I believe in the power of technology to provide meaningful, authentic experiences for teachers and students. Technology should be used for helping classrooms connect and to learn with the world. As I (and many others) have previously noted, today’s students are tomorrow’s problem solvers; they will be working across borders, most likely digitally, to tackle challenges facing our planet. We want students to be prepared as possible so that they can hit the ground running upon graduation.
Steve Hargadon, my co-chair for the virtual Global Education Conference, and I come from the world of educational technology. For the last 10 years or so, we’ve been exploring educational innovation through discourse, social media, in-person meetups and online professional learning communities. In the process, we both have developed powerful professional learning networks whose members span the globe. Our professional lives have been enriched because of people we’ve met and learned from on this journey, and we’ve been privy to witnessing teachers and students leverage technology in interesting, authentic, and engaging ways. It is our hope that all educators have similar opportunities and inspiring experiences, and we see our role as providers of platforms and opportunities for educators to learn outside of their respective schools.
Not everyone, though, is as excited about the potential of educational technology. Very often, it seems as if the educational technology is perceived as something disparate from curriculum and instruction when ideally tech should be thoughtfully integrated into related discussions and plans. This may lead to some teachers being slow to adopt innovative practices. Learning new technologies can be overwhelming for teachers, time may be scarce, and professional development efforts vary from district to district. And, not every district has the funding and nor the vision to develop robust plans for leveraging educational technology.
If you find an innovative school district here in the United States, you’ll also find a superintendent who has probably hired a like-minded leadership team to carry out a shared vision for continous improvement and innovation. Unfortunately, US schools are all over the map in terms of their approaches to innovation; some districts have made tremendous progress while others seem to be operating in bubbles, unaware of current best practices. Somehow, instead of focusing so much on teacher performance, I think that we should be shifting our attention to supporting and identifying best practices in leadership. One group that is already doing this is Digital Promise with its League of Innovative Schools.
In the United States, there has been tremendous pressure on teachers to teach more, faster, better, harder… to do whatever it takes to reach every child. In my line of work, I see passionate, dedicated teachers across the country who are working constantly to improve their craft and to meet standards and expectations. And simultaneously, there is a part of our ed tech world that wants to see educational technology be used primarily to deliver instruction and assess learning as if teachers can be replaced. I’m not sure that these ideas are new; computer-assisted instruction and testing has been around since I was in high school back in the dark ages. Now we call it adaptive learning, personalized learning or blended learning.
Another issue within ed tech is how schools can make the most of costly technology expenditures. Many attempt to correlate the use of technology to higher test scores as schools become servants to high stakes testing. Schools should evaluate their technology programs using multiple criteria, including using qualitative measures that tell the whole picture behind teaching and learning. Technology is not necessarily the silver bullet to solve all our education woes. For more ideas related to this, see Digital Promise’s recent work on school pilot programs and CoSN’s Leadershp for Mobile Learning resources.
In my experience, schools need to have a context for which they are planning to leverage devices and tools. It is a dire mistake to make massive technology purchases without a purpose and a plan in place. When we look at technologies in isolation, they tend not to be used to transform learning experiences. Digging deeper into pedagogy and curriculum best practices and applying technology as needed might be game changing.
We can speculate all we want about whether or not ed tech is changing education or the best implementation strategies. Much also depends on the culture of a school, too, and there is no way to mandate innovation. I personally believe in (and want for my own children) schools that value and nurture curiosity, creativity, student engagement, and deep learning. If we are truly interested in fostering a love of learning in students, perhaps more inquiry-driven, project-based learning opportunties might fit this bill. And… if we are interested in preparing in students for an increasingly globalized world, then perhaps project-based learning that allows for global connections fueled by technology is even more ideal.
Are US schools here thinking about global education initiatives at scale? Not so much from my vantage point. Perhaps this is because the term global education is vague. A few years ago, members of our Global Education Conference crowdsourced a Declaration of Global Education which describes a forward thinking mindset. Or, perhaps developing globalized school programs is simply not a priority as schools here face funding issues and have become laser focused on Common Core standards, STEM education, and college and career readiness.
Last week, in our first Globaled.TV webinar, Lisa Petro of Know My World explored the history behind multiculturism in education. And, the Asia Society has provided a clear model for something more specific than the term global education. According to the Asia Society, a person who has global competence is fluent in weighing perspectives, communicating ideas, taking action and applying disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise. Globally competent teachers are an essential part of developing globally competent students.
Developing a global perspective within a school district doesn’t have to happen at the expense of other curricular priorities such as Common Core standards, STEM education, or college and career readiness. A global lens can be integrated into the teaching of all subjects. Take a look at the Partnership for 21st Century’s Framework for State Action on Global Education and their Teacher Guide to K-12 Global Education Grade Level Indicators for specific suggestions. Also, think about global education beyond traditional travel and exchange programs. There is no doubt that immersive experiences are ideal for global learners, current reality does not always allow for these opportunities. Schools need to be aware of physical and digital exchanges (and service learning opportunities) in addition to potential funding sources for exchanges.
Although I have many virtual colleagues around the world, my perspective has definitely been rather US centric. I suspect other countries out there are grappling with the same aforementioned issues and are interested in promoting global citizenship as well. UNESCO recently launched a site on Global Citizenship Education and the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development were announced in September. One goal is Quality Education and a particularly relevant target is:
By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.
This April, the Global Education Conference Network is hosting Global Leadership Week, a weeklong celebration of leadership around global education at all levels. Student leaders, teacher leaders, administrative leaders, non-profit leaders, and corporate leaders are welcome to get involved. We are calling on global education stakeholders to host virtual and face-to-face events to foster more dialogue and attention on the need to develop competence in all students and teachers.
Our organization itself will host 2 events in Global Leadership Week including a leadership summit at Edmodo’s headquarters in Silicon Valley and a virtual leadership conference in which exemplary student, educator, district and organization leaders will share their work for the purpose of inspiring others to action. The summit will be streamed online, and the conference will take place entirely online. During the course of these two specific events, we hope to explore many topics including the role of technology in bridging equity gaps in global education.
If you are a part of a visionary school, district, or organization anywhere, take our challenge. Design, create, and host your own leadership event to inspire others during Global Leadership Week. Ideas and directions for hosting an event are posted here. Let’s fill the GLW calendar with many activities to get support visionary leadership around the world. We’d also appreciate your help in spreading the word via this digital flyer.
You are Invited to Global Leadership Week 2016
The Global Education Conference Network believes in the power of globally connectelearners and teachers.
We believe that together, we can do more. There are so many amazing and wonderful people and organizations involved in the global education movement, and Global Leadership Week is an ideal opportunity to get to connect, collaborate, and learn from each other. It’s time to elevate the worldwide conversation around global education and create more opportunities for real action.
Global Leadership Week will be brought to you by our media outreach partners, sponsors and host committee. The main organizers in addition to the GEC are iEARN-USA, World Savvy and the VIF International Education. We are always looking for more support in getting the word out about this event, so feel free to reach out to for more information.