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 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 are three ideas to inspire you to use technology to foster a more globally-minded classroom. Try one (or more!) our or come up with your own.

 

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 students 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 

Provide lyrics: 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:

 

Introductory video: 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?

Teacher swap: 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(...)used properly(...)can enable older students to observe landmark political decisions and protests as they happen in real time.

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:

 

Devices: 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.)

Create Objectives: 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. What are you doing to broaden your students’ international horizons? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

*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.

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