Children in classrooms around the world will soon be learning about their counterparts in Canada's aboriginal community by clicking on the Internet.
Kidlink, one of the world's largest online communities for youth, plans to host Web pages featuring Canadian aboriginal cultures and languages.
Reaching 175,000 people in 135 countries and 15 languages, Kidlink offers e-mail conferencing to students aged eight to 18 and their teachers.
"(The aboriginal students) will have an audience of youth all over the world eager to learn about their culture,'' said Odd de Presno, Kidlink's founder and executive director.
De Presno recently returned from Canada, where he met with members of the Assembly of First Nations. He also met with Industry Canada's SchoolNet which has agreed to co-operate with Kidlink.
"The world is not CNN and Hollywood. There are 6,000 odd languages in the world with three languages dying every day. We have to support diversity and to do this we need to have diversity to show. Hopefully, we learn from each other and with a global network of youth, empower them.''
De Presno came up with the Kidlink idea back in 1989, inspired by a two-week Internet project linking 250 students in his country, Canada and the United States. He began planning a global network for children and teachers.
"It was like a holding a very hot stone in your hand. You have to decide to either drop it or run with it,'' the Norwegian Internet pioneer and writer said.
When Kidlink first went online in May 1990 using the SciNet conferencing system in Toronto, a Canadian student was the first to participate.
Ten years later, Kidlink has 100,000 Web pages and is operated by 500 volunteers in 35 countries, including a 15-year-old technical manager in Rio de Janeiro.
Often, de Presno hears stories about Kidlink bringing cultures closer together. One of his favourites involves a group of 1O-year-old students in Tokyo, Lima and Maryland who are overcoming their language barriers by communicating through drawing.
Kidlink is also working with Norway's aboriginal people, the Sami, helping them develop their own Web pages.
Norwegian teacher Tor Arne Richvoldsen, who teaches Grade 7 English here at Eydehavn primary school, first brought Kidlink into his classroom seven years ago.
His students have exchanged ideas on the environment with classes in Sackville, N.B., responded to a Bosnian refugee's wartime story and filed reports on the Lillehammer Winter Olympics.
"With Kidlink, I can include new media, the Internet and e-mail in my teaching. I can give them a positive view of what it is, give them basic knowledge, give them the chance to develop an international network of friends ... Colour and religion doesn't matter,'' said Richvoldsen.
He remembers an exchange between one of his classes and some students in New York City. As they wrote to each other, sharing thoughts and feelings, the American and Norwegian children became fast friends.
The Norwegian students, used to living in an all-white community without visible minorities, were surprised when they exchanged photos and discovered their new friends were black.
"It was strange experience for some of them,'' said Richvoldsen, who said it was a good opportunity for his students to learn about prejudice.
Canadian Aboriginal News
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