Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Global education or spatulas and prison cells

A teacher in my Computers for Educators Level II course posted his thoughts about using technology to help our students make global connections. His message was so eloquent I asked to share it. Thank you Jeff Meis!

It was in the “Did You Know?” video from module 2 that stated China will soon be the number one English speaking country in the world. From The English Blog, a review of an Irish Times article about learning English in China states that, “in China, English allows you to travel and to gain social advancement, and English-language teachers have become minor celebrities.” This is a commentary on China’s goal of becoming an industrial leader in a global economy. They recognize that the international language of business is English and their top export markets are the European Union and The United States of America. China recognizes that in order to compete globally they must learn about and adapt to their most viable trade partners.

The United States of America’s top export market is Canada. Some might not think Canada’s culture is too different from the United States’. Have you ever been to Canada? Quebec is far different than southern California. But still, most of Canada is English speaking which requires little language and cultural training on the part of Americans. However, the next top export markets are China and Mexico. Most would consider these countries as having cultures quite different the United States. As a country, if we are to continue to trade globally, to succeed globally, and maintain a high quality of life in the United States, we must maintain, expand, and create economic partnerships. We can’t do that with the expectations other countries will always adapt to the United States’ cultures. If we are educating our students in preparation for higher education which in turn is preparing them to work in a global economy then we must educate them on and provide experiences with other cultures.

For example, did you know that when conducting business in China it is proper etiquette to accept business cards with both hands and you should not discuss business at meals. Or when conducting business with Dubai via email a common way to end a message is “Aa,” which is slang for the Arab greeting “Assalamu alaikum.”

Sites and tools like the Global Education Collaborative, ePals, iEarn, Skype, Voicethread, Ning, The Flashmeeting Project, and Education Beyond Borders are examples of ways students, teachers, and others can communicate and collaborate internationally. If we can create these experiences for students, virtual or otherwise, then we are preparing them for success in the 21st century.

If we don’t create these experiences and, instead, we keep education stagnant then we might as well give our students spatulas and/or build more prisons.

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