OUTdoctrination of INternational Education

The above TED Talk is very fascinating to me and probably anyone interested in how media affects education and vice versa.

First, Mitra talks about remoteness and the quality of education.  By remoteness, Mitra specifically means geographic location in relation to an urban center–slums, poorer, less developed areas in both economical and social terms.  From his tests, it was found that generally, “the remoter the school was, the worse its [standard test] results seemed to be.”  However, the results relate more to teacher motivation than it did to poverty levels, classroom size, or even infrastructure.

Then, Mitra relates these results to education and technology.  We are making the mistake of piloting new education technology (ET) in schools who already have strong teacher motivation and technology.  “ET would be far greater at the bottom of the pyramid than at the top, but we seem to be doing it the other way about,” Mitra says.  In many ways I think that the model he suggests is correct–we need to begin providing access or at least testing some new ET where the education/school system is weaker.  It would make a much greater impact than it would in private schools where technology and access is abundant.

The experiments that Mitra held in India in 1999 were conducted to find out “what an alternative education might be like”.  He went to various towns in India and embedded PCs into walls in public spaces, similar to the way an ATM is set up outside for the public’s use.  They left the PCs and soon enough there were children trying to figure out what the PCs were.  Incredibly, children slowly learned by self-teaching how to use the PCs.  One child taught another child, and by the end of the first day, there were 70 children who knew the basics of how to navigate the PC.

One of the conclusions Mitra came to during these experiments was that children in groups can self-instruct themselves to use computers and the Internet, and also the English language.  During his experiment in Madantusi, India, the children learned English when they discovered that the machine only communicated in English.  “Language is not a barrier,” Mitra says.

Overall, Mitra found that:

  • 6-13 year olds can self-instruct in a connected environment; if they have computer access, they will teach themselves
  • Over 300 children will become computer literate in six months with one computer
  • Children learn as much by watching as they learn by doing
  • Primary education, or at least parts of it, can happen on its own; it can be a self-organizing system
  • Children can self-organize and attain an educational perspective
  • Outdoctrination: “minimally invasive” form of education
  • SOLE; self-organizing learning environment

Mitra’s findings relate to the field of international education in a very direct way.  The international aspect in this type of education is in many ways the SOLE.  The social situations and events that expatriates find themselves involved in while abroad teach them about the culture that they are in.  International education students get first-hand experience, and like the children in Mitra’s experiments, learn as much by watching as they learn by doing.

For example, during my semester abroad in Spain, I learned some parts of the traditional Sevillana dance by watching followed by practicing.  In many cases, especially with media, people can learn and educate themselves just by watching.  What I think media does for international education in this sense is that it promotes it.  People learn from each other’s use of media, and people can also learn actions and opinions from what they find on media.

Social media in particular is a form of media where international educators or students can advocate for the field and share it with the world.  In the same way that Mitra suggests that over 300 students will become computer literate in six months, students can learn about international education much quicker as each one passes on the information that they have discovered.  Students who are friends with other students who go abroad are more exposed to the effects of study abroad.  They are also more likely to be encouraged to go abroad themselves.

The quality of education abroad can teach people more if teacher motivation is strong rather than if the education system is strong.  Learning about a specific culture while immersed in that culture with locals who are passionate about it will help students incredibly.  For me, learning about the city of Sevilla in Spain was more engaging and memorable while being in the city itself  than it was reading about the city during the pre-departure period of my time abroad.

Mitra suggests that the use of ET in schools where the education systems are weaker will have a much greater impact.  With the same idea applied to international education, I think that international education and global perspectives are needed in parts of the world where violence, racism, and cultural intolerance are dominant.

In conclusion, I think Sugata Mitra’s findings about SOLE and outdoctrination are very helpful in making sense of the ways that media affects international education.  We can say that the learning that occurs with media and internet use is incredible, and to add an international aspect to that can make it much more effective.

Related articles

Applying Media Theories

“In an era of convergence, consumers become hunters and gatherers pulling together information from multiple sources to form a new synthesis.”

–Henry Jenkins

Henry Jenkins, a successful American media scholar, describes “participatory culture” in terms of a new media framework, in which producers and consumers of media are now interacting and forming relationships with each other, as opposed to “occupying separate roles” (Jenkins, 3).  Some consumers have more access and ability to take part in this convergence than others do,  and this concept can be applied to the way that we view international education.

Jenkins suggests that our personal and individual uses of media encourage conversations among each other and about the media that we each consume.  “None of us can know everything; each of us knows something; and we can put the pieces together if we pool our resources and combine our skills” (Jenkins, 4).  Similar to the approach of international education is the recognition that all parts make up a whole; that separate cultures and nations are in the process of integrating and working together to build a global community.  

This collective intelligence is a media power, according to Jenkins.  People are working together using various forms of media–the internet, social media, blogs, videos, etc.–to share ideas and information.  Ideally, what would follow this sharing of information is the active growth of a knowledgeable community.  For example, a group of study abroad alumni students create a Facebook page.  They share short posts about their experiences, write about the importance of study abroad, create albums of photos from around the world, and ask others to share stories as well.  The Facebook community grows and has a following; people contribute, interact, and participate in this participatory culture.

“The media industries are undergoing another paradigm shift” (Jenkins 5).  Convergence and participatory culture are the realms of media in which our current generation is entering.  These types of interactive and collaborative media environments are extremely helpful in advocating for international education.  One of the leading international education organizations, NAFSA, has a website for their online community called Connecting Our World, where people can share their stories and discuss international education.  This example of participatory culture is crucial in this field because it is through word of mouth (or media in this case), especially for younger generations and students, that this knowledge is passed along.  

Through participatory and convergence cultures, mass media is helping to advance international education advocacy.  Its impact is only just beginning.  Jenkins states that the two cultures will continue to expand as new technologies are introduced, as international education is recognized, and as we continue to grow into a more interconnected world.

Jenkins, Henry. (2006).  Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.  New York: NYU Press.

“Variations exist in the ways that audiences interact with media” (Kremar, 239).

The purpose of an international education is to build mutual understandings between the world’s nations and people.  However, each culture and lifestyle differs from the others.  As a result, each individual consumes, interprets, and values the information received through media in a different way.  A 21-year-old American student will have different ideas and thoughts about international education than an 80-year-old farmer in Mongolia.  In “Individual Differences In Media Effects”, Kremar discusses variations in message selecting and processing that vary between each individual.

Kremar’s ideas are extensions to the uses and gratifications theory (UGT) of communication.  “Uses and gratifications researchers focus on media use and assume…users to be selective in their media choices” (Kremar, 239).  Kremar is suggesting that there are actually variations in media’s effects rather than “powerful and uniform effects” (Kremar, 237).  This means that for each person, media’s influence will vary.

A benefit of this individualistic perspective is that each person with an international education experience can share his or her own story in a unique way which will in turn be received in a variety of ways by different audiences.  Someone interested in sociology would be more inclined to read about the cultural and sociological aspects of an international education, while a male college freshman interested in sports would prefer to read about an international student playing sports abroad.

The ideas that people have about international education vary because of this individualistic aspect of the UGT theory.  Kremar discusses the process that occurs after one is exposed to media; the interpretive assessment, and the value assessment.  Interpretive assessment is a process in which a media consumer attempts to make sense of the media; value assessment is asking “Did I enjoy or like the content?”  The results of the two evaluations are what determine the cognitive, psychological effect on the consumer, ” leaving the user with a “positive or negative perception of the media” (Kremar 243).

Media users are more likely to enjoy content if it is relatable or geared to their personal interests.  If the international education content found through various media outlets are somewhat diverse, the greater ability there is to spread awareness about its importance.  Kremar states that “our response to these media is based on our evaluations of characters and their actions” (Kremar, 239).  Because different subjects are more or less important to different members of society, it is important that the media provides a variety of content.

The influence and power that mass media has to educate people becomes increasingly significant as technologies, economies, and cultures advance.  This power can be even stronger and more influential on an individual level according to Kremar, because there are variations in the audience it aims to make an impact on.

Kremar, Marina. (2009). Individual Differences In Media Effects.  In Nabi, Robin L. and Mary Beth Oliver, The SAGE Handbook of Media Processes and Effects (p. 237 -250). United States of America: SAGE Publications, Inc.

“Perceptions shape how we feel about our own lives.  Even when it comes to issues of self-identity, issues about which we have the most direct knowledge, our perceptions of what others think about us are influential.”

In a study published by the International Communication Association, it was determined using the third-person effect that the perceptions that people hold about us and where we live affect our own perceptions.  The third-person effect is a hypothesis which suggests that people “perceive others as more influenced by the mass media than they themselves are” (Tsfati, 711).  A component of the theory “suggests that people’s expectations regarding media impact lead them to take action” (Tsfati, 712).

In the study, researchers investigated development towns in Israel.  These development towns were not covered often in the media, but when they were, the focus was on “violence, crime, unemployment, poverty, and economic hardships; positive stories were relatively rare” (Tsfati, 714).  The study determined that “the more negative the perception of the conditions in the town, the more residents contemplate leaving” (Tsfati, 722).

It concluded that regardless of the direct or personal knowledge that people have on subjects, the perceptions of what others think remain influential.  If the third-person effect is applied to an aspect of international education, it is likely that students or people pursuing international educations will be influenced by the media’s depiction of opinions.  For example, it is not likely that a student develops a desire to study abroad in Syria after seeing a news report covering Syria and its current civil war and violent uprisings.

If this theory works with negative perceptions, then it is likely that it works for positive perceptions.  Positive reinforcement is the strengthening of a behavior using a stimulus in order to increase that behavior.  Just as negative perceptions or depictions by media influence the public’s opinion, positive perceptions and media stories do the same.  A professor who sees a newspaper article about a successful international education conference that he or she attended in London will likely be encouraged to continue attending these conferences.  The positive newspaper article is the stimulus that will reinforce the behavior of attending this particular conference.

In this context, media is influencing one’s opinion using the opinion of a third party .  People care about what others’ think, and this sociologic idea applies to international education as well.  If international education is being encouraged by the public, the media, or any third party, it is likely that one will feel supported in pursuing one.

Combining the third-person effect with positive reinforcement and applying it to media and international education makes sense in that it explains the psychological and sociological ideas behind the driving factors that help people make decisions.

Tsfati, Y. and Cohen, J. (2003), On the Effect of the “Third-Person Effect”: Perceived Influence of Media Coverage and Residential Mobility Intentions. Journal of Communication, 53: 711–727.


An Introduction: What is international education?

For years, I have wanted to study abroad.  I wanted it for the travel experience, adventure, and because I wanted to practice the Spanish language.  During the spring of 2013 I finally crossed “study abroad” off of my bucket list and I lived in Seville, Spain for about five months and traveled around Europe for one month.

While studying in Seville, I was a student with Academic Programs International (API Study Abroad).  Now I’m back at school in the States and am a Peer Mentor with API.  Peer Mentors are API alumni students who go back to their campuses to advocate for study abroad and international education.  We host monthly awareness and advocacy events on our respective campuses, and serve as resources for students interested in going abroad.

The Peer Mentor application process was around the same time that I was brainstorming subjects for my independent research this fall.  I began thinking about international education and became interested primarily in the positive affects that studying abroad has on students.   Then, during Peer Mentor training in Austin, Texas over the summer, a ton of information was thrown at us about international education, global and cultural awareness, study abroad, and a whole range of great concepts that I have never really thought about so deeply before.

Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I developed this super invested academic interest in international education that I am relating to my media studies.  I think the reason I care so much about international education is because I was fortunate enough to have one.  My study abroad experience was invaluable, and my understanding of people, culture, and the world as a whole expanded significantly during my time abroad.  Unexpectedly , my return to the U.S. taught me even more about the world after I had explored it.  My time abroad helps me to think about the world holistically, and I want to encourage others to adapt that same outlook by participating in an international experience.  It was life-changing, and I believe that if all students were to have a similar experience to learn from, then global awareness, cultural acceptance, and tolerance would be perspectives common to all people.

So… You’ve read four paragraphs and still don’t know what international education is.  Well, international education, sometimes referred to as global education, is an approach to education that works toward educating students on cultural differences and the relationships among world regions and peoples (socialstudies.org).   The social, political, and economic spheres of countries and cultures are undergoing integration, and the world is becoming an interconnected, global community.  International education offers students the skills and knowledge necessary to live in this globalized, competitive world.

International education can be a variety of experiences: study abroad, second language learning, exchange programs, global studies, expatriation, etc.  Regardless of the form it takes, international education exposes diversity, introduces culture, and teaches acceptance.  In our world full of media and technology, these ideas can be spread even more quickly and easily to people across nations.  By studying international education’s relationship with the media, I hope to find ways that the field is evolving and growing, specifically through the realm of social media.  The state of its progress affects the global community at large, and the continued support for international education can yield positive effects for society at large.

In an article about media literacy by Donna Alvermann and Margaret Hagood of the University of Georgia, the reinvention of literacy is discussed in the context of media and technology advancement.  They wrote:

“It is a time of major shifts in cultural practices, economic systems, and social institutions on a global scale; a time when literacy educators from around the world are speculating about the ways in which new technologies will alter conceptions of reading and writing.”

A similar comparison that I adapted from this theory is the relationship between global education and the media.  I hope to speculate about the ways with which the media is helping to advance the field of education.  Technology and media develop much faster than education curricula.  As a result, media can be used as a powerful tool to drive the field of international education forward.

The immediate access that media, particularly the internet/social media, is able to give to people is critical to the development of many industries, especially education.  The LEAD (Leading Education by Advancing Digital) Commission developed a blueprint “detailing the opportunity for using technology as a catalyst to transform and improve American education” (LEAD Commission).   The Commission was established to analyze the current uses of media in the field, as well as build a path forward for expanding digital learning.  They work with the Department of Education as well as the Federal Communications Commissions, and although they are focused on the education system in the United States, their research and findings will be helpful in making connections with, and contrasting to the field education in a global sense.

Another great resource for international education information and news is NAFSA: Association of International Educators.  NAFSA is a leading nonprofit organization in the international and higher education field, focused on promoting public policies committed to advancing these fields.  Connecting Our World (NAFSA’s online community) brings together students, teachers, educators, professionals, and citizens of the world who are all committed to sharing and promoting the value of international education.

NAFSA is focused on establishing public policies in support of international education, while LEAD is focused on analyzing media and technology in the American education system.   Both perspectives will be very useful in examining where the two fields meet.

Ultimately my goals with this independent research project are:
1.  To gain a better understanding of the relationship between media and the advancement of international education
2.  To learn more about what education organizations and professionals are doing to advance and advocate for their field
3.  To explore what kind of advancements have already taken place in the international education field because of the media
4.  To make predictions about the ways that media can continue to help in advancing global awareness
5.  To complete a research paper based on my findings, highlighting the positive ways with which media affects the field of international education

I study mass media because I believe in its power to create, change, and even terminate global societal movements.  I also believe that international education has positive affects on students as individuals, and on the world as a whole.  Social media/online communities, the internet, news, and popular culture are examples of forms of media that could potentially expose its readers, users, and followers to the values of international education.  International education aims to raise global and cultural awareness, and the media produces content that often relates to these concepts.  Media’s influence on international education could be leveraged to accelerate positive change.

At the end of the semester, I hope to compile information, statistics, and resources for material that will generate conversations about the importance of international education.  After all,

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
–Nelson Mandela