Transformative experiences through international service-learning
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The integration of technology into education has been seen as a way to solve a myriad of educational problems. Research in the field has traditionally created, modified, or evaluated the application of technological devices to solve an educational problem. The focus has been, for too long, on the devices that now permeate every facet of teaching and learning. We must cease to support technology as an end unto itself within the field of education. There is a need to reevaluate our commitment to investing in educational technologies insofar as they support our ultimate educational objectives. These studies comprise a report on how educational technologies can be applied through value-based research, by illustrating the case of a Brazil-United States cooperative program focusing on technology integration in public schools. A four-year cooperative program between Brazil and the United States is used to illustrate this framework for technology-based projects in schools. This undergraduate exchange program was focused on promoting cross-national collaboration using educational technologies available in schools. Over a dozen semester-long projects were conducted, connecting students in Brazil and the United States to dialogue about important cultural concerns such as racism, drug abuse, recycling, and value-systems. A series of studies resulted from this cooperative program. The results reported here are three fold. First, a collaborative model was devised from the experiences over two years of school-based projects. The model emphasizes the dynamics of collaboration between university faculty, schoolteachers and undergraduate students. Second, a new course entitled Multicultural Perspectives on Technology was designed, implemented, and evaluated. The results indicate that it was successful in providing the foundations for students to develop projects aimed at teaching for diversity. Finally, the impact of the program on three of the undergraduate students was analyzed. These three cases provide a model for transformative learning that can be used to investigate the experiences of participants in international service-learning programs such as this. Importantly, participants changed perspectives along five dimensions: educational, spiritual, cultural-global, socio-political, and personal. These studies collectively present a framework for the development of cross-national projects that emphasize the use of available educational technologies in public schools. Partnerships can be established between universities in order to foster cross-national collaboration between local public schools. The results of these studies indicate that these partnerships are feasible, can promote valuable projects using educational technologies, and have lasting impact on the participants.