What is Virtual Exchange?
Endorsed by the United Nations, the Arab League, and the Organization of American States, virtual exchange is a technology-enabled, sustained, people-to-people education programs. Developed over the past 30 years, virtual exchange programs have been integrated into all levels of education. Virtual exchange uses new media technology to enable deep, interactive, social learning; and are an effective way to prepare young people to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and globalized workforce. By combining technology with proven educational techniques, virtual exchanges make it possible for every young person to have access to a meaningful cross-cultural encounter.
Leaders in the emerging field of virtual exchange formed the Exchange 2.0 Coalition, recognizing that virtual exchange is a distinctive field, critical to 21st century education. Find out more about the Virtual Exchange Coalition.
What is Connected Learning?
Grounded in pioneering research, Connected Learning is a set of principles that taps into the abundance of knowledge, information, expertise, and access to peers and mentors young people have today through the Internet, social networks, and digital technology. It recognizes that in todayâ€™s interconnected world, learning opportunities are everywhere, and schools are only one piece of a larger learning ecosystem. It understands that, thanks to the array of resources online, young people today can learn on their own about any subject of interest, gaining expertise at their own pace in a way not previously possible. Connected Learning is also based on educational research showing that a young personâ€™s pursuit of a personal interest or passion with the support of others often leads to academic achievement, career success, and civic engagement. By harnessing the capabilities of the digital age to connect learners to their interests and to mentors, and by linking in- school and out-of-school learning, Connected Learning offers the kind of rich, relevant, and fulfilling educational experiences young people need to succeed, achieve, thrive, and be more connected with the world around them.
Advancing the Field
The Stevens Initiative will support organizations that run virtual exchange programs to deepen the impact and scale up the reach of their programs in the United States and in the Middle East and North Africa. It may support in-person exchanges to complement participantsâ€™ virtual exchange experience. The Initiative seeks to equip young people with 21st century skills, including digital literacy, leadership, cross-cultural communication, and collaborative problem-solving. It will share best practices and support research to address which methods have a measurable impact and have the potential to reach all young people as the field grows.
The Stevens Initiative will provide funding, through merit-based competitions, for organizations to administer virtual and physical exchange programs between youth in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa. The first cycle of the competition opens on October 1, 2015.