​Online Communication Will Open New Doors For Community in 2018

Opinion | Personal Learning Networks

​Online Communication Will Open New Doors For Community in 2018

By Amy McCooe     Dec 21, 2017

​Online Communication Will Open New Doors For Community in 2018

This article is part of the guide: Reflections From 2017 for the Journey Ahead.

As citizens in an increasingly wired world, we frequently hear about the adverse impact of technology in everything from eroding our attention span to fueling the dissemination of fake news. But despite these dire warnings, it is important to acknowledge that technology has had a positive effect in at least one arena: building community.

In 2017, there has been an emergence of online communication tools connecting users online from across the globe. It’s allowed for new methods of sharing and interaction, and has created opportunities to broaden our horizons in terms of how we relate to each other across geographies and cultures.

Continuing this trajectory, I expect that we will see a significant re-design of community in 2018 and beyond as we open up silos in nearly every sphere of our lives and break open new channels of communication. In the next few years, we will see a surge in people taking risks to form new friendships and making connections that cross age and cultural boundaries, and these interactions will often be driven by technology.

While there is no disputing the importance of personal interaction, communities are already utilizing technology to build on those face-to-face connections. In addition to the rising popularity of social media use by individuals, community organizations and businesses, I expect we’ll also see a proliferation of virtual town squares where people will meet to begin working and collaborating together.

Likewise, schools are evolving at a remarkable pace in leveraging technology to facilitate communication and collaboration. But equipping today’s tech-savvy students with even more digital tools is far less important than teaching them how they use these tools to create community, build connections and foster understanding. For this group of digital pioneers, timing is of the essence.

Only eight percent of 15-year-olds from around the world exhibit a sophisticated grasp of collaboration skills, according to the recently released 2015 results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD). This points to a need for schools worldwide to put even more emphasis on teaching students to communicate, collaborate and problem-solve.

“Schools need to prepare students for change that is even more rapid than ever before, for jobs that have not yet been created, for societal challenges that we can’t imagine, and for technologies that have not yet been invented,” wrote Andreas Schleicher, in an editorial accompanying the PISA report on collaborative problem solving.

“In today’s schools, students typically learn individually, and at the end of the school year, we certify their individual achievements,” Schleicher wrote. “But the more interdependent the world becomes, the more it needs great collaborators and orchestrators. Innovation is now rarely the product of individuals working in isolation; instead, it is an outcome of how we mobilise, share and integrate knowledge.”

Indeed, there is a significant need for students to engage in authentic educational opportunities that target communication skills in the coming years. Moreover, those opportunities involve fostering new collaborative interactions both in and outside the classroom. And that starts by connecting kids of different backgrounds and abilities to teach them how to work and learn together.

This is an urgent need in America, where many schools remain segregated by race and class, creating environments where children often do not experience cultural diversity until they leave home. As a result, they do not develop the familiarity, cultural competencies and skills necessary for careers in the global economy.

Solving these challenges will first require addressing their root social inequalities, but online communication may be one way to bring together students who in past generations were siloed by their geographies.

Given the fact that global interaction is already commonplace in the workplace, 2018 is the year it should also become available in every classroom to prepare students for success in the global economy. Global citizenship and one’s ability to move past differences of opinion and perspective towards a successful collaborative result permeates so many aspects of life today and is integral to a well functioning, fruitful and peaceful society.

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

Next Up

Reflections From 2017 for the Journey Ahead

More from EdSurge

Get our email newsletterSign me up
Keep up to date with our email newsletterSign me up