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A Challenge to Act 1

A Challenge to Act- Assignment u07a1


By

Rod Murray

For Course EDIM 507 IND


Friday, March 6, 2009
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It should not have come as a surprise to students taking course EDIM 507

Using Technology to Support Creativity, that it is actually a course to implant in us the

need for a response to the realities of globalization. We quickly learned in the first

weeks what this ominous sounding phrase meant, and how it seemed to apply, not

ironically, to everything. Coined by Stromquist (2002), it is less than a decade old and

was used to refer to major changes in politics and culture that affected large numbers of

people (Spring, 2008). Education, being a worldwide common denominator, is perhaps

the most widespread institution that would show evidence of, and change due to, the

effects of globalization. At times, it seemed that we were studying globalization on its

own, but the point of this course, and of, logically, this assignment, is that we respond to

what we have learned about the impacts of Globalization and how it changes ones

point of view of the world, ones own country and region, the political realities of the

local school district and province, and ultimately how one will change how they teach in

the classroom every day. Have we changed our approach to teaching over the last

seven weeks? Yes, I know I have!

Educational Philosophy

Along with my classmates, I was challenged to make a seemingly contradictory

paradigm shift- to broaden my horizons at the same time as I narrowed my educational

philosophy. While expanding our knowledge of globalization, we needed to focus on

how we are to change or adapt our practices so that individual students achieve

success, and reach their potential. It became apparent that globalization may affect the

way we teach, and the medium through which we teach, but the reality is that nothing
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changes the best practice of teaching, that is, to know individual students and their

needs.

The teacher is the most important factor in what is learned, and the relationship

that the teacher develops with each of his or her students (and also their parents, I

might add) is the single most significant determining factor in a students achievement.

No computer software, no teaching style, no hardware technology can replace the

human qualities of an excellent teacher. How we use these technologies to create

curiosity, engagement, excitement, interest, focus and ultimately, rich learning, is our

challenge.

Globalization and Changing Understanding

The class commenced with an exploration of a number of aspects of

globalization. First, we needed to grasp the basic understandings of its root causes, its

effects on the North American economy and on education, in particular. As we read

Pink (2005), we began to unravel some of the ideas around the rapid changes in our

understanding of the right-directed thinking and how the worlds new economy is being

bombarded by influences outside the control of America, where it has traditionally been

held. When we looked at the economic effects of globalization, we began a discourse

which, frankly, may frighten those who think that the balance sheet between the

opportunities created by globalization do not add up to the possible negative

ramifications. The threats of offshoring, if not taken seriously, may have a huge impact

on the jobs of educators if they do not adapt the education systems to be more

responsive and creative (Blinder, 2006).

When challenged with the latest analysis of how culture flows one continent to
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another, the need for the understanding of other cultures becomes apparent, ultimately

a necessity. Some of the authors, I pointed out, were not fully cognizant of the

American culture that they claimed were significant, misidentifying Canadians, in the

examples they used, as Americans. The point I was able to make from this was that

cultural flow is always continuous, and is multidirectional. Americans sometimes

wrongly assume that their culture is exported in one direction, and yet the evidence from

the readings suggests it is moving in many directions. The influence of Japan on other

cultures is an example where most would agree the flow is in the direction of America.

But there were numerous examples where the flow is unpredictable. As educators, we

need to improve our knowledge of world cultures, teach our students to be more

culturally aware and use this new cultural knowledge to our own advantage to be

creative. The goal is to make our students culturally aware also, so that they can seize

new opportunities in the global marketplace. They might also become, simply put,

happier, more interesting citizens.

Furthermore, Pinks (2005) ideas of Symphony and Empathy clarified how in a

globalized world, being able to understand the big picture and interpret elements of

various cultures are critical skills when solving world problems. Perhaps these two

chapters alone could be the most essential lessons of the course. Failure to grasp the

severity of climate change, or desertification, or regional conflicts, or world food supply,

or energy supplies on a global scale will be crucial to our future and only those citizens

who understand the relationship between geopolitics, culture, natural resources and

economics will be able to address them. In other words, we need to educate a new

generation who can see the big picture and make big solutions a possibility. I argued in
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the last discussion forum that Gardners (2004) propositions for some commonalities

through out the worlds education systems should place the ability to tackle

problems and issues that do not respect discipline boundaries" as the

most significant and could be an umbrella for the others in his list.

With our understanding of the processes of globalization stronger, our goal is to

apply this new learning to our present or future instructional setting. How should we put

our understandings into practise?

Implementation

Four examples of initiatives that I intend to continue, further develop and pursue

as a result of learning in this course need further explanation. The first, I will call LESF

(Les Enseignants Sans Frontires after the world famous medical NGO Les Mdecins

san Frontires). I vision it being a professional learning community within and beyond

my school district focussed on technology integration and will include Wilkes

classmates, work colleagues on my districts Teaching with Technology instructional

team and perhaps, others. The second will be to return and to re-invigorate the projects

I began in the early 1990s using ePals to connect my students with others around the

globe. Responding to the inspiration of the Prime Minister of Canada who implored my

grade seven class to be citizens and great leaders of the Global Village, during a 1999

classroom visit organized by ePals. The Prime Minister was invited to keynote Canadas

leadership in Internet technologies that were already revolutionizing education back in

1999. In ten years, Canadas social milieu is even more reflective of the Global Village,

where almost 50% of the population are recent immigrants to this country and about
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one-in-four send their children to school in the district where I work (Census of Canada,

2006). Thirdly, I plan to assist other teachers in creating authentic, rich, learning

partnerships one with another. This might be in the form of class-to-class virtual

exchange or, one of the best things a teacher can do in their own career- go on a

Teacher Exchange. And fourthly, to implement new Web 2.0 technologies in the day-to-

day learning of my students, as they increasingly transition to these media for their own

communication and self-directed learning.

LESF- Les Enseignants Sans Frontires

As a result of this course, a number of valuable connections have been made. In

our online forums, it was often pointed out that there is a great divide between the

educational, geographical and cultural milieus of Canada and the United States. On the

other hand, there is equal, if not greater measure of differences between regions around

North America. Often places like Pennsylvania and Ontario, for example, seem to share

greater commonalities than, say, Ontario, and the western province of Saskatchewan.

Teachers across these jurisdictions should share these commonalities and seek to

understand each others differences. My intention is to build upon the connections we

have made in the course and assemble a learning community. The classmates from

Saskatchewan who shared their Elluminate teaching environment so that we could

explore, one with another, the requirements and interpretations of assignments and

forum discussions, initiated this exchange. It will be an excellent professional practise

and worthwhile to keep it energized.

ePals- Connecting Classrooms Around the World


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ePals has had a long history in the business of connecting classrooms and

learning communities. Begun in 1996, ePals was started, not coincidentally, by a

Canadian and an American from Ottawa, Ontario and the US, respectively. I had the

opportunity to introduce ePals to students in its second year, and have used it almost

continually since. The connections and collaboration with foreign students were

enriching experiences in those years, but usually amounted to no more than the sharing

of a few emails centred on the exchange of the basics of life in another country. Partner

classes included students from New Zealand, Australia, the UK, the US and France.

Each exchange produced unique learning opportunities. One of the most unique

partnerships that I created, similar to one that was discussed in our weekly discussion

forums, was an online Literature Circle. We read the same novel, and shared

discussions via email with Australian and UK students, and also live secure chat rooms.

The novel we used was "Remote Man" by Honey (2004). The unique feature of the

story was that the main characters were spread around the globe and they become

entwined in the mystery of an international wildlife smuggling ring. The environment and

family relationships become strong themes, as does the fickle nature of the Internet.

The story flows through action, conflict and series of email and chat room exchanges

between characters. Pushing the pre-Web 2.0 technologies, I invited the author to

become a member of our online chat room discussion group and her involvement

enriched the dialogue between students around the globe. Continuing this kind of

Literature Circle is a goal I have for my school in September, and the choice of book to

read may be one of the ones suggested in my Empathy lessons for this course.

An aside to this connection, I was thrilled to be able to meet author Elizabeth


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Honey, a resident of Melbourne, Australia, when I lived there while on teacher exchange

in 2007.

Teacher Partnerships and Exchanges

Further to LESF, two geographically distant classmates (Vince Hill from Prince

Albert, Saskatchewan and myself) were able to meet face-to-face and explore other

opportunities. We met with the ASD Class (Autism Spectrum Disorder) teacher and his

teaching assistants at my former school, and recommended a dialogue with two Wilkes

classmates who teach students with similar needs, one in Pennsylvania and one on

British Columbia. Hopefully, all three teachers and their students will have opportunities

to connect and share learning as a result of this and we can realize what is meant by

LESF. I also must mention the opportunity for one of the most unique professional

development experiences unique to the teaching profession. Teacher Exchanges

provide extraordinary opportunities to experience globalization in a true sense. My

personal experience exchanging to Melbourne, Australia was one of the most significant

personal experiences of my life. Not only did I live in a different country in a different

culture, I had a distinctive school experience as I taught in a prestigious private school,

as opposed to my suburban public school in Canada. Exchanges are highly

recommended for younger teachers, as the experience early on in your career gives

one time to use the knowledge gained and the experience to its fullest. It will also give

the impetus to try a second exchange later on, to a new and different country or the

same country in a different locale. I know I would have been planning a second

exchange if I had done the first years ago.

Web 2.0 Technologies and Global Education


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The idea of creating a Blog or Wiki is certainly not new, but brilliant examples of

how childrens writing can impact other parts of the world were explored in the course

that are too effective to ignore. Our examination of Tell the Raven was the impetus for

beginning a classroom Blog that is a showcase for student work. I recently attended a

conference called Learning Connections which was attended by the large school

districts in Ontario and we shared various tools for learning and collaborating. One

teacher demonstrated a class Blog that was not unlike Tell the Raven. It had,

however, one simple Web 2.0 addition, a ClustrMap. (www.clustrmap.com), which

mapped the location of visitors to the Blog. The result was that it was being read around

the globe and it further engaged the student writers. This simple idea has even greater

possibilities that cannot be ignored when I return to the classroom.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this course has been both demanding and challenging. The

demands on oneself to read, analyze and synthesize a broad topic and at the same

time find really practical ways to teach about, and respond to, the threatening idea of

globalization was an exceptionally valuable experience. It has focussed my philosophy

of education, and has broadened my knowledge and demanded a reaction, a change, in

the way that I use technology, the way I relate to my students, and the way I think about

the rest of the world. Through Web 2.0 technologies, the reinvigorated use of ePals, and

teacher partnerships and learning communities, my classroom will continue to adapt

and change. Globalization is no longer an ominous word.

References
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Blinder, A. (2006). Offshoring: the next industrial revolution. Foreign Affairs,


(March/April), 113-128.

Bloom, D. (2004). Globalization and education: An economic perspective, in


Globalization, culture, and education in the new millennium (pp 56-77). Berkeley,
California: University of California Press.

Census of Canada 2006. Immigrants in Peel. Retrieved February 28, 2009 from
http://www.peelregion.ca/planning/pdc/data/quickfacts.htm#demographic

Gardner, H. (2004). How education changes: Considerations of history, science and


values in Globalization, culture, and education in the new millennium (pp 235-256).
Berkeley, California: University of California Press.

Gardner, H. (2007). Five minds for the future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Honey, E. (2004). Remote Man. New York: Random House.

Pink, Daniel. (2005) A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New
York: Riverhead Books.

Spring, J. (2008). Research on globalization and education. Review of Educational


Research. 78 (330).

Stromquist, N. (2002). Education in a globalized world: The connectivity of economic


power, technology, and knowledge. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.