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Classroom Technology Opinion

Get Real With Global Competence

By Anthony Jackson, Honor Moorman & Jennifer D. Klein — January 10, 2013 4 min read
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We talk a lot about real-world education. What does it look like? I’ve asked my colleague Honor Moorman and Taking IT Global’s Jennifer D. Klein to share their experiences with real-world global learning. Join Honor and other educators Thursday at 5:30 Eastern for the latest webinar, Adventures in Project-Based Learning. It’s open to all, free, and promises to be an equally vibrant discussion.


Our goal as educators is to prepare our students for the future, and the future is increasingly global. What are the knowledge, skills and dispositions students need to develop in order to be globally competent?

We asked this very question a few weeks ago during an online gathering. What follows are insights from teachers (in bold), followed by our reflections.

Global competence requires an attitude of respect for cultural differences, and an appreciation of those things that all humans share.

An essential element of global learning is shifting students’ thinking and attitudes, in particular encouraging their curiosity about and respect for different cultures, practices, and points of view.

While attitudes and values are among the hardest competencies to evaluate with traditional assessment tools, they are often our most important goals as global educators.

Fostering an attitude of respect toward and empathy for the experiences and perspectives of others is all about showing students not just our differences but also our commonalities, those uniquely human traits, passions and needs we all share, regardless of country and culture. Those moments when students recognize the interconnections—and even start to recognize their own place in the larger human family—can be transformative moments for fostering empathy, respect and the urge to understand others better.

Let’s take for example the challenging global topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which in many ways provides an example of what happens when dialogue fails. Finding ways to help students honor a variety of individual experiences and explore the complex web of perspectives requires an initial emotional connection that we can’t really get from traditional educational and media sources. Open it up. Explore poetry, art, and creative writing from the region. In our experiences, it allowed students to break down walls, to connect with the authentic experiences of others, and even to form bridges of friendship and dialogue with people who had deeply entrenched opinions on the conflict.

The more students connect with people more than politics, the more they recognize what we share in common and see the humanity in others—including those they might have previously perceived as enemies.

To be globally competent, students need to know the resources and expertise that exists throughout the world.

Each time we, as teachers, invite students to investigate the world through project-based global learning, we have the opportunity to foster a greater awareness of these global resources and worldwide expertise.

One way to do this is through designing good essential questions.

“What is a community?” is a good essential question.

Perhaps a better one is “What can we learn about how to improve our community by exploring the way other people in the world think about theirs?”

The second question is built on the assumption that we have much to learn from others around the world.

It propels students to begin exploring diverse sources of knowledge and experience. Students should access information from around the world. (For instance, did you know that you can search the Internet from the perspective of someone in another country? Check this out.)

They gain authentic experience reaching out to individuals or communities for information through interviews and surveys. While many students use social media in their personal life, they typically need support and coaching on how to employ relevant Twitter hashtags to reach a target audience with an online survey or how to prepare for and conducting a video chat interview.

For students to be globally competent, they need to understand the opportunities and challenges of communication in a diverse world.

In order for students to develop respect for cultural differences and gain an appreciation for the resources and expertise that exist throughout the world, they need to learn with and from others, not just about them.

Students need multiple opportunities to connect, communicate, and collaborate with others globally. Of course, one way to do this is through international travel. But too few students have opportunities to live in or even visit another region. Fortunately, as more individuals and communities are connected online, social media tools enable students and teachers to communicate with peers, experts, and others globally.

A good way for educators to get started is to join the Flat Classroom Project. The next cohort is getting started January 23.

We will return next week to discuss real-world collaboration among students.

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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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