We are excited to celebrate the kick-off of International Education Week by joining the Exchange 2.0 Coalition’s launch of this brand new website for virtual exchange. We hope that the new site will accelerate efforts to combine the deep impact of cross-cultural exchange with the broad reach of new media technologies to support the goal of giving all young people the opportunity to have a meaningful cross-cultural experience as part of their education.
It is critical that international education is for everyone, regardless of socio-economic background, age, special needs, or geographic location. While physical exchange programs, including study abroad, are growing and have long provided important international educational experiences, those opportunities are still only accessible to a privileged few. The costs and logistical challenges of such programs prevent this model from reaching a broader set of students. Only 1 in 10,000 US high school students study abroad. Less than 2% of US college students study abroad. Only 11.7% of American students who studied abroad in 2010-2011 were Black or Hispanic.
This isn’t just an American issue. Less than 2% of students in most European countries study abroad. While Middle Eastern students who study abroad are likely to come to the United States, only 3% of higher education students in the Middle East study overseas. Too few young people worldwide are having the deep and meaningful cross-cultural experiences we need them to be having.
In 2011, iEARN-USA joined together with several other like-minded groups, including Qatar Foundation International, Soliya and Global Nomads, to form the Exchange 2.0 Coalition. The Coalition’s purpose is to foster a more supportive and generative ecosystem for virtual exchange to develop, innovate and grow. The Coalition joins other ongoing efforts, such as Connect All Schools, Flat Classroom, Dot Day, Global Read Aloud, Skype in the Classroom, Edmodo, and the Chris Stevens Youth Network to vastly increase the diversity and number of students gaining global awareness, meaningful collaboration, and empathy beyond what would be possible through physical exchanges alone. These efforts were bolstered this month by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, a long-time virtual exchange innovator, and its new initiative, The Collaboratory, which will be “responsible for both conducting virtual exchange programs and housing an idea lab to develop, incubate, and pilot new ideas that amplify people-to-people exchanges via new technologies.”
Other efforts that are helping build the ecosystem for virtual exchange are the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on Connected Learning, Microsoft’s Partners in Learning, Digital Promise, Intel Teach Program, the Global Education Conference, a myriad Twitter chats and Google Hangouts, and the US Department of Education Office of Education Technology sponsored Connected Educators Month in October.
This week, we invite teachers, students, and partners everywhere to add to this momentum by:
- Checking out the Exchange 2.0 website, and spreading the word: Share the link with your communities and add your voices directly to the site through the “Get Involved” section.
- Joining the “I <3 Virtual Exchange” campaign: Take a picture with an “I <3 virtual exchange because…” sign and then upload it to the Exchange 2.0 website or post it directly to twitter with the hashtag #exchange20. Continue to follow www.exchange2point0.org and #exchange20 on Twitter to view and share other people’s pictures from around the world!
- Learning more about International Education Week (IEW) and join the conversations: Visit the International Education Week Facebook page and join the Twitter conversation via the hashtag #IEW2013.
It’s education’s “Connected Moment,” and the outcomes of increasing meaningful cross-cultural experiences for our students will be a critical mass of college and career-ready young leaders who have empathy, trust, and respect for their peers abroad. International education needs to be available to everyone because we need everyone working together towards a healthier, more prosperous, more just, and safer planet.