Why should educators be connecting their students globally?

Why should educators be connecting their students globally?
What literature, research and opinions can you gather and synthesise to support an argument for this?

Authored by Jessica Heysen, Rajashree Basu, and Jolanta Stephens

It is fair to say that the educators of 2015 and beyond are tasked with a very different job description than those of even 10 years ago. As the world we live in evolves at a rate that is challenging to stay in touch with, it is critical that our education system and what we are teaching our children does the same. No longer is it enough to be disseminators of information, using “chalk and talk” as the medium to which we educate our students. No longer is it enough to teach our students to read and write and learn arithmetic. The students of today will be graduating into a vastly different world, they will be entering a global society which requires them to be “proficient communicators, creators, critical thinkers, and collaborators” (National Education Association 2015). Our students need to be armed with the skills to manage a work life balance in a world where everyone is connected 24/7.

Life today is exponentially more complicated and complex than it was 50 years ago. This is true for civic life as much as it is for work life. In the 21st century, citizenship requires levels of information and technological literacy that go far beyond the basic knowledge that was sufficient in the past. With a host of challenges facing our communities, along with instant connectivity to a global society, civic literacy couldn’t be more relevant or applicable to the curricula in our schools… The rapid decline in “routine” work has been well documented by many researchers and organizations. At the same time, there has been a rapid increase in jobs involving nonroutine, analytic, and interactive communication skills. Today’s job market requires competencies such as critical thinking and the ability to interact with people from many linguistic and cultural backgrounds (cultural competency).

(National Education Association 2015)

Let us first scaffold the meaning of connected learning

(Ito et al.) defines connected learning as “ broadened access to learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. Connected learning is realized when a young person is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career success or civic engagement.”

AboutCLA

Let us look at some of the learning theories and compare this learning theory behind the connected learning model

Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism are the three broad learning theories most often utilized in the creation of instructional environments. These theories, however, were developed in a time when learning was not impacted through technology. Over the last twenty years, technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn. Learning needs and theories that describe learning principles and processes, should be reflective of underlying social environments. Vaill emphasizes that

“learning must be a way of being – an ongoing set of attitudes and actions by individuals and groups that they employ to try to keep abreast the surprising, novel, messy, obtrusive, recurring events…”

(1996, p.42).

Completed Connected Learning GO

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.

Let us share with you this infographic we found:

(Britt, 2001)

If we take a look at this infographic, what are your initial thoughts about the way technology is going?

Every minute millions of people are using the internet and digital technology in some way – some for personal use, some for work, some for connecting with others. In a 21st Century, we need to be teaching our students how to globally connect and the skills associated with these. We are living in an ever increasing digital and globally connected world, and our students need to be literate members of it.

Digital Literacy as part of 21st Century Skills

Our students are going to be the programmers and policy writers of the future, they will be the people who are trying to solve some of the world’s most complicated problems such as global warming, the refugee crisis, financial meltdowns and dealing with an exponentially growing technological world. But no longer can the people of one country tackle these tasks alone.

“The world faces global challenges, which require global solutions. These interconnected global challenges call for far-reaching changes in how we think and act for the dignity of fellow human beings.”

“It is not enough for education to produce individuals who can read, write and count.”

“Education must be transformative and bring shared values to life. It must cultivate an active care for the world and for those with whom we share it. Education must also be relevant in answering the big questions of the day.”

“Technological solutions, political regulation or financial instruments alone cannot achieve sustainable development. It requires transforming the way people think and act.”

“Education must fully assume its central role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive societies. It must give people the understanding, skills and values they need to cooperate in resolving the interconnected challenges of the 21st century.”

(United World Schools 2015)

However in order to prepare our students for the life that lay ahead of them, we need to acknowledge the needs of a 21st Century Learner. We need to ensure they are self-directed learners, globally aware, communicators, problem solvers, critical and creative thinkers, civically engaged, collaborators, information and media literate, financially and economically literate and innovative.

“Advocates of 21st century skills favor student-centered methods—for example, problem-based learning and project-based learning—that allow students to collaborate, work on authentic problems, and engage with the community”

(Rotherham and Willingham, 2009).

As educators we need to be providing our students with opportunities to participate in well designed and planned collaborative learning experiences, not just within the four walls of our classrooms but globally.

“Doing so engages students, furthers their learning, improves intercultural awareness, and connects them to the contributions of diverse and valued cultures… The potential power of combined talents between nations could greatly improve the amount of knowledge and possible solutions to these global problems.”

(Why international collaboration?, 2009)

(EdTech, 2015)

As we can see from this table from Fishtree EdTech, the skills required by a 21st Century member of society link to being globally connecting. In particular, it is essential for members of a 21st Century society and workforce to have a cross-cultural understanding and be able to effectively communicate, not just with people in their direct community, but with all others involved – whether it be within the company, or internationally. Collaboration needs to extend beyond ‘group work’ in the classroom, and start making authentic connections with real-life situations, that is, collaboration with students, teachers and information from around the world.

Globally Connecting – Why we should do it

Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized. The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.(Siemens)

Furthermore, globally connecting provides exciting opportunity for students, especially when teamed with Project-based Learning (PBL). It gives students an opportunity to practice these essential 21st Century learning skills, but also engage with other ‘real people’ and sources – and form emotionally engaging and authentic connections to what they are learning.

What are the outcomes of connected learning?

This reference to the existing educational model which gives less access to learning is the key reason why we as educators should connect our students globally.Connected learning focuses attention on the spaces of integration and translation between divergent domains of knowledge, culture, and social practice.Connected learning is oriented to outcomes that are both individual and collective in nature. These include 21st Century skills, dispositions, and literacies such as systems thinking, information literacy, creativity, adaptability, conscientiousness, persistence, global awareness and self-regulation as well as the cultivation of interests, building of social capital, and a positive orientation to academic subjects. Because the connected learning model takes an ecological and networked approach, these individual outcomes are tied to societal outcomes that are collective in nature. These include building high quality forms of culture and knowledge, civically activated collectives, and diverse pathways for learning and recognition. In this way, the support and cultivation of individual capacity is part and parcel of a broader vision of an educational system that is vastly more effective, equitable and essential.

Final Thoughts…

Times are changing.

It’s in our faces the whole time, media, social media, the internet, new technological advances… the world is not the same place it was 5, 10, 15 years ago. It is no longer enough to teach students the content from a text book and to tick off a checklist of outcomes. We, as educators, must provide our students with the best opportunities and prepare them to be the best members of society that they can be. And when society is becoming increasingly ‘global’, we need to prepare them with all the tools we have to fight and succeed in their fields of life.

Connect with China – Skyping Harry

This is the second skype meeting the students have engaged in for our Connect with China pilot project. I contacted Harry, and Australian citizen who has recently graduated from high school in China and is continuing to live there and study at University in Beijing. We teed up a time for him to skype us and chat about life in China as an Australian.

The students, who think themselves skyping gurus now, waited eagerly for Harry and our equipment to recover from a last minute malfunction. Unlike last week, we didn’t spend a lot of time workshopping questions, instead giving them time to think up some of their own to ask Harry about life in China. We encouraged them to think about questions that would relate to their Connect with China global connection project group topics so that they may add some ‘research’ from what they’ve learned from Harry.

Eagerly Awaiting Skype call with Harry
Eagerly Awaiting Skype call with Harry

Once we had re-established our connection and equipment and managed to sign into skype, the atmosphere in the room tensed with excitement as the students waited for Harry to receive our call…

Hi Harry!
Hi Harry!

And suddenly, there he was, in full screen video and audio! The excitement in the room was at an all-time high as this time, the students were able to actually see Harry as well! He began by telling the students a little about his journey and how he arrived in China. I think we thought that seeing as though last week the students were bouncing in their seats to ask questions of Nitin, they would be the same this week, however, they seemed to become rather shy, possibly because they could actually see the person they were talking to. It took a little prodding, but finally the students relaxed, no doubt due to Harry’s relaxed conversational attitude.

2015-10-30 09.35.44

Again, the students did not disappoint with the quality of their questions. This, I feel, is due to our work this year in critical and creative thinking and questioning.

A couple of my favourite questions were:

How has education changed between each country you’ve lived in?
How has China affected and changed you as a person?

As the questions about food, living and housing (in which Harry showed us around his dorm room), and celebrations, a couple of ‘curly questions’ popped in, including one asking “Do you think the government in China is fair?” Harry, understandably had to quickly decline to answer this and move on to another question, with us teachers promising to explain to the students later about why this was the case. It was from around this point we also noticed that Harry’s video quality began to deteriorate quite severely…

Video starting to deteriorate...
Video starting to deteriorate…

The chat we had to have with them about the government in China and how internet and communications were monitored constantly was one that the students really took to heart, some of them worrying about Harry’s wellbeing after being asked those questions. We needed to further explain that China really is an amazing place to live and Harry would be quite alright, but they just needed to be aware that it is different to Australia, and that this is why we were engaging in projects like this and the importance of having skills and knowledge in global connections.

The students are so keen to keep in contact with Harry and Harry has very generously suggested that once we get them onto we chat, we could possibly set up a group chat that the students could ask him questions on and converse further with him.

Why should educators be connecting their students globally?

As part of my Flat Connections course, I was required to answer the question:

Why should educators be connecting their students globally?

What literature, research and opinions can you gather and synthesise to support an argument for this?

Before I reply, let me share with you this infographic I found:


(Britt, 2001)

If we take a look at this infographic, what are your initial thoughts about the way technology is going?

Every minute millions of people are using the internet and digital technology in some way – some for personal use, some for work, some for connecting with others. In a 21st Century, we need to be teaching our students how to globally connect and the skills associated with these. We are living in an ever increasing digital and globally connected world, and our students need to be literate members of it.

I want to focus on the skills associated with living and working in the 21st Century.

As we can see from this table from Fishtree EdTech, the skills required by a 21st Century member of society link to being globally connecting. In particular, it is essential for members of a 21st Century society and workforce to have a cross-cultural understanding and be able to effectively communicate, not just with people in their direct community, but with all others involved – whether it be within the company, or internationally. Collaboration needs to extend beyond ‘group work’ in the classroom, and start making authentic connections with real-life situations, that is, collaboration with students, teachers and information from around the world. 

Globally Connecting – Why we should do it

Globally connecting provides exciting opportunity for students, especially when teamed with Project-based Learning (PBL). It gives students an opportunity to practice these essential 21st Century learning skills, but also engage with other ‘real people’ and sources – and form emotionally engaging and authentic connections to what they are learning.


“We know from neuroscience that in order for kids to learn something, they need to have an emotional connection to the content,” says Michael Soskil, head teacher and curriculum coach at Wallenpaupack South Elementary School in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania. “There is no more powerful way to make that emotional connection than by doing good for others. With global PBL, students can identify a problem in the world and work to solve it.”
(Connects, 2015)

And you know what? Even workplaces and generally societal means require people to have skills in global connections, along with the other 21st Century Skills:

Michael Furdyk, co-founder and director of innovation at TalkingITGlobal discusses that;

 “Given the increasingly global nature of most companies and global challenges, collaboration across countries and cultures will be a critical aspect of our students’ future ability to be productive and successful in their careers.”
(Connects, 2015)

Now how does that relate back to us in our profession? Are we required to be ‘globally connected’ ourselves? Should we be ‘globally connecting’ our students? Lets take a look at this list from Tsisana Palmer, contributor to the edutopia blog;

This article describes the 15 Characteristics of a 21st Century Teacher:

  1. Learner-Centered Classroom and Personalized Instructions
  2. Students as Producers
  3. Learn New Technologies
  4. Go Global
  5. Be Smart and Use Smart Phones
  6. Blog
  7. Go Digital
  8. Collaborate
  9. Use Twitter Chat
  10. Connect
  11. Project-Based Learning
  12. Build Your Positive Digital Footprint
  13. Code
  14. Innovate
  15. Keep Learning
    (Palmer, T., 2015)

From this list we can see that all these attributes that teachers require link somehow to being ‘globally connected’ – a skill that we need to have to be professional educators, and skills we need to pass onto our students so that they may be a well rounded member of a 21st Century workforce and society. We would most certainly be doing our students a disservice if we did not at least attempt toand trying to connect our students globally and guide them through the skills associated with it.

Final Thoughts…

Times are changing.

It’s in our faces the whole time, media, social media, the internet, new technological advances… the world is not the same place it was 5, 10, 15 years ago. It is no longer enough to teach students the content from a text book and to tick off a checklist of outcomes. We, as educators, must provide our students with the best opportunities and prepare them to be the best members of society that they can be. And when society is becoming increasingly ‘global’, we need to prepare them with all the tools we have to fight and succeed in their fields of life.

Bibliography

15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher (2015) Available at: http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/15-characteristics-21st-century-teacher?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
Britt (2001) In an Internet Minute. Available at: http://bwatwood.edublogs.org/2015/01/20/in-an-internet-minute/ (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
Connects, I. (2015) Global PBL projects connect students across continents. Available at: https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=322&category=ISTE-Connects-blog&article= (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
Connects, I. (2015) Global PBL projects connect students across continents. Available at: https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=322&category=ISTE-Connects-blog&article= (Accessed: 21 October 2015).
EdTech, F. (2015) ‘The 7 C’s of 21st Century Lifelong Learning Skills http://t.co/VS3MN4PreH  #TTOG #cpchat #1to1techat’, Twitter, 24 April. Available at: https://twitter.com/fishtree_edu/status/591715783648116739 (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
Global Connections for Teachers and Students (no date) Available at: http://digitalhumanlibrary.com/connect-with-teachers-and-students/ (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
Yin, L. K. (2011) Learning Journey… Available at: http://lohky.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/apple-learning-journey-nanyang-girls.html (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
(no date) Available at: https://flatteningtheworld.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/how-much-are-the-the-time-achangin_502911b9b2615_w587.jpg (Accessed: 21 October 2015).

Citations, Quotes & Annotations

15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher (2015) Available at: http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/15-characteristics-21st-century-teacher?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
(15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher, 2015)
Britt (2001) In an Internet Minute. Available at: http://bwatwood.edublogs.org/2015/01/20/in-an-internet-minute/ (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
(Britt, 2001)
Connects, I. (2015) Global PBL projects connect students across continents. Available at: https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=322&category=ISTE-Connects-blog&article= (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
(Connects, 2015)
Connects, I. (2015) Global PBL projects connect students across continents. Available at: https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=322&category=ISTE-Connects-blog&article= (Accessed: 21 October 2015).
(Connects, 2015)
EdTech, F. (2015) ‘The 7 C’s of 21st Century Lifelong Learning Skills http://t.co/VS3MN4PreH  #TTOG #cpchat #1to1techat’, Twitter, 24 April. Available at: https://twitter.com/fishtree_edu/status/591715783648116739 (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
(EdTech, 2015)
Global Connections for Teachers and Students (no date) Available at: http://digitalhumanlibrary.com/connect-with-teachers-and-students/ (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
(Global Connections for Teachers and Students, no date)
Yin, L. K. (2011) Learning Journey… Available at: http://lohky.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/apple-learning-journey-nanyang-girls.html (Accessed: 14 October 2015).
(Yin, 2011)
(no date) Available at: https://flatteningtheworld.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/how-much-are-the-the-time-achangin_502911b9b2615_w587.jpg (Accessed: 21 October 2015).
(no date)