Global Voices Online continues to be one of my favorite websites and news sources because it provides such a diverse and eclectic window into perspectives of people who live around our planet. Last week I listened to the NPR Technology Podcast from May 5th, which included the article, “Bridging the Online Language Barrier: Translating the Internet.” Author Mark Phillips mentioned Global Voices Online, and also described the website Meedan.net:

“The idea is a Wikipedia-style approach to translation,” says Meedan founder Ed Bice. Meedan uses a mix of human and machine translation to present articles, blog posts, and comments about the Middle East in hopes of bridging the gap between the Arabic and English-speaking worlds… Google Translate essentially wipes out the foreign language, showing you web pages only in your language. Meedan instead has the English and Arabic side-by-side. This layout is a valuable addition to the translations themselves when it allows you to see comments bouncing back and forth between languages.

As you and your students study current affairs this year, consider using Meedan.net as one of your sources. Challenge students to identify topics and positions about which they find differing perspectives from Arabic and English commenters. Where do they find similarities? Meedan.net provides fertile ground for a multitude of discussions which require higher order thinking.

Consider the article, “Turkish President criticizes YouTube ban.” The article originated with an Arabic article on Reuters. This is NOT a headline I’ve read recently in the mainstream western press, and it’s an important perspective to consider as students specifically study issues like Internet censorship, the policies of the Turkish government, the value of free expression, etc.

Many divides separate us today. It is heart wrenching to read the accounts this week of ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan. While working to improve student achievement remains an important goal in our schools, it is only ONE goal among many that are vital. Helping build understanding and respect for others, especially those from different cultural and linguistic traditions, is also critical. If we live in echo chambers where we only listen to voices like our own, it’s impossible to develop the attitudes, dispositions, and skill sets vital for global citizenship in our interconnected world.

World peace is built one friendship at a time. We need to make more time to listen to each other. Meedan.net offers a unique window into conversations and perspectives our students may not have encountered previously.

Marrakech Merchant
Creative Commons License photo credit: DavidDennisPhotos.com

If you’re interested in international projects, I encourage you to check out and join Around the World With 80 Schools (Silvia Tolisano‘s learning community powered by Buddypress) as well as The Global Education Collaborative which Lucy Gray maintains.

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