At a high school in Uganda, disobedient students sit under a punishment tree. In Taiwan, students can join the gift-wrapping club, which meets after school. In Yemen, high school students can take dentistry classes as part of a vocational program.

And at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, students get an insight into these cultural differences — and think critically about their own daily lives — through some innovative programming in Chris Baer’s photography and graphics classes. Mr. Baer has reached far beyond the walls of the high school, and even the Vineyard’s shores, to offer his students lessons that encourage them to reflect on how to document their own lives, he said, and learn about cultural differences, like punishment trees and gift-wrapping clubs.

Chris Baer Ashleigh Dexter computers
Mr. Baer works with senior Ashleigh Dexter. — Ivy Ashe

“It’s a way for kids to have an audience for their work, and also, just kind of a neat opportunity to see their own daily life in a different way,” said Mr. Baer, who is 44. “Because you know, when you think about what you had for breakfast and how you got to school, it can be sort of boring. But when you think about what a Pakistani student might think of what they have to eat and how they get to school, suddenly they’re looking at their own lives in a different way, and that’s kind of fun.”

For the past seven years, Mr. Baer has taught his students documentary photography as part of a global online community of students and educators, with the help of International Education and Resource Network,(iEARN), a nonprofit that helps teachers and students from more than 130 countries connect online. Students can log in to the password-protected site to upload photos, which become instantly accessible to other students, and students also exchange e-mail notes.

Picture uploads center around themes like holidays, clothing and dress, food and morning routines. The photos spur conversations, Mr. Baer said, and students comment on the their peers’ work.

In some examples of student work, Lucy Hackney, a freshman, took a picture titled “Lazy Dinner,” in which she and her dad ate a sausage and cheese quesadilla, a rare treat because “we usually eat lots of vegetables,” the caption read. Freshman Anais Bermudes snapped a shot of her favorite after-school routine, stopping at Fella’s Take Out for some chili.

“They reflect on their own lives a little bit,” Mr. Baer said. “But also [they] have a window into another culture. And plus, rather than creating photographs and writing captions for me, the teacher, or their classmates, they have to think about their audience, how they’re going to explain what we’re looking at in this photograph.

“And also that they’re representing our community, our culture, our country. And so it makes them stop and think about what they’re doing,” he added.

To that end, a mini-grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank paid for two cameras: one for Samira Wahib’s classroom in Sana’a, Yemen, and one for Mr. Baer’s class. The classes exchanged pictures; Ms. Wahib’s class sent pictures of bins of grains, while regional high school freshman Maddy Moore sent a picture of her dad reading The New York Times.

The students also participated in iEARN’s One Day in the Life, a project that Mr. Baer facilitates. On given days — Nov. 11, 2011, for example — students around the world documented their days. The project also works with the One Day on Earth film project, an effort for people around the world to document a single day that will be documented in a film. Sophomore Lily Lubin was contacted for potential participation in the film, Mr. Baer said, and he recognized an Egyptian partner school in the trailer of the movie.

Mr. Baer augments photo exchanges with conversations on Skype — one class Skyped with students in Morocco — and, to a limited extent, Facebook, which isn’t allowed at the high school. The students can use the site to connect on their own.

While students might have hundreds of Facebook friends, he said, few of his students know people in Africa or the Middle East. With technology, these connections are “so easy to do,” Mr. Baer said. “But kids don’t do it, left to their own devices.”

Mr. Baer, who attended the high school and has been teaching there for 17 years, is building connections outside the classroom as well. His work with iEARN’s One Day in the Life project earned him a fellowship in Morocco for a two-week training session, and last summer Mr. Baer and history teacher Kate Holter wrote a grant that paid for roundtable discussions in Taiwan, featuring 25 students from 15 countries. The trip was a family affair for Mr. Baer; his wife Janice, a social worker, came to speak about international adoption issues. (The couple has a son, Jack, age four.)

Ms. Holter and Mr. Baer also wrote a grant that would facilitate 90-minute discussions between groups of teachers and virtual visitors from other countries.

On Tuesday, he and about a dozen other high school teachers — and four students — had a Skype conversation with Roseli Amaral, a teacher in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that Mr. Baer met through Facebook. The conversation drew knowing nods and laughter from the teachers, who found shared frustrations: getting students’ attention, cell phones and teacher salaries. Differences appeared as well. Ms. Amaral regaled the crowd with a story about a student who was sneaking sips from her water glass. He was punished by having the water dumped over his head — not something that would fly over here, the teachers agreed.

For teachers and students, the connection is important, Mr. Baer said. “Kids are isolated here,” he said. “So it’s especially important that we do this.”

There are important lessons to learn through the connection, he added. Students learn to approach students in other countries as peers, rather than as sources of charity. “It’s different than when you put kids one to one, and have them meet the student, and talk to them, correspond and exchange pictures . . . otherwise, you don’t really break any of the stereotypes, you just reinforce them,” he said.

Mr. Baer and his students have also learned to navigate language barriers, international politics, and cultural differences. Working with a visual medium helps to transcend those differences, and Mr. Baer said he usually works with English classes. The government in Yemen and Oman blocks Skype, so those teachers send taped messages.

Time zones are a special challenge, Mr. Baer said, “because so much of the world is not in school when we are.” To speak to a group of Island regional high school students, he recalled, South Korean teacher Jeonghye Yoon logged online at 2:30 a.m. In a gesture of international goodwill, Mr. Baer later found himself returning the favor and speaking live to a group of South Korean teachers in the middle of the night.