar her favorite artist is Shakira. Another said that she liked Michael Jackson and Avril Lavigne. Molnar smiled and said she used to like the Canadian pop singer, Lavigne, but has lately been listening to musical comedy act, Flight of the Conchords.
Dylan Edwards and James Graham — both sophomores — engaged some of the Iraqi students in a brief conversation about their love of technology and video games while seniors Jasper Mason and Jack Warren spoke about sports and where they have chosen to go to college. Upon hearing that Mason and Warren liked sports, one Iraqi boy shared his interest in the NBA, adding that the Cleveland Cavaliers are his favorite team. Mason claimed the Los Angeles Lakers as “his team,” and Warren said he likes the Boston Celtics the best.
Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick, with the 3rd HBCT public affairs office, said she hopes to be able to organize another Internet cultural exchange event between area high school students and Iraqi teens in the near future.