Global Competencies: Moving Past the Rhetoric

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 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).


The Life & Times of a Teacher, Researcher, Scholar, Writer, Reviewer, Professional Developer, and Sometime Hiker

In a nutshell? Short Term Memory Loss.

I resort to list writing, note writing, and emailing myself. My desk is a case study in the Post-It Note.

Am I scared? Sometimes. But not always. And especially not when I have Billy Collins capturing the experience so poignantly…words that curl out like the sweet satisfaction of peeling back the perfectly pith-loosened orange.

Design: the Balanced Life

In contemplating design, both form and function, and envisioning what “ought to be” (Simon, 1996), I’ve been prompted to also think about the balanced life. After all, in order to think about the designed, we must examine the designer: We humans are inordinately messy and complex, often making decisions that are illogical or self-destructive, decisions that are based on unconditional love or jealousy, empathy or selfishness. We sometimes wallow in one end of the spectrum or another, over-indulging in emotion or wrapping ourselves so tightly into an organized and linear existence that we suck the oxygen out of a room upon entering.

In a delightfully humorous and thought-provoking manner, Don Norman speaks of emotion and design in his 2003 TED Talk, and, perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, draws a line in the sand, stating that “this is the new me: I’m only saying positive things from now on.” (This in response to frequent criticism directed at The Design of Everyday Things, that says, in a nutshell, that “if we were to follow Norman’s prescription, our designs would all be usable — but they would also be ugly” (Norman, 2002).) This prompts me to consider the motivations behind our actions: what catapults us to examine or research or indulge in one topic over another? Emotion, of course. Emotions guide our lives in ways that are so often unconscious. And in the balanced life, emotion is deeply needed.

Norman reminds us of this need to be balanced: of the need to be both open and relaxed — and thus safe, creative, and innovative — as well as anxious and focused on deadlines — and thus goal-oriented and accomplished. The balanced life, then, seeks to not to teeter at perfect horizontal, but to dip into each end as needed, to ease along the continuum to meet the provocative needs of the moment.

An entirely different continuum — and thus another place to seek balance within — is the relationship between big and small, organization and human. Paul Bennett talks about bringing the common person into the process of creating, introducing the small into the big, and considering the tweaks that can make an incredible impact. This focus on the interaction between human and object allows consideration of those tiny movements: the work arounds, the utterly practical way of cobbling together things, the intentionality of design on a small scale. And this points to what we’ve long known about breakthroughs and innovation: grand invention is rare. The most common innovations are not grandiose at all, but are rather evolutions, innovations that happen “at a very tiny, incremental level” (Norman, 2010).

In thinking about balance, various continuums along which we intentionally place ourselves, in putting ourselves in the way of those Big Ideas, it ultimately comes down to looking at things from a different perspective, to consider things not easily or readily noticed. Parker Palmer suggests, in The Courage to Teach, “to see events or interactions with “soft eyes”. He references the martial arts concept of opening your awareness and sensory abilities as much as possible and to be wary of the fight or flight response that narrows sight. This concept resonates with Bennett’s design view of looking wide and encouraging the peripheral view.

The call to “see things for the first time” is common enough to feel cliché, but there is such power in it. However, this “beginners’ mind” is not a hat one can simply don and expect to suddenly experience the world through a different set of lenses. The value of approaching a design challenge with this view is obvious – but the truth is, this way of looking at the world is a habit of mind that must be cultivated. I think of the scene in Amelie where she slides her hand into a bin of lentils. We must seek balance along the continuum of sophistication and simplicity, wisdom and naivety, the cosmopolitan and the bucolic.

A balanced life. A cultivation of small pleasures. Habits of mind. Where do we go from here?

Co-Authoring, Collaborative Writing, and the 21st Century: Wanna Write With Me?

I am learning (the hard way) that efficiency of movement is vital for one’s professional (and, indeed, mental) health. Each outpouring of intellectual energy should result in two or three products that furthers one’s goals — and one’s professional presence. What do I mean? Emails should be mined for blog posts. Informal discussions examined for workshop possibilities. And conference workshops should evolve into journal articles.

It’s easier said than done. And, no, I don’t do any of this well.

But, I am wondering that if we all pull together, a little at a time, if perhaps we could craft a piece together. Maybe something sleek & scintillating for Educational Technology Research and Development . I know that our lives are frenetically busy beyond belief, but maybe it won’t feel so big if we just take little itty bites and write a paragraph at a time.

And I’ll be very honest with you: I really need some publications. I need my name in print. It’s the one major black hole in my CV and it’s the one place I keep getting those delightful “areas for emphasis” in my Annual Reviews. I know this is going to sound hilarious, but I really don’t like to put myself out there as a writer or even write (this kind of stuff). I love thinking and chunking and word-smithing. But just putting myself out there? That’s a very difficult thing to do.

Yeah, I know: It’s not like I’m the only doctoral student with these kinds of thoughts, fears, or concerns. The awesome thing, then, is knowing that I’m not alone. So if you’re interested in writing an article with me, please let me know. I’m good with writing an introduction and creating an outline of the article. On the other hand, if you’re interested in taking the lead and having someone fill in along the way, invite me! I am so deeply interested — so incredibly invested — that I can taste the ink.

Wanna Write With Me?

Site Under Construction

This is just a heads up — a caveat for all that you’ll see or, hopefully, soon be able to see.

As I’ve been reflecting upon my journey as scholar, teacher, researcher, traveler, explorer, provider of professional development, and all things in between, I’ve been contemplating this space.

The truth is simple: I’ve many writings and posts that I’ve kept private, for no reason other than I didn’t know how well they aligned with my “April as Graduate Student” persona. It occurs to me that I am all of these aforementioned entities (and thank you to Robin & Patrick Dickson for reminding me of this), and thus I am opening the floodgates.

In some ways, this scares me. In others, it’s liberating. In all ways, I hope you will understand and perhaps enjoy the various facets that you see and read here. And in knowing that I am making public this writing, you will also understand why some of it is dated though it is only now making its appearance.

Reflections on Digital Learning Day

While I appreciate the focus on digital learning, the push for integrating technology into the classroom, and the media furor around an official Digital Learning Day, I am still a bit conflicted over the whole thing. It’s a little like having poetry month in April. Seriously? How icky. Don’t we simply embed poetry throughout our lives?

Technology integration means not having to have a special day. It means that it’s become so ubiquitous, so normal, that it’s not even noticed. Even in my district where cutting edge technology means having a document camera, administrators should easily be able to see tech integration in the classroom. When done well, technology is not front and center, upstaging the teacher, but seamlessly integrated.

What do I mean? Well, in a typical workshop day, my 9th grade English students might be using computers to track changes and make comments, the document camera might come on several times to either showcase a particularly cogent student example or to ask for help on a challenging project, the LCD projector might play a digital story while students (or teacher) ask for feedback. On the ready, we have a hand-drawn, make-shift poster to hang on the door, announcing, “Shhh…Recording in Progress” so that people know to enter the room quietly when we’re in the middle of voice narration.

And while I acknowledge the good intentions, it seems to me that the desire to showcase an assignment or project or day as “digital” means that we don’t believe in the authentic and daily uses of digital. When districts want teachers to “check out” technology like they would a book from a library, they’re making technology the center of the classroom, a guest speaker in effect. Integration means it’s there, it’s used, and no one really pays attention to the fact that it’s there anymore.

Of course, there’s always bergeron’s view on our current digital lives…

.tech poems – luke t. bergeron – 58

moses did it for the jews –
he led them out, parting
the red sea, a guide to canaan,
a land flowing with milk, with honey.
and here we sit,fingers perched over keyboards,
cellular earbuds growing in our ears,
cameras sprouted on every intersection,
our laps for laptops instead of children,
in separate rooms typing to each other,
disconnected by continual connection,
lost and stranded in this egyptian space –
where is our leader
who will guide us back
from our digital milk?
our pixilated honey?