Global Connections: Education

Submitted by The Catt-Trax2 Team on Tue, 2007/01/16 - 4:04pm.

Making Global Connections by Internationalizing Curricula with Technology

Terry Fuller
Terry Fuller

By Terry Fuller
Instructional Development Consultant
Project Manager, Catt-Trax2 Grassroots Project
Learning and Teaching Centre
British Columbia Institute of Technology

Haven't you noticed? The world is getting smaller! Travel, communications, and globalization are drawing the most far-flung lands and people closer. Yet those very things that are making our lives easier and more interesting are threatening the health of our planet.

So what does this have to do with internationalizing curricula? Some of our students may never work internationally or work for a company with international affiliates or headquarters in other countries. However, because the world is getting smaller, we don't view the world as we did thirty years ago. We read newspaper articles and listen to news broadcasts about the war in Iraq, global warming, the price of oil. We buy products from those countries that provide that cheap natural resource ─ human labour. And all of us work and live in communities which are diverse, eat food from all over the world, drive cars, take public transit, use telephones and the Internet.

By internationalizing curricula we come to understand who we are and how we fit in the human family. It helps us understand how our actions influence policy. It helps us to make decisions to change our behaviours in order to make our planet a better place to live.

Danny Catt's teaching is a perfect example of how an educator can use technology to internationalize the curriculum. I have attended a couple of his lectures in which a colleague from Ecuador spoke about wildlife in the Galapagos Islands. Students made comparisons with our own wildlife issues here in British Columbia. There was a fascinating dialogue between the Ecuadorian instructor and the students in Danny's classroom here at BCIT. How exciting is that?

He continues to internationalize his courses by including his students on his travels to South America. His first-year students completed projects on British Columbia (see British Columbia's Region Profiles), and his second-year students have written country profiles on the eleven regions that Danny is visiting for his current project, Catt-Trax2 - Making Global Connections: Antarctica to the Amazon. Danny is following up on his students' research by talking to colleagues, scientists, and other experts in biology, recreation, and ecotourism to learn more about B.C.'s connection with the world.

While he is in South America, Danny will also be using technology to make presentations to elementary school students in B.C. Not only is he internationalizing the curriculum, but he is making the Fish, Wildlife and Recreation program at BCIT an attractive post-secondary option.

Through the use of technology, Danny is influencing the way BCIT students make global connections and responsible decisions. For example:

  • How driving their cars less, riding bikes, or taking public transit will decrease their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and help restore the natural balance of the planet
  • By understanding the migration patterns of birds, we can influence policy makers to preserve the birds' habitats in Canada and elsewhere. See Sean Boyd's Global Connection piece: Bird Migration
  • By traveling in a responsible manner, we preserve our planet for future generations

The role of faculty in internationalizing curricula is critical. They make those cross-institutional, cross-occupational links that make learning at BCIT so exciting, and through their passion for their field, and their love of teaching, they create a dynamic, creative environment that make our students lifelong learners.

When faculty use technology to internationalize curricula, it benefits them personally and professionally by generating energy and creativity through teaching excellence. The infusion of international experience into their classroom provides tremendous value to our students. Instructors benefit by performing their jobs with greater understanding and are better able to react to situations based on their international knowledge, experience, and perspective, thus enabling faculty and staff to better support BCIT's mission of building pathways for career success for our graduates.