1 December 2017

Technology and Global Citizenship Education

One of the indicators of Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, is the extent to which global citizenship education has been mainstreamed at all levels in national education policies, curricula, teacher education and student assessment. In this first of a two-part series on global citizenship education, we interviewed Dr. Eunhee Jung, founder and Executive Director of the non-profit organization IVECA International Virtual Schooling, on the use of information and communications technology in global citizenship education. 

1 December 2017 - Inspired by her father, who was an elementary school teacher in the Republic of Korea, Dr. Eunhee Jung decided to follow in his footsteps and go into education. As Dr. Jung relates it, however, she gradually became aware that her training was emphasizing acquisition of knowledge through textbooks rather than through conversation and first-hand experience such as volunteer work or travel, even for the sake of better understanding diverse cultures. At the same time, she had another important realization. “As I began to learn more about international conflicts in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” she recalls, “I became convinced that they were all fundamentally due to a misunderstanding of the other side’s perspective.”

Dr. Jung describes an epiphany she had regarding the nexus of educational training, intercultural communication and technology. “I saw a Korean man who was practicing English using his cell phone. In a flash, I had an image of students ere sitting on a playground here and there in groups and working together on school tasks using mobile devices.” Soon afterwards, she decided to take up graduate studies in educational technology and international/comparative education. Her doctoral thesis at the University of Virginia dealt with “Intercultural Competence Development: Implementing International Virtual Elementary Classroom Activities for Public School Students in the U.S. and Korea.” Out of this research grew the IVECA (Intercultural Virtual Exchange of Classroom Activities) programme, an international online schooling platform that Dr. Jung founded and now directs.

According to Dr. Jung, IVECA harnesses the recent affordable developments in information and communications technology to enable elementary and secondary school as well as university students from different backgrounds around the globe to interact directly with each other. She sees IVECA's virtual learning experience as promoting a new sense of “living together”. Partnered school students can communicate in a genuinely reciprocal manner, indeed, in a way that offers some distinct advantages over what is all-too-often a “one-way learning environment” in which visiting students must adapt to their host country and assimilate to the local culture. Dr. Jung believes that IVECA helps create a learning space especially suited to global citizenship, inasmuch as online connectivity allows the participants to learn from one another on a more equal footing.

Global citizenship means to Dr. Jung communicating and collaborating appropriately and effectively with people in both local and far-flung communities. Interacting with people from different backgrounds brings with it a powerful potential to reflect on the relationship between global dynamics and individual choices. “Global citizenship also means being able to solve problems creatively through compassion and respect for cultural diversity”, Dr. Jung says. Whether virtually or in situ, the interconnectedness of phenomena that lies at the core of global citizenship, she believes, can best be tangibly grasped through face-to-face interaction and collaboration with people in diverse cultures and countries.