Educating teens and pre-teens about globalization cannot be an easy thing. Teachers face plenty of obstacles in captivating impressionable attention spans that are routinely molded by 30-second television commercials and consumerist social mores.
Yet, the far-reaching potential of the Internet can be an ally in the educational arena. The interactive multimedia web tool-kit called "A Different World: An Educational Tool Kit for Building Global Justice", developed by Montréal-based non-profit the Social Justice Committee (SJC), is one example of media being developed by learning institutions and non-profits worldwide to make a complex but crucial subject more accessible. [Full disclosure here: I volunteered with SJC for a short time last year, but not on this particular project.]
But tool kits such as A Different World are not about force-feeding youngsters dry facts and statistics. The overall aim is to give young people the fundamental skills of how to inquire, research and analyze any issue of a global scale, while also building social justice through education.
Not just for social sciences
"It's not just useful for secondary school, it's useful for anyone who wants to teach global issues... for example, community groups can use the tool kit too," says the project's coordinator Elvira Truglia.
With its project-based approach, the kit's materials are ideal for history, citizenship, geography, and contemporary world courses, but its scope also extends beyond the typical social science class.
"The tool kit is not confined to teachers of global issues classes necessarily – for example, there was a science teacher that used the environment and water unit in his science class," explains Truglia. "In other schools, teachers who are involved in social justice committees in their schools have used it as an alternative way to address issues that are of interest to the students."
Conceived initially as a print version in 2005 and published in both English and French by the publisher Learning Materials (LEARN), the free companion web version of A Different World launched this summer, broadening its reach to places beyond Quebec's schools. The kit is already in use by an estimated 3,000 students, with kits being purchased by schools, libraries, adult education centers and even le Cirque du Soleil.
Everyday applications for different learners
"What I like about the Tool Kit is that it applies to the 'readers' and the 'doers' in the classroom. Also, the material is applicable to the students' own lifestyles and patterns of consumption," says Brenda Hass, a high school teacher who used the Tool Kit in her classroom. Hass plans to use again in preparation for the school's upcoming 30-Hour Famine event.
Structurally versatile, the kit can be adapted to any learning environment as it is organized into modules that deal with "Poverty and Basic Human Needs" and "Globalization and Trade" which then break down into smaller units such as "Migration, Trade & Human Rights", "Poverty & Basic Education" . Each module features Internet-based learning activities and team projects that encourage students to refine their research, analytical, creative and communication skills.
Supporting materials include printable fact sheets, photo galleries and resource links that can be used in any educational situation. Online forums allow teachers and students to share ideas or comments about completed activities, or to even post podcasts.
"We don't want students to just navigate the Internet, we want students to be able to navigate life and to learn about things that affect them," says Truglia. "We want to motivate both teachers and students to think that they can change things by getting them to work collaboratively."
The A Different World tool kit was produced by the SJC, and was made possible with the support of the Government of Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency, and the web version, with the support of The Foundation of Greater Montreal.
A Different World Online Tool Kit
Related Links on Tool Kits
Community Organizing Tool Kit
Environmental Assessment Toolkit
American Institute of Architects (AIA) Sustainability 2030 Toolkit