Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Ultimate Web

A web is made up of interconnected strands. The strands are somewhat strong on their own, but together they are capable of much more. For example, if one strand breaks, the others can bear the extra stress for a while until it is repaired. If several strands are broken, though, the entire web is at risk.

Source: geograph

This giant rock, Earth, and all the people sitting on it make up the ultimate web.  Although the Internet, the other "web", is a big part of what connects us, it is really just a part of the greater global web. Other strands that make up our global web include food supply, environmental health, trade and economics, and energy. In order for our global web to remain strong, all people on Earth need access to all of these things and more.
Source: Global Energy Network Institute
If our students are to grow into adults who can understand and contribute to the strength of the global web, we must be sure that they are global citizens who have a firm grasp of the concept of the interconnectedness of the web.

Global Citizenship  

A global citizen has the following qualities:
  • an understanding of basic definitions of all elements that make up the global web (i.e. food supply, energy, environmental health, communication, transportation, etc.);
  • the ability to explain how each of the elements influences the others;
  • the desire to learn about and gain an appreciation for cultures, religions, traditions, and languages that are unfamiliar;
  • the perseverance needed to make meaningful change that starts small but has the potential to grow into large scale systems that are better than the ones currently in place.
This video from The Story of Stuff really inspired me to craft my definition of global citizenship in this way.

I like how The Story of Stuff makes a distinction between "more" and "better". This is an important lesson that we need to teach our children and to remind ourselves about now and then.

Global Interconnectedness

Since global citizens are aware of the web and all its elements, they are able to see the connections and interdependence that is a part of this "Ultimate Web".  This interconnectedness has both benefits and drawbacks.

The greatest opportunity this presents is quick, even instant, access to information. There are so many ways for a person to gain an education as a result of the interconnected web.  This education can be formal and traditional in a classroom while forming relationships with classmates and teachers in a brick and mortar school. At the same time, it is supplemented with more information relationships created through social networks and media.  We are educated about causes and have the opportunity to donate to them through websites like GoFundMe. At the same time, we are able to check for the legitimacy of these causes and other instantly available information through resources like FactCheck and Snopes.  The most notable recent example of instant information making a real impact is the social media grassroots effort that caused the Arab Spring to bubble over starting in 2011.  I know that my education and world view is more global than my parents' generation, and I often wonder if man-made political borders will hold much meaning at all to my own children as they navigate toward adulthood.

The greatest obstacle we have to overcome in this interconnected world is grappling with the reality that we have very little privacy and that any decision we make about our own lives will have an impact on many others. We can no longer make arguments like "it's my life" and "it's my body" when making big life-changing choices.  I'm not saying that we have lost the right to free choice and free will.  I'm just saying that our decisions have a broader impact than just ourselves and our families. As OxFam suggests, we should go through at least a basic 3 step process in the graphic below since our connections with the global community, that "Ultimate Web" will be affected.  This is true of governments, corporations, international treaty organizations, and any other group with power.
Source: OxFam


Educator Responsibility

We, the educators, need to teach our students about the "Ultimate Web" and all of the elements that make it up. A great way to illustrate this is through some of the free lessons available at Facing the Future.  If you scroll down to the Free Previews area, my favorite is Lesson 4: Making Global Connections.

Then we need to teach them about all of the potential perspectives on each element. Depending on one's life experience, economic standing, access to resources, and social mindset a particular global issue might take on a different meaning.  A very simple activity to help children understand the concept of perspective from the Ohio Department of Education can be found at CRETE Conflict Resolution Education. The activity is quick and effective - a great ice breaker.

The next step is to encourage them to work through that 3 step process from OxFam so that they can be true global citizens with the motivation to create change.  Among the many rich resources from the Primary Source Global Education Online Resource Guide, my favorite for promoting student action is YouThink!. It is a blog where young activists can share their ideas and experiences as change-makers.  Rather than pushing our students toward causes that we are passionate about, which has a certain value, these blog entries show how real people like our students took an idea and turned it into action. My hope would be to inspire my students to develop their own passions and turn them into actions.

If we want our students to make positive change in a world that is really the "Ultimate Web", we need to teach them what the web is made of, how their decisions have an impact on the integrity of the web, and what they can do to make it stronger.

Note: This post was inspired by coursework from Primary Source, Inc.