QFI teams up with Cisco for student telepresence debates

Posted on 2011-02-17

Qatar Foundation International (QFI) partner schools in Washington D.C. and Doha, Qatar are using Cisco Systems’ innovative TelePresence video conferencing technology to bridge the geographical distance between them through a series of online debates. Mixed teams of Qatari and American high school students debate two sides of a contentious issue.  The students work with their teammates to formulate their arguments, hone their debating skills, and hopefully learn more about each other’s cultures in the process.
“Teleconferencing is fun, educational, and helps you meet new people from new cultures half way around the world. I hope everyone could try it, enjoy it, and benefit from it,” says May Darwish, a student at the Doha-based Raba’a Al Adawiya Secondary Independent School for Girls.
Cisco’s virtual meeting technology allows the students to see and hear each other as if they were standing in the same room, even as they are thousands of miles apart.
“The debates are really cool; it actually feels like you are with them,” said Alistair Andrulis, a freshman at Washington Latin Public Charter School and a member of the QFI’s Arabic Language and Culture class. “We learn a lot more when out of the classroom, like on our trip to Doha, and this is the next best thing.”
In the fall of 2009, QFI launched the Arabic Language and Culture Program at the Washington Latin Public Charter School. The program provides an opportunity for students from a wide variety of backgrounds to acquire basic Arabic language skills, learn about Arab history and culture, and meet Qatari peers, both virtually and in person. The virtual debates serve to deepen the cross-cultural and educational experience of students on different sides of the globe in a fun and innovative way.
Maggie Mitchell Salem, Executive Director of Qatar Foundation International, recognizes the potential of innovative technology to support the Foundation’s programs: “These TelePresence debates provide an excellent opportunity for QFI Arabic Language students to continue interacting with students in Doha beyond our Spring Break exchange trip.  This is a great example of the type of outgrowth from our core programming that builds lasting relationships, and hopefully, increased understanding between the two cultures.”

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