Turn the news into a conversation and engage in a “diversity of thought”

An article in the Guardian today “Why does diversity in the media sector matter?” discussed the importance of diversity in forming and reporting on the news, bringing together news agencies from the BBC, the Guardian, GNM, and Knight-Mozilla. They note that diversity goes beyond looking or sounding different, but involves many factors coming together (age, background, life experiences, peers) that influence the “diversity of thought”.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 9.16.29 AMOn WorldVuze classrooms have the opportunity to ask questions that matter to them. Sometimes these questions are formed from a book you are reading or a discussion that has stemmed from the unit you are working on in class. Another way you can engage your students in meaningful dialogue on important local and global issues is by using the news as a starting point.

Take this article about the loss of a Northern white rhino at the San Diego zoo, leaving only 5 remaining members of the subspecies in the world. This is an opportunity for your class to engage in the inquiry process and think of a wide array of questions. Some questions may be:

  • What role do you think zoos should play in conserving wildlife?
  • What do you think is the responsibility of the “average person” to protect endangered or threatened species?
  • What support do you think conservationists need to truly protect endangered species, such as the Northern white rhino?

The process of developing a good question that can inspire a meaningful and engaging discussion can be challenging, but is one of the most important parts of this learning process. Set criteria with your class about what a “good question” looks like for WorldVuze (one important criteria you should strongly consider is that the question seeks opinion or perspective, not fact).

The value of being exposed to a diversity of perspectives is immense. It is central to developing fundamental 21st century competencies such as critical thinking and collaboration. It helps break down barriers and stereotypes by going beyond any one isolated point of view representing a place, such as a country or a city. By exploring multiple points of view on a regular basis, it not only creates an opportunity to consider new perspectives and ways of thinking, but can also alter our perception of each other.

Diversity helps to inspire innovation and creativity. In fact, in the September 2014 issue of Scientific American focused on Diversity from a scientific perspective in a series of articles. One article, by Fred Guterl, “Diversity in Science: Why it is Essential for Excellence” found that diversity relates to the quality and effectiveness of teams as it makes us address our unconscious biases and tends to make people prepare and critically analyze their own point of view more thoroughly as a result. The article goes on to share the gravity of being exposed to a diversity of thought in saying: “Scientists pride themselves on their objectivity, but personal experience and point of view have a lot to do with what questions get asked in the first place and how researchers go about answering them. The people in science and engineering are driving the world’s most vital engine of prosperity and new ideas. Who are they?”.

If you take this concept beyond science and apply this phenomenon to all fields (i.e. environmental management, international development, city planning, etc.), you can only imagine the potential impact it can have on how we may solve all of our most pressing problems.