13 March 2021

Why do we need global education and digital citizenship?

Even as far back as 1988, Elise Boulding stated that to point of global education is to “create a peaceful, interdependent world which would be a good place for people to live”. Idealistically, this is what we all want - however, having worked in five different international schools, and having experienced global education in four different countries, the “tensions between the national and the global, as well as between unity and diversity, remain highly relevant in today’s increasingly globalized world” (Ho, 2009). Finding this balance, of retaining identity and culture whilst at the same time promoting tolerance and peace, is exactly the point, to me, of what a global education means, echoed by Global Education for Canadians (2017), which recognises that “relationships with emerging countries are becoming increasingly important” for a successful future.

If the global workforce is increasingly dependent on technology (Adams, 2002; Karkouti, 2016) and the point of education is to ready the next generation for employment, schools must consider the impact that digital competencies will have on their level of readiness for the world of work in a global society. If we are to create a successful global society, we must acknowledge the diversity of cultures and the coexistence of different civilizations within our one world (UNESCO, 2011). Tapio Varis (2011) states that during the end of “the 20th century and early years of the 21st century, digital technologies and the new media (ICT) have come to occupy the epicentre of our lives” suggesting that they are, therefore, “a key factor in this specific civilizing stage” of our evolution and asks whether we should replace “the term ‘Digital Age’” with “multicultural world?” (UNESCO, 2011). Whilst it is true that technology-enhanced learning appears to have become the new acceptable global term - and the emphasis should be on 'enhanced', we have to use technology as a tool that allows us to deliver more effective, personalised, interactive, relevant globally-aware learning. Even with the advent of technology, "the future will never be without teachers" but instead, our roles will change; technology will allow teaching and learning to be "more effective" and will allow educators to become "enablers and supporters" rather than "lecturers and controllers". I would argue that it already has - this change should already have happened. In twenty years, we will be, should be, way beyond this. In so far as the suggestion that educators will never be replaced; I think this is a bigger area of debate. If we simply use technology to deliver the same curriculum of content-based knowledge, I believe we could very easily be replaced.

Issues preventing this move included Westernisation and particularly, language: in Qatar, it is hard for schools to move towards this truly global education because, despite it being the fifth most commonly spoken language in the world, only three percent of Internet content is Arabic, (ictQATAR, 2015). In addition, a lack of Arabic-based educational technology tools represents a major challenge for Public School teachers who are trying to integrate technology into their instruction (Karkouti, 2016). In addition, much of the world is still governed by traditional religion, meaning their educational policies present a “mismatch between traditional and modern education” (Bahgat, 1999), in some part, due to “cultural and religious norms that define all facets of people’s lives” (Breslin & Jones, 2010; Romanowski & Nasser, 2012; Rostron, 2009).

The point about technology is that it should shift our practises; it is not about delivering the same stuff but using a computer. It means a paradigm mind-shift into skills that enable learners to be successful in a global world; it enables personalised learning based on spontaneous teachable moments, it means a strong relationship between learner and educator - which is what keeps the 'human' necessary. The fact that elearning courses strive for more 'human experiences' and more face-to-face meetings means we still have a desire to communicate with a human being. Digital citizenship is actually about how to communicate with other people, with all kinds of people, with technology; it is a whole new way of communicating that technology has allowed us and as educators, we need to think about how to use it to create a global workforce that is tolerant and ready for the future.

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