Given the opportunity to engage in personal one-on-one conversation, today’s youth may realize that they have more in common with their global counterparts than they ever knew.

The U.S.-Algeria School Linkages Program provided such a forum to nearly 1,000 Algerian and American students. It used innovative technology to connect high school students and teachers in Michigan and Nevada with their counterparts in nine different states across Algeria. It was supported by the U.S. Department of State and implemented in partnership with Michigan State University.

The virtual exchange program was conducted through an interactive website that integrated an English curriculum focused on cultural exchange between school teachers and students in the U.S. and Algeria. Participants from both countries shared insights into their respective personal and cultural surroundings through innovative activities designed to foster mutual understanding and cross cultural friendships.

By sharing stories about their lives and their communities, students were able to not only see the similarities that exist between the two cultures, but learned to appreciate the differences as well. As one Algerian student stated, “We got closer and appreciated each other much more. We also became more tolerant.”

An American student also noted that the program helped students discover new ways to enrich their own lives: “We all learned that there are many things we can learn from Algerians about time and family and values to improve our own way of life in the U.S.”

“It is a great opportunity to teach them [students] that communication – particularly cross-cultural – is going to be one of the most important skills they have in the future, and they need to start thinking about how their ideas are being interpreted by a global audience,” said Katie Mitchell, a teacher involved in the program from East Grand Rapids High School in Michigan.

In addition to breaking existing cultural and geographic barriers between American and Algerian youth and teachers, the Linkages Program supported current Algerian education reform goals by introducing technology as a pedagogical tool in schools and improving the teaching and learning of English-as-a-foreign language.

“By participating in this project, I learned many things,” said one Algerian student. “First, I feel very changed in my English, my pronunciation, my grammar and my vocabulary, and I really know more about how Americans live and specifically how students live, and more than that I know more about American culture.”

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