Edu Spotlight: Vicki Davis on Global Education

With the increased connectivity that globalization brings to schools, students are forming global concepts from a very young age. Today, the buncee team is thrilled to bring you a discussion on global education with the one and only Vicki Davis of CoolCatTeacher!

Vicki Davis is a teacherpreneur from Camilla, Georgia and is one of education’s most influential thought leaders. Her site, coolcatteacher, is an invaluable resource for thousands of educators across the world, and is proof of her passion and dedication to education! Follow her on Twitter, check out her books: Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds and Reinventing Writing, and dive into the wonderful mindset of Vicki Davis!

For your convenience, questions are italicized in red. Vicki Davis’ answers follow.

Chris – At a young age, your grandmother took you on a trip in order to expand your global perception. How do you think that experience affected you as a student, and how do you think a global consciousness affects students in general?

Vicki – In my first book, “Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds,” I wrote about this subject based on a global project I did with my class 9 years ago. We were lucky enough to partner with a school in Bangladesh. About a week and a half into the project, I had several students rush to my desk and say,

“Ms. Vicki, we need to talk. The people in Bangladesh are great, and they’re Muslim… The news media only reports the bad side of Islam. They are ignoring the rest of the Muslim community! It’s true, you really can’t judge a book by its cover.”

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Within a week and a half, my students were already critically thinking about worldly perspectives and the news media. Years later, we had a researcher come in to evaluate the effect of this kind of global learning. He found that students are less ethnocentric after connecting on a global project, even in a short period of time. Whether it was PenPals or co-creation, in which kids create with someone not in their physical space, the students’ world views transformed. They discovered that Earth is filled with amazing, interesting people who hold individual value. What’s more important, though, is that these life lessons extend beyond school education and help students decode life.

Chris – That’s especially interesting as there seems to be a consensus that students are media literate, as they engage with tech and media more than any previous generation. Yet in reality, they need other worldly experiences to help navigate media.

Vicki– Exactly, this is something I like to call, “technopersonal skills.” We all know interpersonal skills and intrapersonal skills, right? Intrapersonal skills relate to connecting to yourself and interpersonal skills relate to connecting with others. Technopersonal skills provide a new outlet in which both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills are met through technology.

In other words, students are using media, but they are really interrelating.

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ChrisHow do you recommend teachers translate these global experiences to the classroom, especially when global education may not necessarily be a required standard?

Vicki – Well, for those who follow the ISTE Standards, they do draw attention to global audiences under their Digital Citizenship standard. However, in my second book, Reinventing Writing, I share a report that suggests if you want to improve writing or any type of student work, understanding your audience is key. In a sense, it’s about community. When you build a community, people will listen. Without translating the importance of global education and critically thinking about your audience, you can’t have that.

Chris – That’s very true. We did a project here at buncee called Buncee Buddies, in which several classes from across the world shared buncees about their holiday traditions, and we found that students really took the time to think about their audiences. They not only shared their holiday traditions, but since they threw themselves into the projects with audio recordings, they made sure their audiences enjoyed their creations no matter the location.

Vicki – Students are the greatest textbooks ever written for each other, and we need to help them connect in meaningful ways. They will make up their own minds, but we can put together a masterful symphony of global collaboration which will help students fall in love with the fact that there are amazing people all over the world!

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Chris – A masterful symphony of global collaboration… I love that! Yet, there is another aspect to this, too. Tech and global connectivity are native to this new generation. How do you suggest teachers adapt to their students’ new, native perceptions of the world?

Vicki – Students are definitely different in various ways! I used to teach computer science and I found that, more and more, students are less proficient with computers than previous generations; yet, they’re wizards with mobile phones. Over the last 15 years so many things that have changed, but there are some timeless things that remain true.

First, ‘you cannot multitask’. When everything is organized and my class is paying attention, I  find that I don’t have to talk as much. I am not constantly repeating myself or desperately trying to emphasize my message. I literally put on a timer and give myself a 1-minute challenge. The key is flow. In these tech-filled days, teachers need to be even more diligent with how they interact with their students to really nail down this organized rhythm.

Another technique I find extremely important is student-teacher interaction. Kids are so used to texting, they need a social wake-up call, of sorts. I pull something called, “working the room.” When the kids strut in before class starts, I literally talk to every child. I ask simple things like “how are you doing,” “what did you learn today,” “are there any issues,” etc. About 4 weeks ago, I had an empty chair, and as the students walked in I could feel something awry. I asked “where is so and so today,” and they said,

“Ms. Vicki, she was in a wreck coming to school, and we don’t know what is happening to her.”

My lesson plan for the day was Desktop publishing, but we pushed that to another day and created messages for the student in the hospital. I still met my objectives, but the kids saw that I cared. Sometimes, how I respond to an empty seat is just as, or more, important than how I respond to a full seat. Kids need to know that they matter. When you have a relationship, you can learn and grow.

These are oldfashioned values that any educator can implement in any classroom. However, it’s even more necessary to focus on these methods with all the modern tech and distraction. Speaking to that, I think the underlying note here is the innovative educator. With an innovative educator, anything is possible… These are the teachers you’re working with at buncee, for example. The pioneers of edtech! In the end, it’s about your mindset – It’s about you as a teacher.

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Chris – It’s amazing to see these engaged, motivated, and passionate educators. As edtech is booming, how do you recommend teachers find the right tools to encourage global education? 

Vicki – I have a very simple strategy of innovation. It is called, “innovate like a turtle!” I even have this turtle on my desk, named Kaizen, which means “slow steady improvement,” in Japanese. Progress doesn’t need to happen all at once! You can take your time to cultivate it and learn from your experiences.

Personally, I am always thinking about the 3 things I am going to learn next. I take 15 minutes 2-3 times a week to explore and do new things. This year, I am leveling up and taking one online class every month. We should all try to learn something new, so our students can view us as learners. They need to see that comradery of struggle and failure. This process also helps teachers empathize with their students. Empathy is important, as it allows teachers to implement the right tools in the right ways. If I dabble with a tool that is too hard for me to learn, why am I going to pass that on to my students? I really only implement 1 out of every 5 tools, yet every teacher is different. I choose my tools hoping that it will help my students to think in non-linear ways, as buncee does. I aim to teach my students how to learn, not what to learn.

Chris – Thank you so much for chatting with us! We can’t wait to see what you do next!

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