Using Technology in the Classroom to Promote Global Education

Published in:

A National Symposium

November 21–22, 2014

University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras
San Juan, Puerto Rico


Our world has become very small because of globalization.

The World Is Flat (Friedman 2006) helped us understand that if the world is not exactly flat, then it is deeply interconnected. Friedman describes how technology and the fall of trade barriers led to the integration of markets and nations, enabling individuals, companies, and nation-states to reach around the world faster and cheaper. Evidence of this interconnectedness is apparent throughout our lives, from the food we eat, to the coffee we drink, and the clothes we wear. Sports teams recruit from around the globe, and the iPhones we use are manufactured in 19 countries.

Definitions of Globalization

. . . Globalization is interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments of different nations, process driven by international trade and investment aided by information technology. (

. . . Opening of local and nationalistic perspectives to a broader outlook of an interconnected and interdependent world with free transfer of capital, goods, and services across national frontiers. (

Societies across the globe established progressively closer contacts over centuries, but recently the pace has dramatically increased. . . . The global social justice movement, a product of globalization, proposes an alternative path, more responsive to public needs. Intense political disputes will continue over globalization’s meaning and future direction. (

Globalization is the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale. (

For our purposes, globalization is the ability to interact at international levels, and to communicate with people of different languages and cultures.

Globalization and Education

Burbules and Torres (2000) question:

How is globalization changing fundamental conditions of an educational system premised on fitting into a community, a community characterized by proximity and familiarity? The question we are facing now is, To what extent is the educational endeavor affected by processes of globalization that are threatening autonomy of national educational systems and sovereignty of the nation-state as the ultimate ruler in democratic societies? . . . Globalization, however defined, seems to have serious consequences for transforming teaching and learning.

As a “the leader in global education,” Farleigh Dickinson University:

Dedicates itself to forging real distinctions between globalization and global education. We are not the first higher education institution to invoke the term global education; we are a leader in its implementation. . . . Experience emphasizes the very simple fact that we need to talk to each other, to see the world through the eyes of others. In the absence of this, we remain myopically self-referential. As globalization takes hold, the world needs global education now more than ever.

ACE Survey found:

Over 80 percent of students said it was very important that colleges and universities offer interaction opportunities with international students. Almost three out of four students said that they believe it is important their college offers courses on international topics. . . . Just over 60 percent expressed interest in international education to acquire career-related experiences. (2000)

This information emphasizes the need to include globalization as an important area of the curriculum. We cannot deny the fact that globalization is having a huge impact in higher education and that future professionals will be required to develop and strengthen a set of skills to face this globalized world.

One of these skills is intercultural communication and awareness. As stated in Ainsworth:

Researchers studying internationalization of higher education agree that all undergraduates require contact with and understanding of other nations, languages and cultures in order to develop the appropriate level of competence to handle the increasingly complex and ill-structured nature of professional work and to function effectively in the rapidly emerging global environment. (2013, 29)

The internationalization component emphasizes the links between the local and the global, diversity and intercultural communication (Ainsworth 2013). Intercultural communication focuses on how people from different cultures communicate and understand each other (Vijaya and Tiwari 2010; Varner 2000). An important aspect of this field is to understand the meaning of culture: “Culture is what defines a human community, its individuals and social organizations. People are dependent on the control of mechanisms of culture for ordering their behavior” (de Mooij 2014, 56-57). Professionals that constantly interact in intercultural settings need to understand the meaning of culture (Jameson 2007).

The single biggest barrier to the success of a company in the business world today is the lack of cross-cultural understanding (Vijaya and Tiwari 2010). Understanding and appreciating intercultural differences will promote effective communication.

According to Ainsworth (2013), many academics underline the importance of including an internationalization component in undergraduate and graduate programs in order to produce students and future professionals with strong communication and intercultural skills. Through the internationalization of the curriculum, students can receive intercultural communication training. Intercultural communication “constitutes a distinct yet complementary set of skills in relation to foreign language proficiency” (Ainsworth 2013, 32). In spite of the intercultural and language challenges that employers face in multinational corporations (MNCs), many business schools are failing to link the importance of language policies with international business practices (Ainsworth, 2013).

Several studies in intercultural communication have identified multiple abilities that are considered crucial to attain effective intercultural communication. Some of them are the ability to communicate interpersonally; the ability to adjust to different cultures; the ability to adjust to different social systems; the ability to establish interpersonal relationships; and the ability to understand one’s own individual cultural identity (Hammer et al. 1978; Abe and Wiseman 1983; Jameson 2007).

Ainsworth (2013) identifies several intercultural business communication skills that are crucial for business graduates to operate successfully in MNCs. Some of these are participating in meetings, teams, and informal work-related discussions, delivering formal presentations, and listening to following instructions.

Kobayashi and Viswat (2011) carried out a study to examine intercultural awareness and accommodation phenomenon while business interactions are taking place. According to these authors, having intercultural awareness applied to communication is not enough. When people from different countries are involved in business transactions, each must be willing to share the responsibility of cultural awareness.

There are many benefits employers gain when they have been given intercultural training; they develop increased awareness of the roles among a diverse workforce, greater understanding of diverse cultures and one’s own culture, more empathetic understanding of how perceptions may be culturally determined, and more effective business practices for a global economy (Ainsworth 2013).

Writing about globalization and intercultural awareness is not complete without also touching on the use of technology, mainly, but not only, in terms of interconnectivity (i.e. the Internet). As it is in many areas of modern life, technology is well implanted in the educational system, ensuring that our students become more learned, better instructed, and better able to understand and apply what we teach them. For the last ten or fifteen years, this has been the main goal of various forms of electronic education, including what has been referred to as E-learning, web- or technology-enhanced learning, online learning, distance education, or as learning that takes place in mutual or managed learning environments. Undoubtedly, education by electronic means is here to stay because of the many and very beneficial consequences it has for both students and educators. We have certainly come a long way. We can build a diachronic evolution of teaching from the traditional classroom to MOOC classes, via regular mail, radio and TV, on through web-enhanced, hybrid, and fully online classes.

These many ways to employ technology are accommodated by a myriad of different platforms, such as Edmodo, Khan Academy, Ipad Kiosk, FutureLearn, Coursera, 2U, edX, Blackboard and EDU20. Still, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education (2014), 21st-century educational technology must support, among other features, openness (open source software, YouTube videos, SlideShare PowerPoints, Google Scholar and other sources), analytics (so we can better understand what we are doing and, above all, how we are doing), shared pathways (so we can all share ideas and viewpoints), and emphasis on course design and gamification (real world deep-learning experiences with up to five times better retention rates). Openness, outcome assessment, and course design may have always been important to better teaching and learning, but today’s technological tools can allow instructors to realize such principles of effective teaching more fully.

But all that glitters is not gold. Caulfield (2011, 211) said that “when not chosen carefully, technology becomes an impediment to learning and often a major frustration for students and teachers.”

Alongside these benefits rises a series of challenges. There’s a surge of plagiarism—brute cut-and-paste as well as subtler rewording—made so easy by the Internet’s 24/7, ubiquitous availability. Even worse on a day-to-day basis is the distractibility technology affords us all, as it makes it so easy to log off the classroom activity and log on to Facebook or Twitter. As if teaching and learning were not hard enough!

So we concerned educators should digest whether technology is an end in itself. That is, are we using every e-means, tool, or program that we can lay our hands on simply because, as in the proverbial expression about why the climber climbed the mountain, it’s there? Are we using technology only because it is there, without actually mulling over whether it needs to be used or how best to use it? Is traditional teaching being left behind? Given the soaring costs associated with educational technology, are authorities budgeting less and less money for the traditional, classroom education? Can we run the risk thereof?

It is obvious technology is here to stay as it allows better teaching and better learning. However, like so many other things, it has to be subjected to scrutiny. Otherwise, we may end up with students with technology but not with better education.

Globalization, technology, interconnectivity, and intercultural awareness all help develop contemporary, well-rounded, global leaders. There is an impending need for global leaders as more and more baby boomers are retiring. Because of globalization, many people will be interacting with people from all over the world. Technology empowers students to become global leaders.

Although not new to higher education, technology is lagging at many universities. Most if not all institutions have Internet service available on campus, but sometimes it is not completely efficient. Not all classrooms have the necessary technologies, such as a projector or computer, let alone Internet access. According to Bai and Lehman, it takes away from the instructors’ motivation when they have to either fill out request forms or lug the equipment themselves. Sometimes someone else has requested use of the equipment and so it isn’t available when needed. Valuable time is also lost while setting up the equipment. It is essential for universities to have up-to-date technology in fully equipped classrooms.

Along with state-of-the-art technology, McIsaac and Craft (2003) state that faculty must be technology literate for effective and successful implementation. The faculty should be offered workshops and assistance in designing, developing, and delivering both web-based and web-enhanced courses. Instructors need guidelines so that they can plan and develop quality instruction. Preparing technological materials takes time, and instructors should be compensated for the time spent in preparation of materials that can be shared with colleagues.

Students themselves want to learn in an environment where they are motivated to learn and develop their skills. They want their instructors to use a method of teaching that is familiar to them. According to NAS Insights (2006), students attending college between the ages of 18 and 27 belong to the Y generation. They have grown up in the age of technology, in an environment where parents have given them everything. They have high self-esteem and think that they can do it all. They have all sorts of information at their fingertips and demand to be heard. That is why they need their instructors to guide them through their courses with the use of technology.

Moreover, students need to continue to develop their technological skills. They should be able to graduate with the necessary skills to become agents of change. It is important for them to work with programs that will offer them the ability to master different applications of technology particular to their specific profession.

Besides being more profitable for higher education, students are asking for more online courses. Apart from the fact that technology is part of their everyday life, Collis and Moonen (2002) note that students also prefer to learn at their own pace. Some students work, have a family to tend to or may have some sort of disability. Whatever the reason may be, students are demanding online education. It is the future of education. Those who can, or have no other option but to meet the challenge, should be given the opportunity to work on their own through online coursework.

The twenty-first century is a marker of change in the way that students learn and become literate (Lucas 2014). It is definitely an era where technical knowledge and skills are essential components in education. Higher education is going through a transition of great technological change that will forever change the traditional method of learning as we have known it.

There is no magic wand to make teaching, educating, and learning perfect and one hundred percent effective. But today’s global society requires professionals able to access and use technology with worldwide awareness and with wide-reaching knowledge. Higher education has to step up to the challenge of fulfilling this need. We cannot fail future generations.


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Spring 2015: The Global Imperative for Higher Education