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WMA faculty members contribute to iBook about global learning

Date: 11/25/2014

WILBRAHAM – Two faculty members at Wilbraham & Monson Academy (WMA) have contributed to an iBook, which focuses on helping schools develop and maintain global programs that allow students to visit other countries and learn with a global perspective in mind. 

“The academy is one of the founding members of an organization called the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG) and we are schools from across the country that have come together to help other schools define what it means to be global and how to put that in your curriculum and how to successfully and safely take kids overseas,” Walter Swanson, director of WMA’s Center for Entrepreneurial and Global Studies, said.

The iBook, “Global Education: A Roadmap to Program Development,” was published by GEBG on Oct. 27 and is available on for purchase.

The iBook features more than 20 contributing authors from across the country.

“A lot of the places we go to are not 100 percent stable all the time,” Swanson added. “They don’t have the systems we have here in the US, so how do you ensure that the faculty [and students] are prepared? What we do and what this book does is share a lot of that information.”

Swanson said he contributed a chapter related to communicating the values of learning abroad to students and parents as well as models for financing learning abroad programs.

“Anything from merit scholarships, which is what we do, to matching percentages of financial aid to ensure that it’s accessible for all students,” he added.

Michael Dziura, a teacher at WMA, said he produced a five-minute introductory film for the iBook, which was comprised of footage taken from an inter-school trip to Cambodia during the summer of 2013.

Six other schools participated in the learning abroad trip, which included seven faculty staff chaperons and 25 students, three of whom were from WMA, he explained.

“For two weeks [we traveled] all over Cambodia, visiting NGOs (non governmental organizations), mostly NGOs that help street children and orphans, to do anything from provide them and their families with food, education, vocational training, medications for some children,” he said. 

The video introduction consisted of brief interviews from the 25 students interspersed with footage from the trip, Dziura added. A total of 36 hours of video was shot during the trip.

 “In a lot of cases, [visiting another country] is transformative,” he said. “And we do try to give them a little pre-trip curriculum but no amount of curriculum can prepare the students for the actual experience. In almost every case the kids come back saying that their entire worldview has shifted. You can’t go into an experience like that without really changing.”

Swanson said last year WMA students also visited Turkey.

This year, students will be traveling to the Republic of Namibia in southern Africa.

“It’s something that the school is supportive [of], our head of school [Brian Easler] takes students to the Amazon,” he added. “We call ourselves a global school [and] we need to be able to provide this experience.

“Some of it is learning about a lot of other peoples and some of it is the students going through situations that may not be particularly comfortable and being the minority, being the outside and developing a lot of our students here who are from overseas and going through some of the same challenges,” Swanson continued.

The idea for to publish the book electronically rather than the traditional pulp and paper method is because the field is constantly in flux and the electronic format allows for continual updates, he noted.

“Standards have changed, overviews of particular countries of what we would recommend has changed,” Swanson added. “But I think that’s what a lot of schools are looking for; they want a living resource.”

Swanson said the iBook also features information about safety and preparation for the trip.

“You’re looking at emotional [and] mental health, how you pack your med kit, what you do in the case of emergency,” he explained. “The basic stuff that you need to do to be responsible for these trips but for a school just starting out the idea of going to Namibia would be very daunting for some schools.

“So, we’re just trying to share that experience so people can feel more comfortable developing these programs, financing them, and making sure they have value,” Swanson added.