Expert Q & A | Don Tapscott

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Expert Q&A:  Don Tapscott

Q: What can be done today to help students become global citizens?

A: They're already off to a good start as they are part of the first-ever global generation, courtesy of the Internet. And my research shows that this has given them a common outlook, regardless of what country they live in. They are the first generation to come of age in the digital age. This Net Generation learns, works, plays, communicates, shops and creates communities differently than their parents. Their immersion in the interactive world of the Internet and digital technology has trained them to be activists–not passive readers, viewers or voters.

Do you want them to discover interdependence, global problems and globalization? Let them undertake class projects that link them with fellow students around the world. is a great example. They are between the ages of 13 to 30, striving to create a more inclusive, peaceful and sustainable world. They do this through an online community that encourages youth to be active, and offer education programs geared towards middle and high school students.

Similarly, I'm involved in a project asking students around the world to submit videos exploring two themes. The first theme is called the NetGenEd Challenge, where students are asked to envision the future of education based upon current global technological trends. Theme two is the Macrowikinomics Challenge, where students envision the future of global social action based upon their research in current global technological trends.

Q: How can teachers encourage students to contribute to societies outside their borders?

A: If you wish to participate in the global community, and want your students to see beyond their day-to-day activities, the web serves the world up to you on a digital platter. There are teachers all over this small planet looking to connect with other classrooms in other countries and expand their students' horizons.

Q: What will the global leaders of the future be like?

A: The future is not something to be predicted; it's something to be achieved. I see amazing examples of new leaders emerging everywhere. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, they have formed the Forum of Young Global Leaders. Each year 200 to 300 extraordinary young people, drawn from every region of the world, come together to help shape the global future.

Obviously, not everyone can be a Young Global Leader. But this is the beauty of the Internet. You don't have to be chosen to go to Davos in order to participate. All of this activity is online, and organizations such as the World Economic Forum are keen to put down youthful digital roots in communities around the world. I just returned from speaking at the One Young World summit in London, which was an incredible event. This was a not-for-profit global initiative to find more than 1,000 "leaders of tomorrow." Delegates were chosen from around the world, and many of them were found through social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Again, almost everything that happened at this gathering was streamed online, and can still be found at the One Young World website.

Q: How can teachers and students better use the Internet?

A: Schools have to encourage teachers to go online. Just do it. Surf and discover. Personal familiarity is a precondition for effective use in the classroom. And if a teacher isn't comfortable doing this, have him or her ask the students for assistance. Many schools around the world have set up reverse mentoring programs where the teachers are taught by the students. It's a wonderful thing to watch.

Q: How can schools expose students to different cultures, traditions and religions?

A: Using digital tools and seizing the opportunities afforded by the web. Do projects. Encourage your students to join organizations such as TakingITGlobal. Have bake sales to raise funds to send delegates to events like One Young World, either as participants or observers. Encourage whole classes to take international field trips, but pave the way beforehand by building relationships via the Internet with youngsters in the country to be visited. It's an incredible digital world in which we find ourselves, and my advice: carpe diem.

—Don Tapscott
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