Crossing borders: Technology and global competence
AEF International Director, Aaron O'Shannessy, explores how digital technology provides vital tools for the 21st-century learning classrooms of today and the ways in which we can bridge distances and increase students opportunities to learn from their peers through collaboration at a local, regional and global level, discover different countries and cultures, and learn new languages.
When I was at school computer classes involved learning how to touch-type. Students used lined notebooks and the library was the source of all the knowledge in the world. Today we use computers, video conferencing, computer games, online networks of learning, websites, smart devices and Web 2.0 tools to connect our classrooms across Australia and around the world. The annual Horizon Report maps key trends in technology adoption across Foundation to Year 12. Coding as ‘literacy’, students as creators, makerspaces and robotics are just a few trends currently influencing education practice in our classrooms.
This is vital. The Foundation for Young Australians’ New Work Order reports highlight the skills students need for the jobs of the future. Over 70 percent of young people who enter the workforce right now will have jobs affected by rapidly increasing automation. Over half of Australian workers will need to be able to use, configure or build digital systems in the next two to three years.
Despite this, we still hear a lot about ‘back-to-basics’. That usually means that teachers should focus more on literacy and numeracy. The problem is that there is now a new set of education basics. New capabilities include creativity, digital literacy, ethical and intercultural understanding. The new basics are also required by young people to be globally competent and to thrive in our interconnected 21st-century world.
In 2018, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will assess student global competence for the first time as part of the PISA assessments. These reports have traditionally focused on literacy, numeracy and science. As defined by the OECD, ‘Global competence’ is intercultural collaboration, analysis of global issues, understanding differences and a shared respect for human dignity.
Digital technology provides vital tools for global competence. The classrooms of today are equipped with digital tools that bridge distances and increase students opportunities to learn from their peers through collaboration at a local, regional and global level, discover different countries and cultures, and learn new languages. The Asia Education Foundation supports teachers to do this through the BRIDGE School Partnership Program.
BRIDGE uses innovative technologies to bring teachers and their students together across Australia and Asia. BRIDGE starts by building teachers’ capability to use digital technologies in their teaching and learning. Imagine how engaged your students would be to co-design a robot with students in Japan, collect data to compare water pollution in Australia and Kalimantan, practice Chinese with students in Shandong, establish a joint virtual excursion with students in India, create an animation with students in Seoul or exchange digital science stories via Tellegamis with students in Thailand. Evaluations indicate that 90 percent of BRIDGE students strengthen their intercultural understanding while also building ICT skills, languages proficiency and knowledge of the world.
Many teachers I speak to are reluctant to move beyond the limits of their own technological capability - they feel they need to be the expert first before using technologies in the classroom. But educators today don’t need to always be the expert - they can learn alongside their students. The generation of ‘digital immigrants’ need to cast aside their trepidation and allow our ‘digital natives’ to explore their full potential.
A range of digital technologies and concepts are available for teachers to build into teaching and learning. App Smashing is one. It requires students to use multiple apps to create a project or complete a task and provides them with a creative and inspired way to showcase their learning*.
Another key challenge raised by teachers is the issue of cybersafety. The Australian Government’s E-Safety website has resources for schools, teachers, parents and students to unpack cybersafety and digital citizenship (aka digital footprint). Another excellent resource is the 9 Ps for Proactive Knowledge in Digital Citizenship created by American educator, Vicki Davis.
Its time to take the leap. Use digital technologies and expand learning beyond the four walls of your classroom.
*Explore curated lists of digital technology resources: