Teachers, open up your classrooms!

Collaborative Communities: Developing Children as Global Citizens

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela 1994

Global Perspective  (a free Creative Commons image)

Global Perspective flickr photo by www.liveoncelivewild.com  shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
Global interdependence requires our citizens to competently participate in local, national and global communities.  Significant research in the higher-education arena, including innovative graduate and postgraduate programs aligning universities and their students across the globe under the tenants of social learning theory,  emphasise the importance of participation in membership communities enabled by technology to foster global competence amongst graduates (Nerad, 2010). Both pedagogy and technology use are changing as agile student-initiated media, in which learning is co-created and self-directed, is increasingly favoured by universities over teacher-created learning spaces delivered through traditional Learning Management Systems. Technology is progressively viewed as an enabler to enhance students’ ability to learn about global issues and participate in global communities.

Global connectivity and participation is now accessible to elementary schools and not just academics (Vega and Terada, 2013). Where elementary schools have long practiced participating in and learning with and about local communities, some are now bringing the local to the global by using technological resources to investigate the world, recognise perspectives, communicate ideas and take action (Mansilla and Jackson, 2011).  With increased access to technology (Nagy, 2002), awareness of digital citizenship safety and responsibility requirements are heightened. More than just etiquette and safe practice, Global citizenship, require authentic participation in technology enhanced learning communities. While today’s students are asking for variety, flexibility and agility as well as opportunities to communicate, connect and collaborate with peers teachers and experts (Project Tomorrow, 2014), students’ learning experiences at home and school are not always on a level playing field.

Real issues to global collaboration in online communities include a very growing Digital Divide between those with privileged resources and those in the least connected countries (Nagy, 2002). In addition to challenges with language, motivation and timetabling (Samra, 2007), some educators are hindered by the lack of a deep desire to innovate, a distrust of difference and the lack of means to assess new interdisciplinary and collaborative ways of thinking (Mansilla and Jackson, 2011). Perhaps the greatest barrier exists within individuals with self-imposed limits created by their own inexperience in global contexts (Nerad, 2010).

While professional and government bodies advocate for increased child safety (ACCE 2014), elementary schools rapidly embrace resources like Common Sense Media (US), Australian Communication and Media Authority’s Cybersmart  (Australia) and Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (UK), but how relevant are these resources in web-filtered, walled garden scenarios at school if students don’t make the link to home and to the greater world?

We can no longer prepare our students for a world of the past. Educators need to first recognise the importance of their own role in global education and choose professional learning strategies that involve themselves in global communities to gain first hand experience, perspectives and relationships in this global education economy.  As life long, self-directed learners modelling their practice, educators can then apply heutagogy into scaffolded classroom pedagogy to expand student horizons through dynamic, collaborative participation in a complex and interconnected world as global citizens themselves. We need to educate our teachers to use technology effectively to collaborate both within and beyond classrooms.  In the elementary contexts this could include participating in global projects and developing sustained relationships with classes from other parts of the world to collaborate through a plethora of tools both synchronously and asynchronously. Internationalisation is not a subject in and of itself in the primary classroom, but  a perspective to be integrated into the everyday practice of teaching and learning as in the International Baccalaureate program (Vega and Terada, 2013) where “international-mindedness” is fostered through transdisciplinary themes of local and global significance. Models like Puentedura’s SAMR provide a framework for using technology to truly transform learning (Puentedua 2014). In the case of community building, technology has the power to transform learning through  access to and participation within purposeful, authentic global communities.  Teachers, open up your classrooms! There is a world waiting to be explored.

Image: CC by Keoni Cabral


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