Saturday, October 16, 2010

Diverse teams for classrooms?

How time flies! Memories of my involvement in the ThinkQuest International challenge (2002) come into mind especially when I’m at work due to its profound impact on my life. ThinkQuest is an international competition that challenges students to work in diverse teams around the world to solve real world problem by applying their critical thinking, communication and technology skills.

In my ThinkQuest team, we were diverse team members from Ghana, Egypt, Netherland, Australia and USA. We worked together online to create a project on sea mammals with the title “Gentle Giants of the Deep”. Of course, we were working from different time zones exchanging over thousand messages in the course of the project. Most times, I stayed overnight when it is mid-day for some of my team members. We used different web tools to create and share our work online, constantly adding, editing and modifying our work.

The first time I met with some of my team members was at San Diego for ThinkQuest conference in 2006. It took a short time to readjust with my team members because there are no accents in online messages, and the finer points of personality, styles, body language and joke could not be fully appreciated until the team was physically together. Our friendship also deepened.

The world of work is increasingly made up of diverse virtual and real teams working together to solve problems and create something new. Why do students mostly work alone and compete with each other for teacher approval?

Today’s fields of endeavors are made up of team diversity, from the soccer field to the field of work. Increased mobility, immigration, intermarriage, and access to job opportunities worldwide have led to another kind of blending and mixing-communities across the globe are becoming ever more culturally diverse. Though this diversity has brought vitality and richness to our communities, difference between traditional culture and modern values are still a troubling source of tension in the world.

Students need different skills for these new challenges. There should be a vibrant global movement in play to retune the instruments of education for a rising band of digital learners, and to sync up learning to the new rhythms of the 21st Century.

Diverse work teams, scattered around the globe and connected by technology, are becoming the norm in the 21st Century work. Diverse schools and communities are also becoming more common worldwide. The ability to work effectively and creatively with team members and classmates regardless of difference in culture and style is an essential 21st Century life skills.

Understanding and accommodating cultural and social differences, and using these differences to come up with even more creative ideas and solutions to problem, will be increasingly important throughout this century. The skills to become socially adept, cross-culturally fluent global learners and citizens are more important than ever.
21st Century.

In our newly flat world of connected knowledge work, global markets, social media world, tele-linked citizens, and blended cultural traditions, the 21st Century demands a fresh set of responses.

To be a productive contributor to society in our 21st Century, you need to be able to quickly learn the core content of a field of knowledge while also mastering a broad portfolio of essential learning, innovation, technology and career skills needed for work and life.

And when you apply these skills to today’s knowledge and innovation work, you are participating in a global network in which, for example, a product may be designed in Africa, manufactured in China, assembled in the USA and sold in cities across the world.

© Harry Tetteh


  1. Dear Harry, I'm happy to have found your blog via the Linked-In Tech in Ed group. I am a teacher/facilitator/edtech geek in a U.S. public school and for ThinkQuest, so I am in agreement with you about the wonderful things that platform and 21st Century Learning can do for kids. (They don't pay me anything to say these things--I really believe it!) I am subscribing to your blog today.

    All the best,

  2. Dear Suzanne,

    Good to hear from you and thanks for your support for the 21st Century Learning. It's totally worth to be a voluntary advocate which goes a long way to create awareness and make an impact. Overall, preparing today's kid to be capable of dealing with tomorrow's challenges is the ultimate.

    Please keep up the good work!