Stories Around the Globe
Westminster duo gives children the resources to share their stories with the world
by Liz Dobbins (’21)
Anneliese Cannon, assistant professor in the School of Education at Westminster, uses the art of storytelling to help refugee children in South Salt Lake become familiar with other cultures while learning English as a second language. Anneliese’s work is supported through a global research project called Global StoryBridges. The story-sharing platform was founded by one of Anneliese’s educational mentors, Dr. Maggie Hawkins, who teaches curriculum and instruction at University of Wisconsin-Madison. StoryBridges works with impoverished and low-income children around the world, aged anywhere from 8 to 17 years old, to produce videos depicting their daily lives. The project was launched with the intent of improving language learning. However, as the program evolved, Dr. Hawkins and her colleagues involved with the project discovered that it had a greater effect on the intercultural communication and curiosity of the children.
“Global StoryBridges helps language learning because they are telling stories and being creative, but more than that, it’s helping the kids have a curiosity and caring attitude toward kids they don’t know across the globe,” Anneliese says.
Anneliese has loved language learning since she was a kid. She carried this passion with her through higher education, earning an undergraduate degree in German from the University of Minnesota. She then attended Harvard, where she earned a master’s degree in reading and language acquisition. After graduating, she worked in public schools in Mexico, which led her to pursue a PhD in English as a second language (ESL) and bilingual education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Anneliese’s love for teaching second languages—along with her commitment to innovation—made StoryBridges and its unique method of teaching through the creation of films a perfect fit.
“I was always drawn to working with second-language learners from different countries, and I was one myself in Japan and Germany,” Anneliese says. “I like finding new and innovative art-spaced ways to help English learners express themselves and talk to each other.”
Annelise brought Global StoryBridges to South Salt Lake, Utah, in 2017, adding to the other sites in Mumbai, India; Oaxaca, Mexico; Mekong Delta, Vietnam; Uganda, Kenya; Barcelona, Spain; and Xi’an, China. As the first year in Salt Lake has progressed, the children involved with the program have changed before her eyes.
“They are learning curiosity. Especially for making stories, they are becoming better storytellers,” Anneliese says. “They have also become so interested in projecting their voices, which is huge for language learners who feel uncomfortable speaking out in classrooms where they feel judged or there are teachers who will correct them. It helps to encourage them to use their voices.”
Anneliese works with Sarah Turner (Honors ’19), her research assistant and a current Westminster Honors College undergraduate majoring in elementary education. Sarah and Anneliese met on a hiring committee of which Sarah was the student representative. They began discussing Global StoryBridges, and it really interested Sarah. Since she has been involved, Sarah has received an Honors Research Grant to study the change in identity of these children.
“During the last year I have been really interested in the conversations that the kids have been having about how they identify themselves: if they think of themselves as American, if they connect with the kids in the other countries, if they view themselves as different,” Sarah explains. “I’m looking at how this project—making videos and connecting with other cultures—can help kids negotiate their own identity and figure out who they are.”
Global StoryBridges is unlike other learning programs in that it not only gives impoverished children the chance to improve their English and learn how technology works, but it also connects them across the world, creating better intercultural communication for these students. Sarah and Anneliese have been able to help remove biases from these children through this form of education.
“I am concerned as an educator about issues of justice, inequality, and equity where some languages are valued more, some are considered more scholarly, and some people’s experiences are valued more than others,” Anneliese says. “I’d like to find some way to change that through education. That has really been the driving force.”
A large part of Global StoryBridges is providing sites with Mac laptops in order for the children to learn technology and produce their videos. If you would like to donate a gently used Mac laptop, email Anneliese at email@example.com for more information.
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni
and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events
and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.