Story and photos by Mary Martin.
The first Portal Container from Shared Studios arrived in Dallas last spring, landing at Klyde Warren Park. After a stop at NorthPark Center, the gold shipping container has now found a home at Parish Episcopal School. As you walk into the door of the Portal, you immediately experience an immersive live video connection with another portal in another global city. For the students and teachers at Parish, the Portal provides real-time access to voices and experts from around the world, bringing their curriculum to life.
“We are teaching our students leadership in a complex global society and the Portal is an opportunity to determine whether this kind of immersive technology has a place in our curriculum,” says Dave Monaco, Allen Meyer Family Head of School. “Parish is all about having a curious disposition.” Dave first visited the Portal with Amy Bean at its Klyde Warren location, then invited Stefano Chinosi, Director of Strategic Innovation for Andover Public Schools outside of Boston, to visit the Parish campus with his inflatable version of the Portal. “I am delighted that the Dallas Portal has found a new home at the Parish Episcopal School this semester,” said Amy Bean, who originally championed and fundraised for a Dallas Portal location. “The Parish team first visited the Portal when it was located at Klyde Warren Park, and they immediately understood the value that direct exposure to communities around the world would bring to the student experience.”
The Portal Container is now on a three-month trial near the entrance of their Midway campus. Teachers are coordinating with the Parish library staff to curate specific virtual meetings that are aligned to curriculum and classroom topics. “The first week the Portal was open here, we had the Lower School choir sing the national anthem and some songs about Texas during a connection with Rwanda,” said Mona Binkley, Assistant Librarian and Portal Curator. “Then the Rwandan curator and a friend sang their national anthem to our students!” Curators from cities like Mexico City, Erbil, Berlin, Lagos, and Brooklyn host scheduled meet-ups, bringing friends or local visitors through the virtual space.
Older students are taking advantage of the Portal’s global access by connecting with university students and professors around the world. One Parish Upper School student has been studying the complex topic of street market economies and was able to connect with a college student in Bolivia and receive first-hand knowledge for primary research.
Other connections have offered a chance for students to practice foreign language skills, experience global music, and even spend an entire class session in the portal, welcoming another curator to observe a lesson. Parish Portal curators and parents are also working on a future shared meal experience where students can virtually eat with visitors in another city.
Though the team is working through the learning curve with timezones and scheduling, the Portal Container at Parish Episcopal School has already become a center for new technology in education, attracting local educators from around DFW. The Shelton School, just five miles away, has also brought in their own Portal Container for the campus, expanding the opportunity for more students to engage and grow in worldwide curiosity.
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