What is Out of Eden Learn?

Out of Eden Learn is a unique online learning community designed to accompany Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk. Through Out of Eden Learn, students from around the world can engage in Paul’s journey and all that it represents. They are invited to slow down to observe the world closely and to listen carefully to others; to exchange stories related to people, place, and identity; and to reflect on how our individual lives relate to bigger human stories. Students are grouped into small learning communities or "walking parties" comprised of approximately six different classes from around the world. They complete activities, share their work, and interact with one another on an exciting digital platform that uses social media as a springboard for deep, meaningful learning. The goal is to ignite students’ interest in the wider world and support them to become more informed, thoughtful, and engaged “global citizens.”

Out of Eden Learn is an initiative of Project Zero, a research center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in collaboration with Paul Salopek. With generous support from the Abundance Foundation, and additional support from Global Cities, Inc., a program of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Out of Eden Learn is open to all schools and students, free of charge. For more information please visit our educators' blog Walk to Learn, or our Out of Eden Learn Twitter and Facebook pages or Instagram account.

Who is Paul Salopek and what is the Out of Eden Walk?

Paul Salopek is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has embarked on an epic seven-year walk around the world, retracing the broad migratory pathways of our early human ancestors. This journey, which he calls the Out of Eden Walk, will span 2,500 generations of human history and 21,000 miles of the Earth’s surface. As he walks, Paul Salopek uses our deep past as a sounding board for interpreting contemporary issues and assessing where we have come in our unfolding human story. His foot-level reporting, or “slow journalism,” aims to connect the dots between local stories and serve as a counterpoint to the fast-paced 24-hour news media to which we have become accustomed. His incredible Out of Eden Walk is sponsored by National Geographic, who are publishing his walk-related dispatches on their website. You may also like to read his December 2013 cover story for the National Geographic Magazine and watch the accompanying short video. He also has a feature article on his walk throught the Hejaz Desert of Saudi Arabia in the July 2014 edition of the magazine.

What is Project Zero?

Project Zero is a research center based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Its mission is to understand and enhance high-level thinking and learning across disciplines and cultures and in a range of contexts, including schools, businesses, museums, and digital environments. Out of Eden Learn builds on decades of Project Zero research and is one of the many projects in progress at Project Zero. You can learn more by visiting the Project Zero website.

What is Paul Salopek’s involvement in Out of Eden Learn?

Paul Salopek checks in regularly with the Out of Eden Learn community, and browses through students’ work. He periodically creates special audio messages for students. While Paul cannot individually respond to all students, he takes an active interest in the Out of Eden Learn community and will periodically respond to students. He also welcomes input from participants: for example, students have the opportunity to send their ideas with regards to the next steps of his journey. 

Who can take part in Out of Eden Learn?

Out of Eden Learn is open to school-age students from around the world, free of charge. We welcome individual students as well as school classes and clubs, after school programs, and home schooled students. Students can participate in Out of Eden Learn as part of their regular classroom learning or on a voluntary basis, as part of a lunchtime or afterschool activity. Our online learning community thrives on the diversity of its participants, and we encourage young people from all places and backgrounds to take part. Please note that our materials were originally designed for middle and high school students and need to be adapted for younger students. Students aged 10 and over can create their own Out of Eden Learn accounts and post their own responses and comments. We expect the educators of younger children to do the posting for their classes.

What kinds of activities will students be doing?

In September of 2014, we launched a revised "core" learning journey. All the materials are available under the curriculum tab on our website and in a companion educator's guide. Our learning journey is broken down into six biweekly "footsteps" which are each comprised of three parts: (1) engage with Paul's journey; (2) do an activity; and (3) interact with your walking partners.  Students start this learning journey by introducing themselves and reflecting on what they find interesting about Paul’s walk. They then focus on observing and learning about their local surroundings: drawing maps, walking and taking photographs, listening to other people’s stories, and documenting everyday life. They conclude their learning journey by planning a walk that they would like to take one day or advising Paul on what he should look out for on the next leg of his walk. Throughout, they will view and comment on other students' work within their walking party so that they can learn from other students' perspectives. Please note that "walking parties" is simply a metaphor for the small learning groups that we form on our website: students do not literally have to go on a long hike! Nevertheless, there is an expectation that some of the students' learning will take place outside the classroom.

Are there ways for students to continue participating in Out of Eden Learn after they’ve completed a learning journey?

Learning Journey 1 is “stand-alone” for those students who will only participate in Out of Eden Learn for approximately 12 weeks. But it is also the first of two parts of a longer “core” journey for those students who are able to continue on for another 12 weeks to Learning Journey 2.

In the future, returning students will have a range of options for what they want to do next on Out of Eden Learn. We eventually hope to offer alternative learning journeys tailored to students studying specific subjects like history, the visual arts, geography, or English language/ literature. We also hope to develop a “drop-in” space on our platform for students to do activities related to Paul’s current location. We also invite educator-led and student-led collaborations, and welcome your thoughts on ways to extend the learning experience. You can write to us at learn@outofedenwalk.com or post your ideas in the Educator Resources and Forum section of our website. You may also want to check out the Out of Eden Walk classroom materials developed by our colleagues at The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Student Safety

What measures are taken to protect students’ identities in Out of Eden Learn?

Out of Eden Learn takes a variety of precautions to protect student participants. At no time do students use their real name within the online learning community: they sign up using user names or pseudonyms. In their posts, students are not permitted to post photographs or videos that include images of either themselves or their classmates. They are not permitted to share personal information such as their home address or contact details. All the prompts are highly open-ended and students are at no point asked to reveal particular information about themselves. While students can sign up to receive email alerts when someone has responded to one of their posts, this system is automated and administrators do not have access to individual students’ email addresses.

However, please note that the identity of students’ institutions will be available information and students who are in the same class will likely know each other's identities.

Who is able to view student posts?

Students’ posts are only visible to other participants in their walking party. Similarly, only members of the same walking party can comment on one another’s posts. However, some student work will be featured in our Out of Eden Learn gallery and educators' blog, and shared via our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.

Is Out of Eden Learn a “safe space” for student learning?

Upon signing up for Out of Eden Learn, students and teachers agree to the Terms of Service for participation. We believe that a key benefit of our online learning community is that students can practice communicating with diverse audiences in open, respectful ways. At every stage of the learning journey, students are asked to show respect for other participants, and are reminded that everything they post will be visible to teachers and researchers involved in the project, as well as Paul Salopek. We request that students do not post comments that tease others, even if they are other members of their class. We will not tolerate bullying, and will remove comments that express intolerance toward a particular group of people or community. We also ask the teachers in our online learning community to monitor their students’ activity on the website, and open up discussions with them about appropriate online behavior. 

Logistics and Technical Support

I am an educator… how can I sign up my students for Out of Eden Learn?

You can register your students for Out of Eden Learn on our website. Here’s an overview of the process for getting involved:

  • Click on the blue "Educators Register" button.
  • You will be asked to register your school and class(es). Be sure to read our Terms of Service.
  • We’ll assign your class to a “walking party” that will consist of approximately 5-6 different classes. You will receive an email notification when we have assigned you to a walking party. We assign walking parties several times a year. 
  • You will receive a special code to get into the homepage for your assigned walking party. You can access this code by logging into our website and clicking on your profile icon (the default is a picture of an owl but we encourage you to change it). From there you can access your "dashboard" where you will find your class code(s).
  • You give your students this code and they create their own Out of Eden Learn accounts by clicking on the orange "Students Register" button.
  • We will automatically post a new footstep for each walking party at two week intervals. There are six footsteps in each of our Core Learning Journeys (Learning Journey 1 and Learning Journey 2).
  • Students will post their responses, which will be viewable by everyone else in their assigned walking party. Students will leave questions and comments for one another.

I am an educator … I have registered my students on the Out of Eden Learn platform. What should I do next and when can I expect to hear from someone?

Once you register your class(es) on the Out of Eden Learn platform, it can take several weeks until you are assigned to a walking party, depending on where we are in the cycle of launching new walking parties. You will receive an email to let you know when your class has been assigned to a walking party. The email also explains the process for student sign-up and getting started on the learning journey (also see the previous FAQ).

While you are waiting to be assigned to a walking party you might want to prepare your students by exploring materials from the Out of Eden Walk. Here are some suggestions:

  • Listen to this interview and read this BBC news article.
  • Explore Paul’s route so far by looking at the map of his journey on the Out of Eden Walk website. Browse some of the milestones to see what he has already seen and recorded.
  • Check out some of Paul’s journalism on the National Geographic website. You may want to browse Paul's dispatches by theme
  • You can also get a headstart on some of the upcoming activities as outlined in our curriculum materials.

When and how do educators and students receive instructions about what to do for each footstep? How can educators keep track of what their students are doing?

Educators will receive email alerts when a new footstep has been posted for their learning party. Students can also receive email alerts if they choose this option when they register. Footsteps will be posted every two weeks. However, the system will pause if no students in a walking party have yet posted for the previous footstep. It will be clear to both educators and students that a new footstep has been activated for their walking party when they log into the Out of Eden Learn website.

Educators will receive suggestions via email regarding how they might approach the activity with their students. They can also access these suggestions via the "Educator Tips" button on each of the footsteps when they log into the website or consult our printable Educators' Guide when it is available.

Please note that students are asked to complete a private reflection about one of Paul's dispatches for Footsteps 1 and 6. These two reflections will help us to get a sense of students' ideas and interests, as well as some of the things they may be learning by taking part in Out of Eden Learn. Some walking parties will be assigned Paul's dispatch Sole Brothers for Footstep 1 (about cheap plastic footwear in Ethiopia); others will get Electronic Oasis (about proliferating cell phone use in Ethiopia). We will then flip the order for Footstep 6.  

At the end of the learning journey we ask all students to complete a final reflection and survey. This is very important both in terms of advancing our research agenda and in helping us to continue to improve Out of Eden Learn. We also believe that it will help students to process their learning experience. When students have completed the survey they will hear a special thank you message from Paul.

Class rosters are provided to help educators monitor the progress of their students in Out of Eden Learn. The rosters are available via the Dashboard, which educators can reach by clicking on their profile after logging in. The rosters show how many footsteps each student has completed. Educators also receive weekly summaries via email about the activity of their students within their walking party. We also encourage educators to visit their class' assigned walking party space regularly, both to monitor what their students are posting and to view other students' work.

I am an educator … does it matter if there is a period during our learning journey when my class is unable to participate?

No, it’s completely fine! Given that this is an international project, classes will inevitably be following different school calendars. We expect there to be weeks when your class is unable to participate in the learning community—for example, during a school vacation or exam period. It is also fine to have a delayed start. We have designed our project so that classes “travel” together in a loose way: one class may be slightly ahead of the others for a while but then fall behind a little after a vacation period. Students in our pilot study reported to us that they liked this flexible model, in part because they found it interesting to move back and forth between different galleries of student work. That said, you need to be broadly in synch with other participating classes for your students to get the most out of the Out of Eden Learn experience. We encourage educators within walking parties to communicate with one another via our new "back channel" to keep one another informed about upcoming absences.

Can Out of Eden Learn be accessed on devices such as smartphones or tablets?

Yes, our platform is designed for easy use on any internet-enabled device.

How can students upload multimedia (e.g. photos, audio) to their posts on Out of Eden Learn?

Students can easily attach images and other photos, as well as audio files, from their computers and submit them with their posts. They should click on the relevant toolbar icons to upload files when they post. However, it is not a good idea for them to upload word documents or pdfs because they will not display correctly on our interface. Students are currently unable to upload Powerpoint presentations. We are currently experimenting with different ways for students to share short videos and will provide details in our materials.

What is the log-in system for Out of Eden Learn participants?

Each walking party is assigned a special code to access their own homepage. Educators will receive this code after their class has been assigned to a walking party. Class codes can be accessed by educators on their Dashboard, which they can access by clicking on their profile after logging in to Out of Eden Learn. They then share the code with their students, who need it to register on our website.

I’m currently participating in Out of Eden Learn… and I forgot my password. What should I do?

Educators can reset their own passwords. Just click on the 'forgot password' link when you try to log in. Educators can reset the passwords of their students via the class roster, which is accessible via the Dashboard. They click on the blue "change password" option for the relevant student.

I’m currently participating in Out of Eden Learn…what do I do if I encounter technical problems on the platform?

If you don’t see your issue addressed in the FAQ, educators and students can post their questions in the technical issues section of our website forum. You can also email us at learn@outofedenwalk.com

Details on Out of Eden Learn

What is a learning journey?

“Learning journey” is the phrase we use to capture the learning experience of students participating in Out of Eden Learn. A learning journey is comprised of a sequence of discrete learning activities, which we call “footsteps”, that allow students to engage in different aspects of Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk. The experience is designed to help young people to become more informed, thoughtful and engaged ‘global citizens.’ Each learning journey lasts approximately 12 weeks and is comprised of six footsteps.

What is a footstep?

Our learning journey is broken down into six biweekly "footsteps" which are each comprised of three parts: (1) engage with Paul's journey; (2) do an activity; and (3) interact with your walking partners. We chose the name “footstep” to convey that all students are pursuing their own journey of learning and discovery, and that each set of activities is part of this overarching journey. Note that each of the footsteps can be printed and worked on by students offline.

What is a “walking party” and how are they determined?

Out of Eden Learn participants are assigned to small learning groups that we call walking parties. Each walking party is comprised of 5-6 student groups, which usually adds up to 120-150 students in total. We will group students of a similar age together. We recognize the value of having many different perspectives, places, and backgrounds represented in each walking party, and we take care to make them as diverse as we can.

What kind of time commitment is required for a student participating in Out of Eden Learn?

Each learning journey lasts approximately 12 weeks depending on the pace of the group, with students spending somewhere in the range of 1-2 hours per week on the project – or more if they desire!

How do students know when they have received a comment on a post?

Participants can opt to receive email notifications when they sign up. This means that they will receive an email whenever a comment has been left for them. They will also be able to see if they have comments when they log on to the website.

Is it possible to delete a post or comment, or edit content after it has been submitted?

Yes. Posts can be edited, but only by their authors or by administrators involved in the student’s walking party. Comments can be deleted but not edited.

I completed a learning journey on Out of Eden Learn and would like to access the posts from my walking party. Is this possible?

Yes, all posts shared on the Out of Eden Learn platform are archived. You may access the posts from your walking party by using the special code that was assigned to you. Please note that although you will be able to view all the posts, you will not be able to add comments or edit them once your group’s learning journey has been completed.