By Grant, Allen C.
Distance Learning , Vol. 7, No. 2
Flexibility, accessibility, and enhanced instructor/student communication are commonly cited as the primary benefits of distance learning (Choy, McNickle, & Clayton, 2003); however, a new benefit is quickly taking center stage. The proliferation of cultural and global awareness is an advantage to online learning that cannot be overlooked. Even the nation's leadership has taken notice. President Barack Obama has included the preparation of students to compete in a global economy as a prime tenet in both his Race to the Top educational stimulus act (U.S Department of Education, 2009) as well as his proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2010), further strengthening long-held beliefs that global awareness is one of the hallmarks of modern educational thought and reform (Postman, 1995). This recent revelation is not just idealistic. Evidence exists that America's classrooms are slowly becoming less culturally insular and more reflective of student interests and ideals. Preservice teacher education delivered online better positions classroom instructors to prepare our nation's digital youth for the emerging global community as compared to traditional brick and mortar teacher education programs.
FAILING TRENDS IN GLOBAL EDUCATION
Compelling statistical trends support the need for improved global education in America's schools. In 2006, native nonHispanic Whites were the minority among students enrolled in kindergarten through the 12th grade in Western states. Furthermore, in 2007, immigrants accounted for one in eight U.S. residents, with 10.3 million having arrived since 2000 (Camarota, 2007). Changing domestic demographics combined with the proliferation of the digital age has increased the interaction between people of different cultures to a degree never imagined. The commercial sector has taken notice as well. In Ohio, business and industry leaders have partnered with the State Board of Education in calling for increased curricular emphasis on critical thinking skills, language acquisition, world geography, and politics. Their goal is simple: to place the state in a strategic position to be globally competitive (Howe, 2008).
Unfortunately, the current report card on global education in American schools is poor. In 1994, the National Council for Social Studies established a broad set of standards related to global interdependence, but their incredible forethought failed to take hold. Only a few states and school districts initially established graduation requirements related to global education. The National Center for Education Statistics showed that only seven states required either world history or world geography for graduation in 2002. Today, only a slight majority of states require world history for graduation (Rabb, 2009), with national assessment standards not on the assessment radar until 2018. Foreign language studies are also bleak. Only 16 states require a foreign language for graduation or have a plan for its future implementation (National Center of State Supervisors of Languages, 2008). Complex cultural curriculum is lagging as well. According to the College Board (2007), student scores on Advanced Placement exams that assess global issues are marginal at best. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, the mean grade on the European history exam is 2.82, while the mean score on the human geography exam is 2.95.
THE DIGITAL CLASSROOM OF TODAY - CHANGING PRACTICES
Despite our historical failure to teach a global curriculum in America's schools, our students are becoming cultural consumers right under our noses. Today's modern student is firmly entrenched in twentyfirst century social technology tools. Students are collaborating on cell phones, personal digital assistants and, much to the tech coordinators' bane, in school's computer labs. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are some of the social tech tools that increasingly fill our youth's busy schedules. …