CHES fourth-graders connect to Germany via Internet

Friday, May 20, 2011
Jennifer Meyer, left, and some 4th grade students gather around the laptop to talk to a class in Germany.

A 4th grade class in Chapel Hill had a new experience this week: they talked face-to-face with their counterparts at a school in Germany.

Once the connection had been made, students in Alice Coble's class gathered in small groups to stand in range of a laptop's Web cam and make their presentations.

The German students were doing the same, but their image was also projected on the big screen at the front of the classroom. The sound quality wasn't excellent, but it was good enough to demonstrate that the Germans spoke and understood English pretty well.

"I know that the students of Ms. Coble's class have been very excited about meeting the German students and giving their presentations," said Jennifer Meyer, the teacher who had organized the two classes' connection. "I pretty much let the students pick what topics they wanted to speak about ...(and) some were good and others were better."

Group by group the students exchanged information on food and drink, hobbies and free time, transportation, animals and insects, sights and weather, and activities and holidays. Pop stars like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga seem to cross all borders, and were well known to both groups.

By questioning their new friends at the school near Hamburg, the American students learned it was raining there and the temperature was about 50 degrees.

"Auf weidersehen - goodbye," the two groups wished each other at the end of half an hour or so of conversation.

"You guys did a really good job," Meyer said.

"That was fun," the students agreed.

Meyer hopes there can be more such conversations in the future.

"The (German) teacher is really excited," Meyer said. "She wants to keep up the contact."

Meyer teaches English as a second language in several of Marshall County's schools, and she has been working all year with two students in Coble's class. Meyer spent 12 years in Germany, and two of her children are still there, living with their father.

Her daughter is a pupil at the school in Germany contacted through the Internet, although she's not in the same class.

Meyer explained the special contact has been planned for months. She e-mailed the principal at Christmas time and thus made contact with the teacher.

"The teacher in Germany and I have been working on this project since December of last year, so we are very excited about it finally taking place," Meyer said before the event.

"I will be visiting the school again this summer when I am in Hamburg," Meyer added.

She attended Hamburg University while she lived in Germany, and added a degree in education to the master's degree she already had in international relations. Meyer also worked for four years in international banking, but turned to teaching when she moved back to the U.S. in 2007. She's certified to teach German, as well as ESL, and hopes to add an endorsement to teach language arts at the high school level to her teaching license.