We are honored to speak with Michael Furdyk, one of the co-founders of TakingITGlobal, which is one of the global collaboration platforms we have highlighted here on ASAC. Mr Furdyk has helped create an amazing platform for hundreds of thousands of students across more than 200 countries. He has also appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Time Magazine, Fast Company, BusinessWeek, CNN, MSNBC and USA Today.
ASAC: We are thrilled to see the Future Friendly Schools Program taking off. As one of the co-founders, can you explain how this program differs from current efforts schools are undertaking to promote global citizenship and environmental stewardship?
Furdyk: For schools already leading the way in promoting global citizenship and environmental stewardship, Future Friendly Schools is designed to recognize and showcase their existing practices, through their school portfolio, and connect them with peer schools across the globe to collaborate with and learn from. Many schools who might not have a focus in these areas will see a different and broader benefit, in gaining tailored recommendations from the accreditation process to support setting priorities to strengthen these values, and a connection to a “living laboratory” – the community of schools around the world who are leading the way.
For schools looking to differentiate themselves in locations with many school choices, the designation as a “Future Friendly School” offers an appealing signal to prospective parents and students of a school’s commitment to key values and cultural priorities, and to staying relevant in an increasingly interconnected world. OCED’s recent TALIS survey results demonstrated a link between professional collaboration and educator job satisfaction, and opportunities to collaborate across the Future Friendly Schools network can contribute to this opportunity to strengthen employee engagement.
Finally, the actionable recommendations offered by the certification process can provide significant value in identifying areas for increased focus and specific support resources, helping to strengthen student engagement and satisfaction.
ASAC: TakingITGlobal for Educators (TIGed) remains one of the world’s most successful global collaboration platforms for schools worldwide. How has the organization used this growth to its advantage and managed to maintain such a high level of program quality?
Furdyk: As a small organization, we believe that a partnership-based approach is the best strategy to creating materials that are relevant and high-quality! For most of our education program development, we’ve partnered with Universities who have provided content expertise, while we add our digital platform skills and expertise. For example, our recent Mental Health Thematic Classroom was created with Dalhousie University’s Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health: http://www.tigweb.org/tiged/projects/mentalhealth/
ASAC: Can you describe the Culture Connect mini-program you help oversee at TIGed?
In 2013, we received the Intercultural Innovation Award from BMW Financial Group and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. As part of the award, we were challenged to create a new program to propel our intercultural activities to new heights, and Culture Connect was a result. Culture Connect (http://www.tigweb.org/community/cultureconnect/) is a 4-week digital exchange program where young people from different regions of the world share photographs of their daily life, culture, and aspirations and reflect on the contributions of others. So far, we’ve run about 30 cycles of the program for young people in over a dozen countries. We’ve also launched a free MOOC to help educators bring this approach into their classrooms, in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic, as part of the NMC Academy.
ASAC has highlighted the efforts of other collaboration platforms like iEarn and Flat Connections. I realize your relationship is based on collaboration over competition, but for interested teachers, why would you tell them to adopt the TIGed model over the others?
Furdyk: Our TakingITGlobal for Educators program provides three core services to educators in support of global education: professional learning offerings, a network of educators and projects, and a platform for collaboration.
Our friend Julie who leads Flat Connections has a wonderful professional learning offering and I’ve been honoured to be involved as a facilitator at her conference, helping to develop projects. For those educators, they might only make use of our collaboration platform, and that’s great – we’re happy to play any role needed in an educator’s journey.
One unique thing about TakingITGlobal is that we don’t just provide these services for educators, but we have a corresponding platform and set of free tools to support students in developing the values we focus on – global citizenship, environmental stewardship, and student voice. So even for educators completely satisfied with the services they need from someone else like the wonderful team at iEARN, we have thousands of free student resources that they can benefit from and link to their projects.
There’s so many teachers in the world that we need more organizations like ours to serve them – and I know that we all aim to collaborate and send educators more than compete as much as possible.
ASAC: For the teacher or administrator that knows they need to start integrating global citizenship and international collaboration tools into their curriculum but is totally overwhelmed by the range of choices out there, what is a good starting point (or attainable Year One goal) you would recommend for them?
Furdyk: I think an ideal way to start is invite students to find an International Day aligned to their curriculum and design a project to showcase their learning linked to that issue on that day. For example, students in Math could pick International Polar Bear Day (February) and showcase math formulas related to Carbon Footprints, the energy savings of a change in thermostat settings, or the effects of the delayed Sea Ice formations on Polar Bear populations. This provides a fixed date to work towards, a wealth of resources typically already created for each day, and an opportunity to gain local media/community attention as alignment to an international event is always a rich story.
To help you get started, TakingITGlobal’s new International Day section provides a listing of nearly 100 days organized by the United Nations or many international NGOs, with resources linked to each: http://days.tigweb.org
ASAC: Many thanks to you Michael and best of luck in your continued mission! We really respect your work!