2023 Summer Reading List

Every other week this summer, the Stevens Initiative will share reading and multimedia recommendations for educators and virtual exchange practitioners preparing to engage youth over the next academic year. Check back twice a month for our latest additions.

1. AI and the Future of Technology and Learning | Read

When it comes to virtual exchange, we don’t think the technology needs to be complicated. However, we know that educators and other practitioners often feel a need to get up to speed on the latest innovative and emerging methods, whether they’re involved with virtual exchange or assessing new ways to enrich their teaching. For anyone interested in how artificial intelligence could come to their classrooms, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Ed Tech (OET) provides a four-part blog series with answers from many angles. Explore the different ways AI is defined, how educators will be impacted, and the policies the OET is driving to make AI-enabled educational technology safe, effective, and fair.

2. What Will High Schoolers Be Learning in 2033? See the Predictions | Read

Many virtual exchange practitioners are interested in ensuring that programs align with trends in learning and are compatible with existing curricular priorities. This spring, EdWeek asked five experts to share their predictions for how high school education ten years from now might look. Most experts argued that students will need to enhance their understanding of complex technologies and build their digital literacy, but one prediction in particular also stuck out to us for its overlap with virtual exchange and the global competencies many programs help develop in young people: the necessity for students to master certain “critical habits of success,” such as agency, self-direction, and curiosity. Ultimately, we hope this article is helpful to virtual exchange practitioners creating programming that is responsive to trends in education, particularly at the high school level.

3. Advocating for an Ethical Shift in International Higher Education | Read

This pick is for those who work in or keep a pulse on global education and exchange at colleges and universities. Citing unequal and unsustainable practices at all levels of international higher education, Wei Liu of University of Alberta International asserts that a transformative shift in learning priorities is necessary. Broadly, this shift boils down to some of the main goals of virtual exchange programs: cultivating global citizens and leaders that serve as changemakers in our world. This will be an informative read to anyone interested in how their institutional context compares to the field-wide trends Liu observes, as well as where they are on the path towards a better future for international higher education. 

4. Creating and Sustaining Collaborative Alumni Networks | Read

Alumni engagement is an area in international education that comes with its unique set of challenges. In response to these challenges, a research team at the American Councils for International Education conducted a study to assess the various alumni engagement strategies adopted by international organizations and institutions, noting the successes and shortfalls. For program implementers looking to establish clear pathways for alumni engagement, or for those looking to revamp their current efforts, this report shares valuable best practices for building a sustainable alumni network and key considerations and elements that are needed for effective and engaging alumni programming.

5. The Interview of a Lifetime: An Analysis of Visa Denials and International Student Flows to the U.S. | Read

Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent to the international education field that students from certain regions face additional barriers to study in the U.S. than others. The President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, along with Shorelight, released this report to examine this issue closely, analyzing visa denial rates from 2015-2022. Findings support what many educators already suspected: students from the Global South, and particularly from the African continent, are denied visas at disproportionately higher rates than the rest of the world. With strong evidence that disparities in visa adjudications exist, the report presents recommendations for policy improvements to address these systemic inequities. We think these landmark findings will be insightful to all international education practitioners, but may be especially powerful as a timely case for virtual exchange and its ability to address acute issues in global learning access.

6. How Children Can Bridge Differences Through Virtual Exchange | Read

Children develop biases towards others from a young age — positive acceptance, but also feelings of prejudice. However, out-group hate (dislike for people who are outside of our own group) isn’t inevitable. In this piece from University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, Maryam Abdullah emphasizes virtual exchange’s ability to create more accepting and open-minded young people in their formative developmental years. Using Empatico’s Empathy Across the USA as an example, Abdullah makes the case for how virtual exchange gives young people opportunities to be more compassionate and accepting towards one another. We co-sign the article’s message that virtual exchange will only reach more young learners through “champions” that advocate for its value, and hope that this serves as a helpful tool for K-12 educators and practitioners looking to champion virtual exchange in their communities.

7. Virtual-Reality School Is the Next Frontier of the School-Choice Movement | Read

For many educators, the promise of virtual reality (VR) as the next frontier in education is likely not new. In this recent New Yorker piece, Emma Green examines how VR and another alternative (and in many circles, similarly controversial) movement — school-choice in the United States — have converged. Green explores the broader U.S. policy landscape and post-pandemic education climate that led to the Metaverse and classical education coming together at one Florida-based VR school, as well as diverse perspectives on the encouraging signs and potential red flags of VR becoming an early educational practice. One chaotic site visit to an immersive virtual lesson demonstrates the promising but still nascent and imperfect nature of VR as an effective educational practice. We think that this will be an insightful piece to educators curious about how VR has made its way to classrooms thus far, and spur further reflection on how to continue meeting students’ needs in the digital era.

8. Stefani Davila ’24 Leads from the Heart in Her Brother’s Memory | Read

Throughout the summer, we’ve shared articles on current challenges and future trends in education and international exchange. Our final pick for this year’s list is a bit different. We know that one of the best ways to get buy-in for virtual exchange — in higher education institutions and K-12 settings alike — is to share about the young people who went through these programs. Stefani Davila, an alumna of IREX’s Global Solutions and a 2023 Stevens Initiative Alumni Fellow, is a paragon of the exceptional participants virtual exchange attracts, and her journey demonstrates how programs help youth grow even further. When posed with the question of how to engage young people over this academic year, we hope education and exchange leaders will share this story for why the answer should be virtual exchange.