The Missing Links in Today's Schools.
When it comes to reshaping our education system to meet today’s realities, we should heed Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz; “Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore”.
We definitely are not in the Kansas Dorothy once knew. But our schools too often think we are. And here is the rub; two fundamental skills of vital importance for students are not being learned in most of our schools today. Either because they were once not essential to the success of students. Or, were impossible to teach.
Al Gore, in his latest book, The Future; Six drivers of global change, talks about two ways in which the world is changing dramatically from the world we once knew.
The first idea driving this change is what he terms Earth Inc., -- we are now living in a highly interconnected world, where we experience our economic lives, safety and security as directly tied to one another, without arbitrary borders. And we are increasingly interacting and problem-solving together through countless smaller enterprises, deeply impacting one another.
We are woefully behind in preparing ourselves to work effectively in these new cross-cultural, highly diverse teams. Our education system emphasizes the importance of individual achievement, independent work, and independent problem-solving. Yet the rest of the world is busy solving problems with crowd-sourcing, wiki’s, and interdisciplinary, global teams.
The second driver of global change is what Gore calls, The Global Mind. Virtually all the knowledge that is available in the world is rapidly becoming easily accessible to everyone. Using social media, we can get immediate answers to our questions, large or small. Grab your phone, personal computer, get on the net and presto, the Global Mind is yours.
But all the knowledge in the universe will only get us so far. If we are to truly thrive in this new landscape, we need not just a Global Mind, but a Global Heart. We have to understand one another to work effectively with each other. We have to understand what meaning this particular piece of information has to you, to me, to others. We have to practice understanding problems from multiple points of view and insights. Only then can we uncover the solutions to our greatest challenges and implement them effectively. (cont. next column)
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The tools we have to communicate virtually anywhere with anyone are light years more powerful than at any other time in human history. Yet, understanding information requires understanding underlying meaning, grasping content and also context. And that means developing our empathy muscle, our Global Heart. Yet, how do you develop relationships when you never sit in the same room with someone? How do we use video conferencing in groups to maximize a group’s problem-solving ability? How do we use common tools like facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest to engage more, broadcast less, and have deeper, more complex discussions that lead toward better problem-solving?
Students are uncovering the answers to these questions and developing the skills they now need through strategies being used in a few university classrooms, like the one shown in the video above. Groups like Soliya and iEARN are connecting schools virtually to share information, lives and to problem-solve using global team work. Called Exchange 2.0, the network is at the early stages of growing this approach, and the time has come to embed it in our educational institutions.
Students in the 21st century must graduate with a high level of skill for problem-solving though hands-on practice in diverse, global communities we create in our classrooms. And we need students to practice maximizing value using these extraordinary communication tools now available in our classes. Without these changes, students will continue to come out of schools ready for the Kansas of yesterday, not the Earth Inc. of today.
Greg Tuke, as a Fulbright-Nehru Fellow, will be teaching and working with faculty at several Indian universities, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog will chronicle key experiences and insights about international collaborative teaching and living in India. All opinions expressed are mine, and mine alone, and represent no other institutional affiliation.