Saturday, November 26, 2016

Reflecting on a Global Education Conference Presentation

The final task in my Using Digital and Social Media in Education class is a global collaboration project that I will create myself. In order to build a successful and viable global collaboration project, I need to learn about global collaboration as it relates to education. To do this, I have been asked to watch a recording from the 2016 Global Education Conference and reflect on what I have learned and how this might assist me in my project. For today's post, I will reflect on the recording I watched, Preparation for Teaching in a Global Classroom by Heather MacCleoud. (In order to access this presentation, I had to create an account and log in at the Global Education Conference website; it was free, in case you'd like to watch the presentation yourself!)

A screenshot I took of MacCleoud's presentation video; I watched this for my assignment.

First, the presenter spoke about diversity in the classroom today, particularly in the United States. She discussed topics like the increasing amount of multiculturalism in the classroom; how the minorities are becoming the majority; the unique situations of English language learners, immigrants, and refugees, and how these populations are more often represented in our classrooms today than they have been in the past; and the increasing global interconnectedness of our students. I personally liked MacCleoud's slide that discussed just a few of the many cultural identities that may differ amongst our students (language, religion, race, political affiliation, life experience, learning modalities, etc.) and her message that regardless of the teacher's personal culture, we need to be sure that we are welcoming students of all types in our classrooms.

Next, the MacCleoud discussed preparing teachers for our culturally diverse and interconnected world. She listed four features of cultural learning: it's developmental, transformative, takes time, and requires a safe environment. One idea that struck a chord with me was when MacCleoud said that preservice and current teachers all come to the classroom with varying levels of background experiences learning about and interacting with people of different cultures, and so do our students; therefore, everyone has to meet each other where they're at in order to support each other and facilitate learning. She admitted that it can be difficult and a little intimidating, but we have to take the time and put in the effort to make these learning experiences possible not only for ourselves, but for our students.

MacCleoud then examined the three dimensions of cultural and global learning: understanding of cultural and global contexts, integration of cultural and global perspectives in the classroom, and responsiveness to the influence of culture on teaching and learning. She defined understanding of cultural and global contexts as understanding "knowledge of the plurality of cultural practices present within human societies, and engagement with global issues." For integration of cultural and global perspectives, MacCleoud discussed ways of critically examining and questioning the perspectives that are present in the classroom and finding additional ways to include people of all backgrounds in the curriculum. Lastly, for the responsiveness dimension, the presenter said that we must remember that we as teachers are cultural beings ourselves, our students have their own cultural backgrounds, and together we have to pay attention to the ways that different cultural identities influence teaching and learning.

Image used with permission from Free Press/Free Press Action Fund on flickr

In order to increase one's cultural learning, MacCleoud identified a list of steps. First, the person or class has to take part in some sort of assessment to determine their current level of cultural learning; there are a number of existing assessments that would allow someone to do this. Next, the learner should reflect upon that assessment and determine if there are life experiences or influential people who have impacted his or her cultural learning. Next, cultural learners should take part in guided discussion, bringing up their own cultural competencies and areas of improvement with others who are similar AND different from them in order to learn. Based on that guided discussion, some sort of action should be planned, whether on an individual or group level. For example, in my RA staff this year, we discussed how many of us use the phrase "you guys," which can be exclusive to people who identify as female. We took it upon ourselves to try to consciously stop using that phrase as well as hold each other accountable and call it out when we hear each other say it. Throughout this period of planned action, the learner(s) should be reflecting on the experience and making changes to the action as necessary. Lastly, assessment should be taken to determine what progress has been made in one's cultural learning. At the end of the presentation, MacCleoud mentioned some resources and programs that people could get involved with in order to foster and support their cultural learning.

I really enjoyed this presentation and felt that it was not only applicable to the classroom, but also to daily life. There are very few places in this world where no diversity exists; we all have different background experiences to bring to the table. Therefore, it is essential that we become culturally educated and continue building our cultural understandings. In terms of my project, I think working collaboratively with a student from around the globe is a wasted opportunity if culture and experience are not incorporated into the activity. If I simply want my students to collaborate, I could ask them to work with partners within the classroom and forget the effort that it takes to set up a global collaboration project. However, the project that I want to bring to my students includes the opportunity to get to know someone who is different from them. Talking with another student about his or her different background will increase both partners' cultural learning. And in order to facilitate this, I need to be open to continuing to become more culturally literate as an educator as well.

Do you have any particular ideas for incorporating cultural learning into your own classroom or global collaboration project? Or have you fostered activities that include cultural learning? Please share about it in the comments!

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