Global Education Motivators (GEM - www.gem-ngo.org) is a public foundation located in the State of Pennsylvania, USA. Originally incorporated as a private foundation, GEM aims to help students and teachers better understand and adjust to the global changes affecting to their schools, their community and the world around them.
Founded in 1981, GEM was one of the first educational organizations to focus on developing global education programs for both schools and the local community, and to "bring the world into the classroom". It grew out of a need to help teachers and students deal with their interdependent world, looking at both its promise and its problems. It received the UN Peace Messenger Award in 1989 for its work on behalf of the UN and world peace and drew the interest and support of many people including the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for its various UN educational programmes. An integral part of GEMs mission is to support the work and mission of the United Nations and the important role of civil society in today's world. Today, it works with selected schools in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, South and North America.
The United Nations Information Services (UNISER), an on-line UN database that it managed for the UN before the advent of the Internet, was created by GEM. Through it, GEM has helped various UN Missions and NGOs get a basic introduction to the Internet to learn how to access and efficiently use the various databases of the United Nations. It is a very important resource for teachers who are keen to learn and teach about the UN and related topics. (One may have access to UNISER through the GEM website).
Founded by educators in 1981 to help meet the complex needs of bringing the world into the classroom, GEM has consistently worked with students, teachers and administrators through on-site and distant learning workshops and classroom programme support to promote a better understanding of the world and its people.
Believing that international communication exchange is a key to future world peace, the inclusion of cross cultural perspectives has become an integral part of GEM's global learning programs. Global awareness is closely tied to global responsibility.
This months interview features Wayne Jacoby, a co-founder and president of GEM. The key message that Wayne brings to us is that barriers to world peace may be broken down, and social responsibility and respect between young people of diverse races and cultures can be promoted through the utilisation of modern communication technology. Teachers are integral to this process of change.
Waynes interview is the first is a series of three. In the next, we shall talk to teachers from St. Lawrence School in New Jersey, USA that caters for disadvantaged children. The following month, we shall feature teachers from Collegio Carol Baur in Mexico, both of which are associated with GEM.
The Genesis of Global Education Motivators (GEM)
In the fall of 1960, I attended Plymouth State College, now Plymouth State University, as a business major. During my freshman year of college, I joined the International Relations Club which was sponsored by the New England High School Model United Nations. Because of my Model UN experiences, in my sophomore year, I changed my major to Social Science, and I became something that I never thought I would be-- a high school Social Studies teacher. As a classroom teacher in 1981 I saw a major need to provide specialized services for schools, teachers, and students, as well as for administrators and school boards to get a better understanding of what they can do to help understand the changing world around them. Working with two other educators, we formed an organization called Global Education Motivators, better known as GEM.
If we were going to teach about the changing world with global perspectives, we would need strong support of resources and materials. We realized the best way to do this was through a close association with the UN. We, as GEM, applied and received NGO status with the UN Department of Public Information. We did all of our programming under the umbrella theme of "Bringing the World into the Classroom", and over the years since then, we have done that in variety of ways.
Looking Outward to the Real World
Recently, I retired from being a high school teacher to work with GEM on a full time basis. At this time, GEM started to get more active with distance learning applications, such as video conferencing, using the Internet in a lot of different ways, to help support our programmes. There is a great deal of technological innovation that is attached to them, but I think the real innovation for programmes that promote the mission and ideas of UNICEF, or the UN at large, is engaging a new generation of youth through dedicated teachers and administrators to communicate with each other in a variety of ways to learn about each other and their world. At the same time, these students and teachers are developing personal relationships. Schools need to provide opportunities for young people to be looking outward, beyond their own local community to the reality of the real world that is all around them. They can do this with distance learning applications and can also look around their own neighbourhoods, right there within their changing communities.
Global awareness must lead to more global responsibility. Without both awareness and responsibility it would not adequately help them deal with the problems in our world today. If you use this technology, use these approaches, and you educate these students to be the smartest in the world, who know so much and took that knowledge to look down on other people, thinking they were better, and did not use that knowledge to be more responsible to the community and to the world at large, it is not being used effectively. I believe that children are faced with a troubled world and future and to combat these troubles we must use the applications that are available, such as videoconferencing, for more personal contacts between young people. This can really go a long way to help make new friendships and bring down barriers and prejudices. When you have young people taking the initiatives themselves, you dont have them getting bored by an "old school" curriculum. Teachers can be shown how they can fit this exciting new approach into their curriculum. Teachers need to be convinced to do it now.
Making a Difference
This year we have been working with schools on Education for All as a Human Rights issue. We are helping young people to understand the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Many students, and even teachers, didnt even know that it existed. Learning about those 30 articles of UDHR, and other international treaties and covenants, makes a huge difference in achieving global awareness and student empowerment.
We emphasize that no matter how young or old you are you can, and should, get involved now to help make a difference in some way with something that is of interest to you. When they ask themselves: I am 13 years old, 14 years old, can I make a difference? We tell them: Yes, you can make a difference and we support their efforts to that end. For example, it was empowering for them last year when they saw so many students enlisted in the UN programmes, students who were involved in developing the Student Action Plan based on what young people, not what the older generation thought, but young people from across the cultures, about what really needs to be done to achieve education for all.
Our work on Education for All from a human rights perspective was connected closely with the work of several other organizations as we all prepared students for a UN Student Conference on Human Rights the past December 5th. Student leaders gathered at the United Nations and connected with their peers in other countries to develop an action plan for Education for All. Guided by NGOs, such as UNA-USA, Interconnections, Fundación Carol Baur, UNA-Dominican Republic, and LePage Educational Consultants, students would make their statements to the world, via distance learning applications of videoconferencing and web based applications.
The Student Action Plan, completed though they were thousands of miles apart, was handed to the acting President of the UN General Assembly. The students were from Mexico, Dominican Republic, Canada and the USA.
Each year we try to engage new countries and new groups of students. Past years have included students from locations such as Egypt, South Africa, Ireland and the Czech Republic. We linked to all these countries through videoconferencing. This is an extremely valuable educational tool to use with young people to bridge many of the global misunderstandings that exist. This type of conference needs the continued attention of the United Nations and others. For students to get involved in the Student Conference on Human Rights, it is relatively inexpensive, and often funding is found to cover most costs. Where videoconferencing facilities dont exist in a school, they can sometimes look to a UN Information Center for assistance.
We develop programmes for schools such as St. Lawrence School in Lindenwold, New Jersey around themes like the role of the UN in a troubled world. We get feedback not only from the UN but different perspectives from young people in different countries. We focus on bringing the world into the classroom, and prepare the programme to fit the needs of the teachers and schools involved. We put programmes together in a variety of different ways which result in customized projects for each school.
We encourage innovation. There are many applications that may be used to bring more interest into a subject. We use hands-on projects such as sculptures, artwork, power point presentations and computer animation. You use different applications to help students express themselves on various issues and give them the opportunity to express themselves in the best possible manner. Through these projects, students gain a real interest in doing what is in the curriculum.
Another way we help people to see new, innovative ways of bringing the world to the classroom and being more globally responsible is by doing programmes for free. For example, GEM will do staff development programme for up to one hour anywhere in the world. Teachers and administrators can link with us through videoconferencing or make the connection with us through the Internet. We tell elementary through high school teachers how they can bring the world into the classroom and we give examples of English teachers, Science teachers, Mathematics teachers, Health teachers, Social Studies teachers, and more. This technology can be used to bring the world into your classroom across the curriculum and across grade levels. It is an extremely reliable tool to use. I tell them: You have to open up your mind, and you have to start thinking about ways to bring some of these concepts into your classroom, into your situation. So lets get started talking about that.
If you can get to teachers and administrators to see how things like global awareness programmes can support what they are doing in their classrooms, they will want to be involved.
St. Lawrence is one school that we have been working with over the last few years. They have been involved with us for three years in our programming and each year we have a major theme. Weve had themes like racism and racial discrimination. They took that theme all year long and worked on that in many different ways way beyond what we do with them. And if they do things beyond what they do on Human Rights Day and United Nations Day, thats how things get started and we feel we have achieved our objectives.
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