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Empowering Educators as Leaders in the Global Education Movement

April 25, 2017 7 min read
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This week is Global Leadership Week, with events being held across the globe to promote global education leadership. Participants can host and/or join face-to-face and virtual events (including a #globaledchat on Twitter on Thursday, April 27, at 8 PM Eastern) focused on encouraging schools to make global education a priority. Today, Lucy Gray, Co-Founder, Global Education Conference Network; Dr. Tonya Muro, Executive Director, iEARN-USA; and Ken Simon, Director of Programs, World Savvy, share their thoughts on how to empower educators to inspire youth to be global leaders.

By guest bloggers Lucy Gray, Tonya Muro, and Ken Simon

Why Now? Critical Need for Global Education in Schools

The importance of global education for our current K-20 students could not be more relevant or appropriate. The demographics of our rural, suburban, and urban communities are changing and all are becoming more diverse as part of a global society. Yet, we tend to see that as a challenge, and not as the asset that diversity brings to any community. And, more importantly, a rising level of nationalism and ethnocentrism in various parts of the U.S. seems to be intractable. For example, in 2016, anti-immigrant activities have surged in the U.S., occurring most often in K-12 schools. Moreover, hate crimes against Muslims have risen by 67 percent since 2014, with hundreds being chronicled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Now, more than ever, these dire statistics underscore the need for accessible and meaningful ways for students to connect with the world, and understand their peers from other countries and cultures. Students must understand that changing demographics are an opportunity for the health of any community rather than a threat. Educators also need innovative tools to help break the common refrain heard throughout the U.S. and across the world that diversity is dangerous, and prepare students to thrive as empathic and globally competent citizens. These resources can improve education holistically by leveraging technology for globally connected teaching and learning such as online collaboration, virtual exchange, and international project-based learning experiences.

Global education is also about careers. It is a recognition that the vast changes happening around the world are leading to some jobs becoming obsolete and new jobs springing up to meet the demands of our economy. Instead of educating for a particular job, it is essential that we are schooling toward skills, behaviors, and dispositions that give our students control over their own careers.

Finally, it is essential that we support students as innovators to solve the problems of today and tomorrow. Problems such as access to clean water, healthy food, and an education system that works for all children, are global problems. They know no borders and they acknowledge no nation-state. Today, our children need to be innovators and problem-solving leaders in order to secure a bright future for their children. What does this look like in practice?

Global Educational Leadership in Practice

Here are practical examples of how five educators around the world have empowered young people by providing a global lens in the classroom:


  1. Carol Lewis’ One World Middle School students from the Bronx, New York, began the heart-to-heart campaign against violence in their community over a year ago. They asked community members to record their thoughts on violence in their community on hearts cut out of construction paper. Community members then signed a pledge of peace at the bottom of the heart. The students collected and analyzed over 3,000 hearts in an effort to both understand and combat violence in their community. The students were able to present their findings to representatives from UNESCO and this year have started a new heart-to-heart campaign on ending hunger in their community.


  1. Dan Aamot, a teacher at Wellstone International School in Minneapolis, wanted his students to use their experience as immigrants to become leading voices in shaping the narrative around immigration in the United States. The students rose to the challenge and wrote personal narratives on their experiences as immigrants as well as how immigrants positively impact their communities. They invited one presidential candidate, who had expressed anti-immigrant views, to meet with them and learn from their experiences. When there was no response from the candidate, they decided to videotape their stories in order to distribute them more widely and attempt to focus the national narrative around the assets that immigration provides to communities across the country. Some of their stories can be found in the book, Green Card Voices.


  1. A teacher named Fay Stump in rural Winchester, Virginia, has harnessed the power of virtual exchange through iEARN-USA’s BRIDGE program, connecting her students with students in the Middle East and North Africa. Together, youth study how issues of hunger, poverty, and inequality affect their respective local communities and compare and contrast them with each other. To highlight what they learn, each town held a “hunger” banquet to illustrate how diverse populations access food based on climate and financial resources. Students and teachers created videos of their experiences to share with their cross-cultural peers. Using Twitter and other forms of social media, Fay has encouraged other educators and school administrators to participate in this type of global project-based learning.


  1. Anne Mirtschin, a business teacher in a geographically isolated part of Australia, regularly connects her students to classrooms around the globe. In one example, students interacted and worked with university students in Japan to explain the processes involved in farming before beef ends up on supermarket shelves in Japan. The Japanese students shared what the end product looks like. Additionally, Anne often practices professional generosity by sharing her expertise with other educators. She leverages Twitter for professional development, blogs about her global experiences, and participates in online communities of practice such as ISTE’s Global Collaboration network. Anne frequently serves as a mentor to educators new to global collaboration and often presents ideas and strategies for getting started.


  1. Vermont superintendent Ned Kirsch has made global learning a priority in the Franklin West Supervisory Union. He has strategically brought the world into his district through a variety of initiatives, programs, and partnerships. Says Kirsch, “I try to reinforce every year with my students the importance of understanding and being aware of other cultures. We are not all the same and that is okay—it’s a big idea for 3rd graders, but they get it! If nothing else, I hope they are taking away the idea of respecting everyone, no matter how different they may seem from themselves.” FWSU students have participated in virtual exchanges with IVECA, partnered with a school in Puerto Rico to study forests, and participated in the Digital Promise Learning Studio project, part of HP and Microsoft’s Reinvent the Classroom initiative. Ned’s overall efforts to bring innovation to his schools has resulted in the district becoming a part of Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools and being named an Apple Distinguished Program.

Call to Action: Make Global Education a Priority at Your Institution

As leaders of organizations supporting global education, we encourage and challenge you to take further action. Think about what you can personally do to raise awareness and advocate for global education. Education leaders should explore the possibilities and benefits of global education and determine what approaches best fit their contexts. For instance, if you’re a school superintendent or school board member, think about how your district can foster global competence in teachers through professional development offerings. One resource to help districts determine a strategy for going global, is P21’s Framework for State Action on Global Education.

School principals can consider ideas for weaving global initiatives into the cultures of their schools that go beyond food and festivals. P21’s Teacher Guide to K-12 Global Education Grade Level Indicators and Asia Society’s global leadership rubrics are also useful reference tools. At the classroom level, teachers can consider Challenge Based Learning as a potential methodology for guiding students to take action or consider how you could incorporate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into your curriculum.

Share your ideas for making global education more of a priority (in the US or in your unique location) in the comments or connect with us on Twitter. Additionally, you can conduct further research into this topic and find resources for student, teacher, administrator, and organizational leaders in this online collection. We look forward to learning more about your ideas and continuing conversations related to advocacy for global education.

Connect with Lucy, Tonya, and Ken on Twitter.

Image made on Canva.com.

The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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