In 1998, Reach the World (RTW) helped to invent an educational intervention called “virtual exchange.” Virtual exchanges – defined as sustained, technology-enabled, people to people education programs – can vastly expand the number and diversity of young people who have access to profound cross-cultural experiences as part of their education. Virtual exchanges provide opportunities to advance both academic knowledge and social-emotional development. “When we engage students in global virtual exchanges, we not only enhance their educational journeys, we also lay the foundation for a more peaceful world,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, former Mayor of the City of New York City. In 2016, the U.S. Department of State issued a requirement that all of its cross-cultural exchange programs include virtual exchange. Today, virtual exchanges are a widely-used tool in education, work and life.
Since 1998, Reach the World been developing, testing and refining a model for building virtual exchange ecosystems in communities that may experience isolation from the global community. RTW’s virtual exchange ecosystems weave together participants from the K-12, higher education and corporate sectors. RTW’s programs pull participants from these three sectors; match them into virtual exchange “journeys” online, and support them as they explore the world together within K-12 classrooms nationwide. RTW’s virtual exchange ecosystems seek to make an impact at both the individual and the community level. Individuals advance their global curiosity, compassion and confidence, each person becoming better equipped with the necessary tools and outlook to advance through life and work. These relationships then percolate deeply into the community, within multiple sectors. This contributes positively to the social fabric, and provides an enhanced prospect for the development of international understanding in the community.
Relationships sit at the core of Reach the World’s programs, and RTW is committed to fostering strategic partnerships that add value, control costs and drive outcomes. Current key partners include the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Institute of International Education (Fulbright Program, Gilman Program), Dartmouth College, Birmingham Southern College, Malcolm X College, Princeton in Asia, MENAR Fellowship, the Kentucky Educational Development Corporation, The Explorers Club, the POSSE Foundation, the Peace Corps, and CIRES (a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, all K-12 schools in the United States used virtual exchange to varying degrees to deliver the core curriculum. As a result, virtual exchange is increasingly viable, and is poised to make a transformative and enduring influence upon the American K-12 curriculum. In 2020-2021, every school could – and most did – have experiences “beyond the local.” As we exit the pandemic, a powerful opportunity exists before us to continue this trend for all schools in all communities, so that all children may grow up feeling a part of a positive, personal global community.
In 1998, Reach the World (RTW) helped to invent an educational intervention called “virtual exchange.” Virtual exchanges – defined as sustained, technology-enabled, people to people education programs – can vastly expand the number and…