Imagine having a face-to-face conversation with someone on the other side of the planet. Thirty years ago, this would have involved hours of air travel – not very practical from a time or money perspective.
Travel was a luxury, reserved for the privileged. For working class people and those living in rural areas around the globe, the ability to simply talk to others experiencing a different worldly perspective would have been impossible.
This is something the non-profit Global Nomads has sought to rectify – and the tool they use to do so is video conferencing.
By connecting classrooms and children from different parts of the world in an intimate face-to-face way, Global Nomads is breeding something they call “global competence,” which is an important part of experiential learning in the increasingly global-minded society.
“Global Nomads allows people to have proximity to difference,” Chris Plutte, Executive Director of Global Nomads, explains. “You can develop these global competency skills, and the only way to do it at that scale is by leveraging technology.”
While video conferencing is a relatively new technology in most offices, Global Nomads has been using it to communicate across the world for 20 years. Back when they started, Plutte says the technology available was far more rudimentary, making deeper interactions tricky.
Even so, the visual aspect of video conferencing was so important, Global Nomads incorporated it far earlier than other organizations.
“We have chosen to have video conferencing as one of our core technologies that we use to allow kids to have these virtual exchanges,” Plutte says. “We like the idea of synchronous communication and the fact that you can see each other. I don’t think if video conferencing existed, the organization would exist.”
“We really built the organization around video conferencing and its potential to link people from around the world.”
While internet speeds and bandwidth requirements have dramatically improved in the two decades since Global Nomads’ inception, there still remains a significant struggle in bringing collaborative technology to the most remote communities.
This is an especially difficult obstacle for Global Nomads, because it is precisely these communities that benefit the most from a more holistic global experience.
“It’s always tough, we go to the most challenging places in the world,” Plutte says. “We tend to work in places that don’t have much bandwidth because they generally have the greatest need.”
Global Nomads is effectively pioneering a culture of global competency among children. And, while the value of cross-cultural exchange may seem evident to some, Global Nomads often has to make a case for connecting kids across the world.
“How do you ask for something you don’t know exists?” Plutte says. “That’s why a lot of our work is about bringing exposure to communities that we need to have a generation of global citizens. Once they have a taste of it they’re on their way.”
Much of the work Global Nomads does is about breeding empathy in future generations. It’s easier to foster hate and ignorance about other cultures when you have a massive disconnect with the actual people. With Global Nomads, kids are seeing humans around the world as individuals just like them.
But it’s about more than just empathy. Global Nomads is also preparing children for a more demanding workforce than ever before.
“People are going to school to get jobs. But when we think of the jobs of the future, it’s about knowing how to communicate with a different country and culture,” explains Plutte. “The expectation of employers is people who know how to work across divide.”
As video conferencing technology improves, the mission of Global Nomads is becoming easier. The higher the quality of video and the lower the bandwidth requirements, the more impactful and accessible it will become for kids around the world.
“It’s become more seamless,” Plutte says. “The technology just disappears, and they can focus more on the conversation and less on the technology.”
Global Nomads is taking a holistic, experiential approach to the education of future generations. By providing them with a digital bridge to other cultures, the obstacles of distance and expense are removed, fostering empathy and practical world experience for children that may have never received it.
And, with video conferencing constantly improving, the mission of Global Nomads will only get easier.
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