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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Travel Tip: It Is a Terrific Time to Teach Abroad

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger

This is a guest posting from my friend and colleague David Carpenter, who is working abroad as an instructional technologist in Asia. Read his other posts, "An Instructional Technologist Muses on Lessons Learned: The Peaks and Pitfalls of Discovery Learning" and "Building Blocks for Technology Integration: A Strategy for Success."


Chris mentioned that it might be helpful to bring an international perspective to whatever I planned to write about for this post. I teach at Hsinchu International School, in Taiwan, so I thought that maybe I should write about what it means to be an international educator and then move on to a technology topic.

Why does someone become an international educator? My wife Margaret and I are now in our sixth country. Our boys were born in Saudi Arabia and Panama, and they are growing up in international schools with children from all over the world. We love the learning that goes with living in different cultures. The travel opportunities we can organize for school holidays take us to dynamic cities and historical locations as well as very relaxing beaches.

We cannot think of a better educational experience for our children, as they have fantastic, flexible, and dedicated teachers in small-class settings. Having the chance to work with wonderful professionals in schools that are designed to meet the needs of their students but are not constrained by school district or national requirements really makes for a rewarding work environment. It is especially gratifying to be a part of the school community, as most international schools offer community sports and arts programs that bring the families together on the weekends.

An International Community

So, what is an international school? The online newspaper, The International Educator, estimates that more than 900 K-12 overseas American, Anglo-American, British, and international schools exist worldwide, and the number is growing rapidly as globalized economies expand, especially in Asia.

Many of these schools were originally established for children of people who worked at embassies or multinational corporations or who were missionaries. These families, living outside their home countries and likely to change countries as part of their job, were seeking a consistent type of education, delivered in English, at schools from which they could transfer their children to other countries without the loss of academic credit.

In time, local parents also began to enroll their children in international schools because they provide English-language immersion and prepare their children to go to universities in foreign nations (the main destinations being the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada).

Because they provide an American-style learning environment, many international schools offer an Advanced Placement program. However, what's becoming even more popular is the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. (Learn more about the IB program in the Edutopia article, "Never Too Young: The International Baccalaureate Program Goes Down a Grade.") To find teachers trained in either or both curricula, heads of schools attend recruitment conferences around the world, several of which take place in North America. (These recruitment conferences begin in January.)

The most well-known recruitment agencies are International Schools Services (ISS) and Search Associates. Both agencies provide information about preparing one's résumé, completing recruitment documents, and choosing which recruitment conference to attend. It is a good idea to start setting up your files with them by September. As you can see, the adventure of becoming an international educator starts about one year before you actually travel to your new home.

To connect to and learn more about the international-school community, subscribe to The International Educator, which offers a quarterly newspaper and provides guidelines for those new to international recruitment and overseas life. Visit the Web sites of individual schools to get a better feel for what working and living internationally means. Also, ISS has an online directory with links to a large number of international schools' Web sites.

International Innovation

Now, for the technology portion of this post, with an international twist. Several education bloggers happen to be international educators who focus their writing and reflections on technology, information literacy, and shifting our schools to twenty-first-century learning. Because the international schools are often very well resourced and free from the demands of testing mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act, they can be hotbeds of innovation. They often draw creative and adventurous teachers who are risk takers. The bloggers from these schools also give you an international perspective in their posts. The following is a short list that can get you started:

I invite overseas teachers and administrators reading this post to expand the discussion by commenting with their insights and experiences.

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger
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