In this second in a two-part blog series, Chris Plutte returns to The View to describe his plans to extend the reach of Global Nomads Group, which he co-founded 16 years ago to foster dialogue and understanding among the world’s youth. Last time, Chris described how Global Nomads Group has relied on Polycom technology to build meaningful connections between students in North America with young people in conflict-ridden places like Rwanda, Chad, Afghanistan, and Brazil.
In my previous blog, I described how the work of Global Nomads Group has shown that speaking face-to-face with someone from another country has a transformative effect, particularly on young people. The experience removes the stigmas, prejudices, and cultural barriers that lead us to fear, distrust, and isolation. In short, it defies distance – geographically and culturally.
Relatively few people, however, ever get that experience. Less than three percent of all people have an opportunity to interact meaningfully with someone from another culture. Our focus at Global Nomads Group is to bring that opportunity to the other 97 percent.
Over the past 16 years, through a series of virtual exchange programs and other initiatives – many of which rely on real-time, interactive video conferencing – we’ve reached one million young people.
This year, we expect to reach 3,000 students at 115 schools with programs based on interactive video communications. That’s a fine number, but it’s not nearly enough. We need to scale our program dramatically if we are going to make the impact we know is possible at a time when young people need these experiences like never before.
Until now, teachers have sought us out, prompted by press coverage and promotional support from partners like Polycom. But relying on a classroom-by-classroom model won’t allow us to scale our offerings so we can really put a dent in that 97 percent.
Instead of growing classroom by classroom, we must grow school by school and district by district. Instead of reaching one class of seventh graders in a school, we must reach all seventh graders in an entire city. Eventually – who knows? – perhaps an entire state.
Getting there requires two fundamental shifts: Educators and administrators must recognize that these cultural exchanges enhance current curriculum, and they must see that participation is easy and affordable.
We can make it easy for district administrators to adopt our programs. We can point out that today’s Kindergartners will one day enter an entirely different work environment – one in which they will likely interact with people from other cultures regularly, even daily. We’re currently working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to measure the effectiveness of our programs, and we can provide that data to administrators as well.
It helps that districts across North America have already begun to update their course offerings to prepare their students for the world to come. It’s not uncommon these days to see high schools offering Chinese Mandarin as a foreign language. That’s the kind of forward thinking that puts schools, and the students they serve, at the head of the class. Everybody wins.
Technology will make it easy as well. Polycom systems already are widely used in many schools throughout the United States, and recent generations of Polycom systems are designed to work with millions of competing video conferencing units. What’s more, Polycom’s video collaboration platform is now available on virtually any device – even the tablets and mobile phones we all carry with us – which is an exciting development that can put the Global Nomads Group experience into nearly every teacher’s hands at almost no additional cost.
If our children hope to compete and flourish in an increasingly globalized world, they must understand the cultures that today are all but unknown to them. I believe Global Nomads Group holds the key to building that understanding. That’s why I’m working to reach that remaining 97 percent by scaling our programs to millions more young people. With help from partners like Polycom, I know we’ll get there.
Click the preview below to watch Chris' TEDx Talk where he talks about the Global Nomads Group and shares heartfelt first hand accounts of the difference video collaboration can make in children's lives.
Learn more about Global Nomads Group and Polycom’s partnership here.