In his 2002 book, High Noon: Twenty Global Problems, Twenty Years to Solve Them, former World Bank Vice President Jean-Francois Rischard argues that the most urgent global problems of the 21st century can't be solved using 20th century approaches. Rischard applies that same logic to the modern classroom, noting both on the lecture circuit and in his work with a half dozen organizations comprising 10,000 schools around the world that a new methodology for global problem-solving and a new mindset for global citizenship must be adopted to ensure our collective future.
This philosophy resonated throughout Rischard's remarks before a packed auditorium of educators and IT decision-makers attending the International Society for Technology in Education's 31st annual conference and exposition in Denver. In delivering the event's opening keynote address, “Global Problem-Solving and the Critical Role of Educators and Technology for Education,” Rischard insisted that technology and student action can be harnessed to help society develop a better problem-solving methodology. (For EdTech's live show coverage, click here.)
“We have entered the age of fast-forward globalization – one we could also call the age of hyper-change and hyper-complexity,” said Rischard, who ended his 30-year career at the World Bank in 2005 to advocate out-of-the-box approaches to solving the 20 global crises he explores in High Noon. “These problems are unresolved because our current international system is paralyzed” by inertia, which he attributes to the territorial attitudes of the world's 200 largest nation-states and by politicians' short-term electoral cycles.
Rischard believes ideas already exist that could end this paralysis. “But for these ideas to work well, we will also need a new global citizen mindset in future generations – and that's where education and educators have a system-critical role to play,” he suggested.
Where Education and Technology Can Help
According to Rischard, a Luxembourg native now living in Paris, the world's most pressing problems involve “the sharing of our planet, our humanity and our rulebook.” They include such threats as climate change, deforestation, water shortages, poverty, global access to education and illegal drug trafficking.
“There are four things to note about these problems,” Rischard continued. “They all have technically and politically feasible solutions; the solutions aren't that costly; we have less than 20 years to act on them; and none of them is being solved.”
As he sees it, “We need a better and faster method for solving global problems – while there is still time – and we need for the next generations to leave school with a mindset, knowledge and skills combination that will give wings to any new method we create,” he said. “The first has to come from a critical mass of heads of state, but the second must be facilitated by educators and education systems.”
More specifically, educators must:
- teach students about how the world is changing and why; what the major global issues are; and what can be done to solve them;
- help students understand why it's the business of each one of us to tackle these challenges; what it means to be a global citizen; and why multidisciplinary and multicultural thinking are key;
- help students acquire and develop the skills promoted in ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for Students. “Having students equipped with these skills would raise the odds of solving these global issues,” Rischard argued. He identified creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, digital citizenship, and technology operations and concepts.
Rischard concluded his remarks by describing several ongoing “pericurricular” experiments taking place in schools around the world to help establish this new mindset: the Global Issues Network, the National Association of Independent Schools' Challenge 20/20 program, the Student News Action Network and TakingITGlobal.
“The current system is going to run us into a brick wall,” he warned. “So concentrate on being visionary educators” dedicated to “developing new curricula and education standards; potent pericurricular initiatives; and smart technologies for education.”
Jean-Francois Rischard, former World Bank executive and best-selling author, headlined ISTE 2010's opening keynote session, but he wasn't the only attraction. The Sunday evening event also included introductory remarks by ISTE President Helen Padgett and the presentation of three awards.
“Denver is a magnet for explorers past and present,” including those exploring the frontier of excellence in education, Padgett told attendees. “Your passion for transforming education, your desire to explore new avenues for learning and teaching, your expertise in the classroom and as education leaders, and your unwavering focus on the educational needs of our children is making a difference. ISTE is proud to serve as a convener, connector and resource to help you change the future for our children.”
After sharing the news that this year's conference attendees represent nearly 80 countries, Padgett went on to emphasize the importance of adapting to the times we live in. “This is not a world where maintaining the status quo is an effective strategy,” she said. “'Good enough' is not the basis for a vision.”
To that end, the organization is launching the first phase of ISTE Learning, an online learning community and professional development marketplace where educators “can sample free concepts, buy cool resources and exchange creative ideas,” Padgett said.
In September, ISTE also will roll out a redesigned main website with a new look and structure that will make access to resources both faster and easier. Padgett said the new ISTE.org will offer more ways to engage with members and educators; a “significantly expanded international distribution network” for ISTE-published books; and access to titles that will be published in languages other than English and for mobile devices, including e-readers.
Padgett also presented the following awards on behalf of ISTE:
- Outstanding Young Educator Award: Julie LaChance, a technology specialist at Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, N.C.;
- Public-Policy Advocate of the Year Award: John Cradler, co-director of the Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology;
- Public-Policy Advocacy Trendsetter Award: Heather Blanton, a Title 1 math teacher at the J.W. Adams Combined School in Pound, Va.