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Increasing Student Understanding of Diverse Cultures Teaches Respect and Tolerance for Other Ways of Life

Students learn respect and tolerance for other ways of life through international video presence ‘teaching respect for all’ program that helps develop understanding of culture diversity.

There once was a time when people believed that “Children should be seen and not heard.”

In the 21st century, a different philosophy rules. To that end, Polycom is joining forces with Global Nomads Group (GNG) to ensure youths on one side of the world both see and hear their counterparts on the other side of the world. The goal – increase the likelihood of tolerance in the future by building awareness and understanding between different cultures today.

GNG is using Polycom RealPresence video collaboration solutions to support "Youth Talk," an interactive video collaboration program that connects students ages 14-18 in the United States and the Arab world. In the 2011-2012 school year, Youth Talk connected four high school pairs, including schools in Manja, Jordan, and Sharon, Massachusetts.

"Through our Youth Talk program, we pair schools for a year, working with teachers in many countries to help break down stereotypes and stigmas," says Chris Plutte, executive director of Global Nomads Group. "Polycom video enables us to take kids places they could never go otherwise, as flying across the world is just not a feasible option. It's a life changing experience for students in the program."

Polycom donated the infrastructure and video endpoints that make Youth Talk possible. The Polycom products are all built on the Polycom RealPresence Platform, which delivers secure video collaboration across any combination of environment (on the road, at home, at work, in conference rooms, or immersive theatres) and device (smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, office system or room system). This flexibility empowers GNG to deliver a wide variety of educational and interactive programs without having to worry about the technologies at the different schools involved.

Youth Talk is the latest joint effort of GNG and Polycom, who have been working together for more than a decade to enable tens of thousands of youths globally to discuss a range of topical issues.  Many GNG programs give teenagers a close-up view of remote locations and extreme conditions. For example, the Polycom RealPresence Platform enabled GNG to take U.S. students on a live visit to the border of Chad and Sudan, where American teens connected with children who were living in refugee camps due to the Darfur conflict.

"The vivid, impactful experiences we're able to share with children via Polycom video collaboration are incredible," says Plutte. "We even linked kids in U.S. classrooms to the natural habitat of mountain gorillas in Rwanda. We literally trekked up a volcano with a guide from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and talked live with kids in the U.S. The students were remotely experiencing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat and were asking questions of a renowned expert. Thanks to Polycom, time and distance are no longer barriers to learning or to sharing knowledge."

GNG also relies on Polycom video collaboration in its day-to-day operations. GNG uses HD video to collaborate with ministries of education, teachers, donors, and partners. In fact, Plutte says his organization has come to "expect" visual communications, because it offers a much richer and more personal experience.

Plutte says GNG is now rolling out Polycom RealPresence Mobile on the organization's tablets. He expects it to be a game changer for GNG. "We have an iPad -- it costs a few hundred bucks -- and we're able to go into schools that don't have computers or even electricity and implement our programs, “ he says. “We see RealPresence Mobile as changing everything for us. We can extend our programs to any place where we can get a wireless signal."

He adds, "On a December 2011 trip in Rwanda, we were on the street with tablets, doing video conferences with our New York office. It was one of those moments when I had chills, because I realized that this was going to change the way young people communicate. We have our best tool yet to create trust and understanding through peer-to-peer, and group, visual communication."

Tolerance, respect and understanding. They are values that people the world over say they cherish. Sometimes, though, they seem in short supply.

But thanks to Polycom voice and video solutions, all three concepts are becoming more abundant. For Polycom has united with the international education organization Global Nomads Group (GNG) to support “Teaching Respect for All”, a global program founded by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and funded by the U.S. State Department.

The program delivers a comprehensive curriculum for teachers -- and online platforms for educators and students -- so they can talk about building respectful communities. Using Polycom video solutions, GNG launched the program in January 2012 by connecting students in Salvador, Brazil, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, with top officials from UNESCO, the U.S. State Department, and the Brazilian government who were at the UNESCO office in Paris.

"Global Nomads is focused on fostering greater understanding through person-to-person interactions between young people all over the world," says Bernardo Monzani, programs manager, Global Nomads Group. "Polycom RealPresence video collaboration solutions make that possible through high-definition, virtual environments in which students can talk to each other in crystal-clear audio and video as if they were in the same room. That type of immersive experience makes Polycom video a perfect solution for our partnership with UNESCO on the 'Teaching Respect for All' program."

Esther Brimmer, assistant secretary for International Organization Affairs at the U.S. State Department, attended the UNESCO event in Paris. "At its core," she noted in her address, "this program poses a challenging question to today's youth: are you—are any of us—capable of change? Are we able to not just confront other people's bigotry, but to confront our own? I believe the answer to both questions is a resounding yes. Yes, we can change; yes, we can improve; and yes, we can build a more respectful world."

 In another recorded video address, Brimmer explained that the UNESCO program will result in new classroom materials to help teach children about respect, human rights, and the value all people can bring to their communities.

Polycom has been working with GNG for many years to create programs that help people better understand, and be more tolerant of, the world's diverse cultures. The programs have connected thousands of kids around the world to discuss topics ranging from the war in Iraq, to the natural habitat of the Mountain Gorilla in Rwanda, to relations between U.S. and Arab students, to terrorized children in Uganda. What results is increased understanding and tolerance for the world's diverse cultures.

GNG plans to expand its reach into more remote locations and into areas where traditional IT infrastructures are unavailable. In those locations, it plans to leverage the Polycom RealPresence Mobile software solution so students can participate in face-to-face video interactions through their tablet computers and smartphones.

"Polycom's ease of use eliminates a potential roadblock for us," says Monzani. "We can deploy video conferencing to new locations very quickly, and students and teachers who may not be technically sophisticated have no trouble mastering our system.

“Polycom video is extremely intuitive to use. The open-standards-based interoperability of the Polycom RealPresence Platform was essential to our ability to deliver video capability quickly for UNESCO. We pulled together all the planning and logistics across three continents in a matter of weeks. And Polycom's mobility solution will open up countless new possibilities for us, letting us reach new locations and people that we couldn't have reached in the past."

Monzani adds that when GNG asks participating students to rate various aspects of GNG programs, video conferencing is consistently rated as the most impactful element. This is no surprise, as several studies have shown that people learn more, absorb more, and retain more information visually, and that face-to-face collaboration is far more effective than voice-only.

Through interactive video, students can experience eye-opening adventures and develop new, long-distance relationships. And, when meeting and discussing issues with other students halfway around the globe, the high-definition video helps them clearly see the reactions, body language, enthusiasm and facial expressions of their peers.

More information about UNESCO's "Teaching Respect for All" program is available at:

or at: singleview/news/launch_of_a_unesco_united_states_brazil_project_for_teaching_respect_in_schools

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