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International Influences Help us Prepare Students for a Changing World

In That Used to Be Us, Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum (2011) wrote, "In the span of a decade, people in Boston, Bangkok, and Bangalore, Mumbai, Manhattan, and Moscow, all became virtual next-door neighbors."

This influence of technology and globalization is something we are all experiencing, even though we may not realize it. For example, the iPhone was released in 2007, the iPad in 2010. In less than a decade, the expansion of these and similar technologies has significantly changed how we work and interact with people we can now "see" around the world.

What does this mean for education? Today's students will be working in the global marketplace. How are we preparing them for this ever-changing future? How are we learning from educators around the world? How are we preparing our educators?

Learning Forward has been purposefully expanding its global influence as an international association of learning educators. We have a growing membership of international educators, and our staff is working to get smarter about how education systems around the world are learning and growing, engaging with educators in Canada, Australia, and Singapore, just to name a few.

I experience this influence in many ways. As a participant in Learning Forward's Academy, a 2 1/2-year extended opportunity to grow as a learning leader, I saw up close the passion of educators from Northern Lights School Division in Alberta, Canada. How they view their work impacted how I view mine. This district is a learning community that aligns the work of educators around improving student learning.

The growing influence of international education is also present in the school district where I work. I recently spoke with a parent who is moving his children to our district in suburban Minneapolis from a school in Singapore. Our staff is planning the transition with the staff in Singapore just as they would if the student was moving from a community nearby. Like schools across the country, our classrooms have an international influence. Ten years ago, only 2% of our students spoke a home language other than English. Today, that number is 21%.

Last spring, I met five elementary students who had just spoken at a ceremony that recognized the school's progress with closing the achievement gap. Four of the five students have lived in another country, and they are each younger than 9.

This growing diversity is also apparent among our teachers. We have teachers who have taught in Europe, Asia, Canada, and South America. They bring a wealth of experience as well as knowledge of effective professional practice that benefits the whole staff.

In a world that grows smaller by the day due to the convergence of technology and globalization, Learning Forward is growing in influence, connecting educators around the world so the students we work with are prepared to thrive in a future in which Boston and Bangalore are neighbors.

This post also appears in the June issue of JSD, arriving soon in member mailboxes.

Jeff Ronneberg
Learning Forward president, Board of Trustees

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The opinions expressed in Learning Forward's PD Watch 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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