[An abridged version of this article appeared in the article "Living the Global Village", Electronic Learning Magazine, May/June, 1994, Pp. 28-29.]
There are important pedagogical, political, social, cultural, and economic reasons why schools should consider telecommunications technologies as learning tools. This article examines a number of these issues.
Since Marshall McLuhan coined the term in the 1960's, few of us have truly understood what the term "global village" means. Most of us have been impressed with CNN's instantaneous global video broadcasting, but the passive medium of television gives few of us the feeling of much involvement beyond our favorite reclining chair. (For an incisive critique of the influence of television on our culture, see Postman, 1985.)
Yet today, growing thousands of children in dozens of countries around the world are living the reality of the global village in personal, hands-on, interactive ways. Through the medium of networking and telecommunications technologies these students are for the first time learning to think of themselves as global citizens, seeing the world, and their place in the World, in ways much different than their parents.
Today's global networks create connections between people which span time and distance in ways the world has never before seen... and with implications which are beginning to have major political, social, and economic implications. (Toffler, 1990)
Since the days of Gutenberg, the publishing of information has been an autocratic enterprise. Time Magazine's" Man of the Year" for 1991 was Ted Turner, founder and owner of CNN, in recognition of CNN's news coverage of global events. Yet the fact of the matter is, the "selection" of that news is dependent upon a tiny handful of executives in Atlanta. In fact, the "information media" boil down to this: a limited cadre (or cabal?) of reporters, writers, publishers, editors, producers, and other arbiters of "news," "good taste" or "political correctness" decide what is "news," what is "important," what is "good for us," and even what is "art" and "entertainment."
In contrast to this managed flow of information, however, the global Internet of networks is giving millions of people direct access to information in ways the world has never before seen. Information of every sort flows freely, across national borders and around the world, directly from "where it's happening" to where there are "inquiring minds who want to know."
For instance, the world was electrified in August 19, 1991 by the coup d'etat in Moscow. For the first time in over a thousand years, Muscovites raised the barricades and defied the powers behind the coup. Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian Republic, issued a decree of defiance, proclaiming the leaders of the coup to be illegal and seizing authority within the Russian Republic from the central government.
Within hours the following message containing Boris Yeltsin's decree, in both transliterated Russian and English translation, flashed around the world, directly to tens of thousands of computers on college campuses, businesses, homes, and schools:
To: NEWS.GENERAL From: email@example.com (Dmitry V. Volodin) Organization: DEMOS, Moscow, USSR Subject: Yeltsin's decree Date: Mon, 19 Aug 91 21:20:13 +0300 (MSD) Please redistribute this as wide as possible the following in stripped Russian and an approximate translation to English. It'll be fine, if this reaches world information agencies. Thank you. Dima ================================================== ukaz PREZIDENTA rOSSIJSKOJ fEDERATIWNOJ sOUIALISTI^ESKOJ RESPUBLIKI pREDPRINQTA POPYTKA GOSUDARSTWENNOGO PEREWOROTA, OTSRANED OT DOLVNOSTI pREZIDENT sssr, QWLQ@]IJSQ wERHOWNYM gLAWNOKOMANDU@] IM wOORUVENNYH sIL sssr. wICE-PREZIDENT sssr, pREMXER-MINISTR sssr, PREDSEDATELX kgb sssr, mINISTRY oBORONY I wNUTRENNIH DEL sssr WO[LI W ANTIKONSTITUCIONNYJ ORGAN, SOWER[IW TEM SAMYM GOSUDARSTWENNOE PRESTUPLENIE. w REZULXTATE \TIH DEJSWTWIJ DEQTELXNOSTX ZAKON NOIZBRANNOJ ISPOLNITELXNOJ WLASTI SO@ZA ssr OKAZALASX PARALIZOWANNOJ. ....lines deleted pREZIDENT rsfsr b.eLXCIN mOSKWA, kREMLX 19 AWGUST 1991 GODA n 61 ================================================== DECREE of the president of the Russian Federative Socialist Republic An attempt of a coup d'etat was taken, the President of the USSR, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Army, was dismissed from this post. The Vice President of the USSR, the Prime Minister of the USSR, Ministers of Defence and Internal Affairs of the USSR formed an unconstitutional body, therefore committing a state crime. As a result of this action the activity of the constitutional executive power of the USSR was paralised. In this situation I decree: 1. Until the emergency Congress of the People's Deputies of the USSR is taken all bodies of the executive power of the USSR, including the KGB, Internal Ministry, Ministry of Defence, acting on the territory of the RSFSR, are taken under the submission of the President of the RSFSR, elected by the people. 2. The KGB of the RSFSR, Internal Ministry of the RSFSR, State Committee of the RSFSR on Defence Problems are prescribed to temporary execute the functions of the corresponding bodies of the USSR on the territory of the RSFSR. All the territory and other bodies of the Internal Ministry, KGB and Defence Ministry on the territory of the RSFSR immediately have to obide decrees and orders of the President of the RSFSR, the Consil of Ministers of the RSFSR, the orders of the the KGB of the RSFSR, the Internal Ministry of the RSFSR, the State Commettee of the RSFSR on Defence Problems. 3. All executive bodies, persons, and citizens of the RSFSR have to take immediate actions to prevent the execution of any decrees and orders of the unconstitutional Commettee on Emergency Situation. Executive persons, obiding orders of this commettee, are dismissed from their posts in accordance with the Constitution of the RSFSR. Bodies of the Procurature of the USSR have to immediately take actions to enforce the criminal law onto this persons. The President of the RSFSR B.Yeltsin Moscow, Kremlin August 19, 1991
This message came directly from Moscow to the people of the World... unfiltered, unedited, without the benefit of selection or "commentary," "interpretation," or embellishment. (This kind of internetworking transmission is substantially different than radio or television broadcasting, which require expensive transmitters: anyone with access to a personal computer and a phone line can accomplish the same thing as our Moscow "correspondent.)
The quality of "news" and information which flows through the global village networks can also be substantially different than what we have come to expect as "news." It becomes more personal and intimate and "real." Read this message which came out of Bosnia during the early days of the troubles there:
Date: November 26, 1991 11:22 Subject: Appeal for Vukovar Translation courtesy of Tomislav ********************************************* Subj: APEL ZA VUKOVAR IZ VUKOVARA !!!!!!!!! ********************************************* How can I start a story of death and desire to live? How can I describe millions of feelings in plain words? How can I concentrate when a packet of death explodes nearby every few minutes? How can I ask for help from someone whose face I cannot even imagine? How can I ask in the name of thousands of people, and whom can I ask, when all the appeals and cries for help to stop this insane bloodshed have been unanswered? Death has become the most important aspect of life in this devastated city. She follows us in every step; she is an integral part of every thought, of every word that is being said. Separated from our wives, mothers, sisters, and brothers; in the constant presence of terrible massacres of our closest friends; deprived from the most basic needs; degraded to the level of the cattle awaiting to be slaughtered we live in damp cellars with no electricity, running water, toothpaste, soap, diapers for the babies; with no hope of resting even for a moment, because dreams on improvised beds are only the horrible repetitions of the cruel reality. Can anyone who has not experienced even a little piece of Vukovar's reality understand the bitter feeling in every single one of us? Can anyone explain to him/herself and accept us as savage reality that maybe tommorow they will not see their families anymore? In our twisted world there are no lies. There is only one truth; the truth about life. Life in Vukovar today is the fight for every doorstep, for the remains of our hopes, of a town that in the morning mist resembles the site of a Hollywood horror movie. We are not asking for charity, we are only asking for life with basic human decency. We are asking for a chance for our children to have their children. How would the West react if 2,000 of their children were confined to damp cellars with a threat of imminent death for everyone who dares to go out; with only one skimpy meal a day and uncertainty of how long such state will persist? Can you imagine something like that in London, Paris, Washington, Berlin, Vienna? We may be separated by thousands of miles, but are our hearts separated that much? Let us bring negotiators to Vukovar! Let anyone come up with a single argument for the war when surrounded by dying babies! Let us gather all the children that have lost their parents, whose chance to walk side by side with their fathers and mothers has forever been lost. No institution will ever be able to replace the care of the parents. Vukovar is not just a bunch of shattered buildings; it is a live organism that breathes. Vukovar has got its own bloodstream, its life that is being taken away from it. Its flesh is being torn apart; its bones are being broken. And while the city is defending itself in a spasm, it is being attacked by people to whom it represents only a point on the map. This message is directed to all of those who love life; to all those who can appreciate the little things that make life; to all those who have ever seen a smile of a baby; to all of those who still care... STOP THE WAR IN CROATIA, GIVE VUKOVAR A CHANCE!
Information of all types circulates on "the net." NASA scientists, aviation professionals and hobbyists, biologists mapping the human genome, Semitic and Middle Eastern Scholars studying the Dead Sea Scrolls, musicians, dissident Chinese refugees... and teachers and their students... can all be found on line, along with the information generated by their research and activities. The implications for schools are profound.
When teachers and their students are "connected" to the world, teaching and learning strategies change. The "world" becomes an indispensable curriculum resource. When students communicate with people in distant and foreign places they begin to understand, appreciate, and respect cultural, political, environmental, geographic, and linguistic similarities and differences. Their view of the world and their place in the world changes. When teachers use their international connections as a learning medium,
Consider this simple project announcement ("call for collaboration") from a teacher in the U.S. Virgin Islands:
To: SCHL.CALL.IDEAS From: QJOE@VIRGINI.CERF.FRED.ORG Date: Feb 6, 1992 13:07 Subject: Virgin Islands Geography Project This simple geography project should suit a teacher in your building. Please circulate this call for collaboration among your geography-teaching colleagues. Hello from the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean! My name is Joe Quain and I'm looking for 5 (five) classes from various countries and the U.S. to participate in a simple Geo/Cultural project with my middle school (ages 12- 14) geography class located on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Email Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Length of Project - 2 weeks Description of project ---------------------- At the beginning of this project you will receive two essays created by my students in the Virgin Islands. One essay will describe the physical geography of our Caribbean island and the other class essay will contain a description of our island's culture. Two weeks after you receive these essays, you will send back two similar essays about your geography and culture, using our essays as models. These essays will also be forwarded to the other participating sites. Virgin Islands students will then compile this information and give oral reports. We will video tape these reports and send you a copy of the video tape (in USA VHS format). Objectives of project --------------------- (1) Each class learns about their own geography and culture and transmits this knowledge to real audiences (2) Students become better communicators (3) Students conduct collaborative research culminating in the final video tape (4) Students compare and contrasts each site's essays. REGISTRATION ------------ Send email as soon as possible to Joe Quain at: email@example.com Include your full name, voice phone number, school, district, city, country, and mailing address. Please include your grade and subject area. If more than five schools reply, I will select five classes which represent an interesting geographical and cultural diversity. I will notify all schools by February 21 regarding their selection. Time Line --------- February 21 - Five sites chosen for project are notified on Email February 24 - Virgin Islands Essays sent to participating sites. March 9 - Five remote sites send Physical Geography class essay to the Virgin Islands. March 16 - Five remote sites send Cultural description class essay to the Virgin Islands. March 30 - Video sent to five remote locations. Essay Details ------------- Physical Geography Essay - Your students will collect information regarding your own physical geography, and write a descriptive essay not to exceed 3-4 pages. This description should include information pertaining to the relief of the country or state. All significant land forms (mountains, plateaus, coastal plains, unusual features) and water bodies (important rivers, lakes, coast lines) should be described (both physically as well as utilization (economic, recreation, tourism)). The longitude and latitude should also be noted. Some information with how the physical land has influenced the history and development of your region should also be included. Cultural Geography - Topics of essay can include What is germane and unique about your culture? food/preparation housing music art schools religions political system dress transportation employment positions or status of children, adults, and senior citizens What are the essential cultural elements that give your locale its distinct flavor? This essay may well be longer than the first (3-6 pages). Your students can use the models prepared by my students as a guideline for the essay which they write. -------------------------------------------------------- To contact project coordinator Joe Quain, send mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Within two weeks after announcing this project, Joe had over 40 replies. He selected eight sites to join him in this project:
Joe reported that this project not only accomplished his objectives in studying geography and global cultures, it also engaged and motivated his students. He also reported an unexpected dividend: his student's grammar and overall writing skills dramatically improved as they corresponded with students who spoke English as a second language and sought to "coach" them in improving their English.
The lingua franca of email and computer conferencing (electronic text) is the written word. Although the input device (keyboard) is new, the mode of expression (written language) is thousands of years old. In today's "reach out and touch someone" age, millions of people who would never put pen to paper to write a letter will spend evenings writing to dozens of people through their online connections. Electronic mail has given new life and new meaning to a profoundly traditional form of communication. Telecomputing may in fact be the last frontier of written literacy available which will incite students to traditional literacy skills. The process writing movement has had an important impact on the way that writing is taught in schools across the nation. Researchers such as Donald Graves (1983), Donald Murray (1985), and Lucy Calkins (1986), and such programs as the Bay Area and National Writing Projects all agree on the importance of audience: give children a sympathetic audience, something of value to write about, and help them to find their voice, and they will become eager writers.
Telecomputing offers an efficient, effective means of finding and using many interesting and varied audiences for the exchange of various student activities. Furthermore, the activities can be embedded in other content areas, such as science, math, geography, history, current events, and other topics... providing an ideal environment to facilitate what is becoming known as "project-enhanced" learning (Ruopp, 1993). Joe Quain's geography project was successful because his students were engaged in activities which had rational, meaningful goals that made sense to them. Their research, writing, and communicating was directed at a specific audience with a specific purpose in mind. This illustrates a simple but powerful example of "project-enhanced" learning. According to at least one study, the effect of this kind of approach to learning is significant. Cohen and Riel (1989) concluded that when students write for a distant audience of their peers,
We also have abundant anecdotal reports from teachers who testify to the effects of collaborative projects on student learning:
This letter we received from a teacher in Rhode Island regarding one of our FrEdMail projects illustrates this point:
Ppath: bonita2!nsutherl From: email@example.com ) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: letter of thanks from 3rd graders at Newport, RI FrEd, The following letter was written by 3rd graders at Underwood School in Newport, RI.... The Geogame provided a GREAT example of what types of learning experiences exist on the INternet for kids. A footnote to the letter was written by the teacher of this class. I think her closing statement summarizes the feelings of all of us who participated in the Geogame. Thanks again to you for all of your good work !! ;-) Forwarded message: ======================================================= From: mmmmmm Subject: using computer connection To: oooooooBrown.Edu Date: Fri, 22 May 92 15:48:05 EDT Dear ooooo, We are writing to tell you that we really enjoyed the computer connection to Brown. We had a great time and couldn't wait to work on it every day. We learned so many things like different things about our country and Europe. We also learned about latitude and stuff like that. We used big maps, road atlases, social studies books, P.C.USA program, childrens atlas', encyclopedias, wall maps and our brains. Roger, who is a sp. ed. student that worked with us on Geogame says that it made him feel like we're the smartest kids in the whole world!! It was so much more fun than just using our books and maps and it was neat to get mail from other classes each day. We are now in the process of writing to the other schools across the country and Europe that we played Geogame with. We're learning so much from each other. We got to know one class so well that we invited them to our school so that we can meet each other and have lunch together. Please let us do this again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you so much for letting use the computer connection! From the great third grade at Underwood School!!!!! ======================================================= Dear oooo, The children in my class compiled the letter above in their own words and typed it to you on the computer. I think you can hear their enthusiasm in their words. What I wanted to share with you though is, that if you were able to see the enthusiasm, the cooperative learning and the growth in these children during the weeks that we used your connection, there would be no question that this type of program should be accessable to every classroom. I have a wonderful group of children that love school and love learning but I have never seen the level of motivation in them as I did in the use of this service. I can't thank you and the people at Brown, enough for your patience in teaching us how to get "on line" and for allowing us access to such an exciting program. You helped us to do great things in educating our students. If there is anything that you can do to continue a program of this nature in the future, please don't hesitate. If anyone has a hesitation, just tell them to come to our room and see first hand the positive learning experience that this has been. Thank you for everything. You've done more than you know! sincerely, nnnnn gr. 3, Underwood School
Similar stories about student involvement and achievement percolate through the online networks:
There is no question that curriculum will change as more and more schools join the net. Students who have the opportunities described here have already begun to make their own paradigm shifts regarding their place in the world, and how to relate to it. As the global market economy grows, these students as adults will have advantages in their experience and mindset over those who were isolated to their own classrooms and communities.
The only question left, then, is when will you join the Global Village?