Bringing a Futures Perspective into Education

I was doing a reading for one of my classes the other day. It was from the UNESCO website for teaching and learning for a sustainable future. While I was reading the required sections, it brought up a very good question: If it is true that all education is for the future than why is the future not an explicit element in all levels of education? We always talk about how one of the goals of the current education system is to have children grow up to be participating members in society. We are supposed to be ‘grooming them for the future’. I know this is a highly contestable ideal, and I personally do not agree with the idea of school as a factory system, producing future adults, but that is not what I want to focus on. I want to focus on the fact that children are the future, yet schools do not teach from a futuristic perspective, rather they teach about the past and how we can use that information in the present.

I have recently learned about David Selby’s 4 dimensions of Global Education as a transformative education (spatial, Issues, temporal and inner).Dimensions I think I may write a post about these later. The temporal dimension incorporates prioritizing the future within education. It is important for students to understand their alternative futures. There is the possible (all future scenarios), the probable (the most likely future) and the preferred (the future you would like based on your values). “The visions that we have of the future affect what we think is worth doing in the present. Fear of the future can be disempowering but it can also lead to engagement in social and political action to bring about a different sort of world” (from UNESCO Activity 5). If students are truly going to become globally literate and active global citizens, they much recognize that their choices and actions (as well as others) help shape the future. If students were to understand the importance of their actions, this could hopefully drive them to attempt to make a difference.

The reading I had to do was actually a 5 step activity created by UNESCO which I think would be useful for other teachers who wish to/are already incorporating global education into their classroom. The activity makes you look at your own preferred futures in relation to both the local and global, and then makes you reflect on how to incorporate these views into your classroom. Give it a try and let me know if it was useful!

Skype Education

I’ve always heard about teachers communicating with other teachers around the globe and connecting their classrooms, but I was never sure how to find these teachers. I have found an effective way to connect my classroom globally, which was actually just featured (March 28th) on one of the blogs I am following, The Global Classroom Project. The first resource I am adding into my curation is the Skype Education website, which provides three different ways in which you can use skype in your classroom. You can collaborate and communicate with classrooms around the world, find guest speakers or take a virtual field trip anywhere around the world. It provides students with the ability to conduct collaborative projects or start international clubs. If teachers are not sure how to take advantage of skype, the website provides a variety of lessons teachers could use as well as stories of successful skype classroom interactions. The reason why I like the skype idea is because it makes the experience personal for the students. It is more than just having students read and research information about different cultures around the world; it allows them to make a personal connection with those cultures, through building friendships and having fun.

I want to focus specifically on one use of Skype Education which I think could have practical use in a 21st century teacher’s classroom. “Mystery Skype” is a  game crated by skype where students have to use their inquiry and questioning skills to guess the location of their classroom. I have embedded the video about this global guessing game as an introduction.

As I watched this video, some key words stood out including: technology, connect, world, fun, team, critical thinking process, empower. What do all these key words have in common? They are a part of the new story, they are used within 21st century classrooms, they are/are part of 21st century literacies.

Directly quoting Michael Graffin’s (The Global Classroom Project) blog post about mystery skype, he present’s clear objectives of this activity. There is a clear connection between mystery skype, integrated curriculum (IC) and global, multicultural, technological, and critical literacies (Which I added to each objective below in italics):

Students will use map skills to find the location of the mystery classroom (IC – Social Studies/Geography)

Students will use communication and critical thinking skills to ask questions to help them find the mystery location. (IC – Language; Critical Literacy)

Classes communicate with other classrooms via Skype or Google+ Hangouts. (Technological Literacy)

Students will learn to respect and appreciate the cultures and customs of others. (Multicultural & Global Literacy)

Students will be able to see the differences and similarities between themselves and others around the world. (Multicultural & Global Literacy)

I believe the Mystery Skype activity would be a great introduction for inquiry-based learning, as it gives student’s the opportunity to collaboratively formulate questions and gather evidence to solve the location. As these skills develop during Mystery Skype, a teacher can then apply them to a more authentic and real world problem which Drake, Reid and Kolohon (2014) describe as key components to Inquiry-based classrooms and learning.

The Advocates for Human Rights

As a big supporter of humans rights, specifically children’s rights, I would love to incorporate the Discover Human Rights Institute website into my classroom. Unlike the teachUNICEF website, this human rights website can be used by the majority of people, whether they want to learn more, get involved or teach about human rights. As Canadians we are unfortunately not able to access all the resources of this site, such as have the advocate group conduct presentations or events, but there are accessible resources online. This website could be used as a resource for the teacher, where they can find lesson plans and activities, but it could also be used as a site for student participation. In the Human Rights for Students section, students can explore human rights at their own pace and through their own learning styles. It was the games link that interested me the most and something that I would incorporate into my classroom, to bring that technological aspect to my classroom while keeping the activities easy to understand. One issue I did find with the links to the games was that a couple of the games were not available anymore, but either way there were still a variety of games which focused on a variety of human rights, which I believe junior students would enjoy.

In general, navigating this page is not too difficult because there are a variety of headings constantly on the page which make it easy to figure out where you need to go. The one concern I have about this website is the amount of clicking I have to go through to get to a specific resource, such as a lesson plan. But, I did enjoy how the lesson plans were an automatic PDF download. The visual aspect of the website varied based on the audience, the student section consisted of cartoons, brightly coloured headings, charts and pictures, while the educators section was plain and did not consist of very many visual effects besides the odd picture.

Free the Children

As the world becomes more diverse and connected I believe it is important to start teaching from a global perspective. As a future primary/junior teacher I hope to incorporate both a global and multicultural literacy to my classroom. Both of these literacies link back to global education. Global literacy involves creating “settings that foster students’ understanding of the intersection between their lives and global issues and their sense of responsibility as local and global citizens” (Nair et al., 2012, p. 56). While multicultural literacy “consists of the skills and ability to identify the creators of knowledge and their interests, to uncover the assumptions of knowledge from diverse ethnic and cultural perspectives, and to use knowledge to guide action that will create a humane and just world” (Banks, 2003, p. 3). With these definitions in mind, I would use the following website in my classroom to help my students develop each literacy and become global citizens

The Free the Children (FTC) website contains a variety of information for global educators. FTC is an international charity that works towards empowering youth to become agents of change in both a national and international context. The FTC website hosts a variety of resources that teachers can use, such as a weekly social issue based column, lesson plans and kits. The Junior World Changers Kit found at found in the “resources, curriculum, and lesson plans” section of “get involved” is oriented towards a younger age group.

JWCThis resource provides the teacher with a full set of lesson plans that can introduce students to social justice issues, citizenship, and becoming engaged in both local and global settings, as well as level appropriate information guides for the countries FTC is involved with. While this resource is something I would use in a primary classroom, it is not something I would recommend for intermediate and higher. If a teacher believes their classroom is too advanced for the Junior World Changers Kit, the FTC website has a “Library of Resources” in which you can find lessons and resources based on the grade, class subject, topic, the country you are teaching in and the language you speak. Although I should mention that currently FTC only has education resources for Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, an educator from other countries could use these resources and revise the lessons towards their curriculum.

I already have a background knowledge of Free the Children and Me to We, which is why I think this resource would be an excellent addition to my classroom. There are things I would tweak, in order to ensure student’s are learning about the important aspects and not the consumer identity, but it is great way to incorporate my past trips and experiences with me to we into the classroom and make my stories more relevant for my students.

Curating My Global Education Resources

As the world becomes more diverse and connected I believe it is important to start teaching from a global perspective. As a future primary/junior teacher I hope to incorporate both a global and multicultural literacy to my classroom. Both of these literacies link back to global education. Global literacy involves creating “settings that foster students’ understanding of the intersection between their lives and global issues and their sense of responsibility as local and global citizens” (Nair et al., 2012, p. 56). While multicultural literacy “consists of the skills and ability to identify the creators of knowledge and their interests, to uncover the assumptions of knowledge from diverse ethnic and cultural perspectives, and to use knowledge to guide action that will create a humane and just world” (Banks, 2003, p. 3). With these definitions in mind, I would use the following websites in my classroom to help my students develop each literacy and become global citizens.

This “Global Education Category” of my blog will be used as a portfolio for online global education resources which I would like to incorporate into my future classroom.

References

Banks, J. (2003) Teaching for Multicultural Literacy, Global Citizenship, and Social Justice. 2003 Charles Fowler Colloquium on Innovation in Arts Education. University of Maryland, College Park.

Nair, I., Norman, M., Tucker, R., & Burkert, A. (2012). The challenge of global literacy: An ideal opportunity for liberal professional education. Liberal Education, 56-61.