“In ten minutes or less, students can enter someone else’s world, through a film or photo essay, and live their experience. That is a beautiful thing.” – Cleary Vaughan-Lee (Education Director, Global Oneness Project)
Technology is occupying an increasingly pervasive role in the world of education by expanding the immediacy and personalization of student contact with the rest of the world. Within the field of education, this has sparked huge debates pertaining to student experience in traditional and online classrooms. One of the most often discussed resolution to this problem is blended learning, which combines traditional face-to-face instruction with web-based online learning.
The Global Oneness Project is one of the several online resources for educators using blended learning in their classrooms. This project uses short documentary films and photo essays to create lesson plans which explore “cultural, social, and environmental issues with a humanistic lens.” According to Vaughan-Lee, “students today are strongly influenced by visual media. [The project] is a great opportunity to meet them there, in this digital landscape.” In line with this, each month Vaughan-Lee and her team launch a “story of the month” along with lesson plans (to be used primarily in U.S. classrooms).
November’s video (posted above) is about the daily routine of a 14-year-old boy, Amar, from Jamshedpur, Eastern India. The video follows Amar as he juggles his two jobs with school. The key objective highlighted in the accompanying lesson plan is to demonstrate that “[c]hildren across the globe share similarities in their daily lives despite differences in cultures, religions, and locations.”
Is Blended Learning the Future of Global Education?
The simple answer according to Chris Berdik is yes. For him, technologies “can seamlessly make classrooms that much bigger” by allowing schools to connect and collaborate globally in various ways.
A cursory understanding of blended learning and global education reveals the former as a strategy that “creates diverse educational freedom for all students” by expanding teaching and learning beyond the walls of the classroom. Programs such as the Global Oneness Project do, indeed, allow for dialogue across various cultures. However, they remain tied to the goal of allowing students to appreciate similarities across different cultures, rather than creating a genuine comfortability with difference. As such, the November lesson plan sets out the task for students to compare their own daily activities with that of Amar’s. This story could have, instead, been used as a starting point for a nuanced discussion on child labor that allowed students to move beyond merely engaging with Amar’s “perseverance” and “determination” to study.
What, then, is the Future of Blending Learning?
While this looks like a promising way of introducing such concepts in class, the success of the project will lie in its ability to foster empathy instead of sympathy.
Looking forward, therefore, we need to ask ourselves: Are we creating spaces that allow for a multiplicity of narratives or those that reify singular stories in the hopes of unifying the world?
Berdik, C. (2015, November 19). Can Online Exchange Programs Really Help Kids Learn About the World? Slate. Retrieved from http://slate.me/1Ng4PdR
Global Nomads Group (2015, September 28). Understanding the Syrian conflict: Blending virtual reality & virtual exchange [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB88aaOjnHs#action=share
Global Oneness Project. (2015, November). A day in the life. (Lesson Plan). Retrieved from https://www.globalonenessproject.org/resources/lesson-plans/day-life
Hinton, A. (2015, November). Amar [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.globalonenessproject.org/
This Writer Brings the World to Your Classroom. She Wants Your Students to Understand the Everyday Struggles and Courage of Ordinary People. (2015, October 13). Yes! Retrieved from http://www.yesmagazine.org/for-teachers/curriculum/cleary-vaughan-lee-global-oneness-project