Mapping a Nation of Global Connections

Is the U.S. ready for a global future?

Answers to that question may be found in a fascinating new free online resource that was introduced yesterday by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the U.S. Department of Education as part of International Education Week celebrations. “Mapping the Nation: Linking Local to Global,” is the new state-by-state, country-by-county visual resource from Asia Society, the Longview Foundation for Education in World Affairs and International Understanding, and analytics leader SAS. Created with “nearly 1 million data points,” that “tell a cautionary tale,” the mapping project has set out to “prove what parents, businesspeople, and policymakers already know: American students must be globally competent to succeed in the interconnected 21st century.”

A quick click on the “California” link resulted in an infographic that gives a quick snapshot of the state’s global connections, including a rather surprising (and dismal) fact about the number of California students who take part in study abroad programs:

The “Global Competency” section concludes with a clear and urgent message:

Learning about and with the world occurs within and outside of school, and it is the work of a lifetime. Globally competent students are life long learners. They are able to adapt and contribute knowledge and understanding to a world that is constantly, rapidly evolving.

Global competence is a crucial shift in our understanding of the purpose of education in a changing world. Students everywhere deserve the opportunity to succeed in the global economy and contribute as global citizens. We must fashion a more creative and visionary educational response to the interconnected world of the 21st century, starting now.

The entire site is worth exploring, especially for educators, parents, and students seeking information, tools, and visuals about why we should connect all US schools to schools worldwide, starting now.

Too Big to Scale?

Similar to how the international development field obsesses about “sustainability,” the educational technology field obsesses about “scalability.” When these two fields intersect—exemplified by One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), Sugata Mitra, and now m-learning—big questions are asked.

Just as The Walking Dead is not really about Zombies, the recent post by @mathalicious equating Khan Academy with McDonalds is not really about the perils of video instruction. It’s about the fear of scaling teaching and learning, and what happens when we disregard the important bond between student and teacher. Why on earth do we want tech messing with this bond? Isn’t teaching and learning just a too big and complex and intimate human endeavor to try to scale?

Although @mathalicious raises some good points, the following worry seems far-fetched:

“On another level, though, Khan Academy and its donors may preclude better products from coming along: products built by experts that actually can improve how students learn. And ultimately, this may be the most dangerous thing about Khan Academy: not that it exists, but that it’s the only thing that does.”

Leaving aside the issue of what defines an “expert” and the idea that everyone in a community—even coders!—can and should support teachers and students improve teaching and learning, Khan Academy is not going to preclude new products from coming along, nor is it the only thing that exists. In fact, one of the exciting things about Khan Academy is not Khan Academy, it’s MathTrain TV, and what’s to come in the next few years as youth worldwide create, teach and learn with their peers, with and without their teachers, schools or Khan Academy.

The big question of sustainability and scalability in teaching and learning is, therefore, not about which platform or technology exists; it’s about how youth worldwide are going to work collaboratively to address critical global concerns to help future generations be healthier, better educated, and more prosperous. Effective global collaboration requires care and nurturing by teachers who commit to build trust and respect among their students. It’s a long-term investment that so far has been resistant to scaling.

Maybe meaningful cross-cultural collaboration is too big to scale, but we’re expecting our Connect All Schools consortium and other national partners and policy-makers to change that. President Obama remarked last week, “We’re going to keep on trying to engage as many countries as possible, mainly because it’s good for our national security.” It’s good for our teachers and students, too, and new technologies can play a role in supporting this engagement.

We shouldn’t expect an e-mail message or a Skype call to immediately transform teaching and learning overnight. So, let’s give US classrooms plenty of opportunities and encouragement to reach to partners around the world. Connections between classrooms may take years to develop, and may affect teachers and students differently over time. This will include a changing relationship between teacher and student. We shouldn’t fear this new world of globally connected, mobile, social, “anytime, anywhere” teaching and learning. Zombies, on the other hand, …

One World Makes Planet Smaller for D.C. Students


Excellent article about the efforts and impact of Connect All Schools partner One World Youth Project published January 2, 2012 by Larry Luxner, news editor of The Washington Diplomat:

“More than 1,700 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan, yet nine in 10 American high school students can’t find that war-ravaged country on a world map. …

“OWYP, a nonprofit organization founded in 2004, aims to fight ignorance about the world by using email, Skype and Facebook to pair U.S. secondary schools with classrooms in other countries, and eventually by broadening the program internationally.

“This is our third year of working with One World,” she explained. “Ours is a leadership elective class where I interview the students to see if they’d be a good fit for our program. We focus on life skills, career development, anger management. We try to help students at risk of dropping out of school early. Being a part of the One World project allows them a glimpse of the world at large. They’ve had sister schools in Qatar and Kosovo — and now their eyes are opened to a bigger world.” …

Continue reading: One World Makes Planet Smaller for D.C. Students.

16 People and Organizations Changing the World in 2012


Very kind to have Craig Newmark feature the Connect All Schools effort on his Craigconnects blog last week.

Craig writes:

“I recently invited people to share blog posts explaining How You Will Change the World in 2012 for the new Social Good Blog Series I launched earlier this month. Changing the World requires planning and it’s important to think about what problems really need solving. I wasn’t sure what kind of response I’d get to this call for big ideas. You all didn’t disappoint. …

“The Unites States has a lot of room to improve when it comes to global education and David Potter, Chief Development Officer at iEARN-USA, shares his vision for global education in his blog post, America’s Educational Exceptionalism.

David writes about the collaboration model of the Connect All Schools consortium. In David’s mind, “if we set a goal in 2012 to internationalize education for all US students, future generations of Americans will be outward-looking, locally and globally engaged, multilingual, and empathetic.”

High expectations for the Connect All Schools partners? Absolutely.

Read about other inspiring world-changing efforts, including Connect All Schools partner Global Citizen Year, at Craigconnects:

16 People and Organizations Changing the World in 2012.

America’s Educational Exceptionalism

UPDATE: On March 2, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) issued a new Independent Task Force report on U.S. Education Reform and National Security. The report states: “The United States’ failure to educate its students leaves them unprepared to compete and threatens the country’s ability to thrive in a global economy and maintain its leadership role.”

If US education reform is national security issue, it should be funded as a national security issue. Without a significantly increased investment in educators, students, parents and communities, this national security message from the US policy-makers and local and national leaders will be less effective and likely to be dismissed by most Americans as a theoretical policy paper, rather than an actionable plan for global engagement. 

Worldwide, “global education” is simply known as “education.”  In contrast, the United States education system resists the idea that teacher and students need to learn about and engage with their peers worldwide. Children with globe US policy-makers range from being ambivalent to completely freaked-out about global education and collaboration in the classroom. The Obama Administration has clearly stated that the need to prepare the next generation of US diplomats, military officers, and global leaders in finance, health, science, technology and entrepreneurship is a national security issue.  Yet, there has been no significant federal investment in international education and exchange programs for US schools. Despite the US Department of Education’s National Educational Technology Plan recognizing that teaching and learning is becoming increasingly (if unevenly) global, networked, personalized and mobile, there has been no significant federal investment in preparing administrators, teachers, students and parents for globally networked, personalized “anytime, anywhere” learning.

Nor have most states, districts, foundations or corporations embraced global education and collaboration. Check out the new list of 23 Investing in Innovation (i3) finalists or the Imagine K12′s 2011 Startup Class and you will not find a single project that focuses on learning about the world or collaborating with partners abroad. The Common Core Standards makes one passing reference to learning the “fables and folktales of diverse cultures,” but nothing that reflects the national security priority of our students understanding or interacting with their peers worldwide.

The main context in which most Americans frame the conversation about engaging with the world is in the need to “out-compete” it. With the exception of Alfie Kohn and a few others, our society hammers this detrimental zero-sum message into our children and their parents starting at birth. Still, despite the messaging, Americans yearn to engage and do good with the world, as exemplified by the historic Sister Cities movement, the Rotary campaign to eliminate polio, and Room to Read, as well as new efforts like The School Fund, Kiva in the Classroom, this Zynga school support in Haiti.

At a time when ALL US students need global competence to excel in the 21st century, collaborative movements like Connect All Schools can change the world in 2012 by sharing the global stories of US teachers and students who are re-framing the conversation. As Carol Black, the director of Schooling the World, says, there is nothing about learning that requires it to be competitive. The Connect All Schools consortium offers the US education system a model of collaboration on which to build.   US teachers and students have a passionate community across the country that is committed to supporting such efforts.  If we set a goal in 2012 to internationalize education for all US students, future generations of Americans will be outward-looking, locally and globally engaged, multilingual, and empathetic.