Global Communications and Collaboration

Educational leaders connect and collaborate globally to promote and support each student’s academic success, well-being, and global competence development. This involves building a global professional learning community; developing partnerships with schools in other regions and countries; participating in local, national, and international cross-cultural learning exchanges; forming and maintaining relationships with local, national, and international colleagues; providing a technology base that allows for global connections; and promoting digital citizenship.

Experiencing connectionswith people from other parts of the world, and even different regions of one’s own state or country, can transform students’, teachers’, and administrators’ learning. Currently, global connections can take place through face-to-face exchange programs and without even leaving school. For schools with diverse student populations, cross-cultural learning should begin among the students. In addition, virtual exchanges through Skype, Zoom, Google hangout, social media, and other synchronous and asynchronous virtual platforms can be a more cost-effective, equitable, and scalable way to engage with people in other parts of the country and the world. Virtual exchanges do require Internet connection and the technology tools for students and staff to equitably and frequently access it. Fostering meaningful global connections also requires a time investment in upfront groundwork. But once those relationships become established, students find it easy to make instant connections.

Tenet in Action

Educational leaders connect and collaborate globally to promote and support each student’s academic success, well-being, and global competence development. Globally competent educational leaders:

  • Seek to build their own global professional learning community 

  • Develop partnerships with schools in other regions and countries 

  • Participate in local, national, and international cross-cultural learning exchanges 

  • Form and maintain relationships with local, national, and international colleagues 

  • Provide a technology base that allows for global connections 

  • Promote digital citizenship

Suggested Activities: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

First Steps

  • Join professional networks and organizations that have a global reach 

  • Use technology tools to search for and establish partnerships with schools in other regions and countries 

  • Offer professional development on how to effectively use technology tools to connect students and staff locally, nationally, and internationally 

  • Connect with leaders in other schools, districts, states, and countries to solicit ideas and advice about global initiatives

Deeper Dives

  • Host delegations of school leaders from other countries and share lessons learned 

  • Use technology (e.g., social media, video chat) to initiate conversations and learning activities with colleagues in other regions and countries, using best practices of virtual exchange and digital citizenship 

  • Provide the equipment, space, and time for students and staff to regularly utilize digital learning for globally focused research, communication, and project-based learning 

  • Review promising practices on global integration from other countries

Full Immersion

  • Sustain exchange programs for students and staff with partner schools or cities from other countries 
  • Visit schools and school leaders in other regions and countries to learn best practice on topics important to your school community and participate in problem-solving activities. 
  • Host teachers and delegations from other regions and countries 
  • Adapt promising practices on global integration from other schools, districts, states, and countries

Case Studies

Developing partnerships with schools in other regions and countries.

Mr. Rick Swanson, Principal, Hingham High School, Hingham, MA

Mr. Swanson has helped to create a school culture that embraces international travel. The school has provided opportunities every year for students to travel all over the world, including the Dominican Republic, Peru, Italy, Spain, France, China, India, Vietnam, and Japan. Trips, the majority of which are run through the organization Education First (EF), have specific themes. For example, the trips to the Dominican Republic were focused on service learning; trips to Italy and Spain were hosted by the school’s Latin and Spanish clubs; and trips to India, Vietnam, and Peru were World Challenge Trips that included a mix of tourism, adventure, and community service that deeply engage students in the planning process. Mr. Swanson touts the importance of international exchanges for students and school staff: “For kids who go on trips, it’s such an impactful experience. The students make connections to the Global Citizenship Program and want to sign up after returning home to learn more about the world and even more about where they visited. The camaraderie that forms is incredible as well. The chaperones who attend really bond with one another and want to promote global citizenship when they return.”

The most memorable and sustainable cross-cultural learning exchange at Hingham High School has been a homegrown partnership that has flourished between the Hingham community and a baseball team from Osaka, Japan. The exchange came out of a webinar where Global Citizenship Program students spoke with the filmmakers of Kokoyaku, a documentary about a Japanese high school baseball team. Through the filmmakers, the school connected with the Japanese coach who wanted to take his team to the United States. Mr. Swanson, a baseball aficionado and the school’s baseball coach at the time, made it happen. Thirty-five high school baseball players from Osaka came to Hingham for a week, where they stayed with Hingham High School students’ families and attended school with them. Mr. Swanson explained, “The whole school experienced the exchange because the Japanese students came to class, so all students were able to interact with them.” Hosting the baseball delegation from Osaka further opened up Mr. Swanson’s and his students’ eyes to the connections that their local community had to Japan. When the group took a field trip into Boston, they visited Fenway Park—and realized that a famous Red Sox pitcher was from Osaka as well. They visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, which meant a lot to the Japanese students because Caroline Kennedy was the Ambassador to Japan at the time. Finally, their tour guide of Harvard just happened to be an international student from Japan. The exchange trip culminated in an exhibition game between Hingham High School and the Japanese baseball team, which was featured in a Boston Globe story by a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist.

The following year, with the help of Envoys, a global education organization based in Cambridge, MA, Hingham High School sent a delegation of 40 students to Osaka. They reserved half the airplane seats for baseball players, and the rest were opened up to anyone in the school. Mr. Swanson describes how the baseball focus opened up the world to certain students: “When we went to Osaka, some kids who went wouldn’t have ever considered traveling. For example, one student loved baseball and was a good player, but wasn’t necessarily considering college. He wound up going to Japan and it meant more to him than anyone. Sports can be that hook. This kid wouldn’t have applied for anything academic, but traveling to Osaka was a big moment for him.” Students spent time with hosts during two afternoons and evenings. In addition to playing a baseball game in a historic stadium and attending the Koshien tournament (Japan’s annual two week–long national high school tournament), students toured Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto.

As a school leader, Mr. Swanson visibly demonstrates his commitment to forging global connections by actively participating in international exchanges as well. He has chaperoned trips to the Dominican Republic and Japan, and participated on a tour to China through EF with a group of 25 teachers and administrators passionate about global education, and reflects on the impact that travel opportunities have on him as an educator professionally and personally. He shares, “Traveling to the Dominican Republic made me want to learn Spanish, read about Dominican history, and understand how they’re now just going to a full day of education and how that inequity existed for so many years.” Regarding the Osaka exchange, Mr. Swanson formed a personal relationship with the Japanese head coach, who, on a whim, ran a practice for his son’s baseball team. Mr. Swanson shares, “Fun, unique things have come out this exchange both for our school and for me personally.”

Participating in local, national, and international cross-cultural learning exchanges.

Mr. Brent Wozniak, Chief Academic Officer, Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, Pacoima, CA

Mr. Wozniak demonstrates the importance of international and national exchanges for promoting global learning. He helped lead his school’s effort to set up sister school programs in China, because he sees world languages as key to exposing students to diverse cultures. Each year, a group of 14 to 20 students travel to Beijing and Shanghai for ten days, where they live with homestays and attend Chinese public schools. The Chinese exchange program is one of many ways that students at Vaughn interact with peers from all over the world. Mr. Wozniak states, “In this day and age, you don’t have to travel. Kids are easily able to interact across boundaries. One of our students was writing a research paper on the education system in Uzbekistan, and he interviewed a student from there in the classroom, right there on his phone.”

Mr. Wozniak also emphasizes the importance of joining a network of likeminded educators focused on schoolwide global competence initiatives. His school joined the Asia Society’s ISSN to help achieve their global vision. The ISSN not only provided technical support in helping build the school’s model for global learning from the ground up, but connected 40 schools across the United States seeking to support one another’s global mission. For example, when his school was setting up digital portfolios to monitor students’ global competence development, Mr. Wozniak’s students observed portfolio defenses presented by students at another school that had already established such a system.. Vaughn also welcomes schools from around the country to observe how their global programs operate. Mr. Wozniak sees the value in making teachers at his school aware that other schools are doing this work, and explains, “Support from other schools and other colleagues is not promoted enough in the mainstream of education. Even though global competence is sometimes looked at like at a novelty overall on the national scale, considering how much smaller the world is and the ease of communication across borders, our kids will be left behind if they don’t learn this.” Connecting with colleagues already doing this work has helped make global learning actionable for Vaughn’s staff on a broader scale, and builds morale so that teachers don’t feel isolated and see themselves as being alone at the forefront of an important trend in education.

Forming and maintaining relationships with local, national, and international colleagues.

Mr. Chris Balga, Assistant Principal, Harris Road Middle School, Concord, NC

Mr. Balga actively participates in discussions with colleagues across his district, state, and country to share best practices around leading global initiatives. Mr. Balga works with schools across his district on how to begin implementing global education, and serves on the global committee focused on the districtwide global education strategy. He also shares best practices on going global with schools across his state. He regularly receives phone calls and school visits with schools seeking advice on how to pursue North Carolina’s Global Educator Digital Badges for staff and apply for North Carolina’s Global Ready School Designation, and coaches them on how to go about it so they can learn from Harris Road’s growing pains. In addition to his participation in their global leaders program, Mr. Balga serves on the advisory board of World View, a public service program at the University of North Carolina that provides global education professional development.

Mr. Balga also intentionally connects his school staff with colleagues he meets at conferences. For example, after his principal, Raymond “Tripp” Aldredge, attended a conference session on global music, Mr. Aldredge and Mr. Balga reached out to the presenter, Melissa Morris, and asked if she would come down from New York to share her work with his school staff. Within a day, Ms. Morris responded, and for the opening staff meeting that next school year, she led a school drum circle focused on music, students’ feelings, and making classrooms a criticism-free zone. The drum circle left a great impression on staff, who also played an educational game, Mystery Skype, with their one of Ms. Morris’s colleagues. Ms. Morris also assisted one of their teachers to develop a World Music class for students which has been very successful.

Additional Resources

Books and Articles

Anderson, S. (2014). The tech-savvy administrator: How do I use technology to be a better school leader? Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Stewart, V. (2012). A world-class education: Learning from international models of excellence and innovation. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

International Exchange Programs

Education First. Organization that offers study abroad, student exchange, and language programs for middle school and high school students and educators.

Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program. This U.S. Department of State exchange program offers short-term and semester opportunities for K–12 educators to study, teach, and research abroad.

NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellowship. A 12-month professional development program that includes in-person workshops, online coursework, webinars by leading experts, peer learning, and an international field study experience.

Teachers for Global Classrooms. A year-long, fully funded professional development opportunity for U.S. elementary, middle, and high school teachers to become leaders in global education, which includes an online course, a global symposium, international field experience, capstone project, and alumni support.

Virtual Exchange Tools and Programs

ePals. A community of collaborative classrooms engaged in cross-cultural exchanges, project sharing, and language learning.

Empatico. A free tool that connects classrooms around the world for students aged 7–11 through live video and research-based activities.

Global Nomads Group. Videoconferencing, virtual reality, and other interactive technologies bring young people together across cultural and national boundaries to examine world issues and to learn from experts in a variety of fields. Website includes lesson plans, videos, and other resources.

Global Read Aloud. Classrooms around the world read books together every October.

International Education and Resource Network (iEARN). A global network that facilitates online project-based collaborative learning in classrooms around the world.

Level Up Village. STEAM curriculum that connects students to partners around the globe.

Stevens Initiative. Funds online, international, and collaborative virtual learning exchanges to build global competence for young people in the United States and the Middle East.

Professional Networks

#globaledchat. A weekly Twitter chat covering topics related to teaching with a global perspective, with rotating guest hosts of education experts and influencers. Hosted by the associate director in the Center for Global Education at the Asia Society (@HSingmaster) and sponsored by @AsiaSocietyEDU.

Global Schools Network. A community of schools committed to inclusive and equitable quality education for all with a focus on global awareness, global competence, cultural competence, and linguistic development.

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