Monday, November 16, 2009

Global Competence and Literacy

As our world becomes smaller and we grow closer together every day, the importance of understanding and having an appreciation of our neighbors is becoming the greatest skill we can offer our students.

It is more than simple tolerance — it is critical that we educate and connect our students using powerful practices, so that they can obtain the ability to be self-motivated and adapt and respect each other. The value of this knowledge to a child’s growth is immense. We have the ability to make authentic change and begin to systematically tear down the digital divide that keeps growing. We can use video conferencing, social networks, global media outlets, and countless other connected resources to reach this goal.

Our students can build a tool kit of relevant skills that will ready them for lives and careers without boundaries, where problem solving, communicating, and knowing how to find the answer are even more important than the content of the traditional classes that they are taking in our high schools at present.

Of course, there are opponents to this globally connected growth, and they do have relevant points to make. There are real concerns and questions in moving public education towards a mobilized, global curriculum: When will we have time? How will this impact testing?

What if the students know more about the technology than we do? All of a sudden, we back down from dreams of the globally connected classroom, but the evidence of success is too strong to let the traditional constructs and fears in education hold us back. We don’t have the luxury of choice anymore; global education is our responsibility and a service we must provide if our students are to compete in a global society.

Where does literacy fit in? Clearly, the impact on digital literacy is evident, but traditional literacy may be a bit more disguised when trying to find it in “the bag” of global education learning outcomes. So, how did I find it? Well, I didn’t go looking for it; I just felt obligated to bring a connected classroom with a multicultural perspective to my students.

I started inviting students to participate in social networks, guided them to use tools for video communication, and promoted the value of creative thinking and choice in a globally focused manner. In time, I began to see some very captivating and energizing byproducts. It started with a few students connecting to a community that partnered English speakers with Japanese speakers in order to teach each other the “foreign” language.

During class, I would see kids on Google Translate or using grammar sites to get the perfect communication with their Japanese partners. Several times, I have had students come to me and ask if they could meet with their English teacher to review a blog post before publishing. I even had a student ask me how he could build his own blogging site with a spell checker! If you haven’t seen the terrain of a modern American high school lately, I can tell you that finding students who are intrinsically inspired to make revisions to better their work is quite rare.

Furthermore, motivating children to develop inherent value and take ownership of their school projects is nirvana for any educator.

Consequently, I have decided not to worry about the tests, or if I have enough time in the day, or any other fear that might creep into my paranoid teaching mind. Of course, I will be faced with those fears again, but not with any fears about global education. Students’ actions are confirmation enough for me to subscribe to this new world, and their success is testimony that traditional literacy can be nurtured in a digital literacy curricular area.

I also am confident that any good teacher will say the same thing – when you find the delicate convergence of instructional strategies that inspire, you embrace it and don’t change a thing!

Special Thanks to Guest Blogger, Rich Kiker, for his contribution to the Prestwick Café Blog.

Rich Kiker is the department chair for the Media Technology Academy at Palisades High School in Kintnersville, PA. His work in PA includes being a Keystone Technology Integrator, a Classrooms for the Future Technology Coach, and a PA professional development instructor. His latest ventures include bringing virtual classrooms and global competence to the students at Palisades.

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