Local, Global, or Glocal?
I've been struggling a lot with the concept of classrooms and schools collaborating and connecting globally. In fact, the question "is networking and collaborating outside of school central or supplementary" was raised at Educon and I was instantly immersed into an internal battle over my position. What I've realized is that I am not really debating whether or not we should immerse our classrooms globally; instead, I'm struggling with the starting point for establishing a global classroom and school.
When in the classroom, my focus was on leveraging the power of a global audience. We opened our wired discussions to other schools. We blogged to the outside world. We leapt at every opportunity to connect and collaborate with the outside world. Sadly, I look back and realize that the primary reason it couldn't sustain itself was the lack of a school climate and culture that was supportive of the systemic acceptance of school as a learning community.
Today, my interest is in creating sustained, systemic changes where every classroom is empowered for the 21st Century, not the proliferation of isolated classrooms and small pockets of change that are based more on the individual teacher than the culture as a whole. While I understand the excitement about collaborating and networking outside of the school as well as the need, I find it just as important if not even more important to discuss what is happening within the culture of the school itself: is it a collaborative environment? is it a learning environment? is networking occurring? is literacy a focus in all classrooms?
Thus, my answer to the question about networking and collaborating outside of school is that we need to "Think Globally, Act Locally". In other words, my focus is on being Glocal: 'starting from within the local community and spreading globally (Hicks).
Leverage Local Connections
At the classroom level, a great starting point is bridging gaps between your own classrooms. If you teach three sections of the same subject such as Chemistry, are your classes collaborating and connecting or are these functioning as isolated sections? By creating an environment where all your sections are collaborating, communicating, and connecting, the collective knowledge is widening and students are beginning to experience a community of practice within the school.
From there, this type of learning environment can expand to others teaching the same subject (or grade level for k-8) so that it is now about a collective approach to American Literature not just each American Literature teacher functioning in isolation. Through discussion forums, wikis, webcasts, and live broadcasts, the framework for collaboration becomes relatively simple yet the importance of creating such an environment is a critical step for learning for students and adults: "educators who are building a professional learning community recognize that they must work together to achieve their collective purpose of learning for all. Therefore, they create structures to promote a collaborative culture" (Dufour, 2005, p.36).
It doesn't stop there. As the students and teachers become immersed in a learning community, the skills in collaborating, communicating, and connecting continue to grow so that the community, network, and audience can expand its boundaries across departments, sister schools, and onward to a truly global classroom. The key, however, is that the environment is allowed to grow naturally and the foundation of such a learning community that much stronger where students are able to scaffold their skills and teachers are able to best understand how to leverage participatory media and the global audience:
There are those kids -- just like there are those teachers -- who will take to the idea of writing to an unknown audience and seeing what happens. But hoping and wishing for the serendipitous moment makes for bad teacher planning, and over the long haul I think it won't get the vast majority of our students publishing their voices to the world. If we want to see kids embrace the power of communication technologies like blogs and wikis and podcasts, we need to be good teacher-planners. We need to give them reasons to publish. We need to help them see their audience... whether it is using a blogging platform for and art classroom exhibition that other students will critique or bringing in a group of math majors from a college to work with our math students, kids need to understand why they should share their work with the world, and then -- once they do -- we allow for all the serendipitous moments that so many of us in the edu-blog world have benefited from to occur (Lehmann)
An Example Worth Discussing
Blogging is a perfect example of what I'm discussing here. Right now, there are a lot of isolated blogs within schools where students are blogging for a specific course and that is it. When the student leaves that teacher, the blogging essentially ends unless the student chooses to continue writing. In theory, the blog has a global audience but even in cases where this is true, the length of time students have with the blog is too short in most cases. While these educators and students are undoubtedly doing wonderful things, the question of sustainability and systemic change raise questions about the long term impact of such endeavors.
What if students were given a learning space as soon as they entered the school, including a blog space, and this was used
across courses and grade levels? In other words, the student owns their space and grows with them -- a sort of blogging across the curriculum. By creating such a space, the process could be scaffolded where early grades are learning what it means to engage in transformative blogging and beginning the process of creating their network locally while thinking globally. Here is an rough example of what this might look like within a high school:
9th Grade: all students receive their learning space; students begin blogging in a central space with a focus on learning the process with an audience of their peers
10th Grade: students begin to expand their network to the entire school; the concept of connecting and communicating with a wider audience begins to form as students continue to build their skills.
11th Grade: The network continues to expand and reach out to a wider audience in an organic way. Students understand what transformative blogging represents and what it means to write for a local and global audience
12th Grade: The hope is that students have reached a point where blogging is a natural part of their personal and professional learning environment. Students are writing in a natural and fluid environment that will sustain itself long past formal schooling
While very rough and by no means perfect, this is the type of environment I believe allows for the perfect blend of local and global so that 21st Century skills are not only taught but learned and that a learning community is built from within in order "to promote the qualities and dispositions of insatiable, lifelong learning in every member of the school community -- young people and adults alike -- so that when the school experience concludes, learning will not" (Barth).
The Ripple Effect
Many of us are excited about Global possibilities but sometimes at the expense of local. As Christian Long recently stated in his blog, "perhaps whether there is something to be said for NOT going global just because we can, especially if it serves our kids better in the process. Maybe we need to talk about concentric circles of local scale first. And global pitches second." If the belief is that all classrooms should be collaborating and connecting with the outside world, we need to develop learning community within our own walls before moving outside to a global community. Systemic change is difficult when it come from a few exceptional teachers -- pebbles tossed into the lake. It comes from the entire school functioning as a learning community and creating a powerful ripple effect that rocks the whole lake and branches the community out organically.
So, is it global, local, or glocal? I'm thinking Glocal*!
Barth, R. (2007). Turning Book Burners into Lifelong Learners. Published in Educational Leadership 2nd Edition. Wiley & Sons.
Boyd, D. (2005). Why Web 2.0 Matters: Preparing for Glocalization.
Dufour, R. (2005). What is a Professional Learning Community? National Educational Services.
Hicks, D. (n/a). Towards a glocal language curriculum: 2000 and beyond. Cambridge University Press.
Lehmann, C. (2007). When to Publish.
Long, C. (2007). The Global vs. Local Connection.
*Glocal has a number of definitions and uses that I'm obviously not employing here. Basically, my point is that we need to think both globally and locally, so the term, in this context, is just the merging of the two terms.