Walk on

Using technology in an “Out of Eden Walk” project

Uma Shankar Singh who currently teaches IT at the International German School in Ho Chi Minh City describes the journey his Grade 9 students went on, inspired by Paul Salopek and his seven year “Out of Eden Walk”.

Paul Salopek and his walk

In 2013, National Geographic journalist, Paul Salopek started a 7 year epic journey,  the “Out of Eden Walk”, retracing global human migration routes. As he walks, he writes, suggesting that traditional cultures are being submerged under a deluge of modern technology. Their stories in his view are being diluted due to the impact of technology, a developing perspective that has become extremely influential, while becoming closely associated with the “Slow Journalism” movement.

Slow down, tune in and reflect

Salopek’s work is the subject of a Project Zero initiative, “Out of Eden Learn” launched by Harvard in 2013. Its basic premise is the need to slow down, reflect, exchange stories and observe the world at a macro level carefully in order to understand it better.

As knowledge of the Out of Eden walk grew, and recognizing the importance of Salopek’s work when developing globally minded students/citizens, educators throughout the world have embraced the idea of “slow journalism” which synchronized perfectly with the attributes in the International Baccalaureate’s learner profile. It has profoundly affected my work at the International German School in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Out of Eden Learn in Practice

At the beginning of the academic school year in August 2019, Grade 9 students started using the principles of observing the world around them slowly and carefully in a Media Campaign Project for their ICT classes. We ‘created’ an on-line organization based on a classic NGO to investigate a number of social problems in Ho Chi Minh City. In response, students came up with brilliant ideas to raise awareness amongst expatriates and Vietnamese citizens alike about issues such as poverty and teenage pregnancy. They were asked to write professional style emails to organizations that could help them find information about a range of issues, arising from questions their work had stimulated. They researched statistics about average income levels, the number of teens who had gone through teenage pregnancy, etc.

Ho Chi Minh city

Central to this style of slow investigation, students go out on their own walk. As the project gained momentum, they were required to go on weekends walks, interviewing people and making a video that would encapsualte the attitudes of people about these topics in Ho Chi Minh City. The product was a 5-minute video documentary. Later they had to come up with a brochure as well as a website that would help promote their cause to the public.

Throughout the project students were vigorously engaged in thinking about economic differences and nuances within Vietnamese culture, while also really absorbing the technical micro skills they needed in order to fulfill the ICT rubrics. Out of Eden Walk, Slow Journalism and modern technology meet in a positive way.

Tips for integrating “Out of Eden Learn” Projects with technology.

According to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, aviator and author of The Little Prince, The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them. This resonates well when implementing the “Out of Eden” projects with students by using the “machine” of modern technology. With this in mind, the following ideas might be useful:

  1. Though the use of technology is a quick and efficient way to obtain and share information, it’s essential that we as educators provide students the time to reflect and help them think critically about how technology can be used to also observe society and so become an effective change agent in the world beyond their individual selves.
  2. Technological tools like Google Suite, Adobe In-design, Canva and Cyberlink Power Director offer ample opportunities to students to come up with a survey, create/edit a professional looking video, design a brochure/pamphlet from scratch and collaboratively work together on a digital space.
  3. If the rubrics and criteria for each part of the project are clearly defined, and involve a challenge, but are not too technical to make the students frustrated, then there is no reason why their use of technology should not work. Look at the steps provided in the Eden Walks Learn courses here reference.
  4. Provide prompts that may be relevant to the local/ international environment/community or let students take ownership of their learning by coming up with their own topics. Let them sketch out their virtual path through technology. Mind maps are a great way to start especially during this coronavirus pandemic situation.
  5. Offer continuous feedback and appreciate their progress. Remember it’s not the result that matters at the end, it’s the journey your students undertake in order to learn something new and crucial about society and its associated culture.

Finally, the “SAMR” model for EdTech integration provided by Dr. Ruben Puentedura is a very useful reference point while sketching out a plan for “Out of Eden Learn” projects. Help students to manage the criteria in each segment of the project and – voila – you have the makings of a project ready to be used and tested!


Uma Shankar Singh is a Librarian, Digital Literacy Coach and teacher of IT. He likes to read about human psychology, photograph wildlife and landscapes and research on trending library topics. He can be contacted at umashankar1991@hotmail.com or click his picture for his LinkedIn Profile. He currently teaches IT at the International German School in Ho Chi Minh City.


Feature Image: Ethiopia by G. Lerz from Pixabay – where Paul’s journey began in 2013

Image of Ho Chi Minh city from Pixabay


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