For better or worse, a slew of education trends such the Common Core standards, STEM, and college readiness have preoccupied American education for the last decade. Theoretically, the end goal is to prepare students for a brave new globalized world, yet there have been very limited discussions about the role of global education in this process. Through a globalized lens, academic content and 21st-century skills can be rigorously taught while engaging students with real-world problem solving and by giving young people a voice in the world.
Before delving into this further, it’s important to understand the nebulous term “global education”. Definitions of global education vary and members of my community, the Global Education Conference Network, have attempted to elaborate on what we believe to be core elements. The bottom line is: there are educators and organizations who believe that a vital role of schools is to help develop and support engaged global citizens. The question that remains, however, has no easy answers. How do we get the rest of the American education community (and others around the world) to understand and value global education efforts?
The Asia Society has been the leading organization providing thought leadership around global education. They have developed a global competence framework which gives specific, practical guidance for schools. Understanding their term “global competence” is essential for educators. According to a joint publication from the Chief Council of State School Officers and the Asia Society entitled Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World, “global competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act upon issues of global significance.” The authors, Anthony Jackson and Veronica Boix Mansilla, elaborate further, “Globally competent individuals are aware, curious, and interested in learning about the world and how it works. They can use the big ideas, tools, methods, and languages that are central to any discipline (mathematics, literature, history, science, and the arts) to engage the pressing issues of our time. They deploy and develop this expertise as they investigate such issues, recognizing multiple perspectives, communicating their views effectively, and taking action to improve conditions.”
The four pillars of the Asia Society’s global competence framework call for students to investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas and take action. This framework is broad and deep enough to be incorporated into competing priorities and initiatives (such as Common Core or other standards) if schools become adept at creating transformational and integrated learning experiences for their students. Adopting a model such as this shouldn’t create an additional burden for schools; it should inform and enhance current strategic goals and plans.
For further resources on policies and guidelines around the development of global competence, make sure to check out the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s global education work which includes a Framework for State Action on Global Education and a teacher’s guide. UNESCO also has recently published policies related to global citizenship education that are tied to the new UN Sustainable Development Goals.
So… in this day and age, global education should be more of a priority within all education systems, not just within the U.S. And, global education efforts need to go beyond promoting tolerance and developing an appreciation of other cultures in students. As our students enter the workforce, they will inevitably be faced with complex problems which may extend beyond geographic borders. These problems will likely require agile thinkers who can work cooperatively with others around the world. Additionally, global problems have potentially local impact and kids need to develop empathy and deeper understandings of global issues. Just read the work of Harvard’s Tony Wagner and other thought leaders to understand the new global text and its implications for students. None of this breaking news necessarily.
It’s also important to consider how we bring the world to all students, not just the fortunate few who have the opportunity to travel. There is no doubt that first-hand experiences with travel and exchange programs are the best ways to learn about the world. However, many students simply may not have access to these opportunities. There is an equity issue at play here that needs to be addressed within the education community at large. Members of the Global Education Conference Network believe that technology can bring the world to students in significantly impactful ways, even if face-to-face opportunities are not a reality for a a school.
The Global Education Conference Network is a professional learning community comprised of over 23,000 educators and organizations who believe in the importance and power of globally connected learning. My conference co-chair, Steve Hargadon, and I invite you to learn more about our work and to consider getting involved with our various initiatives. The GEC community is very special due the professional generosity of many who share their work and assist other educators with get globally connected. Organizations such as iEARN-USA, the Global Campaign for Education- US Chapter, and VIF International Education have also played an important leadership role in our community along with our dedicated volunteer leadership team.
To understand the GEC’s work, it’s important to know our mission:
The Global Education Conference is a collaborative, world-wide community initiative involving students, educators, and organizations at all levels. It is designed to significantly increase opportunities for building education-related connections around the globe while supporting cultural awareness, recognition of diversity, and educational access for all.
The conference seeks to present ideas, examples, and projects related to connecting educators and classrooms with a strong emphasis on promoting global awareness, fostering global competency, and inspiring action towards solving real–world problems. Through this event, it is our hope that attendees will challenge themselves and others to become more active citizens of the world. Let us learn, question, create, and engage in meaningful, authentic opportunities within a global context!
We address this mission through an annual series of technology-driven events, three of which take place entirely online: Global Education Day at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference, Global Collaboration Day, the Global Education Conference, and Global Leadership Week. Our primary goal is to provide experiences in which educators and organizations can find and develop projects and thought partners. The basis to successful global collaboration in education are professional relationships; our events will give you opportunities to get to know others from around the globe.
Our main online community is comprised of 23,000 members from approximately 170 countries. This digital collaborative space serves as a vehicle for community members to engage with each other by posting discussions, questions, resources, and opportunities for the global education community at large. We encourage people and organizations to publicize their individual work and initiatives in our discussion forum; educators need to be pointed towards global resources that can be implemented in classrooms and schools. Our community also serves as a directory of globally-interested folks; we also encourage people to reach out and message members based on their interests or locations in the world.
Our flagship event within this community is the annual Global Education Conference which has taken place for the past six years during International Education Week (we are currently not funded or affiliated with IEW by the way; we are just one celebratory event listed in their online directory). During conference week, educators and organizations present their work and projects to a virtual audience through the Blackboard Collaborate platform.
We empower presenters to take ownership for the presentation process as they typically have to learn our conference platform and publicize their presentations. Participants are empowered, too; we use an innovative calendaring method providing schedules in every time zone. Typically, 200+ sessions are offered each year around the clock and these presentations are recorded and archived on our website for later viewing.
We also secure approximately 20 keynote speakers each who generously donate their time and expertise to our cause. An estimated 10,000 people interested in global education participate in these sessions each year. Some keynote speakers of note have been: Christie Vilsack, USAID, Rana Dajani, We Love Reading, Justin van Fleet, A World At School, Michael Trucano, World Bank, and Jeremy Gilley, Peace One Day. Here’s one of my favorites from consultant Brandon Wiley who previously was employed by the Asia Society:
Our conference archives contain recordings of all our sessions since 2010. These Creative Commons licensed recordings are often accessed after the conference for professional development and teacher education purposes. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of teacher educators who are using these recordings in their classes with pre-service and inservice teachers. General session archives are available in our community: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 , 2011, and 2010 archives and keynote sessions are featured in our YouTube channel.
It’s important to understand that this conference is NOT a technology conference, nor is it a general education conference about best practices in education. We see global collaboration as a great context for using technology meaningfully in schools, and we’re committed to educating educators about the potential resources and innovations at their disposal in authentic and engaging ways. Our main interest lies in supporting teachers, schools and the amazing organizations who have much to offer. Global education policy expertise is not in our wheelhouse necessarily, but we provide a platform for policymakers to inform our community. There are many players in the global education space and we seek to illuminate their work because we believe that together, we can accomplish more.
In the coming months, we’re hoping to provide more opportunities for those interested in global education to elevate related conversations. We’re in the process of soliciting contributions for our publication on Medium. Next month, our new webinar series, GlobalEd.TV kicks off in partnership with Know My World. In April, we will be organizing and hosting global leadership events including a face-to-face summit at a leading ed tech company followed by Global Education Day at ISTE in June. You can check out all of our events at GlobalEd Events. As always, we’re looking to engage and support others in the global education field, so please consider this an open standing invitation to get involved. We hope that you’ll take the time join us on this adventure!