Four things every student should learn … but not every school is teaching

Schools are missing out on important opportunities if they fail to teach these lessons, says ed-tech consultant Alan November.
Schools are missing out on important opportunities if they fail to teach these lessons, says ed-tech consultant Alan November.

An awareness of the views of those in other countries, an understanding of how Google ranks the results of a web search, a knowledge of the permanence of information posted online: These are some of the lessons that every student should be learning in today’s schools, says education technology consultant Alan November—but not every middle or high school is teaching these lessons.

November was the featured speaker at a Jan. 14 luncheon session during the Florida Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando. Although the session focused on how to balance safety and learning in the digital age, during the course of the discussion November also revealed several topics that he said every member of the Net Generation should learn:

1. Global empathy.

November said he was talking with a senior executive at a global investment bank recently, and he asked the executive: What is the most important skill for today’s students to learn so they are prepared to succeed in the new global economy?

“Empathy,” the executive replied—the ability to understand and respect different points of view.

Most of today’s companies do business with customers all over the world, and several also have branches in multiple countries. Chances are good that when students enter the workforce, they’ll be working with—or doing business with—someone from another nation, with its own culture and its own unique perspective, at some point in their career.

It’s not hard to find people who are smart, the executive said. What is hard to find are employees who have to ability to empathize with, and be sensitive to the needs of, people from other countries.

Fortunately, November said, technology makes it easy for today’s students to learn global empathy. Students can discover the current social and political conditions of other nations online, and they can interact with their peers from abroad and learn their perspectives on issues firsthand through web conferencing or eMail.

2. Social and ethical responsibility on the web.

Topics such as cyber bullying and sexting have made frequent headlines in recent years, and often with tragic consequences. The latest example occurred in western Massachusetts last month, when a 15-year-old freshman at South Hadley High School committed suicide after being harassed online.

With several states passing laws to address cyber bullying, and a new federal law requiring schools to teach internet safety in order to receive e-Rate funding, many schools now highlight the dangers of inappropriate online behavior as part of their lessons.

November weighed in on the importance of these lessons, calling out schools that neglect to teach online responsibility.

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Dennis Pierce

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