A Quebec – Belgium educational exchange in a social universe in high school… at a distance!

High school social teachers Laurent Di Pasquale (Belgium) and Mathieu Mercier (Quebec) are preparing to experience a transatlantic collaboration project with their students around the Netflix documentary on the effects of social networks, “Behind our smoke screens” . Here is what it is and how they are preparing!

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High school social teachers Laurent Di Pasquale (Belgium) and Mathieu Mercier (Quebec) are preparing to experience a transatlantic collaboration project with their students around the Netflix documentary on the effects of social networks, “Behind our smoke screens” . Here is what it is and how they are preparing!

Each school year is made of new challenges, new projects (digital and human for me). This year, and given the particular situation related to COVID-19, external activities and exchanges are, let's say… complicated to organize!

From this observation came this idea: what if we gave the students the opportunity to exchange with others, in a motivating and unprecedented situation, through a project that would make them travel virtually to the other end of the Atlantic at the same time? The idea: use the app FlipGrid, to carry out a virtual correspondence between pupils of the same level, on common subjects. A great opportunity to stimulate communication, to exercise self-confidence, while synthesizing the important information seen during the lessons.

To make all this happen, I contacted without delay my colleague and real mate Maxime Laflamme (fromÉcole branchée) to see if he could put me in touch with a teacher from Quebec potentially interested in this crazy project.

1) Two classes, 5,220 kilometers away, 6 hours lag

Maxime quickly recommends someone to me: Mathieu Mercier, social universe teacher at the Kamouraska - Rivière-du-Loup School Services Center. A message is enough for him to also indicate his interest in this project! In parallel with his activities as a secondary school teacher, Mathieu is also on all fronts: both a collaborator for the national service of RÉCIT, domain of the social universe and digital referent for his school, he is one of those teachers who firmly believe that change is possible. Invested and benevolent towards his students and colleagues, here is a teacher with whom we quickly take pleasure in collaborating.

Want to know more about Mathieu? feel free to visit his website, which is a real gold mine for the social world, He shares, for example, different exercises as well as numerous multimedia resources allowing teachers to be inspired, and students to progress. 

Mathieu in a video produced by RÉCITUS

For my part, in Belgium, this project is organized through my social Sciences, donated to the Athénée Royal de l'Air Pur de Seraing. A real place of experimentation, debate and research on social facts, this activity will be perfectly articulated in the different themes tackled, as well as in the skills exercised during this course. In short, I am impatient to start, just like the students who see it as an opportunity to get out of their routine, very tarnished it must be admitted by this damn pandemic.

2) The stages and objectives of the project

After a preparatory meeting, where each of us was able to define our expectations and objectives regarding this collaboration, we agreed on the following operation:

2.1 Introduction

It will all begin with a common introduction, during which our two groups of students will jointly bring out their representations using a questionnaire, the results of which will be revealed in the form of a "word cloud" (using of the application Wooclap). Although we cannot pass it at the same time given the schedules, here is the trick: we will use the same Wooclap account with our groups, without resetting the question between each participation! What to compare the points of view of each one before embarking on the research.

2.2 Exchange 1: the presentation activity

Via a group common to our two schools, created on FlipGrid, the students will first introduce themselves briefly and fairly freely with a short, fun and original video. The teachers will not escape the instructions, and will also carry out one, just to put themselves in the same perspective as the young people.

Following this first activity, the students will be grouped into smaller groups (which will favor the exchange). The establishment of groups will be based on the desires of the students, and we will adjust if some do not find "the shoe to their feet".

2.3 The Netflix documentary “Behind our smokescreens”

Behind Our Smoke Screens, a documentary produced by Netflix

Once the presentations are over, the students will start their first joint research to start the exchange. Each group will watch the documentary in class with their teacher. Behind our smoke screens, in order to address the issue of social networks and other digital giants in our daily lives. The peculiarity, following this step, will be that each teacher will adapt a little more specifically according to the course he is teaching, in order to provide a more precise analysis.

In my case, for example, we will deepen the link between stereotypes and prejudices via social networks.

2.4 Exchange 2: synthesis of the subject and the problem

Once the report has been watched, analyzed in class, and enriched with various research, the students will be able to communicate their knowledge to “colleagues” across the Atlantic. While continuing to respect the fact of having to be fun and motivating in their videos, the emphasis here will be on the participation and enrichment of each student concerning the important points of the problem. Thanks to the perspectives provided by others, everyone will be able to expand their knowledge and reclaim the material with their own words.

A new opportunity to work on communication, by reformulating and popularizing the information collected.

2.5 Fix learning: creation of a Kahoot

Last step in the medium term, and in order to check the understanding of the pupils while giving them a new motivating task to carry out: the creation of a questionnaire Kahoot which will then be offered to the partner group. Thus, and through a new opportunity, each group will be able to appropriate the information, reformulate it and propose its vision of the theme to the other group.

Also based on the fun principle of the challenge, the goal here is not to compare and say which group is the best. The aim is rather to give students a new opportunity to surpass themselves, through a motivating activity that makes sense in their learning.

3) And after?

There are many subjects that can be discussed: false information / conspiracy / immigration. These first steps represent a great human challenge, but also a digital one. By collaborating remotely with our students, we are betting on trust and commitment.

We believe in the motivation of our students for this project, which also gives us great motivation to get involved. The future in the short and medium term will prove us right or not. However, we can already say that, even with 5,220 kilometers of distance, and 6 hours of time difference, nothing is impossible.

If these first steps (real test) go well, we, Mathieu and I, can think of new exchanges. And too bad for the pandemic: the project has the advantage of being able to be carried out easily with three times nothing. The FlipGrid application can be easily installed on any mobile device, Wooclap and Kahoot are used online.

In short: we are getting ready, we are crossing our fingers, and we will not hesitate to keep you informed of the project and its realization.

Hoping that this project can also inspire you!

This article is adapted from the original publication.

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About the Author

Laurent Di Pasquale
Laurent Di Pasquale
Laurent Di Pasquale is a secondary school human sciences teacher in Belgium and a digital-supported pedagogy trainer. He describes his pedagogy as being deeply positivist, human and innovative. Her first four years in special education forced her to show creativity and benevolence in her practices, in order to make students want to learn, despite their difficulties. He also helps his colleagues on a daily basis to develop their practices. This is what pushed him since September 2018 to open a Facebook page dedicated to Ed.Tech, where he publishes new tools to use, daily advice, and examples of innovative activities.

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