Note: the entirety of this post is cross-posted under my Global Competencies tab and is a part of an on-going series on global citizenship, global competencies, and global education.
Why a global focus? The 21st Century, for all of the hype, really is a different sort of animal. While we are rushing toward that tipping point in online learning referenced by Christensen in his book Disrupting Class, we are still balancing on the cusp of a potential revolution in the education system. I say potential because there is a great deal of push back when it comes to digital learning, Common Core, and student-centered learning.
In the 21st century, learning is not about acquiring knowledge but about knowing where to access it. Learning is not about parroting back information but about applying what you’ve learned. Thus, in order for students to be able to apply new knowledge in authentic ways, they need to be guiding the focus of their own learning. This transition from a teacher-centered class to a student-centered class is a significant change. And, like any change, it is difficult, fraught with challenge, frustrations, and bumps in the road. It’s also entirely worth it. As we teach and live and use technology in our every day lives, we must fully immerse ourselves in the experience — and then spend time to deeply reflect. We must engage in writing, engage in thinking, engage in analyzing what works and what doesn’t work. And we need to bring this experience, this reflection, and this process into the classroom.
Back in 2005, Thomas Friedman published The World is Flat, reminding his readers that in this new digital age, boundaries are smudged, historical and geographical boundaries are becoming irrelevant, and that in order to stay competitive (and, indeed, a viable presence in the global dialogue), it’s important to make several purposeful and intentional perceptual shifts. This isn’t new. But it’s a reminder.
Why a global focus in the K-12 education system? When students are aware of the world about them and curious about how the world works, they are able to take on significant problems for research and exploration. Globally competent students are not only able to recognize perspectives other than their own but that they are able to articulate them with respect. Thus, as educators we bear a great deal of responsibility for crafting opportunities for our students to learn deeply, wonder fiercely, and experience the world around them.
Globally competent students understand that others may not share their views or perspectives and that this difference can often be attributed to economic conditions, religions, or access to education, knowledge, or technology. By recognizing one’s own perspectives and being able to compare them with others, one can identify the influencing factors. This allows one to craft a sort of “comprehensive perspective vital to addressing complex global issues” (p. 31).
In the Classroom: So what does this look like in the “real world”? As a 9th grade English teacher, I created a social awareness multi-genre research project. But I didn’t do it in isolation. I read and scoured the internets and quoted Romano. Ever the Action Researcher, I piloted a portion of it. I brought the results to my teaching partners. They were just as excited as I was. We worked through the elements together, each of us contributing.
We now have students take on a topic of interest that has global significance, something that has meaning beyond the borders of our region, state, and nation. Students research their topics (integrating citelighter.com this year!), write the obligatory essay in proper MLA format, and then provide various artifacts that provide additional researched “views” into the topic. Students participate in Service Learning hours, where they volunteer in a setting that relates to the topic they’ve chosen. For example, if a student has chosen the topic of “child abuse”, she may volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club. It’s in this step that they go beyond communicating: they are taking “action to improve conditions” (p. 11).