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: 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

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Global Education: Starting Where We Are

Today, in the United States and around the world, interacting with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives is more the rule than the exception. As Caterina Cregor Blitzer, Director of International Education for the Indiana State Department of Education said in a recent interview with Kappa Delta Pi, “The world is here!”

Ms. Blitzer brings personal experience in global citizenship to her role at the Indiana DOE. Born in Italy, Ms. Blitzer discovered that her parents, her village (“in the broadest sense of the term”), and then her new home of New York all helped create just the right atmosphere for her to learn what it means to be American, first and foremost, and Italian American as well. During her 10-year span as the Executive Director of the International Center of Indianapolis, Ms. Blitzer often worked with individuals from Indiana industry who were about to embark on opportunities abroad—and she realized how rare it was for people to have had any kind of educational preparation for global fluency. “I began to wonder what experience they might have had in K-12 to set the stage and help prepare them,” she said. “And that triggered in me a desire to be a cultural and communication bridge, to work to foster understanding and bring the benefits that are available through global competencies.”

When Indiana created the Directorship for International Education, the state became one of only 10 in the nation to have a position solely dedicated to global education. The goals for International Education at the state level involve creating and supporting opportunities for Indiana educators and students to expand their global competency in a variety of ways—through creative school partnerships, international exchange programs (for teachers and students), and by providing comprehensive resources that help make it all possible.

Ms. Blitzer brings a whole-system approach to her view of international education and seeks not only to provide information and involvement opportunities for educators, but also to facilitate the links and funding that make the opportunities possible. She believes the time is right for increased awareness and investment in global education. Because of the priorities of the new U.S. administration, she says, “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to articulate goals on par with the best countries in the world.” Developing global competencies is more important—and more possible—than ever before, and preparing our students with 21st Century Skills means new models for international education are needed through the entire K-12 spectrum.

Working in partnership with a number of organizations and funders, which includes support from the Longview Foundation, the Asia Society, and local partners, the International Education division of the Indiana DOE is able to provide public forums and workshops on global education. In addition, a grant from the Longview Foundation made possible the soon-to-be-released Indiana Education Goes Global, a resource guide for schools that provides model programs, best practices, and other resources for international education and exchange. (We will post a link to the guide as soon as it is available.)

Next segment: How Teachers and Principals Can Get involved

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Focus on International Education

As an international honor society, Kappa Delta Pi cares about educators all over the world. We are working actively to grow our membership internationally, and we envision a world in which teachers and students on every continent share the vision and value of a world working together peacefully for the betterment of all.

In recent months, KDP’s international initiatives have been receiving a lot of attention! For several months, we have been working to establish a partnership with the United Nations (more about this in an upcoming post). Here is an update on our international efforts:

  • KDP signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Taipei in Taiwan. This year we will have a new international chapter at the Taipei Municipal University of Education. Welcome new KDP members!

  • Faye Snodgress, Executive Director of KDP, recently attended the Teaching Human Rights: Global to Local conference at the Carter Center in Atlanta, GA, in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  • We have a new International Initiatives section on our recently redesigned Web site, where educational organizations outside the United States can review the benefits, requirements, guidelines, and process for starting an international KDP chapter.

  • KDP has a new International Initiative Ad Hoc committee, chaired by Dr. Nathan Bond (Texas State University) and including Dr. Mary Clement (Berry College), Dr. Charles Webber (University of Calgary) , and Dr. Gouli Liang (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater) as committee members.

  • The Educational Forum, KDP’s scholarly, doubly masked peer-reviewed journal, is receiving more international submissions than ever before, with recent articles from authors in Australia, Malaya, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Sweden, and Turkey.

Over the course of the next few weeks, you will see a number of posts from an interview with Caterina Cregor Blitzer, Director of International Education for the Indiana Department of Education. Indiana is one of 10 states in the United States to have a state-level focus dedicated to growing and supporting international education initiatives, and we are pleased to be able to provide some insight into what’s happening at the state level in global education. As Ms. Cregor Blitzer so aptly said in the interview, “The world is here!”

Please explore our international resources on the KDP site and check back for the first installment of the three-part interview coming soon!

We would also love to hear what your state, district, school, or class is doing to increase global awareness and cultural fluency! Click Comments below to add your thoughts, or come to the KDP Discussion Board and join this thread!