The Global Classroom: ISTE Reflections

It’s the second full day at ISTE 2012. This morning, we were privileged to hear Dr. Yong Zhao speak (video embedded below). There is much to reflect on from his talk, but one idea I am thinking about right now is what it means for educators to be connected to the global community.

Zhao shared data and observations of educational systems around the world. He spoke about their struggles and successes. He showed us charts comparing test scores of the most developed countries. And he compared measures of confidence, creativity, and entrepreneurship among students in those countries. What he revealed with this data was an irony: Western countries (like the U.S.) are striving to achieve high standardized test scores in order to compete with Asian countries, yet at the same time, Asian countries are looking to reform their education systems to compete with the creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship coming out of U.S. schools.

The “I” in ISTE stands for “international,” and as I sit in sessions shoulder-to-shoulder with educators from Australia, Hong Kong, Mexico, and elsewhere, I am struck by how our shared passions have drawn us into a community together. We all want what’s best for kids, and we are doing all we can to figure out what that is. Educational policy in the U.S. communicates the idea that we need to approach education more like China or India does if we want our students to succeed. But what does that even mean? Who is defining “success?” Maybe what we need is to engage in more conversations with our colleagues around the world. Share our practice and learn from each other. Of course, nothing is this simple. But I do think U.S. educators can benefit from stepping back to look at the global perspective. I appreciate Zhao and ISTE for giving me that opportunity. 

Embedded here is Yong Zhao’s ISTE 2012 keynote. The video below will start at 53:45, the beginning of Zhao’s keynote. I’m off to another session.