Global Education and the
World Wide Web
C. Frederick Risinger
About 20 years ago, Lee and Charlotte Anderson, two leaders in the nascent field of global education, directed the development of a K-6 social studies textbook series titled Windows on Our World. Based on the concept that each of us holds multiple citizenshipsóin the family, community, state, nation, and even as a citizen of the worldóthe series was praised by many social studies educators, but proved a commercial flop. Too many teachers, administrators, and school boards were not ready to abandon the ìPilgrims in Novemberî and ìPresidents in Februaryî approach to elementary social studies. Besides, the concept of global education was under attack by those who saw it as a threat to U.S. sovereignty and an attempt to push the nation into a world government controlled by the United Nations.
How times have changed! The term ìinterdependence,î at one time denounced as anti-American, is used daily by economists, politicians, and business leaders. Policymakers now call on the nationís schools to prepare students for participation in the ìglobal economy.î State and local curriculum leaders are returning to Robert Hanveyís oft-quoted essay, An Attainable Global Perspective, for guidance in designing courses that help students see the world through multiple perspectives and understand the need to make choices in light of global issues. The day after I complete this column, I leave for Tokyo to attend a symposium sponsored by the Japanese Association of Civic Education, where social studies educators from more than a dozen countries will discuss the concept of global citizenship. The Andersons and their publisher, Houghton Mifflin, were far ahead of their time.
Global education and the Internet have ìgrown upî together. Much of the criticism directed at global education was related to Cold War policies and fears. The Internet was originally developed to link government-supported researchers, many of them working on defense projects. Todayís new realities are providing advocates of global education with much broader societal support, and have made the Internet a tool of rapidly growing importance for the social studies. The ease with which students and teachers can obtain information about other nations, international trade, and global issues makes the pairing of global education and the Internet both natural and effective.
A simple search for ìglobal educationî on the AltaVista search engine (my personal favorite) produced 9,799 ìhits.î Many of these are either college courses or websites established by organizations working in the areas of conflict resolution, cross-cultural awareness, and interdependence. You will have no difficulty in finding those most useful to classroom teachers or curriculum designers. Since most websites provide excellent links to related sites, going to one of them will set you up for an hour or more of enjoyable and educational surfing. Here are a few recommended sites that I keep in my global education bookmarks file.
A Global Educatorís Guide to the Internet
Robert Coulson, a teacher at Bayside Middle School in Victoria, British Columbia, developed this site as part of his Masterís project at the University of Victoria. An excellent section, ìWhat Is a Global Perspective?,î provides a solid rationale for global education and discusses the role of the Internet and telecommunications in global education. The links page offers a carefully selected list of 20 other related websites. One of the most useful parts of the site is titled ìGlobal Educational Projects Using the Internet.î It includes several activities designed for middle and secondary students, and an outstanding guide to publishing student work on the Internet, the ìStep by Step Guide from Conception to Implementation.î
The Global SchoolNet
The Global SchoolNet and its project, The Global Schoolhouse, has been around since 1984, making it a pioneer in using the Internet as a global education resource. It works with teachers, students, community organizations, and businesses to establish collaborative projects designed to enhance global awareness and cross-cultural understanding. It has a wonderful web ìtutorialî for teachers, students, or parents who are novices in surfing the Net. K-12 students participate in a ìStudent Ambassadorî
program where they work with other students in cooperative projects, such as a yearbook. Microsoft has added its formidable resources to the Global SchoolNet in a focused effort to bring the very best educational resources to the extended learning community.
Choices for the 21st Century Education Project
This site produces materials that help teachers bridge the gap between traditional courses such as U.S. history and government and global education. A program of the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Institute for International Studies at Brown University, it provides excellent classroom publications for secondary students, and professional development institutes for teachers. The student publications include multiple perspectives on important global issues, and can help students to clarify their own views. Such topics as ìGlobal Environmental Problems: Implications for U.S. Policyî and ìU.S. Trade Policy: Competing in a Global Economyî can be used to integrate global issues into more traditional courses.
World Wise Schools
This is part of the Peace Corps website and has a tremendous array of resources for both students and teachers. Teachers can arrange for a speaker to visit their classroom, set up class correspondence with a current Peace Corps volunteer, and order teacher guides and free videos about other nations. Students can read letters from volunteers, and view pictures of volunteers and children from all parts of the world. The site has links to country fact files maintained by the U.S. State Department, as well as direct links to over a hundred nations.
UNICEF Voices of Youth
This is a great site for both teachers and students at all grade levels. There is a worldwide photography contest, a ìteacherís placeî where teachers can discuss global education and online learning, and a ìmeeting placeî where students can read what other young people think about issues such as children and work, children and war, and childrenís rights. Students are encouraged to add their own opinions to the online discussion. v
C. Frederick Risinger is coordinator of social studies and director of professional development, school services, and summer sessions at the Indiana University-Bloomington School of Education. He is a former president of National Council for the Social Studies.