Excerpts from Global Learning Conference

Excerpts from the 21st Century Learning: Going Global conference.

A Global Education
Three keynote speakers shared what their organizations were doing with respect to helping young people collaborate across countries in their learning and education.

Milton Chen, Executive Director of the George Lucas Educational Foundation (i.e., Edutopia), on "globalizing the curriculum"

"Globalizing the curriculum" is not about inventing new courses or departments but globalizing the curriculum, finding international connections in what you do.

"Learning without borders" is not simply crossing geographical borders, but it's learning about yourselves.

Michael Furdyk, Co-Founder and Director of TakingITGlobal, has a vision of young people "shaping our world," and asks,

If young people were actively engaged in all aspects of society, and thought of themselves as community leaders, problem-solvers, role models, mentors and key 'stakeholders' ... how would the world change?

Ed Gragert, Executive Director of iEARN (International Educators and Resource Network), talked on "Bringing Global Awareness into the Classroom":

Students move from learning about other cultures and languages to ....
Learning through interaction with other cultures.

Their organization helps schools and students in different countries collaborate on projects and produce student videos on a topic because

When students teach other students what they know, they learn better.

And he asked us to imagine,

What if the next Secretary of Education created a policy to enable

Every school in the US to be actively engaged with at least one other school in another country ...

The Digital Generation and Digital Learning
Two more keynote speakers, both from the Rutgers University Writing Center, presented on how education needs to change in this digital age: Paul Hammond, Director of Digital Initiatives, and Richard Miller, the center's Executive Director and Chair of the English Department. Richard Miller, who is known for his seven-minute video, The future is now: Presentation to the RU Board of Governors, noted that an academic monograph typically sold 246 copies, while his video had been viewed more than 9000 times and concluded, "It's the most important intellectual work I've ever published in my life."

We're not interested in the accessed information [on the Internet] ... What we're interested in as compositionists is, How do we get our students to work with this information ... how to make connections with the information they have in order to produce something of their own. ... to make use of this rich, rich media ...

What we're interested in is composing. How do we train people to make meaning in a withering firestorm of information? We need new ways of teaching, new ways of thinking about writing. But what technology allows us to do is, It allows us to dream in new ways.

A panel on "Digital Choices Define a Generation" included Scott Seider, Assistant Professor of Curriculum & Teaching at Boston University, Barry Schwartz, Professor of Psychology at Swarthmore College, and Jo Hoffman, Associate Professor of Education at Kean University.

Seider looked at identity issues for the digital generation. On the plus side, digital media can have these effects:

boyd (2007): "The need to write one's online idneity into existence can encourage self-reflection" on who you are or how you want to present yourself.

Stern (2007): On-line profiles and blogs push people to articulate what they believe in.

James et al (2008): Young people empowered by ability to tell their stories online and can be encouraged /comforted by feedback.

On the negative side:

James et al (2008): Exploration carried out "in a digital public before a vast and unknowable audience" The internet changes the stakes.

Perceived by many youth as "low stakes" but ...

boyd (2007): Internet and persistence, replicability , searchability, and invisible audience (potentially there forever)

May be difficult for young people to fully grasp potential consequences (reputation), ...

Exploration can more easily cross into 'deception'

Pretending to be someone else while interacting/flirting with peers

Overreliance on feedback (what Turkle (2008) refers to as 'tethering')

Lack of time for autonomous reflection

Barry Schwartz, who wrote The Paradox of Choice, talked about having choices was good but how having too many choices has three negative consequences:

  • Too many choices paralyzes one's ability to make a choice.
  • Too many choices negatively affects one's performance and ability to make good decisions.
  • Too many choices leads to regret about the choice you did make or will make.

He gave research examples of (1) how people who had too many choices to make, say in their 401(k) plans, would simply not choose one and lose out on matching funds from their employer, (2) how students who had 25 topics to choose from in order to write an essay wrote worse than those who selected from only 6 choices, and (3) how people who had too many choices tended to regret their choice more than those with fewer choices because as time passed they felt that the alternatives that they had passed up would have been better.

With respect to today's digital generation who have too many choices, he noted the following consequences:

Significant rise in the incidence of depressiona and suicide, both of which are appearing at younger and younger ages

Substantial increase in the rate at which college students are flocking to counseling centers

Palpable unease in the reports of young college graduates, who seem to lack a clear idea of what they are meant to do in their lives. Often this is manifest as anxiety disorder

And finally, in upper-class adolescents, whose family affluence makes anything possible, there are the same levels of drug abuse, anxiety disorder, and depression as there are in the children of the poor.

The solution is what he called "Libertarian Paternalism." That is,

It will become more common that people do nothing. So set it up so that when people do nothing, they get what they want, which is better [psychologically] for them.

He gave the example of organ donors in the U.S. and in Europe. In the U.S., about 98% believe that donating organs at one's death is a good thing to do, but only about 8% do it because they have to opt in on their driver's license to do it, while in Europe, about 90% (?) do it because they have to opt out of the default of donating one's organs at death.

Much to think about!