Friday, April 24, 2009

International Ed: How Teachers and Principals Can Get Involved

Just a few years ago, it might have been unusual for a third-grade classroom in the small town of Fortville, Indiana to include students from another country. Today it’s not unusual at all—in fact, families from a variety of cultures, speaking 226 different native languages, are now an important and growing part of Indiana schools.

In KDP’s continuing interview with Caterina Cregor Blitzer, Director of International Education for the Indiana Department of Education, said that international education isn’t just something “out there” that needs to be considered eventually; rather, “it’s in our backyard and on our main street and in our schools.” What used to be an unusual experience—meeting face to face with someone from another culture—is now an everyday event. That’s why a compelling aspect of the International Education message is that “international education starts at home.” Parents, grandparents, schools, churches, communities, businesses, and civic groups all have a share in creating a sense of welcome, an aura of hospitality, for international families.

Indiana attracts many international families because of the reasonable cost of living, the variety of industry, and the quality of life, and this creates new considerations for teachers in the classroom. In order to provide a quality education for each child, educators must be able to understand, relate, teach, and assess the learning of international students. Creating an atmosphere of international learning in the classroom requires educators to expand their own horizons beyond just learning the simple basics of day-to-day communication. When teachers and administrations travel, experiencing for themselves what it means to be “global citizens,” they return with changed perspectives and rich experiences that bring the world--naturally and organically--into the classroom as they teach.

Part of Ms. Blitzer’s role as Director of International Education in Indiana involves developing partnerships to help facilitate these kinds of international experiences for educators. Because educating for a global economy is a vital part of creating a vibrant, highly skilled workforce, the best businesses in the state share a passion for International Education and want to hire employees with true 21st century skills that include knowledge of world regions, skill in communicating using world languages, and experience in working respectfully with people from other cultures. Through multiple collaborative projects, International Education helps educators take advantage of opportunities to travel abroad, studying and teaching in different cultures.

Many Indiana schools are already participating in international school-to-school partnerships with schools in China, France, Germany, Spain, and Taiwan. These partnerships provide great opportunities for schools in different cultures to develop real relationships that build over time. The relationships might begin with simple e-mail correspondence between students and teachers and then move to shared classroom projects and videoconferences. As the relationship develops, opportunities for hosting and traveling—for students, teachers, and administrators—can develop between the partnering schools.

To find out more about International Education on a national level, visit the U.S. Department of Education International Affairs Office site. For more about International Education, International Exchange and School-to-school Partnership opportunities available to Indiana school communities, see the DOE international education site: http://www.doe.in.gov/internationaleducation/. The Indiana Education Goes Global: 2009 Guide to International Education and Exchange for Indiana Schools will be available online upon publication.

Next segment: The Future of International Education

2 comments:

Kim said...

I do not work this on as grand a scale as the district mentioned :-) However, I DO support international education and diversity in the classroom.

I began tutoring a special needs child, Nabeel (12 yr old), who lives in Dubai, U.A.E. in February '09. We work from home via web conferencing, with full video, audio, whiteboard, and file sharing capabilities.

Nabeel has a medical issue that allows almost normal reading and comprehension skills, but prevent logic and reasoning from occuring. Although I have not assessed him on them, his reading and language arts skills appear to be at about a late 3rd or early 4th grade level.

I was asked to tutor him in math, as a supplement to his home schooling curriculum. His math assessment placed him at an early K level. I knew then that we had a LOT of work to do!

When we began in February, this student could not sequence patterns or numbers - a basic Kindergarten task. Asking him to identify sets or add/subtract was beyond his realm of understanding.

Now, only 3 months later, he is accurately counting to 50 or more, sequencing small groups of numbers with and without a number line, and filling in the missing numbers or shapes in a pattern (AB, ABC, AAB, and ABCD).

In March, Nabeel visited my 4th grade ESE class via my laptop and a projector (and the help and support of my IT person and administration). I prepared my class for this during the previous week by finding Dubai on a map, explaining the culture, and explainging his disability at a level they could understand.

Nabeel's dad did the same at the other end, and all the students were a bit shy... but only for the first 10 minutes! The rest of the hour was wonderful, watching them interact on tasks and enjoy each other.

He visited us again in April, for a presentation on Native Americans, and he gave a terriffic PowerPoint show on the Creek Tribe for my students. My class in turn presented their projects for him to see. It was great!

Nabeel's progress has been AMAZING to say the least! In fact, his parents were so impressed, that I now also tutor his older brother Aamir (14 yrs old) 3 times a week, who is working at a solid 5th grade level, but is missing some of the basics he needs to move on.

Technology does have its glitches, but for the most part the experience has been well worth it. I will try to post again soon with some tips and tricks learned along the way.

Please ... if you have the ability and the support of your school to try something like this, JUST DO IT! It will be an experience your students will remember forever, and as such, definitely something they will learn from.

Best wishes!

Katherine Bolman, D.Ed said...

I think what you are doing if wonderful. Technology is really able to change our knowledge of people and places. I admire what your class is learning.
I no longer teach in the classroom and would like to tell you about my work. I am creating an online art history course. ahaafoundation.org is growing and I would like all of you to use and enjoy it. Please send me comments, even typo comments, just let me know you are using the site. I will continue to add micro lessons.
Katherine Bolman, PhD