Designing Projects with Global Collaboration in Mind

I previously wrote a fairly long post that began exploring the difference between cooperation and collaboration and how little actual collaboration is typically taught. Yet when considering global collaboration as an imperative, the mix gets considerably more complex. Friedman co-opts the term glocalization to specifically highlight a culture’s ability to absorb the best of what foreign cultures have to offer and blending it with their own. Yet the blending of the global and local into a word proves to have a pretty deep history, even more complex than global collaborative imperative.

It seems to me that the world continues to evolve with greater and greater interdependencies. Friedman examines the concept most clearly in economic terms, and certainly every recent economic crisis of the new millennium, this recent one most acutely,  has proven this to be true. In fact, these interdependencies only seem to grow more complex and complicated. However, there is no question that they exceed economics and impact nearly every aspect of modern life now, most notably culture. The vastness of the world’s interdependent web is only metaphorically understood via the Internet, which is an imperfect model but perhaps the best we have.

If the concept of glocalization expands and takes on the mantra of “think globally, act locally,” then education may need to adopt it as a central point of view paradigm on the world. As the complexity and complicatedness of interdependencies has grown, so too have the magnitude of the problems. It will simply take broad, open minded, collaborative efforts to solve some of these problems. In order to prepare future problem solvers capable of addressing these problems, they will need to have broader and deeper experiences, considering how local actions have global consequences, and the only way to understand that is through active engagement with other cultures, not only those that my impacted but also those that might be able to preemptively avoid potential problems before they happen. If education does not take up this challenge, who will?

Like it or not educators have inherited a new obligation to design learning experiences that emulate this new reality, replete with complex problems that have broad and extensive impact. What’s more, these kinds of problems are not easily normed, scored, nor do they tidily correspond with rubrics. They are always changing, evolving, yet  remaining fundamentally relevant. They are not tests, at least in the traditional sense. There are no right answers. There will likely be many failures before good answers begin to take shape and make an impact. Thus, new educational experiences had better be more than rigorous and relevant, they had better build resilience.

Perhaps it is the need for resilience that the collaboration  must be increasingly global. To be a student in the North America or Europe  is to be one of the most fortunate individuals in human history. For most, basic necessities are a given and efforts can be focused on education and learning. Never before have there been so many literate individuals. Never before have so many resources been available. Never before have there been so many opportunities to help others. Students from the Industrialized West have a lot to learn from students around the world that are not afforded such luxuries and yet still persevere and succeed. In the developing world, innovation is the imperative. Glocalized collaboration might simply be the best bridge between the extremes.

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