Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Local, Global and Digital

In my role as Tech Coordinator I meet with grade level teams once every 8 days.  Over the past few sessions we have been looking at the NETS-T rubrics and self-assessing where we feel we are as individual teachers, as grade levels and as a school.  When I first introduced these rubrics to our teachers I talked with them about how the ISTE standards for teachers have changed dramatically over the past 10 years, and yet reading through the first chapter of Jason Ohler's book Digital Community, Digital Citizen made me realize that there are really only 6 words that appear in the 2008 standards for the first time:  creativity and innovation (for both teachers and students), digital, citizenship, culture and global.  Ohler writes:
We must help students participate as a citizen of local, global and digital communities simultaneously ... issues of ethics, social perspectives, and community participation occur within three community domains: local, global and digital.  Education must participate in all three.
Reading onto the second chapter of the book, and thinking about terms like digital citizenship and global citizenship, it's clear that today geography plays only a small part in determining the communities of which we are a part.  Local, global and digital in fact overlap in many ways and as educators it is our  job to help students understand them and be able to participate in them effectively.  The local community could well be the school - the people who can communicate with each other face to face.  It could include the students in a class, in the school as a whole, the families of those students, and even people in the neighbourhood where the school is located.  Often it's important for students to understand the impact of something locally in order for them to consider the impact of the issue globally.  Ohler writes:
We live on a very interconnected but culturally diverse planet ... addressing issues, opportunities and problems that cross political and cultural boundaries will require building new kinds of social bridges.
Digital communities may be global, but often they feel very local because we are in these communities by choice, common needs and curiosities.  Ohler points out that social media makes us part of a digital community that actually feels "local" and helps us appreciate issues that are affecting people in the global community.  Although we are geographically very distant and may in fact never have met the people in our digital communities, we have an emotional and intellectual connection with them that is very real.

How can teachers help students to be active members in local, global and digital communities?  Ohler calls on teachers to "help students connect their personal networks to global realities that are personally meaningful and academically important" in the following ways:

  • Deepening the time spent on the global web - developing a deeper understanding of the world
  • Connecting with others in a global context
  • Inquiring into global issues
  • Promoting local connections 
  • Focusing on what is unique as well as what is universal
Today I was reflecting on my own connections and how these can add perspective to issues that are affecting the world today.  Locally, I work with someone who was once part of the Gaza peacekeeping force.  Globally I am in contact through Facebook with an ex-student who has just finished his military service in the Israeli army and who may well be called upon to take military action against Gaza.  Digitally I am connected through the Google Teacher Academy with a teacher who lives on a kibbutz just 2 kms away from the Gaza border.  More than anything I could read online, any report I could watch on the news, the personal connections with these three members of my various communities help me to understand the issue facing the region today.

Photo Credit:  In The Beginning by Bill Gracey, 2002 AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works

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