In today’s knowledge-based economy, and in a globalized world, cross-cultural skills are becoming more and more essential, and critical for success. It is becoming increasingly common to have peers, co-workers, and business partners from different cultures and backgrounds, speaking different languages. Hence its very important to prepare our youth for this multicultural, multilingual, global economy. Every culture has something to offer in terms of knowledge, ideas, values, perspectives. And I think internet is the best way to bridge the cultural gap, and use the “best of both worlds” philosophy, in collaborating with different cultures, and in exchanging ideas.
The combination of Internet Technology and Public education system, can play a very important role in developing the cross-cultural skills in our youth. Hence, how about introducing a Web 2.0 initiative in our public schools? To start off, we could make it a 8-12 week project offered as an “after school program”, accessible to students in all public schools. The long term goal should be to make this project mandatory for students, and as a part of the curriculum in middle-schools and high-schools. This program could also be made available during the summer break, for students interesting in pursuing it further.
The main idea here is to lower the classroom walls, so that instead of each class working isolated and alone, two or more classes are joined virtually (at a global level), to become one large classroom. This kind of an environment not only develops cultural understanding, but also skills with Web 2.0 and other software, experience in global collaboration and online learning, and awareness of the realities in a global world. As a part of the project, students can be linked to teachers and students from a university from a different country. They can use blogs, social networking and multi-media for exchanging ideas and stories. World-class presenters could give lectures and share their knowledge with the students. In this global “flattened” education environment, students can join in the conversation from remote corners of the world. As a result, the students will leave the project with leadership skills, technology skills, presentation skills, and a better understanding of diverse cultures and collaboration.
As an example – To implement this initiative in the United States:
– We can use the funds like the “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” of 2009, which has $100 billion set aside for education.
– State and local Governments, and NGOs, can be used to come up with a plan to implement this project.
– Top universities could be identified, and their faculty knowledge and technical expertise could be used during the implementation of this project. Getting tremendous global exposure as a result of the association with this project, will provide the necessary incentives for universities to join in.
– Resources like the State Department can also be helpful in identifying and collaborating with the International Organizations and universities that would be a good fit for this project.
This cultural and knowledge exchange at the school level, will not only improve the intellect and quality of our youth, but it will also foster innovation and ideas, for better internet applications and services, resulting in a better Internet.