Our country has changed a lot in the past year. I think most educators didn’t expect the 2017 we now have. We didn’t expect the current education secretary that we have, the president we have, or even some of the other federal changes that we now have. Some of the immigration and refugee policies of 2017 have impacted our schools, along with a shift in direction from the federal government about transgender bathroom policies.
In public education, there are definitely currents of change flowing. As educators, we understand that now—more than ever—our students need to connect and collaborate globally. We may see things happening in our schools or our country that surprise us, and at times it may feel like there is little that we can do.
Here are some reasons why this is important, and why now is the time to start collaborating in your classroom:
Teaching tolerance: The more we know about others around us, and those not around us, the more tolerant of them we are—after all, exposure leads to acceptance. Here are some practical ways to go about exposing our students to other cultures in the classroom:
- Mystery Skypes: These are the perfect way to get started with collaborating with others around the country and the world. All that is needed is a webcam and an Internet connection. Here is a source for how to make this happen in your classroom. If you have never tried it, you won’t regret getting started.
- Lessons about tolerance: To take a different angle, teach students explicitly about what tolerance means. This incorporates learning about various cultures and what makes them unique, special, and worthy of our respect. To get started, here is a resource from Teaching Tolerance for putting this into action in your classroom.
Broadening expectations: All of us, students and adults both, have preconceived ideas about other cultures. It is critical that humans know about other cultures, understand their belief systems, and challenge preconceived biases about cultures that may exist for a number of reasons. How do we stretch our students to see the world in a different way? Here are a few ideas:
- ProjectExplorer: This is an amazing site that works to “show” students what other parts of the world are like. It takes a little time to “explore” the site itself because it is so robust. It could work for all grade ranges and is easy to search and use.
- A Global Collaboration Project: The best way to break down these stereotypes and biases is for students to experience others from around the world firsthand. Language can be a barrier for some of these projects, but don’t let that stand in your way of getting a once-in-a-lifetime experience set up for your students.
Preparing students for their future: Our global, connected world is becoming “smaller” all the time. It is interconnected, and our students will very likely work with others around the globe. They will also likely collaborate with others online in some manner—this is a great way to work other content standards into the lesson. Here are some ways we can place our students in a professional, work-like environment:
- Going Beyond Skype: This is a great journal article about how teachers can move beyond “introduction” to others around the globe to meaningful learning experiences and conversations. Here is where students can solve global problems as a team, much like they will be doing as adults in a collaborative work environment.
- Global Competence: Here is another interesting idea about teaching collaboration skills to students. We cannot just focus on what students need to be good coworkers, and must incorporate what they need to be good global coworkers for the future. These are great discussions to have with students as the rubber meets the road and they collaborate with students from around the world.
So, why must we start right away? What’s the big hurry for exposing students to the broader global world? One of the main reasons is the growing trend of intolerance. Whether you agree or disagree with policy changes that have been introduced, we can all see that our world is much less tolerant to diverse viewpoints than ever before. Social media is one of the main examples of the effect that this has on our students—all of which comes from a general fear of the unknown. We usually fear what we don’t understand, so education, exposure, and understanding are essential to everything we do.
Plus, global projects are fun and engaging! It feels like an adventure to talk to someone across the globe. It is an interesting educational experience that produces more open-minded students who will be able to succeed in the global world of tomorrow.
Want more global lessons and inspirations? Check out these activities to inspire a global state of mind!