One of my all-time favorite conference speakers is Alan November, so I’m sitting in a huge ballroom right now, with hundreds of other educators, waiting to learn from his Empathy: The 21st Century Skill spotlight session.
- Question: Where is that sense of urgency in American classrooms to connect children via the Internet? And the need to expose students to the human side of the Internet? – as is currently the case in many classrooms across Asia. When will American teachers realize the Internet is about relationship building of people to people … It’s not about students doing Google searches in order to type a research paper.
- Worries: Alan expressed concerns about the US economic downturn. The only way we can get out of debt is by selling outside USA – so why aren’t we focused on globalizing the curriculum? Globalization should start in kindergarten! Every single teacher should be working with children all over the world. We need “audacious goals.” All kids should graduate with knowledge, skills, and a network of people they can tap into. Skills and knowledge in a global economy are not enough!
- Top skill students need: Empathy – the most important skill students can have in global economy is the ability to hold different points of view at same time. But Americans are not good at this. Africans and Europeans, for instance, are educated to learn different languages, cultures, etc.
- Sobering reality: In the US, K12 education might not be at the leading edge of thinking about technology in a global economy. We need to be teaching students to seek multiple perspectives. For example, to understand the background and impact of Turkey’s application to join European Union being turned down, students need to research from both a US perspective and a Turkish perspective. In a global economy, you have to see issues from the other point of view – you have to have empathy.
- Googling for multiple perspectives: Getting “country codes,” for instance, influences the “basic grammar of the web.” A search for country codes will bring up the two-letter combination for any country. Now add site: to the country code. Check it out – the difference between Googling European Union +Turkey as opposed to European Union site:tr is in the perspective. Potentially a huge difference! Other samples shared:
- To examine the American Revolution from both the American and British perspective, Google site:sch.uk”American Revolution”. This search will not only bring up the opposing point of view, but could bring students in contact with classrooms in the UK, also studying the Revolution. It’s not enough to read about the American Revolution – students need to approach it from different perspectives.
- How about a unit on Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. For a Danish perspective on the Nazi occupation, Google “Number the stars” site:dk. And why not take it a step further: find a classroom in Denmark and collaboratively start the process for creating a trailer for the book, via a Google Doc.
- A bit of irony: Public schools were put in place for democracy. How ironic that the very skills/tools to become our nation’s president (Twitter, Facebook) are blocked in so many U.S. schools.
Need more convincing on the need to teach students to manage global relationships? Check out some of the podcasts on the November Learning website. You might start with An Interview with Rahaf Harfoush, a member of Barack Obama’s Social Media Team. Her viewpoint: If you want to become President, you have to build and manage relationships.
Much inspired- as always – by Alan November, I’m heading to ISTE Central to purchase a copy of Global Education: Using Technology to Bring the World to Your Students and then into the vendor’s area to find Rita Oates and continue a conversation about promoting global communities through the wonderful – and free – ePals program.