In previous articles on Break Down the Walls, we’ve discussed the educational benefits of video teleconferencing (VTC), from resource sharing between schools and school districts, to the efficient training of teachers. One interesting VTC implementation that we have yet to discuss is currently being used in New Jersey to help do something truly revolutionary in the area of women’s issues and women’s rights.
A Women and Youth Leader Alliance’s project called Spotlight on Girls Productions is using media as a tool to transform society through raising awareness and education. The project creates TV crews of women, all aged 14-29 and from urban areas within New Jersey, including Trenton and Newark. These TV crews are tasked with the creation of educational and entertaining video content that is aired throughout New Jersey, and distributed across the country, and the world, through online wire services.
A large part of the creation of the video content, which focuses on the experiences and culture of women around the world, is research. The TV crews accomplish this research by speaking with women across the globe via video teleconferencing. These conversations are focused on sharing first-hand experiences, opinions and insights. The women involved in the project and the people they are interviewing connect on a personal level via video and learn more about each other’s culture than what is shown through the media.
These video conferences tend to develop in three stages, with the women first exchanging pleasant and polite introductions and being conservative and careful in their interaction. Later, the conversation becomes more personal, and the participants often begin to discuss stereotypes that they’ve encountered about each other. The third stage involves the discussion of social issues and topics, which enables the TV crew to accurately portray topics from multiple perspectives.
This learning process helps to diminish stereotypes the different cultural groups had about each other, while simultaneously helping open a window into another culture and the issues women face in that culture. This window into other cultures helps the participants battle the stereotypes that are perpetuated by the media and that invariably drive the objectification and devaluation of women. The research is then incorporated into the video content produced by the TV crews, which have focused and raised awareness of such important global women’s issues as human trafficking and arranged marriage.
None of the research that empowers the creation of this important video content, and helps bring cultures together, would be possible without VTC. Video allows the participants to have real, natural conversations where facial expression, body language and other unspoken cues can be witnessed and understood. VTC is bringing women from five continents together and breaking down the walls between cultures.
By providing an alternative to the content available in the often stereotype-filled mainstream media, VTC is empowering understanding and increasing knowledge of other cultures. Now that’s a new way of learning.