Teaching about the world
outside the United States has enjoyed a revival among policymakers, curriculum specialists, and classroom teachers during the past decade. World history, which was dropped as a high school requirement, or even as an elective, in many schools during the 1970s, has been reinstated in several states and local school districts. In U.S. history, government, and even economics courses, concerns about international "competitiveness" have driven curriculum and textbook revisions so that students study more about the role of the U.S. in an international arena. Perhaps the most significant development in this area of social studies is found in the traditional middle school geography or "cultural studies" course or courses. Taught typically at the 6th and/or 7th grade levels, these courses have been transformed from a Western-oriented, place-name-focused geography or "non-Western cultures" approach to a more culturally inclusive, human/environment interaction course. The term most often used to characterize this approach is "global studies" or "global education." While the term and conceptual framework of global education have been around for over two decades, it has only recently began to dominate the way American students learn about the rest of the world and how the U.S. is linked to it.
International education and global education are different, if related, approaches to curriculum design and teaching. International education is just that: teaching about other nations, peoples, and issues, often within the traditional disciplines of history, political science, or economics. Advocates of a global perspective call for an interdisciplinary curriculum and instructional methods that help students view the world as a planet-wide society and to understand the interdependence of humans. Generally, global educators want to help create a better world through their curriculum and instruction, while international education is less concerned with changing worldviews than with providing accurate, relevant information about other nations and international relations. In practice, most classroom teachers combine elements of both approaches in their planning and teaching.
Resources on the World Wide Web (WWW) dealing with these topics are also divided along the lines described above. There are literally hundreds of Websites that provide information about other nations and international affairs. Some are provided by governments, some by news organizations, and some by universities and individuals. On the other hand, there is a smaller, but still sizable, number of sites that focus on global studies as defined above. Generally, these sites are aimed at educators or students and have a clearly-stated values orientation. For example, The Global Democracy Network's Home Page (http://www.gdn.org/) states that its goal is to work "to protect human rights and strengthen democracy."
In reviewing websites related to global and international education, I found it difficult to identify two or three in either category that are clearly superior to the others and, therefore, deserve special attention. Instead, I'm providing a paragraph description of sites that provide accurate information and useful links to other sites. The listing is divided into those that are primarily informational and those that fit the definition of educationally oriented global studies.
Links to Government Servers http://www.eff.org/govt.html
This site provides links to nearly every government or quasi-governmental agency in the world. It's arranged in a hierarchical index by continent, then country, state/province/region, county/ township/parish and finally by city/ town/village and even neighborhood. It also includes links to all United Nations sites, and regional groups such as the European Community. If you really want to know statistics and facts about a nation's economy, population, and society, here's the place to start.
The Christian Science Monitor http://www.csmonitor.com/
Years ago, Robert Byrnes, an internationally-respected world historian and Soviet specialist, told a group of high school teachers that if he could do one thing to make Americans internationally literate, he would require teachers and students to read one newspaper-The Christian Science Monitor. I've been a subscriber ever since and agree with him. All of the major newspapers have excellent websites and offer excellent information about international and domestic issues, but the Monitor provides outstanding international coverage in concise, yet thoughtful and balanced, articles.
Ministries of Foreign Affairs Online http://www3itu.ch/MISSIONS/Italy/mofa.htm
Stefano Baldi, in the Italian Mission to International Organizations in Geneva, Switzerland, maintains this website. It's a one-stop direct link to at least 35 foreign ministries-from Argentina to Vietnam. While some of the ministry sites provide more information than others, they would be excellent primary sources for students seeking an individual nation's political stance on international issues.
U.S. Department of State-Background Notes
Teachers and students can obtain factual information, read about just about every nation on earth as well as learn about recent political events, and find out if there's an "advisory" warning U.S. citizens from traveling there. The site also covers entire geographic regions such as South Asia and international organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the U.N. Teachers can sign up to automatically receive via email all newly released Background Notes.
News and Current Events
This outstanding resource is part of Dennis Boals' superb "History/Social Studies Web Site for K-12 Teachers." It has links selected specifically for their usefulness to social studies teachers and students. While the page contains links to all sorts of news organizations, government servers, and other unique websites, there is a heavy international focus. This site should be a "Bookmark" for every social studies teacher and every school library. I guarantee that you'll spend at least a half an hour exploring some of the links that Dennis has selected.
This site is maintained as a personal project by Nathan Gilliatt at Duke University. It brings together most of the research organizations, governmental servers, world affairs councils, and international agencies into one website. It also has links to international business pages. Gilliatt has screened out sites that duplicate others, making this a good place to start searching for international and global information.
Global Education Sites
Global Studies Group
This page includes general information and resources for world history and global studies. It has links to student projects, curricula, and exhibits related to Columbia University's global studies program. Secondary lesson plans and educational issues related to global studies are also included.
People & the Planet
This is the home page for a British journal and group that stresses an interdisciplinary approach to global issues, particularly those related to environmental degradation. Some of the topics include "Lake Victoria: A Sick Giant" and "Brazil's Urban Laboratory." This site would be very helpful for teachers in a core-curriculum setting combining social studies and science.
Hopkins High School World Studies
Several school districts and individual buildings have information about their global studies program online. This page from Hopkins (MN) High School is one of the best. It describes the World Studies course taken by most juniors as "an interdisciplinary course using ideas and methods from history and the social sciences to examine our world, past and present." By applying the global approach to a world history course, the teachers at Hopkins High provide a model for other schools. The course outline and a description of "The World Studies Challenge" are included.
Global Education in North York
This is the best school-based site for global education. The school system, North York in Ontario, Canada, has developed global education "outcomes" that would be quite useful for schools embarking on a curriculum development program in global education. The site includes a Vision Statement for Action in Global Education that is both thoughtful and concise. Six "Big Ideas" can be downloaded from the site. They include such titles as "Students demonstrate an understanding of interconnections, personal to global," and "Students demonstrate a commitment to participate responsibly in a democratic society."
Global SchoolNet Foundation
The Global SchoolNet Foundation is supported by Microsoft Corporation with additional support from the National Science Foundation, NBC and ABC World News, MCI, and other businesses. It is chock-full of programs and choices including an email network for teachers, a "Where on the Globe is Roger?" student activity, and the Global Schoolhouse Community, where teachers and schools can link with each other for cooperative endeavors.
This is only a selected sampling of the many links that are available to help teachers and students plan, teach, and learn about international and global issues. Almost every website has dozens of links to other resources. The number of those that focus on the global approach is growing rapidly. Log on...explore a bit...and send your suggestions for other websites and/or how to use the information in the classroom to me. Happy surfing!
C. Frederick Risinger, who is Associate Director of Teacher Education and Coordinator of Social Studies Education at Indiana University, Bloomington, warns novice Internet users that web surfing can be addictive. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.