Exploring The Global In The Classroom

I’m teaching a course on reporting in a global world. We tease apart concepts like globalization and transnationalism to get at what they mean, how terms are interconnected — we try to understand globalization in the present as well as trace its trajectory through the past.

World news gallery at BBC's Television Centre. Image via j-fi (Flickr).

World news gallery at BBC’s Television Centre. Image via j-fi (Flickr).

We try to understand how the global slips into media and news as well as how to report stories that communicate, or at least acknowledge, the global context or scope of things.

I challenge my students to think about what the global means for them as I, too, try to work out what the global means for me. What it means for my own research — which tends to focus on the nexus of identity and media — as well as in my life more broadly.

My understanding of the global is constantly shifting, depending upon the context I’m in or, often, the information I’ve recently consumed or received.

Since I was an undergrad, so many years ago, Thomas Friedman, that celebrated writer and prophet of globalization, has gone from suggesting globalization will help flatten the earth and make things more equal for everyone to now thinking through how we might stop that flattening so people in what have been called “developing nations” don’t chew through natural resources the way the “developed” world has.

I’ve read things that suggest that our experience of the global is new and others that contend it’s just the latest in a series of globalizations that have been happening since … well, we could conceive of movement or a globe.

I’ve read of clashes and disjunctures; of the flattening of not just the globe, but of space and time.

If you sit and just ponder all these various thoughts and ideas about what globalization is, or is not, it can become overwhelming quite quickly.

Which is what I attempt to avoid in my classroom.

I am firm believer in hands on learning. So, I have my students draw. We do a concept mapping activity involving sharpies and sticky notes (an idea shamelessly stolen from Framing the Global Co-Director Dr. Hilary Kahn). I have them do research in groups in class and then report back before class is over.

I want my students doing things as they work though what globalization is and what it can be. I want them to be active in the discussion of the concepts so that we move away from stale, static, inert definitions of concepts like global, local, and all those other terms.

Soccer fans attend a World Cup match in South Africa. Image via Celso FLORES (Flickr).

Soccer fans attend a World Cup match in South Africa. Image via Celso FLORES (Flickr).

Along the way we’ll talk about Bruce Lee, anime, Disney, international journalism, FIFA’s World Cup, about how Istanbul is a musical crossroads and anything else I can think to use to get them talking and doing.

We’ll never settle on a single definition of most of the concepts we discuss. Like the Framing the Global project, when I taught a similar class last year we seemed to circle around a shared understanding of pieces of globalization, but never fully landed on one understanding.

Which is probably as it should be.

My hope is that when my students walk out of my classroom at the end of the semester they’ll be less willing, and less prone, to take things like globalization or localization at face value.

What strategies do you use to get students, or colleagues, to wrestle with their own framings of the global?

You can follow us on Twitter: @FramingGlobal.