Educator Development, Global Education, International Teachers

How Can Education Technology Help Build Global Understanding?

By Clemencia Cardona, a former ambassador teacher with Participate Learning originally from Colombia.

I am a teacher who entered the teaching field more than 20 years ago in a South American country. Technology was not something that we used a lot in education as an instructional tool. Instead, chalk, blackboards and a lot of worksheets were the main tools in kindergarten classrooms.

Then, constructivism, a theory that argues people form their own understanding of things based on experiences and reflections, started influencing schools and gave instructors a better approach to identify what kindergarteners could explore and learn based on their prior knowledge. At this point, schools started allowing kindergarteners to attend computer labs once a week. They could play games that were installed on the computer, since there was no Internet yet, and there was only one TV room to watch videos and one resource room with maps and globes.

My kindergarteners could hear about other countries and languages spoken around the world, but everything was presented to them in books and pictures. There were no real time, real connections with other people. There were no virtual tours. Global education was simply not included in the instructional vocabulary of any curriculum in my country 20 years ago. However, English was and still is a mandatory language to learn at school. Learning a second language was very important to success, but it was the most “global” concept in education back then.

Later, the Internet made its triumphant entry, but the impact was only on the computers in the computer lab. There were no computers for students in the classroom, no SmartBoards, no smart tables or Promethean boards.

Once I became an ambassador teacher with Participate Learning, my perspective of technology use in the classroom changed dramatically. I had the opportunity to learn how to use technological tools. There were at least two computers in each classroom for my students to use.

My lessons began to have other components – real global components. And I do not mean only in language (I was placed in a Spanish immersion program). I am more than proud of being a foreign teacher and being able to bring my country into my classroom. Now I can use Skype for my students to speak with children from Spanish speaking countries without paying a penny for it.

Through simple activities like Skype conversations, my students realize that all of what they are learning in the classroom in a second language makes sense, and is real. They realize that there are other children around the world who communicate by using the target language, which was Spanish in our case. And they want more! They want to “visit” other countries every day. They are proud of being Hispanic, American or whatever their heritage is, but the most important thing is that they have learned that there is a huge world out there, waiting for them to make it better.

Teachers like me, who were not trained in technology in college, are facing more challenges than those who were. But if teaching is our real calling, we should open our minds, take risks and bring into our classrooms the technology that we consider the best of the best for our students’ progress.

Learn more about teaching in a cultural exchange classroom.