Globalized Youth Online: Communication, Debate, Solutions

migrants_in_hungary_2015_aug_018

 

The current iteration of my project statement as I begin my work in earnest. The image is of the Hungary-Serbia border, August 2015.

My Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching project seeks to develop global competence through international dialogue between secondary school students and educators about the issues connected to the processes known collectively as globalization. How can secondary-school students in different nations collaborate to address and act on global issues? Together with educators in Finland, I will produce curriculum and a website that may be shared, free of cost, by educators anywhere, with the goal of students from many nations working together around issues related to economic, cultural, and environmental globalization through a web-based platform.

Global communication focusing on globalization itself can foster cross-cultural understanding and new perspectives on trends in politics, economics, and culture. And it will encourage creative thinking about issues that can only be tackled globally, including climate change and worldwide economic inequality. A major goal would be collaboration on scholarship and action by students from multiple nations.

My work in spring 2016 will conclude with the creation of an online platform, capable of adding students from any school with internet access. This website will be called “Globalized Youth Online” (GYO). The site will be divided into two sections. An educators’ section will include thematically organized sections around such topics as economic, cultural, and environmental globalization. There teachers will share ideas for lessons, assignments and projects. Hopefully, teachers will work together to design assignments that bring students in different nations together in meaningful ways. For example, students could be required to interview a teen on a different continent about their experience of cultural globalization/Americanization.

The student face of the website will contain resources on globalization, links to information elsewhere on the web, and ongoing discussion forums. Students will easily access updated news feeds and links to journalism regarding globalization. Other pages will contain moderated discussions of globalization and its ongoing impact on the lives of young people. My hope is that students might use the discussion feature as part of their coursework in a given class, so that dialogue can be encouraged by teachers. The student-facing part of the site will also serve as a nexus for collaborative projects by students in different nations. Using a technology such as Google Chat, students can have simple conversations or work together on projects. I see a great value in, for example, students in my class in the US and student in Finland, working together to understand the consequences of global economic inter-relatedness on the financial crisis of 2008 or the Greek debt crisis.

I have been teaching a senior-level course on globalization for several years. Since the course began, its focus has changed from controversies like the “Battle in Seattle” anti-globalization protests, to the economic crisis of the 2000s, to the rising threat of climate change. In recent years my teaching has pivoted toward looking for useful and helpful responses to global crises—climate change being the most important example—and toward empowering my students to feel they can contribute to bettering their world. As a progressive educator who believes that enabling responsible social action is key to teaching in the social sciences, I have sought new pedagogy to match my goals. This semester, for example, my students are preparing to address the Oregon State Legislature in support of a carbon tax. It is my hope that teachers using my site can help their students move beyond simple conversation or information gathering and into real discussion about how to tackle issues such as climate change and global income inequality.

Work with interested academics and educators in Finland would proceed in three stages. First would come an information-gathering stage on how global studies is practiced in the host country. We would review Finnish scholarship, contact researchers on the topic and those in the public sector pursuing similar goals. During this first to-month period, we would also identify the most appropriate online host: the student newspaper I oversee uses WordPress.com, for example, but we would need to conduct research into other, better platforms.

Second would come approximately two months of gathering and organizing materials with my collaborators—web links, texts, assignments, and projects. We would set up units that could deliver students information on these broad topics, bringing them into debate about them and, finally, offering avenues for socially conscious action. Project-based work would focus on collaboration by students in different countries; creating such projects would be a major focus on this stage. The units will be connected but could also stand alone, for teachers with more limited time to devote to issues related to globalization.

During the third two-month period of the award, we would design the website and look into applications and resources that would make it more accessible and usable. Undoubtedly, we would require technical support. In these final months, we would “test drive” the platform with students in the host country and make improvements based on their feedback. We would also share our research with educators in the host country.

My proposal fits well with Finland’s stated global education strategies. Specifically, my project would complement the Ministry of Education and Culture’s interest in involving youth in global affairs concerning equity and environmental sustainability. Studies such as Liisa Jääskeläinen and Tarja Repo’s report, Schools Reaching Out to a Global World, show the Finnish National Board of Education’s mission to not only make young Finns aware of the broader world but also orient them toward finding workable solutions for the social, economic, and environmental problems of a world marked by inequality.

The Living With Globalization program at the University of Jyväskylä seems like a great fit: the work on globalization there is diverse and practical. Being in the classroom on a daily basis with Finnish students and working directly with a Finnish teacher and other Finns involved in the creation of national curricular goals will offer me the perspectives I need to create a global outlook for the project.

The project will be a success if I can produce a curriculum guide for teachers of globalization studies and establish a working relationship between students at my own school and others in the host country. The website should offer a clearly organized set of units and assignments, designed to address key issues and foster international collaboration. Each unit (free-trade economics or climate change, for example) should offer multiple assignments and action projects that can be shared by students in multiple locations. The materials should be useful to schools from outside the USA and the host country whose teachers are interested in collaborating on study about economic, cultural, and environmental globalization. Hopefully, once curriculum has been set, other students and teachers will take part. Continuous assessment of the materials by educators and students will help me improve the website even after the project is complete. Ultimate success will be measured in the breadth and longevity of collaboration through my platform.

Additionally, a central goal of Globalized Youth Online is to reach students in diverse communities. The cross-cultural communication at the heart of the project is, by nature, digital and students will need access to the internet. Otherwise, there will be no limitation on participation and it would be a top priority to expand the project’s reach to underserved populations. I see a tremendously empowering benefit to low-income and underserved students. They are far less likely to travel abroad; hosting an exchange student may also beyond their reach. GYO will be a place where, by linking classrooms through internet video and chats, underserved students will have a chance to interact with students around the globe. By communicating with students in Finland, for example, students from underserved groups here voices and see outlooks unavailable otherwise. They may see commonalities in their experience and that of young people around the world that they could not have previously imagined.

I will refit my current course, Globalization: Debates and Controversies, when I return from abroad, to be taught in conjunction with my project partners. Global education is a major thrust of my school’s strategic goals as is environmental sustainability. My project will work toward both of these goals. As the faculty advisor to my school’s environmental group, I am currently working with students on climate issues. Climate change being a global issue, this project will allow my students interested in environmentalism to work with like-minded students in Finland and elsewhere.

Dr. Patrick J. Walsh

 

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/ff/Migrants_in_Hungary_2015_Aug_018.jpg
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