2014 Teaching & Learning Conference Highlights Merits of Global Education

Bill Gates delivers a plenary speech at the Teaching & Learning 2014 conference.

March 28, 2014 | New York, NY – On Friday, March 14 AFS-USA’s Director of Educational Partnerships and School Outreach, Dr. Tonya Muro, spoke to a packed room at the 2014 Teaching & Learning conference in Washington, D.C.

The Teaching & Learning conference is an annual event hosted by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. Each year it brings together thought leaders and practitioners from across the education profession, including teachers, administrators, school board members and policy makers.

The result is a 2-day affair dedicated to improving the future of PreK-12 education. Through attending inspiring talks, panel discussion and practical workshops, participants gain the insight and tools needed to tackle the evolving challenges of preparing students for success. Such challenges include advancing technologies, classroom equity issues and evolving standards, all of which were key focus areas of this year’s conference.

Bringing the World to US Classrooms

In her talk, Dr. Muro emphasized the importance of global competency, learned both inside and outside of the classroom, as a key component of 21st Century success. She provided attendees with a working definition of global competency (an idea that is still gaining traction in the US education system) and illuminated ways to help students achieve it.

Dr. Tonya Muro presents AFS-USA's global competency classroom resources to educators from across the nation.

One primary method of enhancing global competency, as Dr. Muro pointed out, is by incorporating cultural exchange into standard academic curriculum. Dr. Muro discussed various opportunities for schools to host foreign exchange students, as well as send their own students and teachers abroad with AFS. In particular, she highlighted the immense benefits of AFS Group Programs, which allow educators to travel abroad with a group of students, and to personally design the programs’ focus in accordance with their students’ needs and interests.

The new Common Core State Standards also factored prominently into Dr. Muro’s talk. With their emphasis on globally relevant success metrics, they have the potential to help students become globally competitive in ways that mirror the benefits of global competency.

Dr. Muro’s talk was immediately followed by a plenary session featuring Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who was interviewed by ABC news anchor, George Stephanopoulos. Mr. Gates discussed the importance of standardization as a means of quality assurance in education, and expressed his belief that effective standards need not suppress innovation and personalization. He also expressed optimism about technology’s impact on learning, addressing the many concerns about the how new devices seem to be altering youth behavior.

Other plenary speakers included 10-time Grammy winner, Bobby McFerrin, Expert in Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, Tony Wagner, President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, and US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.