International Global


An Interconnected World: Are Students and Schools Ready to Go?

By Gary Marx

What’s happening in our world is stunning.  Consider these startling facts:

  • Of 100 people on the planet, only 5 live in Northern America; 60 live in Asia.
  • By 2025, our world will host 37 megacities; 3 will be in the U.S.; 21 are expected to be in Asia. A megacity is a metro area of more than 10 million people.
  • The world population will increase from 6 billion in 2000 to about 9.3 billion in 2050, a 50 percent increase in 50 years. Of that accumulated growth, 4.3 percent is expected in the more developed world and 60 percent in the less developed or developing world.
  • During the first half of the 21st century, only one continent, Europe, is expecting a population decline, an anticipated drop of 3.2 percent. On the other hand, Africa’s population will grow an estimated 122 percent, the Near East 132 percent, Latin America and the Caribbean 49 percent, and North America about 47 percent.

Perspective is essential.  Context is critical.  The concept of a fast-changing world is not a cliché and it isn’t fantasy.  It’s a stark reality.  Since we are of this world, not separate from it, we face a growing sense of urgency.

If it hasn’t already, international learning needs to become basic.  Science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts (STEAM+) will always be important.  However, if we hope to have a viable future, we’d better pay attention to the importance of international relationships, cultural understanding, languages, and diplomatic skills.

Of course, we can embrace the accelerating need for international/global education or deny it, but it isn’t going away.  We have a choice.  As a nation, community, or education system, if we don’t stay ahead of the curve, we will surely be left behind.

Are we really that connected?  Consider this.  If Greece gets an economic cold, people in countries around the world start to sneeze.  If a nuclear reactor goes off kilter an ocean away, we start testing for radiation.  On this relatively small planet, we are interconnected.

A genetic researcher from Beijing, working at an institute in Rome, had just finished an international conference in Galveston.  I caught up with her on a shuttle ride to the Houston airport.  A South Dakota farmer monitors weather conditions and crop yields in China and Argentina to get an idea about the price he’ll get for his soybeans.  These stories are becoming less and less remarkable.  It’s how the world works.

Columnist Tom Friedman grabbed our attention with his classic book, The World is Flat.  Every day, exponentially increasing computer power and telecommunication bring us together.  In essence, people end up working side-by-side, even though they may physically be half a world away.  Convergence is in.  Isolation is out.  Raise any questions for you?  Friedman wonders whether the world has gotten so flat so fast that our political systems can no longer keep up with it.

The word, globalization, often becomes a political football rather than simply a definition of what is happening before our very eyes.  A Harvard Future of Learning Institute defined globalization this way:  “The accelerating traffic of people, capital, and cultural products around the world.  It embodies opportunities and risks for individuals and societies worldwide.”

Here’s the driving question for schools, school systems, colleges, and universities:  What are the implications for education?

Should we add global knowledge as a graduation requirement?  Should world languages be a regular part of the curriculum?  Should educators be better prepared to teach about the world and encouraged to become even more curious about people, places, and cultures beyond their own chosen horizons?  Do all of us need a basic grounding in economics, history, law, political science, government, civic responsibility, human rights, and social skills?  Should we emphasize diplomatic skills, such as: open minds, natural curiosity, patience, courtesy and good manners, a sense of tolerance, and the ability to empathize with others—to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes?

Should our students, all of us for that matter, become even more familiar with the importance of government, business, personal, and educational and scientific relationships among people and nations.  Are we capable of thinking globally and acting locally?  Do we understand the need to balance competition with collaboration to get important things done?

On this small planet, drifting through the vastness of space, we fight over territory, power, authority, religion, economic advantage, traditional energy resources, water, the environment, and a host of other massive issues.  Will we be able to address these issues peacefully and thoughtfully?  Part of the answer is education that gets today’s students ready for the future in a global knowledge/information age.  Are we up to the challenge?

Idea:  As a discussion starter, ask students to brainstorm answers to this question: “What are the characteristics of any country capable of being a good member of a family of nations?”

Read More:

To read more about Global/International trends, check out Chapter 11 of Twenty-One Trends for the 21st Century…Out of the Trenches and into the Future by Gary Marx.  Both the full book and Guide versions are available for single- and multiple-copy purchases to help us build an understanding of these and other trends far-and-wide.  Order from the publisher, Education Week Press, (print and electronic); from Amazon at   

Century-Trenches/dp/1939864046 (print and Kindle); or from Barnes & Noble (Nook).




Ubiquitous Technology Drives the Pace of Change

By Gary Marx

Ubiquitous, interactive technology is shaping how we live, how we learn, how we work, how we see ourselves, and how we relate to the world.  Technologies have a way of bursting onto the scene, leaving a trail of opportunity and disruption.  It’s happened before…and it’s happening again.  The big difference?  The pace of change.

What we’ve gained is an avalanche of new technologies, each with a set of life-changing benefits and possible consequences.  What we’ve lost is what the “ancients of a previous decade” called “the between” or “between time.”  For the consumer, the time between anticipation and gratification continues to shrink.

In our book, Twenty-One Trends for the 21st Century, a chapter is devoted to technology.  In this brief essay, we’ll take snapshots of nine realities, possibilities, and concerns, all driven by our tech-accelerated move from an Industrial Age into a Global Knowledge/Information Age, even an Age of Knowledge Creation and Breakthrough Thinking.

Expect many technologies to become even more mobile, wearable, and invisible.  We’ll put them on when we get dressed and hardly give it a second thought.  Iowa City Community Schools Superintendent Stephen Murley observes, “Technology immigrants think about technology.  For digital natives, children and young adults, it just is.”

Technology is more than a device with a keyboard.  Nanotechnology, at the molecular level, is allowing us to move atoms around within a molecule to produce a revolution in materials science.  Biotechnology, robotics, and development of higher-capacity batteries are exploding fields, along with data analytics.  Expect billions of devices to be connected to the Internet of Things.

A fixed physical workplace will become less significant.  With widely distributed computing power, networks, and portability, many of us will be able to do our jobs nearly anywhere.  Think of cottage industries, consultants, free-lancers, and employees of large and small firms who spend a lion’s share of their time working from a variety of locations.

Equal opportunity for bandwidth will become part of the level playing field.  It might even be seen as a civil right.

The power of social media will continue to increase.  By whatever future names they are given, interactive social media will rally people to sing anthems at shopping centers, protest or support public issues, and send suggestions directly to classroom teachers. 

Increasing numbers of people will be blindsided by their own dashboards.  A word of warning to those who program their dashboards to give them only one side of a story: You just might lose touch with the broader world.

Discovery, enabled in part by immersive technologies, will bring greater life to education.  We all know that the thrill of discovery teaches us lessons we never forget.

Tools of the learning trade will grow by the minute.  We’re surrounded by new tools for teaching and learning, and they are multiplying.  Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality are among them.  Students are reporting on their research (learning through inquiry) using writing, speaking, thinking, reasoning, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, and interdisciplinary skills.  Their tools often include videos they produce, PowerPoint presentations, and lessons for their classes.  Learning technology veteran Gary Rowe of Rowe, Inc. sees the evolution of 3D visual media making virtual travel a possibility.  He suggests virtual field trips to “Bunker Hill, Bell Labs, and the Great Barrier Reef.”

Getting and keeping attention will become exponentially more challenging.  Whether we’re speaking to staff, constituents, a community group, or students, we know up front that nearly all of us have access to the same information.  While using communication technologies can help us stay in touch and up to date, it can also give us graphic, animated tools to help us make learning more exciting and novel.  In Talk Like TED, author Carmine Gallo quotes Northwestern University Adjunct Professor Martha Burns, who observes, “Our goal as teachers is to get our students addicted to learning.”

A Few Suggested Ground Rules for Technology.

  • The same device that can connect us to the world can also isolate us from personal face-to-face communication. We may need remedial units or courses on how to talk with each other.
  • Each technology can be used constructively or destructively. An aircraft that can take us to exotic places can also bring down an office building.
  • Not everything on the Internet is factual. Thinking, reasoning, problem solving, research, and other skills are essential in separating wheat from chaff, truth from fiction.
  • Consequences for ourselves and others should be clear if we ignore the rules of netiquette.
  • Finally, students should know that we are depending on them to invent or develop entirely new or next generations of existing technologies that will help us shape our future. Today’s entrepreneurial students will be the ones who conceive of new industries and job opportunities that may be beyond our imaginations.

The silicon chip may not be able to give us the exponential increases we’ve come to expect in computer speed and capacity.  Already, quantum computers are in various stages of invention.  Each will likely be built around a qubit.  All of us will be jolted by the quantum impact these dazzling devices have on an already dizzying pace of change.

Just for perspective.  Remember five or ten years ago when we declared we would never be able to use some of the new technologies?  Today, we can’t do without them.

Read More:

To read more about Technology, check out Chapter 4 of Twenty-One Trends for the 21st Century…Out of the Trenches and into the Future by Gary Marx.  The full book and Guide versions are available for single- and multiple-copy purchase to help us build an understanding of these and other trends.  Order from the publisher, Education Week Press, (print and electronic); from Amazon at  (print and Kindle); or from Barnes & Noble (Nook).