The world is more interconnected than ever. Thus, connecting students through global learning is essential. Luckily, today’s technological advances mean that international connections and student understanding of the world are possible.
Global Learning Through Travel
My primary experiences with global learning came through study abroad programs in college or through international travel as an adult. To say that these were life-changing experiences would be an understatement. However, I wish that global education was available to me earlier in life. Further, global learning and connections are something I value for my own children.
Luckily, my children can gain an expanded understanding of the world from home. International travel is important and something we hope to do in the future, but COVID-19 has shifted when these experiences may be possible. Moreover, for many families, global travel can be cost-prohibitive or challenging for other reasons. Thankfully, families don’t have to give up on the possibility of global learning when international travel isn’t available.
There are many ways to provide students with global learning experiences. Such opportunities enhance their understanding of the world and contribute to them becoming global citizens.
Students can participate in multicultural virtual classroom experiences, like those that WorldOver International School offers. At the core of this virtual school’s mission lies a goal to bring students from around the world together in a virtual classroom. Academic counselor Elsa Williamson explains, “Advisory sessions provide opportunities for rich conversation centered around social-emotional development, relationship building, and global experiences. Simply imagine learners gaining new perspectives from their peers from around the world.”
The Power of Technology to Build Global Connections
Technology makes global exchanges and connections available to anyone with a phone, computer, tablet, and WiFi (at home or at the local library). These tech links can come through Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet. The decreasing cost of virtual reality headsets means that students can even connect in virtual learning spaces.
WorldOver is building such a space. Students from around the world inhabit the same space virtually. They benefit from the physical presence and deepen connections and understandings. “The virtual setting tears down divides. If we talk about possible global connections, it literally means kids from around the world learning together and learning from each other. We have the possibility of creating a community of learners from around the world,” Williamson shares. For families with access to VR headsets, this type of experience can be a game-changer.
Language Instruction Connecting Students Through Global Learning
Virtual reality aside, language learning is important as we raise global citizens. It is another valuable way to connect students. As students learn another language, they also learn about the country or countries where that language is spoken. Additionally, they increase their ability to connect with individuals who speak that language. Such individuals may live in a country where that language is spoken or may have heritage roots in another country. What’s more, many of our own communities are culturally diverse. Learning another language can strengthen connections to individuals in our home communities.
Williamson loves classes that bring together students who are English speakers learning Spanish and Spanish speakers learning English. “Because they are all language learners, the space they inhabit together is built on equity, encouragement, and respect. If we look at it this way, the benefits reach far beyond language acquisition.”
Benefits of Language Learning
Educators who teach languages note the added benefits students acquire through language instruction. Students are more inquisitive, possess an openness to learning about other cultures, religions, backgrounds, and are often more accepting of others. Subsequently, this global mindset encourages students to think beyond themselves. They learn to engage thoughtfully with the world around them.
Furthermore, teachers who focus on global learning note that by gaining a greater understanding of the world in which they live, students gain a great understanding of themselves. They begin to interrogate their own assumptions about others as those assumptions are challenged. They gain insight into their own bias and into the ways that stereotypes work.
The Value of Global Learning
Global learning “prepares learners for an increasingly global society so they can be successful,” notes Stephanie Burns, a seasoned educator focused on teaching English to speakers of other languages. She’s seen how students become motivated to engage with their own communities more deeply.
I’ve seen this, too, with my own children. I love how powerful and exciting it is to see students engage with their own communities in new ways.
Connecting Students Through Global Learning: 4 Strategies That Work
Certainly, virtual classrooms that connect students globally and language learning are two wonderful ways to provide global learning experiences. However, many other opportunities exist. Some are simpler than you might think! Burns shared some key ways that families can build these educational opportunities. Specifically, she suggests:
- Reading! Diversify your home library or the books that you check out from the library. Seek out books by authors from different countries.
- Get Involved Too! Family involvement makes the learning process even deeper for children. If we as parents model a global mindset, this will rub off on our children. As a family, attend local events that are multicultural or that celebrate a culture that is not your own.
- Visit museums – See what museums are near you and make the time to visit them. There is likely to be a wealth of multicultural learning and historical knowledge right in your own community or nearby.
- Student exchange – Consider hosting a student from another country. This is a wonderful opportunity for global learning to happen right in your own home.
What would you add to this list? How are you building connections through global learning? How does global learning benefit you? Let’s share and celebrate the power and importance of global citizenship.