Building Global Partnerships: Part 3 – Developing Intercultural Understanding

A little while ago, we came across a thought provoking blog post from Jennifer Klein, exploring the sometimes complicated, but rewarding world of global connections and collaboration.

With Jennifer’s permission, we are re-publishing the post as a three part series, with the intention of starting a conversation with the wider #globalclassroom community. We hope you will take the time to read through, and share your answers to our reflection questions in the comments below.

If you missed the earlier posts, you will find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. This is the third and final post.

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photo credit: A30_Tsitika via photopin cc

Remember that communication will take patience and inter-cultural skills, particularly in cases where teachers don’t share a common language.  

While language differences can slow down the initial steps in a global partnership, teachers have an opportunity to develop–and model–the kinds of inter-cultural communication skills needed for culturally-responsive global engagement.  By making use of local expertise–among colleagues, students and parents–we can help spotlight the gift of foreign language proficiency among members of our community, and can help students see the value of learning another language in real terms.  By testing (rather than avoiding) the technological tools available for translation, we can also help students become more discerning about their value and better at identifying accuracies.

My suggestion is usually that teachers communicate in their native language and use resources (people, translators, etc.) to understand what they receive, but there is great value in trying and practising your partner’s language as well–and there is little more valuable for young language learners than seeing the example of adult learners taking risks with a new language.

Be thoughtful about how you handle inter-cultural and personality differences that pose challenges along the way.  

Other nuances of communication can also pose challenges, and differences of tone and communication style can often cause more difficulty than pure language use.  I’ve seen teachers from culturally aggressive countries inadvertently offend teachers from more culturally submissive regions, I’ve seen teachers from “nice” cultures politely agree to things they have no intention of doing, and I’ve seen teachers from argumentative cultures create conflict without meaning to.  The best advice I can give is to be transparent.

To meet in a face-to-face setting like Skype can be a huge help, but more importantly transparency means letting your partner teacher know when you hit a road bump.  Try to engage in dialogue rather than avoid confrontation if you’re struggling with an element of the project or communication–let your partner know if you’re bad at answering emails around exam times, let them know how you respond to stress.  Just as we want our students to lean into discomfort and learn to collaborate effectively in spite of–perhaps even because of–our differences, we need to do the same ourselves.

Read what’s out there and learn from what others have tried; more progress happens when we stop reinventing the wheel.  

There are far too many good publications for global educators to list them all, but I’ll name a few I’ve been exploring lately–and liking.  I hope readers will add to the list by commenting about books, articles and other resources worth exploring.

Books:

Blogs:

  • Suzie Boss (Regular Edutopia blogger with expertise in Project-Based Learning who often shares stories of successful global partnerships and projects)
  • Silvina Tolisano’s “Langwitches” (Varied Global and Educational Technology Topics from a Classroom Practitioner, The Graded School, Brazil)
  • Kristen Goggin’s “Stories from the Garage” (Global PBL in Middle School Math from a Classroom Practitioner, Town School for Boys, California)
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Posted in Global Classroom, Jennifer Klein
One comment on “Building Global Partnerships: Part 3 – Developing Intercultural Understanding
  1. krivett1 says:

    A well written piece of guidance and one that we must all note carefully and refer to when trying to plan and undertake challenging and exciting global connections. The broader we think and harder we push our own boundaries, the greater the need for tolerance, patience and a genuine plan for how things will go together. Language can be such a boundary if we let it be, but I think your statement ‘to lean into discomfort and learn to collaborate effectively because of our differences’ really speaks to this beautifully.

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