Sunday, October 9, 2011

Better Tell Columbus He Was Wrong, Because the World is FLAT

Brandy Agerbeck's Graphic Facilitation of
 Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat
I originally became interested in the ideas contained within Tom Friedman's The World is Flat  because my dad (principal at Prairie Point Middle School and 9th grade Academy) had been talking about it. Being an administrator, he likes to keep up with changes related to education, and one of the biggest so far in this millennium is the fact that schools are starting to globalize. I remember him throwing me a copy of the book, saying "Ali, you had better read this and prepare yourself, because teaching is not ever going to look the same again." That was in 2007.

And until I came to college, and began my teaching program, I didn't really understand what he meant. But after seeing how much more there is to learning than just sitting in a classroom for 6 or 7 hours a day, seeing myself communicate and collaborate effectively online with my peers, creating my own, original work and sharing it with others, and being able to stay in contact with my friends when they went back to China, I knew something had changed. Something was different, and my own idea of what I was to become as a teacher was starting to change too. Our world, our communication, our ability to see ourselves as part of this vast networks of people and knowledge, no matter our location, was losing its rigidity. The walls had come down, like they did in Berlin almost 22 years ago, and that was only the beginning.

Now, we know that according to our understanding of astronomy and physical geography, the world (our Earth), is not actually flat. But our "world" in the relative sense is indeed been leveled. At every stage and opportunity for different groups to interact, we are shrinking. We are no longer limited by our geographical location, as Columbus proved with Globalization 1.0, when he set sail and opened trade between the New World and the Old. Nor are we limited by our ability to innovate and make changes in markets and labor, exemplified by multinational company expansion, breakthroughs in hardware, and a heightened sense of relevancy in commerce, which were the dynamic forces behind Globalization 2.0. Today, we are at stage 3 in the globalization process, and it is shrinking the world even further than the previous .0s. Globalization 3.0 is unique because it focuses on the "newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally," (Friedman, 10). Not only will the 3rd era of globalization be powered by the increased involvement of individuals, but its participants will be more diverse. Today, anyone with an internet connection has the potential to communicate, collaborate, and compete globally. That is why we are asking ourselves as educators, "How can I fit into the global scale, and how can I help my students come to understand, participate in, and appreciate the ability to go global?"

Coming to terms with the world being flat may take getting used to, especially because for some, it is hard to understand what you have never experienced before. But for students we will teach today, they have already been participating in a global platform by their activity online, and I think with support in the classroom, students can come to understand just how amazing this type of communication is. Flattening the classroom is just like flattening the world, removing geographical and communicative limitations to make room for growth. Students in the Flat Classroom Project meet other students from different areas of the world, and get to work with them towards a common goal. This allows them to not only learn about the material of the project they are doing, but it enables them to learn about other kids, their own age, from different backgrounds and areas. It helps them realize that, though we might speak different languages at home, or dress differently, or do other things in different ways, we all have the common ability to think about and share ideas. We all have a voice, and now it can be shared so that everyone can hear, no matter where we are. And that is AMAZING.

I think the biggest benefit that flattening has brought to our world, and will bring to our classrooms, is an expanded sense of relativity to students. Though we may be just one person, we are not limited in our ability to reach out and communicate with others. "It's a Small World After All" has never been more true, and yet so contradictory. Our world seems so immense in size, but when you really look at it today, we are all a lot more connected than we ever have been before. I want to help my students understand that they are individuals, yet are able to contribute their own voices, experiences, and knowledge to a much "bigger picture," with an audience that is limitless. Through flattening, ethnocentricity begins to fade, and I think this allows students to see themselves as part of a group of high-potential future innovators. Who knows what will happen next, with the playing field as level as it stands today.

So I called up my dad, after watching Friedman's lecture again, and told him this:

Dad? You were right. Teaching won't ever be the same again. You'd better tell your history teachers to adjust their lectures, because the world isn't round. It's flat."

And he knew exactly what I meant.

1 comment:

  1. How is your dad dealing with you telling him that he is right?
    You have set forth a strong introduction to the academic concept of the world being flat. Consider how it will change what is and will happen in your classroom?