The Global Search for Education (GSE) is a regular contributor to the Edmodo Blog. Authored by C.M. Rubin, GSE brings together distinguished thought leaders in education and innovation from around the world to explore the key learning issues faced by today’s nations. Look for a new post every Friday and join the Global Search for Education Community on Edmodo to share your perspectives with their editorial staff.
Our children must know the world. If we want to transform the K-12 education system to meet the needs and challenges of 21st-century citizenship and leadership, we need to ensure global learning is available for all. The world continues to change rapidly. Content related to global unemployment, terrorism, climate change, disease, and so many other critical global issues inundate our digital devices 24/7. The way we produce communications and the speed at which we can reach global audiences have dramatically changed. These technological advances have led to an interconnectedness that requires schools to be more invested in teaching global skills.
The Global Search for Education continues to explore the challenges faced by educators around the world at the forefront of this crucial movement to support teaching and learning for global competence. With the goal of that exploration in mind, GSE recently spoke to Bill Gaudelli (Teachers College, Columbia University), Dana Mortenson (World Savvy), and Jessica Kehayes (Asia Society) about ways to move forward—what to avoid and what affirm—to make education more globally proactive.
Jessica: Increasing respect is being given to global readiness. Why now?
Education is affected by the same trends we see in business, government, and our day-to-day lives: rapid technological advances, increasing interconnectivity, higher levels of diversity, and greater levels of uncertainty in how to handle complex problems. As these trends increase, there is more pressure for the education sector to respond at all levels—this includes a recognition that we must engage with the world in order to better prepare students.
Additionally, as concerns about inequality continue to rise, there is growing appreciation for global readiness. We are hearing a growing call from the international community for education goals related to access, quality, and relevance to be addressed simultaneously, not sequentially, to catalyze upward mobility and provide every child with the skills to address global challenges and spark innovation. Asia Society supports and promotes globally-focused education, including the learning of world languages, as well as cultivates opportunities to learn from innovations in education around the world.
Decades ago, teachers were chiefly responsible for delivering all content—often acting as the sole arbiter of knowledge dissemination in the classroom. Today, students can access content and information online instantaneously while shaping the media with which they interact. Young people are both consumers and producers of information forcing a change in the role of teacher, from guru to guide. Teachers need to be expert facilitators to help students examine, critique, and synthesize information, while developing meaningful connections to their lives. All of this is happening in a considerably more global, interconnected world, which requires a different kind of preparation for young people—critical and creative thinking, empathy, comfort with ambiguity, and willingness to change. This profound shift requires a new set of skills and dispositions for educators as well.
What are the key teaching gaps that need to be addressed? How do teachers in the U.S. rate compared with their European and Asian counterparts?
Teachers everywhere increasingly face the same challenges; maneuvering in a new media-rich, information-saturated environment that requires a thoughtful approach to inquiry. While there are no cross-regional metrics of teacher quality that directly respond to this question, differences that do exist often relate to the amount of professional development afforded educators to support their ongoing intellectual growth. The intensity of effort in teaching multiple sections and large class-sizes suggests a need for system-change that repositions teachers as co-learners and collaborators with their students and colleagues. Such a change is considerable given the deep grove of an industrial mode of schooling that is increasingly outdated and unworkable.
What are the key elements which can address these needs?
A variety of activities that encourage collaboration with colleagues, co-development of work products, dialoging across and about difference, inquiring into complex subject matter that defies facile explanation, experiencing life in another part of the world, and working with colleagues to translate all of this into their classroom teaching. These pedagogical models develop 21st century skills by allowing teachers to experience their learning about the world so that they can do the same for and with their students.
Technology allows teachers to access instructors—academics and practitioners—who are the top in their field, from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds. It also allows teachers from across the country and globe to come together to learn and work collaboratively, and learn from one another, despite geographic distance. Technology also allows teachers to build both human and social capital, while building a community of educators who support one another.
In addition to classroom teaching, what other learning experiences would be valuable for K-12 students to develop global competence?
For students today to build global competence, classroom learning that allows them to take ownership over their learning and make content relevant to the real world is critical. Tackling complexity in the classroom, working in teams, and learning to identify and consider multiple perspectives are also key. Beyond that, students who have opportunities to expand their learning through exposure to new experiences that stretch their cultural boundaries—like travel and service learning—can be transformational for young people. These are such important chances to take what they learn in the classroom and to see and apply it in the real world, and understand how to navigate change and unfamiliar situations.
What do you think are the best ways to expose students to global cultures and make them comfortable and capable in those environments?
Global travel can have a profound impact on students, but so can exposure to new cultures, communities, and groups of people within students’ home communities. The demographics of the U.S. are changing so rapidly that in this country, so many locales are ‘global’ now, offering opportunities to learn and explore with peers from a diverse range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. So often—regardless of where students are from—they tend to stay in their neighborhoods and in groups that are known and familiar to them. Opportunities that allow students to work together, sharing perspectives and solving problems across those divides, are invaluable to build global competence.
C.M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, is the publisher of CMRubinWorld, and is a Disruptor Foundation Fellow.
(Photos courtesy of World Savvy Organization and Katie DelaVaughn)