Education often brings students to new places, but it looks like that may be more true than ever for Andover students in the coming months. 

The Andover Coalition for Education, or ACE, has funded a portal through Shared Studios, an organization that creates spaces with technology and connects people internationally. The inflatable portal is equipped with video and audio technology that allows people inside the inflatable, yellow portal to communicate with people in other portals around the world. There are currently 47 portals around the globe.

"The real innovation is in the global network of Portal sites around the world," explained the school department's Director of Strategy and Innovation Stephen Chinosi. "Having access to people who are interested in connecting with others to build 'real' relationships and potential partnerships. The Portal is using the best technology to actually connect people through focused and open dialogues. The experience is nothing like a Skype call, which only focuses on the head/shoulders. The Portal feels like you're in a room with someone who happens to be on the other side of the world."

The portal was installed at the Cormier Youth Center on Sunday and it's kickoff in Andover will be held Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the annual World Summit.

About 130 students, called Global Scholars, will learn about a major, international issue and discuss possible solutions at the summit. Chinosi said United Nations Sustainability Development Goals will be focus points for the summit. The Andover Public Schools Global Scholars program was created four years ago to introduce students to the world through various experiences. 

"This year is the Future of Food," Chinosi wrote in an email. "In the past, we've also explore the Future of Water and Air, as themes. We host a design challenge, then we offer a few breakout sessions that engage the students to think broadly about global cultures."

ACE will fund the portal for six months at $6,000 per month, and is working on gaining corporate sponsorships to further fund the portal.

"It is providing the opportunity for students to connect with other people across the world," said ACE President Lenore Price at the Feb. 8 School Committee meeting. 

"We couldn't be more excited," Chinosi told School Committee members. "This idea of the vision we are proposing and implementing through professional development and everything that comes through Dr. Duclos and Dr. Bermans' offices to support our faculty. We have been able to tap into that work to not only take our students to the next level, but our faculty as well."

ACE anticipates local organizations may want to partner to access the portal, and has reached out to the WGBH Media Center and the Boston University Innovation Center. 

"Both groups will be partnering with us to help develop Portal programming that serves a diverse audience in the Boston metro area," Chinosi explained. 

"This is how we are bringing the world to Andover," said Assistant Superintendent Nancy Duclos. "Where kids can really learn about other cultures, about how the world works, about developing that empathy, right here, where they don't have to get on a plane and it's financially not a burden for them."
 Shortly after the March 2 summit, the portal will be moved to Andover High. ACE plans to bring the portal to all of the schools in the district over the spring semester. 

Follow Kelsey Bode on Twitter @Kelsey_Bode.


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