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Widening Education Accessibility Through Experiential Learning International Programs

November 6, 2018


International Programs

(Students participating in Knovva Academy’s Model G20 Program accept their awards on the final day of the international experiential learning program)

While so-called traditional teaching methods focus on structured lectures and readings that prepare students for testing, experiential learning, on the other hand, focuses on learning by doing. With this method, tests are often replaced by a reflection period where students evaluate their own decisions and outcomes. Here, success isn’t necessarily defined, but determined more by what learners take away from the experience.

Before it was a staple in educational verbiage, experiential learning was something that everyone had …well, experienced – but may not have been able to define. Before Jedd Cohen, Knovva Academy’s lead academic curriculum designer, earned his M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, he recalls dabbling in experiential learning before he could attach a name to it. “In 4th grade, we did a mini-society where we elected government and we had a marketplace where we made and sold things. It was very exciting to think about what I wanted to sell and make,” he said.

He credits his mini-society in helping him and his classmates learn about the basic principles of economics, how democracy works, how elections were run and even the art of persuasion at such a young age.

While Jedd sees the value in this teaching method, he also sees a place for traditional teaching and believes that experiential learning is complementary but not replacive. At Knovva Academy Jedd and his team of academic designers have worked for nearly 4 years to develop the perfect mix of the two methods with their Model G20 Program. The program, which started in Boston and now reaches high school students all over the world, combines a G20 simulation event with a full curriculum that reinforces and builds key competencies, theories, and practices that students will use during the final summit, the true experiential component of the program.

Now that there’s a name attached to this learning style, a new generation of teachers who took note of their own experiential learning growing up are looking for ways to bring it into their classroom for their students.

“Students really want this, they are tired of being fed this idea that you learn and then your life starts. That’s just not how the world works and they’re getting wise to this and want experience,” said Marth McMorran who also holds an M.Ed. from Harvard School of Education and is the lead online course creator for Knovva Academy.

While it’s clear that experiential learning is a valuable tool for students, many schools and teachers are unclear on how to work it into their classroom. “Most schools are trying to adapt to all the 21st-century education goals and are trying to produce global citizens. They all want to do that, but whether or not they can logistically do that is part of the question,” Jedd notes.

International Programs

A Model G20 student works on his position paper during a workshop portion of the experiential program.

Since teachers don’t always have the time resources, freedom or energy to give their students access to this influential method, 3rd-party programs are becoming a valuable tool to educators. Knovva’s Model G20 Summit program offers teachers access to an international learning platform and can be fully integrated into classroom curriculum thanks to its inclusion of self-supported online classes that ready students for the experiential part of the program. The whole program enables students to think outside their own box and gain new perspective as they analyze and act on certain situations using the information they learned in class.

“Teachers have been planning their whole class around this program, and now we’ve been able to support them by creating an easily integrated lesson for the classroom,” said Benson Chang, Knovva Academy’s global co-founder. With the Model G20 now in 9 different countries and international classrooms, Jedd, Benson, Martha and the rest of the Knovva Academy team are sure to inspire a whole new generation of experiential learners and global leaders.

This article was submitted by guest author Rachel Lemieux, Marketing at Knovva Academy. Knovva Academy is an international education organization based in Boston, Massachusetts. Through our comprehensive online and experiential learning ecosystem, we nurture students’ ability to think critically and engage with real-world challenges. We want to see a world where young people are empowered to pursue their own actualization personally, academically and professionally, while engaging the world with a committed sense of social and global responsibility.

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Universities with the Most International Teachers

October 30, 2018


Students are often taught that when they study at schools abroad they are opening their mind to new opportunities and lessons. In fact, there are plenty of universities that benefit from a diverse culture when they accept students from all over the world.

International Teachers

It isn’t just students that make up a diverse culture, though. Having a diverse panel of teachers from all over the world also plays a huge role in helping students learn from different points of view.

If you are interested in going to a diverse university, where should you go? What are the most culturally varied universities in the world?

It’s important to remember that a large part of looking at the universities with the most international teachers are often the most advertised through international programs for students. With more international students, though, you are likely to find more international teachers to match.

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

The first university we will look at today is the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne or, in English, the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. As is told in the name, this university is located in Lausanne, Switzerland.

This means that students and teachers are a cultural center in this French-speaking section of Switzerland. After all, they are studying and working in the heart of Europe with France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Liechtenstein all bordering the country making them close and ready for exploration.

As far as the university itself, it specializes in natural sciences and engineering. Interestingly enough, this is one of very few universities that run a nuclear reactor, a fusion reactor, a Gene/Q Supercomputer, as well as P3 biohazard facilities all for research and teaching purposes.

The university also runs a number of exchange programs. As a result, they are home to a diverse student body hailing from 112 different nationalities.

University of Hong Kong

If you are looking for a particularly diverse university, the University of Hong Kong should definitely be on your list.

International Teachers

This university has the goal of becoming “Asia’s Most Global University”. In practice, this means that by 2019, they plan for 50% of their undergraduates to study internationally. By 2022, every undergraduate student will have the same opportunity making this a university rife with the possibility for each student to expand their horizons. Even at this point, diversity is a high priority with 40% of the University of Hong Kong being international students.

For professors, this is a great chance to build your career as this is a research driven university. In fact, 111 of the professors at this universities have been ranked within the top 1% in the world by Essential Science Indicators.

For students, the University of Hong Kong will help you graduate with a highly valuable degree. Throughout the last 11 years, they have boasted a 99.4% graduate employment rate.

National University of Singapore

If you decide the University of Hong Kong isn’t for you but you still want to work or study within Asia, you should consider the National University of Singapore. The National University of Singapore is actually considered one of the best universities in Asia, so students and professors alike can expect a lot of value out of their time here.

For students who are looking to travel, the National University of Singapore has plenty of overseas colleges that students can attend during overseas programs. These include chances to travel and study in Beijing, Israel, Munich, Shanghai, New York, Stockholm, Silicon Valley, and Lausanne. The National Universities of Singapore also works closely with two of the best American universities – Yale University and Duke University.

As a student, you would also have the chance to work towards double degree or joint degree with exchange programs with other leading universities.

University of Geneva

The University of Geneva is not only known as one of the most diverse universities in the world, it is also known as Switzerland’s second largest university.

International Teachers

While studying or working at the University of Geneva, there are more than 280 different degree programs and over 250 continuing education programs. This, paired with the fact that they have an average of 16,000 international students from more than 140 different countries, makes the University of Geneva a place rife with opportunities for both students and teachers.

This article was submitted to us by ISC member and guest author, David Smith.

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A Seemingly Simple Question: Where are you From?

August 22, 2018


Living abroad for over 25 years has been an exciting and fulfilling experience marked by the many rewarding opportunities to meet new people. When we meet new people, our natural curiosity takes over and we quickly begin to ask questions.  The answers help us find commonalities and develop bonds, which make us feel connected. One question I have always struggled to answer is the one I hear most often: where are you from? This seemingly simple question is packed with many expectations and assumptions. I never know which answer I should provide. Several questions of my own flash through my head in the seconds before I answer; Should I answer with my country of birth, my passport, my ethnicity? For me, and many others today, the answer is no longer singular.

question

Often times we are expected to provide a standard answer to a question that is no longer standard. In the recent era of multicultural and multilingual families, these answers are not as simple anymore. As a Asian-American expat living abroad, whenever I get asked this question, I find myself having an inner dialogue.  Do I give this person the expected answer that falls in line with their expectations based on my Asian appearance, or do I give a different answer that I know will lead to the next question; yes, but where were you born? Or where are your parents from? Recognizing that people have good intentions and are genuinely curious, I most commonly share this response; I was raised in the States, but my parents are from South Korea.

This complexity manifests in schools as well.  I remember walking into a classroom one day; the children were sitting in front of a world map and the teacher asked each child to place a pin on the map to answer the question ‘where are you from?’ One child asked the teacher for two additional pins. When the teacher asked why, the child explained he needed a pin for each country his family represented. His father was Swiss-Canadian, and his mother was German. To my delight, rather than making the child choose, the surprised teacher simply gave the child additional pins. This story demonstrates that we often expect a single answer to a single question.  Whether we identify as a global nomad, third cultural/cross cultural citizen, multiplicity in our identities in now the new norm, and our questions and conversations should begin to reflect this.

question

One day, as I was sharing my frustration at being asked this general question, my friend asked me,  ‘What would you ask instead?’ After thinking about it, I responded that it depended on what I really wanted to know about that person.  I have found that an additional moment of consideration when choosing which question I pose has often led to more sincere and meaningful interactions.  Examples of questions I now ask include:

  • Where did you grow up?
  • Where does your family live?
  • Where were you born?
  • Where did you go to school?
  • Where did you live before moving here?  
  • Where have you lived the longest?
  • Where is home for you?

question

Although each question may still not have a simple answer, go against your urge to ask the easy question and challenge yourself to go deeper and more personal.  You can try one of my questions or come up with ones of your own. Demonstrating curiosity and sharing our personal histories are gifts we have as humans. Asking more mindful and thoughtful questions may lead to more robust interactions and certainly more engaging conversations.  So next time you meet someone new, consider asking them a different question that uncovers a deeper level beyond nationality, passport or ethnic background. Each question is a gateway to the possibility of a new connection, a fascinating dialogue, and maybe even a new friendship along the way.  

This article was submitted to us by guest author, Ji Han.  Over the past 28 years,  Ji’s professional journey has included positions as Principal, Curriculum Coordinator, classroom teacher and educational consultant in many schools and countries around the world.  She remains active in promoting collaboration and sharing mutual best practice through her involvement as a workshop facilitator, conference presenter, accreditation leader and a member of various committee groups.

All images are sourced by Google images
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Facing and Learning From Our International School Contradictions

August 15, 2018


I learned about International Schools in the early 1980’s. A Principal whom worked with in the States mentioned he had just returned from two years of teaching in Jedda. He explained International Schools to me and I thought, “Are you kidding?” I tucked the information away in my ‘mental pocket’.

About ten years later, I was working with a successful juggling, magic and music ‘Medicine Show’. I had created this show with a partner and it became quite successful. Nonetheless, I was feeling ‘stale’ in my work and in fact, in my life and felt the need to be challenged and indeed, ‘confused’. I decided to travel… to India. I remembered that Principal and thought that it would a good idea to get short-term work at an International School to help pay for a trip or to simply get a tax write-off. I sent letters to every International School in India. I was invited to come to Kodaikanal International School in Tamil Nadu.

International School

It was, by then, the mid to late ’80’s, a time before the Indian economy had opened to global trade. My arrival at the airport startled me, filled with both confusion and a complex smell of multiple ingredients. My bus trip from the airport left me far from my eventual destination of Colaba, the old Victorian section near the original Taj. It was around 2am. I walked towards my destination. The streets were filled with sleeping people. I walked filled with the alert caution I cultivated from growing up in New York City. In spite of anticipating potential ‘trouble’ I couldn’t ignore the fact that the vibe was actually quite tranquil and not in the least confrontational. My shoulders relaxed, my gait slowed and I realized I had just received the first lesson of my journey, never judge what you see, from what you’ve seen.

That has been one of the many gifts I’ve received from 35 years of visits to International Schools in over 65 countries. There have been others…stories of the world’s endless diversity, opportunities to work with intelligent and dedicated people, the chance to see how an education blessed with abundant resources, time, space and adventures effects students and their teachers. While working, I have always tried to carve out time to travel… a few days here and there, a dip into Lake Malawi, Christmas time in Ethiopia’s Lalibela, hiking the Steppes of Mongolia driving the mountain roads around the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Oman and simply being a flaneur in the streets of Paris, Rome, Sofia, Gothenburg, Lima, etc.

I’ve been lucky with what I’ve been able to see and learn. I purposely placed myself in circumstances previously unexplored by me and where I had to trust my instincts and the world I was temporarily immersed in. The results has been one gift after another; the experience and appreciation of the essential goodness and abundance of the planet; its physical beauty and its diverse inhabitants.

However, I can’t deny that part of working with the International School community is also a discomfort that comes from an awareness that the world that supports International Schools is often one supported by economic inequality and resource and human exploitation. Working in International Schools helps all of us understand that we, the privileged, walk ‘roads’ around the world occupied by a very small percentage of the Earth’s inhabitants. It can feel like a contradiction when we teach about the importance of supporting our planet’s social and ecological diversity while realizing that the system that supports our profession often consciously or inadvertently contributes to the very things we are trying to erase; inequality and unsustainable use of resources.

How do we resolve this? We probably never fully do. I probably haven’t, but being part of International School Community has convinced me that the education we share must now move towards one that is not oblivious to these contradictions. Nor, in my opinion, should we assuage our discomfort through charity or a sense of ‘noblesse oblige’; an attitude that leads to ‘top down’ benevolence. The true nature of our engagement with the world must begin with the idea that ‘We are all in it together’ Only when we understand that our fates and the fates of those who are much less economically privileged than us and who so often provide the food and services that privileges us, are the same.

In this ‘next era’ of International School education, we know that colonialism is not the system that should define our engagement with the world. We understand that ‘charity’ no longer is enough or even smart. Our engagement with the worlds of our ‘host’ countries, must be based on respecting the intelligence and often unacknowledged ways these countries have traditionally negotiated complex problems of social and ecological diversity and limited resources. In the International School Community, we must now see ourselves as partners with our host countries and not as overlords; partners in the struggle for a sustainable and more egalitarian world.

I have learned first hand that this understanding is not the one that has been dominant. One year, I was brought to a school in India to work with non-violence issues. Next to the school was a settlement of poor folk living in crowded and incredibly trying circumstances. I wondered how they get along with each other in these trying situations, so I suggested going into this community and finding out how they dealt with conflict. Previously, the only contact the school had with this community was a charity based, where the children of the community were invited in to do art, receive food and to play with the children in the International School. The leadership of the school nixed the kind of exploration I proposed.

A shift in this perspective to one of mutual learning will point us to creating a shared practice with those who are our neighbors and colleagues; a shift that will allow us to learn from those who have lived in our ‘adopted’ countries much longer than we have. Their practices, often part of our host countries historical agricultural techniques, their water use policies, waste disposal and construction methods, are things we can learn from. Living within limits are often part of many people’s cultural heritage, philosophy and behavior. To learn from and participate with others in taking care of all of our environment and population leads to an investigation of how the industrialized world sometimes promotes practices with the opposite effect. Understanding and learning about locally based wisdom can be a big step in moving our relationship with our host countries to one of equality and sharing and an understanding that inequality, exploitation and the imposed destruction of the ‘locally grown’ aren’t smart for anybody. The result of not taking advantage of learning about local wisdom can result in everyone being vulnerable to its effect.

This kind of education, one that understands that everyone teaches and everyone learns, can help to resolve the discomfort we feel living and working in worlds seemingly isolated from the problems of the multitude of people who live outside our gates. International Schools can be part of a vanguard movement in International Education that learns as well as it teaches, shares as well as takes and helps the planet moves forward to an acknowledgment of the fragility of our Earth and how our ‘boat’ is ultimately shared by all…a good way to educate for the future, I think.

This article was submitted to us by guest author, Marc Levitt. Marc Levitt is a filmmaker (Stories in Stone, Woven in Time and the ‘in process, Triple Decker, A New England Love Story), author (Putting Everyday Life on the Page, Changing Curriculum Through Stories, A Holistic Approach to Culture Change), storyteller, radio host (www.ActionSpeaksRadio.com) and has been working in the International School Community as a Key Note speaker, workshop leader and storyteller for over 35 years. He is currently the ‘Scholar in Resident’ in a working class community’s school system in Rhode Island, USA. Marc can be reached at www.MarcLevitt.org or MarcJoelLevitt@gmail.com

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Traveling the world and getting to know more than 30,000 people through pancakes

July 14, 2018


For the past 9 years I have met more than 30,000 people. How? By traveling the world and handing out Dutch pancakes for free wherever I go!

How it all started

My story started 9 years ago, when I was studying in Hong Kong for a university exchange program. My friends there cooked Asian food for me and in return I decided to serve them Dutch pancakes. This was a big success and people liked the pancakes and the atmosphere a lot. Back then I already thought that if this event was such a success in Hong Kong, why not anywhere else in the world?!

traveling

When back in the Netherlands I started hosting people at my apartment­­ on Saturday nights, first for 10 or 20 people, but when encouraging my friends to invite more people, it soon grew out towards 100+ people every week. A few months into this, my landlord decided that he wanted to sell my apartment. At that moment I had to make a decision whether to rent a new apartment or to invest my salary in flight tickets and to travel the world in my free time. I decided on the second one and have since then been a nomad for the past 5+ years.

Initially I just approached my own friends who lived all over Europe and asked them whether they fancied to host an edition in their apartments. This worked, but the pace was low (only 1-2 editions per month). At one point I decided to approach strangers on Facebook, Couchsurfing, etc with the question whether they would know of suitable locations or to host the event in their own apartments. Luckily I was always able to find a location this way. However, nowadays the event has outgrown the capacity of regular apartments, so I decided to switch to bars, hostels and more professional venues.

Very different places

Over the course of these 9 years I have organized the pancake events for around 460 times, in 78 countries and in around 200 different cities, literally all over the world, from Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro and from Dar es Salaam to Boston. During these events we prepared more than 50,000 Dutch pancakes!

traveling

All the places I have visited are of course very different from each other, but the atmosphere at the events is surprisingly similar: people are generally very enthusiastic, easy-going and open to meet many more people. They are also often very willing to help and support, for example by finding locations for the events, helping with groceries, bringing along cooking material, preparing pancakes, or help with cleaning. Occasionally the location even looks cleaner than before the event!

How did the pancake event grow so big?

I have always wondered what drove the success of these events. I think the following factors made the difference:

  1. Pancakes: people all over the world love pancakes and most people have tried them since they are young. In many countries the pancakes even have their own method of preparation and flavor.
  2. Diverse crowd: the events typically attract a very diverse and international crowd, from many different cultures and professional backgrounds.
  3. Personal approach: I try to write everyone who indicates to be interested, either by liking, clicking to attend, joining a group chat etc. Welcoming and encouraging them to bring more people, drives conversion.
  4. Pop-up event: I generally organize these events only one time in a city, so people have no other chance to try the event out in that city.
  5. Free food: there are not too many events around the world with unlimited free food. It is therefore not surprising that potential attendants of the events are often suspicious and think that there must be a way I earn money with these events (which is not the case).

traveling

What are my plans for the future?

Even though I have organized these pancake events for 9 years already, I never looked further than 3 months. There were many moments that I thought about stopping, for example if I experienced disappointments or setbacks or if I did not feel like putting in the effort required to organize more editions. However, there were always many more moments that I felt so happy having completed editions successfully and getting a lot of positive feedback from participants. That has always kept me going!

traveling

As for the Dutch pancake nights, I keep on searching for ways to make the experiences for the participants more unique, for example by making them larger (I now think of creating an XXL edition for more than 1000 people), at more unique locations (in an embassy, on a yacht, etc), by creating social impact (e.g. community building, charity), or otherwise.

How can you join?

In case you are also curious to join a Dutch Pancake edition, feel free to visit the event in Hong Kong on Saturday 21 July: https://www.facebook.com/events/201543413811969/

If you cannot make it to the edition in Hong Kong, then here you can find the calendar with other editions: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Dutch-Pancake-events-1127435713963068/events

Here you can find two related videos about the Dutch Pancake Night:

– My TEDx speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPa7V5shQAs&t=250s

– An impression of the event: https://vimeo.com/256783761

Next to that, I do hope that people will be inspired by this journey, connecting people through 3 different ingredients: milk, flour and eggs. And I do hope that people will also start using their own ingredients to shape their own unconventional lifestyle!

traveling

Bio

Robin Vogelaar has a background in finance (at MIT Sloan School of Management) and management consulting (at The Boston Consulting Group and ING Bank in Amsterdam) and currently travels the world bringing people together through Dutch pancakes and supporting NGOs and social enterprises with volunteer consulting on any strategic topic.

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