COE preservice teachers interact on Skype with alumna Luz Delfin, currently teaching at the American School in Bolivia.
University of Florida education students are using technology to connect with educators and classrooms worldwide to learn about other cultures and education systems first-hand thanks to a new Global Classroom Initiative (GCI) developed by UF researchers.
Swapna Kumar, a clinical associate professor of educational technology in the College of Education, said the program prepares preservice teachers to use technology to develop global awareness for themselves and their future students. It also provides opportunities for students to participate in virtual conferences and interact with innovative global educators.
The program is funded by a grant from the Longview Foundation for World Affairs and International Understanding, an organization that promotes the teaching of global competence and intercultural skills in schools throughout the United States.
Seventy UF education students have benefited from the initiative since it was launched last fall through online modules in the college’s course on Integrating Technology into the Elementary Classroom.
Skype and Adobe Connect are two programs used by the future teachers to connect classrooms across borders. They will have access to Skype in their future classrooms, both stateside and in other countries.
“Communication technologies today make it much easier to provide students with authentic experiences of other cultures,” Kumar said.
Elementary education senior Heather Brown said the program has helped her understand the importance of global education.
“The Global Classroom Initiative is educating me further and giving me invaluable experiences that will help me grow as a teacher so that I can have a lasting impact on my students,” said Brown, who will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in May.
UF Global Classroom students also joined their instructor at the Florida Connected Global Education Conference held recently in Gainesville as another form of future teacher professional development.
Kumar is co-principal investigator on the program with Mary Risner, associate director of outreach at the UF Center for Latin American Studies. They said they hope the global classroom instruction will prepare UF’s education students to possibly work with the Alachua County school district’s first global magnet program planned for Fall 2017 and in other districts some students will teach after graduation.
“In today’s society, teachers need to be prepared to understand a diverse student body and to help their students better understand the world with an open mind,” said Risner, a 2011 COE doctoral graduate in curriculum and instruction.
She said UF students explore global themes in the GCI modules, connect with educators in Bolivia and Japan, prepare a lesson plan for elementary students about foreign nations and learn about job and study opportunities abroad.
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