Sunday, February 7, 2016

Thoughts on Global Competence

Last week, I got to go to Teachers College in New York City to hear Jerry Maraia's talk about global learning. Usually workshops at TC center more on reading and writing, focusing on new units of study or new trends within literacy. Jerry's lecture was more about how we can integrate the important elements of critical thinking, empathy, questioning, and taking informed action into the literacy instruction that already takes place within our classrooms.

I think that it's imperative that teachers in the 21st century have a solid understanding of what constitutes global competence. The Asian Society is a great resource, and the learners there have put forth four critical aspects of global competence. Put simply, learners should be able to:

  1. Investigate the world beyond their immediate environment, asking questions, framing significant problems, and conducting well-crafted and age-appropriate research
  2. Recognize perspectives, others’ and their own
  3. Communicate ideas effectively with diverse audiences- how we bring to the forefront the idea of how we change our presentation based on who we are talking to
  4. Take action

Asking questions is a skill that we frequently underestimate (and underteach!) in classrooms. Warren Berger had done amazing work around the importance of questions in today's world, and I recommend his website and his book, A More Beautiful Question. The graph below is from his website, and definitely makes the point about the increasing importance of questions in a world where information is so accessible.

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One of the activities that Jerry did during the morning presentation involved showing us a photograph. The picture he used was of African children doing their homework, but really, almost any picture could work. The process he had us go through was to first write down five questions about the picture. From there, we chose one of our questions and dug into that one question with five more questions, but these five new questions were to begin with "What if." The third step of this one exercise with this one picture involved beginning to think of possible answers to our questions.  It was amazing to see how many different questions and directions we all had! I can't wait to try this activity with students. It's an activity that could work in a morning meeting as well as during content areas. The important concept for me emerged out of the challenge to look closely at an image and really, really wonder about it. I want to remember Jerry's important statement that:

“We often fail to see all the possibilities available to us because we simply haven’t spent enough time looking.”

Toward the end of the presentation, Jerry offered a challenge to all of us in the room and that involved thinking about and reflecting on our own global mindedness. If we're not living with this sort of mindset, then how can we expect our students to be doing it. Choose one of the attributes of Internationally Minded Learners from the International Baccalaureate Program and think about how we can share how we're living it with our students. Here are the attributes:


These words inspire me and remind me of my responsibility to be a learner in this changing world we're all sharing.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday,

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