While there are many reasons why Global Education has been so slow to develop, most fall into one of three categories: Too much work for teachers, inadequate learning outcomes for students, and lack of support from administrators.
Many teachers have put in hours of work to overcome these logistical hurdles only to be underwhelmed by the learning outcomes for their students. I’ve spoken with hundreds of teachers who have struggled to get more than a few outgoing students involved in a class-to-class videoconference, or spent hours setting up a pen pal exchange only to be disappointed by non-responsive partners. Because of the difficulty in setting up a successful exchange, Global Education frequently means learning about the world, not engaging with it. And even when efforts seem successful, it’s hard to measure how well these experiences actually impact student learning.
PenPal Schools addresses the first two problems - too much work for too little learning. Teachers can connect with dozens of classrooms around the world in minutes, and every student is guided through collaborative projects proven to deliver substantial learning outcomes. However, the third problem - lack of administrator support - requires not just new tools, but a shift in mindset. Some might argue that schools need to change to accommodate Global Ed through increased budget and professional development. But this is unrealistic. While some charter, private and IB schools can prioritize Global Ed, most schools are under too much pressure to meet basic objectives like reading, writing, or even just attendance to worry about Global Education.
Instead of expecting schools to shift towards Global Ed, we need Global Education to meet the pressing needs of schools. At PenPal Schools, we’re doing this by ensuring that our global collaborative projects are as effective for learning traditional content and skills as they are for exploring new places and ideas. All lessons are aligned to academic standards and designed to improve a range of skills - from reading and writing, to digital literacy and social & emotional abilities. The global connection is not the only goal. PenPals provide accountability and authenticity to get students engaged in learning the skills that educators have been focused on for decades.
Global Education has been slow to catch on, and there is little indication that schools will soon make it a priority. Instead of competing for resources, we need to forget about the idea of Global Ed, and work towards a model where all education is global. Global Education is dead. Long live Global Education!
About the Author
Joe Troyen is the founder of PenPal Schools, an organization that connects over 150,000 students from more than 170 countries to learn together. Before starting PenPal Schools Joe worked for 5 years designing software for Education and other industries, taught English in Spain, and researched the effectiveness of after-school programs in the Bronx. He holds a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Pomona College and is passionate about connecting learners and expanding educational opportunities around the world.