Pencils, Backpacks, and Perspective: The Shift from Isolation to Collectivism

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When I was a kid – just a short while ago – my classes operated in relative isolation. We rarely interacted with other classes in our school on academic terms, and never with classes outside of our school. That is of course, until I reached high school. My high school was part of a network of schools that are located everywhere from the US, to Ghana, to Australia, and many more. Taking advantage of this, we had various pen pal and student exchange systems with which to connect us. I think that this was really the period in my life in which I realized just how small the world actually is.

Nowadays, with social media and new technologies, the world is rapidly getting even smaller. Classes now have the ability to respond instantaneously to pen pals, and get involved in discussions with people from all over the world. It’s an extraordinary world of possibilities for education.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that I now attend a university with campuses all over the world. One of my classes last semester took advantage of this and held video conferences with a similar class on our campus in Paris. Yup, we had a class with ideas and questions bouncing back and forth between London and Paris. And on a large screen, it was almost easy to pretend that our counterparts were in the classroom with us. But, even having grown up in these technological times, it was a mind-blowing experience to be having a conversation across country borders without a delay.

I think the key when considering this major shift from an isolated academic experience to a collective one, is that educators take advantage of it. Get students blogging, documenting their experiences, writing to others about them, communicating and developing. The simple fact is that we do live in a very interconnected world, and it’s important that in these post-globalization times students are prepared to live in it. The new types of communication available to us are a foundations upon which endless discussions can be built. I always did think that I learned more in discussion-based classes than any others.

What do you think about this shift? Is it good for students, or will it detract from learning? What do we take advantage of in a world like ours for education purposes?