Global Connections

Marshall McLuhan did not have computer-based technology specifically in mind when he proclaimed that media had heralded in an era he termed the “global village.” Nonetheless, computers and television have both contributed to this sense of global connectedness. In this column, both videotapes and computer software that elementary teachers can use to help students comprehend the sense that we do, indeed, live in a “global village” will be highlighted.

Global Data At Your Fingertips

Using Hypercard stacks to create an interactive atlas of the world and its resources, the World Game Institute offers Global Recall 2.0 (The World Game Institute, University City Science Center, 3508 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104). For those unfamiliar with Hypercard, it is a software program designed for the Macintosh computer that allows for the storage and easy retrieval of data and visual images. For example, picture the continent of Europe appearing on your monitor. By pointing and clicking the mouse on the location of France, a button will be activated (not visible to the user in this case) that brings forth a new screen showing France. Appearing on this map of France are icons, such as a small tank representing the military or a satellite dish representing communications. Pointing and clicking on these icons (which in this case are visible buttons) opens a box displaying a plethora of related data.

This latest version of Global Recall begins with a screen that has three buttons; each represents a section of the program that can be explored. The first button opens up the entire original version of Global Recall. This first section, titled Maps and Data, contains over 200 scaled maps displaying the world, individual continents, and countries. There are eight broad categories of information that appear as icons on these map screens: population, agriculture and food, energy, communications, military, economics, transportation, environment, and background information. By clicking on any icon, a screen with relevant data appears. For example, activating the agriculture icon allows one to scroll through a screen that contains data on major agricultural products, total food production, calories, cereal production, meat production, and more, for any country that has been identified. In addition to these maps and data, dot density maps are available that provide distributions of important information such as population, military expenditure, and energy production or consumption.

A second button on the main screen opens a different section called Global Problems. There are three major categories of problems: environmental concerns, human needs, and economic concerns. Each of these is further subdivided into specific problems which are presented as interactive essays. Each essay explains the basic issue, its roots, and the implications of any solutions. It also has a section which informs the reader about individual actions that can be taken to address a particular problem as well as resources for further reading and a list of organizations dedicated to solving the problems.

The final button accesses the section titled Global Solutions Lab. A tutorial is provided for this section which is a bit more complicated. This section is further divided into three workstations: vision, resources, and strategy. The vision workstation is essentially a paint palette that also includes several icons representing social elements such as leisure (a piano), education (some kids and a teacher), and energy (a lightening bolt). These icons can be placed on a map to visually convey the user’s ideas for creating a balance of resources for any specific region. One has to choose icons carefully since they are converted into numbers as part of the budget exercises in the resources workstation of the Global Solutions Lab. In the resources workstation, you are given a region and its percentage of access to particular resources. You can allocate resources from your region to a problem area, but the resources are interconnected and you may affect the level of access to different resources. The strategy workstation poses a series of questions to which the user responds by typing in a few sentences. All work done at any one of the three workstations in the Global Solutions Lab can be saved and submitted to the World Game Institute as part of an ongoing tournament.

• Strengths — One unique feature of this particular program is the world view map which uses Buckminister Fuller’s Dymaxion projection. This projection represents the earth as a twenty-sided polyhedron thus reducing the distortion found in other projections. This is referred to as the funny map by the program’s authors, and they cite reasons for using this projection in the documentation. A more conventional projection is used for most of the map screens.
The documentation for Global Recall 2.0 contains eight chapters that describe how it operates and offers tips for users. It contains many activities and lesson ideas to be used with the Maps and Data section of the program. There are additional activities and lesson ideas for the other two sections as well. The documentation also contains an extensive bibliography that lists the sources for the data used.

The World Game Institute sponsors an ongoing tournament to which classrooms can submit saved versions of their work in the Global Solutions Lab. Noteworthy solutions are then redistributed twice a year when registered owners of Global Recall 2.0 receive an updated version of the program. This updated version will contain the above mentioned tournament winning solutions as well as current data and new essays in the Global Problems section. In addition, the screens from Global Recall 2.0 can be printed and distributed to students as handouts.

• Concerns — The program is better suited to upper elementary or middle school level students. I think they would enjoy the Maps and Data and Global Solutions Lab sections more than the Global Problems. The reading level in this latter section is, perhaps, too advanced for elementary-aged students. Regardless of the section used, a teacher will have to provide sufficient guidance in teaching the students how to navigate through the program. It can take several hours to become familiar enough with Global Recall 2.0 to introduce it to a class, but it is well worth the time spent.

When a map of any particular country selected is depicted, the neighboring countries are not, they are only named. Thus, the student views a country surrounded by only the names of the bordering countries. This decontextualization of a country does not promote the relational dimension of the first theme of geography — location. Rich mental maps of a region cannot be developed when one can only see one country at a time.

Because the data sets accompanying the maps are so vast, a great deal of memory (six megabytes) is used. On slower machines particularly, the program takes a bit of time to process and organize information. This could become a classroom management problem for a teacher who has not thought about dealing with this processing time.

Videos of Legends from Around the World
and the Lives of Children in Different Lands

Two series of videotapes are produced by Films for the Humanities & Sciences that can be used to help students appreciate global connections (Films for the Humanities & Sciences: P.O. Box 2053; Princeton, NJ 08543-2053). The videos in both series each run approximately 25 minutes and are an excellent resource for the elementary classroom.

Folktales and Legends from Around the World presents the native folktales of nine different countries ranging from Nova Scotia to Mali (some countries have two folktales). The programs are narrated in English but were all produced on location in the country of origin. I previewed Juan the Idle which is a folktale from Venezuela that pits a newly arrived teacher filled with self-importance against the village idler. The teacher tries to persuade the reluctant village leaders to adopt a course of progress and modernization, and in the process, tries unsuccessfully to trick Juan into working.

Growing Up Young is the title of the other series produced by Films for the Humanities & Sciences. It depicts a glimpse of the lives of children in other lands. Also filmed on location, these videotapes are visually powerful views of how children spend time in cultures as diverse as Greece, Cameroon, and Venezuela. Tasks to which they must attend and unique characteristics of the culture with regard to children are the content of the English narrative. For example, Cameroon: Little Mothers of the Bush portrays a typical day of two little girls, aged 9 and 7, who belong to the Falli tribe of Northern Cameroon. It is the obligation of the little girls to care for the infants in the family while the older women work in the fields. The little girls also help grind the grain and assist with cooking. What is unique about this tribe is the rapid physical development of the children in comparison with that of other cultures — they have nearly a full set of teeth at five months and walk by themselves a month later!

• Strengths — Both of these series are filmed on location which gives students an excellent opportunity to observe what life looks like in other cultures. Students can make comparisons of characteristics such as housing, transportation, and pace of life. For example, Juan the Idle is set in a remote village where the teacher arrives on a bicycle with most of his belongings packed on his back. Cameroon: Little Mothers of the Bush is even more primitive. The house is really a two-room hut and the women must walk a couple of miles to the fields for their day’s work.

Comparisons of family life can be made, particularly with the Growing Up Young series. For example, the Falli are Muslim and a man may have several wives. In this particular family there are four wives. In the video Children of the Infidels, which depicts village life among the Kalash of Afghanistan, the men and women have clearly and strictly defined roles. A twelve-year-old boy, Balboucher, has been responsible for the tribe’s sheep since he was six. Of greater interest is the fact that he has been betrothed to one of two sisters in the village, and he will soon marry, although he fancies the other sister.

The Folktales and Legends from Around the World series provides opportunities for moral education as students consider the actions of the characters in the story. For example, in Juan the Idle, the value of work can be examined along with the teacher’s attitude of self-importance.

• Concerns — The discussion of values, issues, and cross-cultural comparisons are left strictly to the teacher’s initiative; there are no accompanying teacher guides for either of these series. Thus, teachers will have to develop questions and strategies to promote meaningful learning. Teachers will also have to address how to prevent students from developing stereotypes about other cultures: Not all citizens of Venezuela are lazy nor do they all live in remote villages without modern conveniences.

Students would benefit from some preparation before viewing each video. Vocabulary terms such as prefecture and betrothal would have to be clarified, and since the women in Little Mother of the Bush are bare-breasted, students should understand that in other cultures this is considered the norm.


The media described above provides opportunities to help students develop knowledge about other cultures and appreciate the similarities and differences among various cultures. Ethnocentric attitudes prohibit students from developing a healthy global perspective. As the above illustrates, elementary social studies teachers can use instructional media as a powerful tool to combat this tendency to believe that one’s own culture is superior to other cultures.

About the Author
Joseph A. Braun, Jr. is Professor of Elementary Social Studies on the faculty of Curriculum and Instruction at Illinois State University, Normal, IL.