Blog Post

Schools of the Future and Virtual Exchange

Authored by Mohamed Abdel-Kader

January 27, 2020


As our economies evolve, our education systems must adapt to make sure young people have not only the skills but also the mindsets and dispositions needed to adapt to change and to ensure a prosperous future. With advancements in technology, virtual exchange is driving relevant and practical global learning into classrooms around the world. It opens young people’s eyes to the challenges they will face and equips them with the knowledge they need to succeed.

A recent report by the World Economic Forum, Schools of the Future: Defining New Models of Education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, notes that we must do all that we can to structure learning with the aim of developing students who will create a more “inclusive, cohesive, and productive world.” The report identifies eight key characteristics of learning content and experiences. Of those listed, six relate to current virtual exchange programs supported by the Stevens Initiative: global citizenship skills, innovation and creativity skills, technology skills, interpersonal skills, accessible and inclusive learning, and problem-based and collaborative learning.

One example is the Global Nomads Group’s Campfire program, where middle and high school-aged youth across the United States connect with peers in the Middle East and North Africa. Guided by facilitators, participants explore several issues such as identity and faith, hunger, and ocean preservation. Participants connect and share perspectives at an interpersonal level, building important social and emotional learning skills such as gaining empathy for peers with a diversity of backgrounds.

Notably, the report mentions iEARN (the International Education and Resource Network) – a global federation of teachers that implement virtual exchange. Participating teachers have utilized connections between classrooms to have students learn about hunger in both a global and local context. Students in Virginia and Lebanon were inspired to act on the knowledge they acquired through this virtual exchange program and participated in service projects in their home communities.

The value gained from an educational experience is not just a credential or certification, but a collection of perspectives, skills, knowledge, and interactions.

Similarly, IREX’s Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge pairs community college students in the United States with their peers in Jordan and Iraq. Through virtual exchange, participants collaboratively work to develop solutions for an industry’s sustainability challenges. The program is tangible and relevant – examining a current issue and allowing youth to solve for a problem creatively. Recently, hotels in their communities hired multiple program alumni for the skills developed in this virtual exchange.

The value gained from an educational experience is not just a credential or certification, but a collection of perspectives, skills, knowledge, and interactions. The ideals of an inclusive and compassionate civil society will not just happen on its own. We must actively prepare young people to shape the peaceful world we aspire to live in together.

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