Tell us about the Asian studies course you used to teach.
The Asian studies course is a semester-long course. We look at regions of Asia, so we start in East Asia and then move to Southeast Asia and then South Asia. Students get involved in various interactive simulations -- for our Southeast Asia unit, they do a mock United Nations session where they look at Myanmar [formerly Burma] and the human-rights situation there.
At the same time, we also go into depth about the history of these cultures so they have a background and a context for understanding current events. The students do projects -- such as country reports -- in order to learn even more about the vastness and the diversity of Asia.
How does your school provide professional development?
We have started to develop partnerships with universities in the area. Northwestern has one of the best African studies departments in the country, so we have established relationships with teachers, and fellows who visit from various countries in Africa come to our school and University of Chicago and Northern Illinois University. They provide seminars to keep us up-to-date on the current literature and the current historiography about the various regions throughout the world.
On a more micro level, as a staff developer I'm working with and supporting teachers one-on-one and in small groups to find out what they need, and even encouraging them to apply for a Fulbright scholarship -- we've had seven Fulbrights at our school -- and to look for other opportunities where they can travel abroad or engage in an exchange program.
Can you tell us about the role of technology in international education?
I was in contact with a school in Pakistan, and we were able to videotape my class and put them online. The school just had one computer, and they shared the video in an assembly. Of course, after 9/11 happened, we were on a discussion forum that's protected so kids feel secure, and they had discussions back and forth about what they felt, what we felt.
There are many examples of how we're able to do that in a way where it's not just individual email about just the music that they like; it gets into much more depth about understanding family and culture and getting their questions answered, like, "What is life like in Pakistan?" and "This is what we see on TV. Is that really true?" We also have students engaged in using technology all the time within our classrooms, because we find that they can be very interested in the topics, whether they're doing PowerPoint presentations or creating Web pages about various topics, and it provides that ability to collaborate and share.
How can team teaching work for international education?
Team teaching is phenomenal. I think everyone who has had that experience realizes that they grow as a teacher. They begin to see different perspectives. For example, I worked with an art teacher for six years on the history and art of the Pacific Rim. At the end of six years -- even sooner than that -- she was able to talk about the history of Asia, and I was able to talk about the art of Asia and we provided different perspectives.
But the best thing is really for the students. Students learn by being exposed to content in many ways. Our students were very successful because some had more aptitude for art, but they could understand the history through the art, and some had a better aptitude for history, and then began to learn the art through the history.
Why is international education important?
Students are already exposed to the world through the media and through the Internet, yet they're very misinformed. As has been reported in many studies, students know very little about other cultures, and few have a deep understanding of them. So, it's essential to incorporate into school the study of economics, politics, culture, and history in our subject areas.
It will do two things: One, they will be informed citizens; and two, they will be prepared for the work world, because there's no going back at this point. We are in a global, interconnected world, and it's important for our students to be prepared for that.
And I think they want it. Many of my students are craving more information, more time, and an international studies course. I was interviewing some of my students in my senior class and I asked them, "What are you doing next?" They said, "We want to go into international law." "We want to go into international business." "I can't wait to have a chance to go visit China or India."