High School Education Takes On a Global Dimension | Edutopia
Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

High School Education Takes On a Global Dimension

New doors open as students at Chicago's Walter Payton College Prep learn an international perspective reinforced by four years of language study, global videoconferences, and travel abroad.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

High School Education Takes On a Global Dimension (Transcript)

Paul: Hey, good morning, Matthew, can you hear me fine?

Matthew: Yes.

Narrator: It's 7:30 on the north side of Chicago.

Paul: Okay, we're mostly here. We're missing a couple of people.

Narrator: And for Walter Payton High School's championship math team, it's time for donuts--

Student: I prefer it with jelly.

Narrator: And distance learning.

Matthew: You can start with an integer like two--

Narrator: A Q and A with a mathematician in Switzerland.

Matthew: There's an infinite number of integers, so there are an infinite possible number of states, and this turns out to be how you can store an arbitrary amount of information.

Paul: Matt Cook really is one of the world experts in this field. And so this is an opportunity for them to interact with somebody who's actually doing research in the area that we're talking about, and that's really neat.

Narrator: At this science math and world language magnet, every subject seems to have a global dimension.

Paul: Conceivably, if every city is connected to every other city, like, one obvious algorithm here is void segment C, D.

In a single day, we could talk about math problems from China, which is how I introduced one of my units in trigonometry. Geometry problems from Japan, computation problems from France, I mean, the possibilities are really endless.

Ellen: Payton began with a vision that, by putting together a great faculty of teachers who had the desire to nurture global leaders, we would be able to create a curriculum and programs to set us apart from any other high school in the nation.

Narrator: One distinguishing factor is Payton's requirement of four years of foreign language study. Offerings include Spanish, French, Mandarin and Japanese.

Language acquisition is a profound thing, because when you learn another language, you learn the way other people think. You are really learning to keep several points of view in mind. It's important to have more than one perspective, now more than ever.

Jeremy: My friends and my family, they're very much happy to see me try to learn these languages, because they are quite difficult. At the same time, they're quite fun, and I'm learning so much about foreign countries and about foreign affairs, just based on taking Japanese for a couple of years.

Narrator: The school plays host to a steady stream of visitors.

Ellen: Good morning, and welcome to Walter Payton College Prep.

Narrator: Like this delegation of 25 Chinese Mayors.

Ellen: You are in a wonderful, wonderful city right now, the City of Chicago, the city of immigrants.

Narrator: This group gathered at The Confucius Institute, a resource center at Payton, funded through a partnership between the Chinese government and the city of Chicago.

Ellen: We're very proud to host the Confucius Institute and to give a global perspective to our school.

Robert: We really want to make sure Chicago is at the forefront of Chinese people's minds, when they're thinking about the United States. So we teach our children, not only the language, but we teach them the Chinese culture, and that's going to create a strong foundation for the city, so that more and more business and cultural exchanges can go on in the future.

Narrator: Chicago has the largest Chinese language program in the United States, with more than 6,000 students studying Chinese in 28 schools.

I have to make it fun and easy, and then also at the same time, they have to feel like they are-- they're learning a lot.

And then make them laugh, and I try to make them laugh every day, so that they think, oh, it's not boring, and then, when they like it, they'll do well.

Robert: We have many, many students who are recent immigrants from Mexico, and they all speak Spanish at home, and they are learning Chinese and English at the same time, so essentially, these kids will go through 13 years of education, where they're learning English, Spanish and Chinese, and they will come out pretty much as the most marketable students in the United States.

Teacher: Good. Are we ready? And..

Narrator: Technology plays a key role here, from tools to create rap videos in French..

Doctor: So it doesn't cut through the aorta.

Narrator: To this health class where students interact with doctors performing open heart surgery at a Southside hospital.

Teacher: What about Walter Payton, do you guys have any questions?

Student: Doctor, I was just curious. How would this surgery differ if somebody had already had a bypass surgery?

Doctor: That's a good question. Fundamentally it's the same operation, you know, that--

Narrator: The same technology has facilitated face-to-face encounters with students in several sister schools.

Student: I'd love to give you some information about my school--

Ellen: We connect with an all Islamic Intercity school in Casa Blanca, Morocco, a school in Osaka, Japan, we have sister schools in Concepcion, Chile, and in China. And a school in Durban, South Africa.

Student: I want you to play me something.

Luis: It's amazing, I mean, to see our students' reaction when they get so see someone from South Africa, from Morocco, and even though they are so far, and they speak another language, they still do the same thing, they still like going to movies, they still like dancing, they still sing and they're teenagers.

Narrator: Most students prefer real world exchanges to virtual ones, and by raising their own funds, all students have the opportunity to travel abroad.

Grace: When we were in France, all the things said, Coiffeur, on it. I think that's--

Narrator: French student, Grace Stome, visited Strasbourg, France, and spent a week in Morocco.

Grace: The second the plane touched the ground, we knew this was going to be way more than we could ever expect, a great experience. Everyone there was so hospitable and welcoming. We met all these dignitaries but that was-- while that was nice, it was even better to get to spend time with the kids and talk to them, and go to their classes, and go home with them on home stays. We wanted to speak French with them, but they said, no, no, let us speak English. We want to show you how we can speak English, and it was just an eye opening experience that I'll never forget.

Robert: Educators should always be looking at how can we open more doors for students. I find that when you open those doors, and when you expand those horizons, you never can close them, and that's going to change these students' lives, and their families' lives and their communities lives forever.

Wenya. Electronic flower? No. Okay?

Narrator: For more information on, What Works in Public Education, go to edutopia.org.

Get Video
Embed Code Embed Help

You are welcome to embed this video, download it for personal use, or use it in a presentation for a conference, class, workshop, or free online course, so long as a prominent credit or link back to Edutopia is included. If you'd like more detailed information about Edutopia's allowed usages, please see the Licenses section of our Terms of Use.


Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producer:

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Rob Weller
  • Bennett Spencer


  • Kris Welch

Original Music:

  • Fareed Haque

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • Walter Payton College Prep

Comments (20)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Jay Harris's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Fantastic! When we reach the point that this is not such a unique model and many more schools are using an integrated global approach, we will know that education (always slow to change) has evolved appropriately in keeping with an interconnected world.

Stan's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great video about a very exciting program! Thanks for sharing this.

Ernesto M. Reza's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This short video delivers a very effective and succinct point about the enhanced level of understanding and meaningfulness that students can gain from active engagement and interaction with experts and peers in practically any other location on the planet. To illustrate this point, the video depicts how students can discuss issues in real time with a surgeon at an operating table in a hospital. Other globalized learning opportunities are summarized and reinforce the value of globalized learning experiences.

Potentially, the planet can become an integral part of any classroom setting through virtual networks that can link persons in other places with students in our classrooms using a relatively simple configuratiobn of PC's and communication devices. One issue to consider in initiatives to create globalized learning contexts is that faculty who have a genuine interest in extending a "global" learning experience to their students may do so through individual initiatives but efficacy in such efforts will be more likely when administrative executives in academic settings are actively engaged in facilitating technical as well as other tangible and intengible forms of interpersonal, social, economic and political support to such initiatives or projects.

Without the support and active participation of top administrative staff, faculty confront a daunting set of challenges that may impede their efforts to provide students with a viable and competitive learning experience which integrates the "globalized" contextual framework presently emerging in contemporary human culture. Such support is evident in the magnate program featured in the video.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What a fabulous program. We need more schools that take an integrated, global approach to education instead of an egocentric,unifocused approach.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Payton has a great foreign language program, but unfortunately distance learning is expensive in terms of the equipment. It's very rare to have a public school with such capacities. It's not so much a matter of being slow to change as it is a matter of being unable to change.

Also, only two years of language are required, four is only recommended.

Laurence Peters's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Could not agree more with the last comment. If we are going to see a signficant shift towards a global contextual environment for all classrooms--policy makers have to make this a priority and devote resources and get good help and advice (not the usual tinkering around the edges) but the kind of assistance the Chicago school received to transform their schools. If you are interested in writing to me about this--I am ready--about to write a chapter for my book on this.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What a dream school with first class technology equipment !!An incredible example of bringing the world in a classroom. As a French teacher, what a wonderful way to open doors and expand horizons. Students are exposed to other cultures and languages in a real and rather easy way.What a great opportunity to get a global perspective of shared interests! One major issue and potential obstacle however.. Money.How can we duplicate such a "world" school ? Christine

Diane Demee-Benoit's picture
Diane Demee-Benoit
Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia

To the reader asking about getting the money to finance similar programs--

As distance learning technologies improve and become less expensive we hope that more and more schools will be able to "bring the world into the classroom."

Some schools have been able to fund technology initiatives through various grants and donations from area businesses and parent organizations. I've heard of several places that showed Edutopia videos at local chamber of commerce meetings and at other public meetings to build public interest in such programs. Sometimes all it takes is showing what it looks like to get your community fired up!

Visit the edutopia grants page (www.edutopia.org/grantinfo) for ideas. Grant Wrangler (www.grantwrangler.com) and DonorsChoose.org (www.donorschoose.or) are other great Web site to look for funding and equipment.

Charles Nolley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

A delightful program about a wonderful school. While it is certainly true that it takes resources to do all of the things shown, I believe the things that make Payton stand out most are the vision that animates the school administration, faculty and students and the shared committment to achieving excellence in the pursuit of that vision. These qualities attract assistance and support. Thanks to all involved.

K Shinn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I liked Payton's goal of developing a great faculty to nurture global leaders, and the requirement of 4 years of a foreign language. The emphasis on the importance of language acquisition and the student's comment about that being "difficult and fun" were good.

Schools that Work Integrating Academic and Vocational Learning at High Tech High

Last comment 1 week 5 days ago in Career and Technical Education

Schools that Work Integrated Learning: Broadcasting and Social Studies

Last comment 1 week 5 days ago in Integrated Studies

Schools that Work Integrated Learning: One Project, Several Disciplines

Last comment 1 week 5 days ago in Integrated Studies

Discussion Old Fashioned Integrated Fun Math Activity

Last comment 1 month 2 weeks ago in Integrated Studies

blog Garden-Based Learning

Last comment 1 week 6 days ago in Environmental Education

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.