Virtual exchanges connect students across continents, build understanding

The importance and value of virtual exchanges took center stage in remarks by Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan and former Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Michael Nutter at a recent symposium on global digital education. The symposium, convened by Global Cities, Inc., brought together educators from 25 U.S. school districts across 16 states with international peers from three other countries.

In her welcoming remarks, Assistant Secretary Ryan emphasized the need to connect students across borders at a young age:

“Young people who have a chance to experience different perspectives early in life have a better chance at developing the skills, empathy, and cooperative spirit that we need to face the great challenges and possibilities of this changing world.”

At the symposium, educators discussed how technology creates pathways to expand access to international exchanges to a broader group of American students. They also “explored how Internet-based activities and peer to peer exchanges can develop students’ global citizenship.”

This global citizenship is critical, according to Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City who spoke at the symposium:

“Combating the ignorance that breeds fear and intolerance begins with young people…and giving students positive experiences with students from other countries doesn’t just enhance their education journeys, it strengthens the fabric of our societies. Every local challenge has a global connection; and in order to be good citizens today, we must be global citizens, too. That’s why programs that bring students from diverse cultures together are so important. And it’s also why technology is so critical to the idea of global citizenship.”

Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter agreed, adding that international exchanges hold important and long-lasting value for U.S. students:

“Global education is the great common ground that drives human progress forward. It is our first line of defense against the growing tide of inequality and prejudice in U.S. cities and around the globe. As the world changes, we must equip the young with skills to work with others who may not share their own worldview in order to collaborate on today’s challenges.”