Thursday, July 12, 2007

Days Three and Four: International Studies Summer Institute

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday, but we have been working long days and I've been enjoying my limited free time in the evenings.

We have had a couple of packed days, so there is much on which to reflect. I was just mentioning to one of my colleagues this morning that one of the real strengths of the Institute is the heavy emphasis on teaching strategies and modeling. This has been especially true of the past two days.

We began Monday by viewing the film T-Shirt Travels: Cast Offs for Africa, which deals with the problem of economic development in Zambia. To illustrate the problems in this African nation, the director, Shanta Bloemen focuses in on one family that is active in the trade of used clothing shipped in from the West, most notably the United States. The film brought to mind questions about the impact of globalization on the developing world, and, perhaps, questions about the role of charity and charitable contributions by citizens of the developed world.

The film, while expensive at $350 ($75 to rent), could serve as excellent teaching tool when dealing with the aforementioned topics. It is a shame that the film has not been made more accessible to teachers.

Perhaps the highlight on Tuesday (and then continued on Wednesday) were the sessions on the use of the deliberative process in the classroom. Kevin Zupin, social studies teacher and Indiana state coordinator for the Integrating International and Civic Education Project(IICE), and Manjari Singh, a PhD candidate at Indiana University and IICE project assistant, utilized the Choices Program curriculum, designed by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, as the content around which they introduced the deliberation teaching model. Both their model and Choices have been the highlights of the week so far.

It is always a challenge to get some students involved in classroom discussion. The deliberation process is designed to tear down some of the walls and inhibitions that many students have built up around themselves. One of the culminating activities in the process is the "fishbowl" which allows discussion to take place amongst a small group, while at the same time being observed by the rest of the students, those outside the fishbowl. By spending time teaching the process - something we don't often due with our intense focus on content - a level of comfort is achieved that allows students to fully participate.

I will certainly utilize this teaching model in my classroom. Its applicability in the social studies in really endless.

International Trade
Economist Mohammad Kaviani's presentation on market economy and international trade was, I think, a bit hard to swallow for some participants. As a believer in market economics I did not find much to dispute. That said, it is clear that for the market to work an environment of free trade must be in place. This is not the case today, most importantly with regards to U.S. trade policy.
Overall, not much new for me here, but I can see myself applying some of the teaching models to economics and international trade.
I should be caught up with my posting by tomorrow

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