It’s an old cliché, but it is a small world—and getting smaller every day. One of your challenges as an educator is to engage students. Another challenge is to prepare your students to live and work in a highly globalized, interconnected world. Luckily, technology is making it easier than ever to learn about other cultures, follow international news, and build friendships with people around the world.
Here we share three ideas that will inspire you to use technology to engage students and push them to think about the world around them. It’s important that students foster a global mindset as it leads to a better sense of self, increased curiosity, and self-awareness. You are teaching the next generation, and they need to be prepared to understand new perspectives. Try one (or more!) of these ideas or come up with your own. Engage students through methods they already engage with regularly for added benefits.
1. Harness the Power of Music
Starting class by playing a song (or even a music video) from a particular country or region can be a great way to expand students’ cultural horizons while engaging their attention through multimedia.
For instance, a French teacher could consider beginning every class with a song from a prominent French artist. For language learners, this has the added benefit of helping with oral comprehension and pronunciation. To demonstrate the huge range of French dialects spoken around the world, the teacher could specifically showcase selections from musicians who are Cajun, Haitian, Québécois, and so on.
This is a great tool because it doesn’t take very much time or a huge amount of resources, but can go a long way in showing and engaging students in living, breathing culture. Want to try it out for yourself? Here are our tips:
Create prep work for students
Give students the name of the artist and song so they can look it up at home if they are interested.
Have students follow along by providing a visual example to aid learning. In the case of language learners, it may also be appropriate to go over any new vocabulary).
Allow a few moments for discussion
What stood out to students about the song? What was similar/different to the music they like or typically listen to?
2. Try a Digital Exchange
Exchange programs can be hugely enriching for young learners—but it’s not always feasible to take your class on an international trip (as much as we’re sure you’d love to!). However, students can still experience the cultural enrichment and international relationship-building of a physical exchange through digital technology!
Take it to the next level by having them join the class virtually over video messaging.
Here’s how to do it: partner up with a teacher of a similar grade level in a different country—you might be able to find someone through your existing network connections, or you may have to use a website to pair you. Alternatively, you may have to reach out to individual schools (just be cautious and vet any potential exchange partner thoroughly). Once you’ve found your partner class, the fun can begin! Here are some activities you can try during your exchange:
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth…well, a lot. In any case, when you can’t be there in person, a video is the next best thing. Make a video as a class to introduce yourselves to your exchange partners—some ideas to get you started could be things like: what does your school look like? What’s a “typical day” for your class? What do your students like to do for fun?
Trade teachers for a day (or a period). Have your colleague abroad prepare a lesson plan for your class and vice versa and teach it as though you were substituting for their regular class. Take it to the next level by having them join the class virtually over video messaging.
Digital pen pals
Pair your students with a digital pen pal in the other class and encourage them to start messaging through their school email account. A fun twist for language learners: get each student to write their partner in the language they’re learning (ie. an English-speaking student learning Spanish would compose their messages in Spanish and their Spanish-speaking partner would compose their messages in English). That way, they can help each other out with grammar and vocabulary—and hopefully, make a new friend in the process!
3. Get Social
Remember how huge a role Twitter played in putting the events of the Arab Spring into motion? Social media has become a major driving force of political and social movements. Used properly, it can enable older students* to observe landmark political decisions and protests as they happen in real-time. If an international event related to your subject has been dominating newspaper headlines, why not allow your students to take to social media as digital anthropologists to investigate first hand?
Social media can be tricky to navigate so it’s important to ensure you set clear parameters with your students first. Here are some guidelines it might be helpful to keep in mind:
If students aren’t provided with their own device through the school on a 1:1 basis, make sure you are able to borrow enough for your class. (Alternatively, you can allow students to bring in their own devices from home, but you’ll still need to have extras on hand for those who don’t have or don’t wish to bring in their own device.)
To avoid the pitfalls of social media distraction, set a clear objective or question for students to investigate and a time limit to complete it in. Allow time for review and discussion at the end so that students can share their findings.
We hope this article has been helpful in giving you some new ideas for encouraging your students to think and live globally.
All these incredible exercises require lesson plans, it’s important for educators to be prepared when they conduct such activities. Planboard is a FREE digital lesson planner that allows teachers to share their plans with students. Sign up here!
Continue learning about how to use technology in the classroom with Your First Steps in Creating Tech-Savvy Teachers and How to Increase Student Engagement with Technology.
*Note: this exercise is probably not appropriate for elementary school students. Use your discretion when it comes to the maturity of your middle or high school students.
**Note: these exercises can be adopted for blended learning models with small tweaks based on the educator’s discretion.