Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Summer Reading Thoughts

I agree with Riemers that in order to be globally competent, students must meet the objectives of the three dimensions: the affective, action, and academic dimensions. The affective dimension, which addresses the role of ethics and "the commitment to basic equality and rights of all persons" struck me the most. When we accept and fully embrace the uniqueness in each and every one of us, we are well on the way to meeting the goals of 21st century learning.

As a B-12 school, I think BB&N is fortunate that it can impact students at different stages in their lives. Riemers argues that cultural awareness "can be developed at all levels of the educational ladder and should probably be developed at the early ages, when children's basic values are shaped." What does this cultural awareness and development look like at the lower school? How about at the middle school? When our students enter the upper school are they ready to accept and learn from the diversity of backgrounds, culture, and thought of a larger student and faculty population?

In my time at BB&N, I have learned a great deal from the diversity of our students and teachers. I value our urban location that allows for a blend of experiences to come together. I think we do a great job of preparing our students for college and the real world – I'm reminded of that when I engage in dialogue for college admission colleagues. I'm excited to be having this conversation and look forward to playing any role I can in achieving forthcoming goals.

I do feel we're at a crossroads in a) determining what skills and values are critical in a global arena and b) meeting the expectations of BBN outcomes - college. Do we rely on measuring our success by the results of standardized testing? Do we feel the AP curriculum, for example, fully engages students in the type of learning that might truly help them navigate the 21st century world? Are we willing to perhaps be outliers in designing an academic program that is different, unique, and special from the conventional, and our peers, and not worry about the potential impact on the prestige of the college list? Has BBN defined where it has been, who we are today, and where we would like to go? If our resolve for self-reflection and action are unified, and we enthusiastically make the most our resources, our students, and our staff, BB&N will grow to be stronger than it already is, and we will have equipped our students to be thoughtful, active, and engaged global citizens.

In late September, the college office is attending an annual conference on college counseling and college admission. The keynote speaker is Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. Given the theme of our faculty meetings, I think this is great timing and most fitting. I am pretty excited to hear him speak. The World is Flat was a required summer reading at my previous school and it was the first opportunity I had to engage in a formal dialogue around the topic of global competency and 21st century skills. I found the work to be exceptionally profound and I consider Friedman to be an authority in the discussion on globalization. Here's a summary of what he will cover in his remarks:

Friedman will address the impact of globalization on the field of higher education, and how colleges and universities are changing in a world where historical and geographical divisions are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Discussing how the "flat" global economy and emerging "green" technologies are creating new academic fields of study and new careers – and demanding new skills and knowledge of today's college graduates – he will focus on innovations such as massive open online courses (MOOCs) and their potential effects on the traditional university and college degree.

Clearly, conversations about 21st century skills are happening across college campuses. As our students transition to undergraduate life, how ready are they to exist and co-exist in a constantly evolving and changing global undergraduate experience? Are they ready to work with green technologies, as Friedman will discuss, or are they ready to "take action and investigate matters of global significance as The Asia Institute publication noted? Colleges are making quick adjustments to meet the demands of our global network and students must keep up, if not surpass expectations. I look forward to hearing people's thoughts.

Mo Zelaya
College Counselor

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