Case Studies




ASTL: The Art, Science and Technology of Learning
for the 21st Century

Funders: United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNESCO, The Jewish Agency & The Feldman Family Foundation


Educators in developing nations find it difficult to bring technologies such as the Internet to many students.


DesignWorlds applied “know-who” skills, project-based learning and computer-supported collaborative learning to help organize assistance. With this support, students and teachers in developed and developing countries collaborated in projects that helped narrow the digital divide.

In developed nations, technology advances quickly filter down into schools to help students learn better as well as provide job, technology and collaboration skills for success in a global information economy. However, developing nations see an ever-widening “digital divide”—the gap between the technology haves and have-nots.

To help overcome this disparity, in 1997 two United Nations agencies, together with the Jewish Agency and the Feldman Family Foundation, convened a conference in Israel entitled “The Art, Science and Technology of Learning for the 21stCentury” (ASTL). The ASTL conference brought together over 45 teachers, educators and learning technology experts from 14 developing and developed countries to generate cooperative and collaborative computer- and web-based learning projects. The goal was to help students in developing countries jump the digital divide.

The workshop was based on a 3-phase process using the Internet and web as a collaboration and planning tool, as well as through face-to-face interactions.

Phase 1: Pre-conference virtual planning of joint projects: Candidates from the participating countries were invited to propose ideas for collaborative learning projects. These candidates introduced themselves and their ideas through email and an ASTL web site. The ASTL organizing committee then paired one teacher or institution from a developed country with a colleague and team from a developing country. The teams then worked together online, coached by consulting experts and the organizing committee. The 6-8 most promising collaborative projects were then chosen. Members of the selected teams were invited to participate in the ASTL workshop and conference. The proposed projects included: Study of the Atlantic Slave Trade (Norway, Trinidad, and Tobago), a collaborative study of water pollution problems (Brazil and the US), and African and Russian Animals as Characters in Namibian and Russian Folklore (Namibia and Russia).

Phase 2: The ASTL Conference and Workshop: An intensive 3 1/2-day workshop enabled project teams to meet face-to-face. Expert consultants were available for guidance.

Phase 3: Workshop Follow-Up. After the workshop, each team received assistance to further develop and implement their cooperative projects. The assistance was available on the ASTL web site, as well as through email exchanges and online mentoring by the expert consultants.

One example of outstanding success from this workshop was a water pollution resource site, collaboratively designed and developed by teachers and students from Edenvale Elementary School in San Jose, California, and the Idalina High School in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Although the students had never met one another and were not fluent in each other’s language, a collaborative learning and design community emerged and developed content for a Portuguese-English web site. This site used art, poetry, and annotated graphics to tell how water pollution evolved as an important problem in both countries. This site used techniques of social marketing to communicate an important message, as well as providing suggestions for environmental action to solve and prevent the pollution problems. Subsequently, Edenvale Elementary School received a visit by top officials of the U.S. Department of Education, USAID, USIA, and the office of the Brazilian Minister of Education to explore this project as an exemplary model of global collaborative learning using technology.

What role did DesignWorlds play in the ASTL workshop?

DesignWorlds President and CEO, Dr. Ted Kahn, was one of the co-chairs and member of the ASTL organizing and scientific conference committee. Along with Dr. Sherman Rosenfeld (Weizmann Institute of Science) and Professor Uri Marchaim (MIGAL Research Institute), Ted helped plan the workshop, co-design the structure and content of the ASTL web site, support the Internet and web-based collaborations, and recommended expert consultants and educational participants for this workshop. During the third phase, he also mentored teachers Linda Ullah (Edenvale) and Tania Callegaro (Idalina) in collaborating to design their water pollution web project with their students.

DesignWorlds used its knowledge of “know-who” (the art and skill of social networking), Project-Based Learning (PBL), and computer-supported collaborative learning to help the conference organizers identify key resources, consultants, and participants. DesignWorlds also used its knowledge of collaborative technologies and social community-building activities to help the web designers create a site that could facilitate virtual team collaboration among teachers from both the developing and the developed countries.

Evidence of Success

The ASTL project shows how a small coordinating team can use the Internet and the web to facilitate global, collaborative project-based learning and social action. The workshop and conference had a strong influence on several of the participants. For example, former Edenvale resource teacher, Linda Ullah, used this experience as a focus for developing a curriculum and an online course in Global Project-Based Learning at Foothill College’s Krause Center for Innovation. (Ted Kahn taught this online course to over 30 teacher-students during the last year.) She and Tania Callegaro both went on to pursue M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, and they both became leaders in promoting collaborative PBL as an important instructional strategy with K-12 students and for teacher professional development). Workshop Co-Chair and DesignWorlds consulting affiliate, Dr. Sherman Rosenfeld, has since spent over 7 years in developing strategies, activities and materials for professional development of both Arab and Israeli teachers in PBL projects in math, science, and engineering that integrate use of technology and the web. Dr. Rosenfeld is now the Director of the new International Center for Project-Based Learning at the Davidson Institute of Science Education, affiliated with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. DesignWorlds has applied the collaborative planning and content-design process that led to the ASTL Conference to several other international and global collaborations, including those involving museums, schools, colleges/universities, and corporations developing new technologies that facilitate learning and creative expression.

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