A Few Basic Thoughts About Global Citizenship

I got really excited at the beginning of this month when I was looking at my referers section of my WordPress edublog (being obsessional) and saw a wiki link that I didn't recognise. I followed that link and ended up on a page set up by Wesley Fryer who seemed to be organising an International Skypecast on the topic of global citizenship. That sounds interesting, I thought, until I scrolled down and saw my name as one of the listed participants! That sent me scrambling to check my gmail account (it's the official e-mail contact for this site) to find the e-mail invitation from Wesley there. He recommended that potential participants listen to a podcast of a keynote presented by Dr. Michael Byers outlining and defining the concept of global citizenship, which I dutifully did and it was a lot harder going than I would have anticipated. I mean, I'm no university genius and my tertiary qualifications are my basic teaching diploma (although I have plenty of informal learning and expertise up my sleeve) but I enjoyed the mental stimulation of grappling with an unfamiliar concept. Now the skypecast hasn't happened yet even though Wesley's plans seemed to include getting off to a fast start. Hopefully, it can be rescheduled soon - I'm still keen to be involved even if I bring the least expertise to the table (IMHO). So, to emphasize my preparedness, I've had a go at answering the five prepared focus questions Wesley left on the wiki. Anyone who wants to redirect me or give me guidance, your comments are very welcome.

1. What does or should "global citizenship" mean in the educational setting where you teach or work?
Currently, I don't think it means a lot. Personally, I had to do a bit of thinking to get a deeper understanding of the concept as defined by Dr. Michael Byers. To me, he is talking about a worldwide sense of social justice where to be a global citizen, one needs to be an advocate for the needy, for those who are not even aware of the connected world. Being a primary school based teacher, I am unsure how this definition of global citizenship blends into what we do in terms of awareness raising or participation. Some beginning points that we have on my own site are a bilingual program that demonstrates the values of being multilingual and aware of other cultures / nationalities, activities like the 40 hour famine fundraiser for our middle school kids and cultural celebrations like Multicultural Week, Mediterranean Day and German Day. For me personally, the global component has become important in the development of ideas and professional conversations with educators across the world via my blog. I have become aware of issues and initiatives that stretch well beyond my own personal teaching experiences and built on my own experiences and ideas as an active "global citizen". As far as being a "global citizen" in the sense that Dr. Michael Byers was describing, I probably fall short because my participation is primarily based on self-interest, self improvement, widening opportunities for my students and not really for nobler purposes.

2. What types of classroom activities should students and teachers engage in to promote conceptions of global citizenship?
One classroom activity that shows promise is the Wikiville project where students from all around the world can post information about their part of the world, read about others and their information and participate in a growing awareness of the wider global community. At the Marc Prensky seminar, he described the possible use of Google Earth as a tool in a problem solving exercise that documents how a relief effort could be organised for a remote area in need (tsunami relief, earth quake in South America etc.)

3. What role should activism and advocacy play in the classroom of the 21st century, as they relate to global citizenship?
At the primary school level, awareness raising is probably the main focus because of the maturity level of the students involved. I would need to converse more with other educators to really get my head around the possibilities - there are probably heaps of opportunities for primary aged students but I don't feel confident that my ideas are ready for airing in this public forum.

4. What barriers or challenges exist and need to be addressed to advance an agenda of global citizenship in classrooms?
There are a few barriers including an already crowded curriculum that has very broad outcomes relating to global collaboration and participation in global communities, teachers (and education systems) who think only in local terms, traditional media outlets that are used frequently by students that don't cover issues of inequity and social justice well (or at all) and very different interpretations of the term, "global citizen".

5. How can the agenda of global citizenship be best advanced across the world?
International skypecasts (just kidding), but using two way web media like blogging and podcasting to highlight the issues raised by "global citizenship", provide links to further reading and providing a voice to those members of Planet Earth on the wrong side of the digital divide. Then if every edublogger takes up and strives to do one related activity or unit of work with their class or students and share it with their colleagues, then momentum will build. Whether the initial skypecast Wesley proposed goes ahead or not, my awareness has been raised on the topic - if you read this post, your awareness has been raised and so on and so on.

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2 thoughts on “A Few Basic Thoughts About Global Citizenship

  1. james matthew


    A great and timely post. Our school has just added a component for ‘global citizenship’ to the newly mandated graduation portfolio that every BC student (starting next year) will have to complete and present in order to graduate.

    The term is a great one, but as you suggest, implementation in a real classroom setting is a slippery fish. Case in point: the idea of incorporating ‘global citizenship’ as a portfolio aspect was brought up in a staff meeting to much approval, yet our staff room is regularly stocked with cheap, not fairly traded coffee. Second point: our school (a private school) has recently adopted a gym strip policy, which I believe will be put into practice this fall. This occured shortly after we had a speaker in our chapel speak on very real exampels of how we can be ‘global citizens’ in terms of where we spend our money. Hey hit hard on sweatshop labour and unfair trade…
    Our school’s gym strip (which will be bought to the tune of thousands of dollars initially, then continue to be bought with each new student entering the secondary school – ie every transitioning class…), yeah, probably sweatshop made clothing. The problem here is that we often espouse or voice approval of a topic like being a good ‘global citizen,’ but we aren’t modelling it as a staff, and as a school….I have attempted to lobby for sweat free gym strip, but the ‘deal’ was already in the works with the supplier, so I was told it was too bad. I continue to lobby for fairly traded coffee in our staffroom…and it is there sometimes.
    My beef is seeing on the one hand high ideals (which are great…I think we need to try to work to better our world and the conditions of others…), but then daily practices that negate any kind of ‘charity’ or ‘globally minded education’ we do.
    I am sounding self righteous here…I want you to know that this is a process for me…I still have lots of clothing in my wardrobe that was probably made by exploiting workers, but I am working on finding alternatives, and I have been drinking fairly traded coffee for years.

    Sorry for the rant, Graham, but I wanted to agree with your idea that teaching global citizenship in practical ways is very elusive in an already curriculum and standard choked environment. I see tremendous opportunities in language arts and social studies (in certain grades, perhaps…) for providing students with ways to learn more about the world and issues within it, but I also see an institutional divide (in my case, and sadly, this probably translates into other school settings as well…) between our teaching and our own policies and practices…

    A tough one.

    Thank you for your remarks on this issue…

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