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How to Encourage Students to Interact With the World

Last month, guest bloggers Honor Moorman and Jennifer D. Klein shared a conversation about what global project-based learning looks like. Today, they continue the conversation, focusing on what it means to communicate ideas and take action in a real-world way.

By Honor Moorman and Jennifer D. Klein

The future is increasingly global. How do we, as educators, prepare students 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.

I would like to see my students gain experience solving a problem with a person from a different part of the world.

This is often the most exciting form of global education—although admittedly these kinds of classroom-to-classroom partnerships can be very complicated to develop and maintain. Existing programs like Challenge 20/20 and TakingITGlobal help teachers find partner teachers and ask classrooms to work together to solve the world's most pressing, borderless problems, such as those identified in the Millennium Development Goals, J. F. Rischard's High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them, or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The DeforestAction project, which we described during the webinar, allows classrooms from any discipline and grade level to participate in ending deforestation in Borneo. This sort of collaborative solution building lies at the heart of the most transformative global education, which is why global project-based learning often begins with a problem or challenge which students are asked to address through the project.

In the Global Encounters program, the focus on finding solutions is the driving force of both live and asynchronous experiences. Through a partnership between the Centre for Global Education and TakingITGlobal for Educators, multiple classrooms in different regions are brought together to participate initially in asynchronous activities facilitated through the virtual classrooms of TIGed. This curriculum is followed by a live video conferencing event in which students hear from guest speakers, express their own opinions, and collaborate in small groups to develop solutions.

Global competence includes the "ability to recognize the interdependence of modern life."

That idea of interdependence and interconnectedness comes across in the best of global education, as students collaborate across physical and cultural boundaries to try to solve the "borderless" problems of the world. As students learn to recognize that their reality is connected to the wellbeing of others, and that their choices have a ripple effect across the globe, teachers have the opportunity to empower them toward a constructive, collaborative role in global change.

Fostering that feeling of connectedness comes from how we explore the world in our classrooms. We need to learn with and from others, rather than always about. Too often, students see the world through a veneer of separation, like they're watching life through the window on a tour bus without really participating. When we get students off the tour bus and immerse them in the community, whether literally through travel and service or more figuratively through our curriculum, we remove the veneer and allow our students to connect with the world more authentically.

North American teachers live and work inside of a society which values independence, and our political history is filled with examples of that independent, pioneering spirit allowing us to live well in our part of the world. But that focus on independence is a uniquely Western value; in fact, most African, Asian and South American cultures value interdependence over independence because they value the wellbeing of the community over the success of the individual.

Perhaps we do our students a disservice if we overemphasize independence in the West. We certainly never want our classrooms to produce kids who consider themselves the singular solution to the world's problems. If we really want students participating constructively in global collaboration and development, both during their education and later in their professional lives, we need to inspire students to see themselves as a part of change on a global scale, and we need to foster the skills required to collaborate across borders and solve our interconnected challenges.

We know of no better way for students to develop global competence than through project-based global learning. This approach to teaching and learning enables and empowers students to open their minds and investigate the world, open their eyes and recognize perspectives, open their hearts and communicate ideas, and open their hands and take action.

Follow Honor Moorman, Jennifer D. Klein, and Asia Society on Twitter.

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