What is Virtual Exchange?

Virtual exchanges are technology-enabled, sustained, people-to-people education programs.

Developed over the past 30 years from experience in the field of educational exchange and study abroad – and evolving rapidly with the explosive growth in new media technologies and platforms – virtual exchanges have been integrated at all levels of education from kindergarten through university and are distinctive in their use of new media platforms to enable deep, interactive, social learning.

By employing a wide variety of technologies and educational pedagogy, virtual exchanges make it possible for every young person to access high-quality international and cross-cultural education.

Virtual exchanges function in a synergistic and complementary way with physical exchange programs. They can prepare, deepen and extend physical exchanges, and, by reaching new populations and larger numbers, fuel new demand for physical exchange.

See Virtual Exchanges in Action

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  • Learn about Soliya’s Connect Program in Egypt's Nile River delta.

  • Qatar Foundation International (QFI) students collaborate virtually to solve environmental issues.

  • iEARN's Finding Solutions to Hunger Project.

  • Global Nomads Group connects Afghan and US students on civil rights dialogue.

Why Virtual Exchange?

The world is increasingly interdependent.

The next generation will have to address major global challenges, virtually all of which require multi-lateral and cross-cultural cooperation, while trying to secure jobs in an increasingly diverse and globalized workforce.

Education exchanges and study abroad programs are among the best means to prepare young people for such a world- increasing their inclination and capacity to deal effectively with difference and to communicate and collaborate across cultures.

But fewer than 1% of young people participate in international exchange programs.

Virtual exchanges make it possible for every young person to access high-quality international cross-cultural education.

The Impact of Virtual Exchange

Evidence-Based Measures

The Exchange 2.0 Coalition has partnered with the Saxelab Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at MIT to advance two objectives:

  1. Develop evaluation tools to measure changes in young people’s inclination and capacity to deal constructively with difference
  2. Apply these tools to assess the impact of virtual exchange programs

Through this partnership the Coalition hopes to foster the emergence of best practices and spur innovation by providing the basis for comparatively evaluating the educational impact of diverse models of exchange.
Saxelab evaluations have already demonstrated that virtual exchange programs can increase participants’ empathy for other cultures and perspectives, develop their willingness to engage constructively with peers of diverse backgrounds and views, and provide participants with the experience of being heard and respected.

The Saxelab is currently piloting a new test to measure virtual exchange participants’ acquisition of 21st century skills – specifically cross-cultural communication and collaboration skills – deemed critical for success in an increasingly diverse world and globalized workforce. Once further developed, these evaluation tools will be made available on this website for use by organizations that run people-to-people education and exchange programs.

Testimonials

As the effort to develop objective measures of educational impact continues, there remains great value in listening to the perspective of educators and youth who implement and participate in virtual exchange. Featured here are testimonials from educators and young alumni on the impact of different virtual exchange programs.

Click here to add your own testimony!

 

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  • Professor Osama Madany describes his search for a program to expose his students to the outside world. This fall... READ MORE >

    Professor Osama Madany, Menoufia University, Egypt
  • Professor Osama Madany, Menoufia University, Egypt

    Professor Osama Madany describes his search for a program to expose his students to the outside world. This fall, 40 students from Menoufia University will participate in Soliya’s Connect Program.

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  • "I absolutely loved being able to ask one of the Iraqi students in my session about what his experiences were..." READ MORE >

    Courtney Green, University of Michigan student and Dorm Room Diplomacy participant
  • Courtney Green, University of Michigan student and Dorm Room Diplomacy participant

    “I absolutely loved being able to ask one of the Iraqi students in my session about what his experiences were before and after the American invasion. Hearing first hand accounts truly brings international issues closer to home, especially when hearing them from students you have developed a relationship with throughout the semester.”

    Founded by students at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009, Dorm Room Diplomacy fosters intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding among an international group of university students. Dorm Room Diplomacy employs videoconference technology to facilitate virtual exchanges that help students to see the individuals behind reductionist cultural stereotypes.

    The videoconference program occurs each academic semester, and the same set of 8 students join in a virtual dialogue with a trained facilitator each week. Dorm Room Diplomacy is entirely student-run, encouraging students to take ownership over the dialogue process, establish campus chapters, and empower themselves and their peers.

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  • "This program has not only opened my eyes to what goes on in Afghanistan, but opened my eyes to want to learn..." READ MORE >

    Celena from Menifee County High School, participant in Global Nomads Group's Global Citizens in Action program
  • Celena from Menifee County High School, participant in Global Nomads Group's Global Citizens in Action program

    “This program has not only opened my eyes to what goes on in Afghanistan, but opened my eyes to want to learn about the rest of the world. The most shocking thing I have learned is how brave most of the women are. I think it is extraordinary that these women would risk everything for an education and for equal rights.”

    As part of Global Nomads Group’s Global Citizens in Action (GCA) program, Celena and her class at Menifee County High School in rural Kentucky connected with peers at the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) through project-based learning and virtual exchange, exploring cultural exchange, media literacy, and global citizenship. To engage their communities, both classes created short films exploring discrimination in their respective communities; Menifee GCA students produced a video encouraging global citizenship in their local community, illustrating a deficit of knowledge about Afghanistan, and proposing a plan to educate their fellow citizens. Celena, the class valedictorian, spoke to the program’s impact in her high school graduation speech:

    “The opportunity to talk to SOLA students is something I will never forget, because from that, I gained insight. [It] allowed me to take a step back and look at our small community…Take every opportunity that comes your way, big or small. Each is a chance to not only learn from others, but learn about yourself.”

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  • “On my campus, we have a large number of "first generation" students, who often come to college ill-equipped to..." READ MORE >

    Michael Kimball, Professor of Anthropology, University of Northern Colorado
  • Michael Kimball, Professor of Anthropology, University of Northern Colorado

    “On my campus, we have a large number of “first generation” students (first family member to go to college), who often come to college ill-equipped to recognize its potential to change their own lives, never mind the world. The prospect of studying abroad isn’t even on their radar screens, even if they could afford it. The Soliya Connect Program opens their eyes to a bigger world and the transformative roles they might play in it.”

    The Connect Program is Soliya’s semester-long, web-based, cross-cultural dialogue and education program. Participants meet with online for two-hour sessions each week for a period of eight weeks in multicultural dialogue groups of 8-10 students, under the guidance of 2 Soliya-trained volunteer facilitators. This experience offers young people—particularly those unable to participate in physical exchange or study abroad programs—the opportunity to engage one another in a safe, open environment. The University of Northern Colorado and Soliya began partnering in 2008. 70 students from the University of Northern Colorado have participated in the Connect Program to date.

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  • "YALLAH is not a place that ignores differences and focuses on just finding common ground between different cultures..." READ MORE >

    Tim Hursen, Recent High School Graduate, Qatar Foundation International participant
  • Tim Hursen, Recent High School Graduate, Qatar Foundation International participant

    “YALLAH is not a place that ignores differences and focuses on just finding common ground between different cultures and peoples, but in fact a place online where differences are embraced. Differences are what make us who we are.”

    Youth Allied to Learn, Lead and Help (YALLAH) is an online forum for Qatar Foundation International’s educational programs, through which students and alumni join together for student-driven and expert-facilitated discussions on pertinent global topics and organize community service projects to benefit others. YALLAH uses a multi-lingual online space for cross-cultural collaboration where QFI can create new opportunities for engagement in our middle and high school-focused student and teacher programs. The forum serves as a resource for students to discuss social and cultural issues.

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  • "Youth can teach and can do great things. I seriously can't wait for the next video conference. On behalf..." READ MORE >

    Qatari student participant in Connecting Cultures, Exploring Science: Road to Doha 2012-13
  • Qatari student participant in Connecting Cultures, Exploring Science: Road to Doha 2012-13

    “Youth can teach and can do great things. I seriously can’t wait for the next video conference. On behalf of me and the environment club at Musab Bin Omair Independent Secondary School for Boys, I would like to thank the American students, QFI, and Global Nomads Group for this amazing video conference we had. We discussed about cycles and water consumption and it was very interesting to learn [from] and teach our peers from the United States.”

    As part of the Connecting Cultures, Exploring Science: Road to Doha program, run in partnership by Global Nomads Group and Qatar Foundation International, the Musab Bin Omair Independent Secondary School connected with peers in the US via interactive videoconferencing, youth-led media projects, and climate change curricula to explore environmental issues and cultural exchange. Students also created and led public webcasts on climate change issues, writing the script, facilitating a panel of guest speakers, and speaking out to motivate peers around the world to take action.

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  • "In tough economic times when buying a plane ticket is too expensive, my students have traveled the world.." READ MORE >

    Nicolle Boujaber-Diederichs, Teacher at Cypress Creek High School in Orlando, Florida
  • Nicolle Boujaber-Diederichs, Teacher at Cypress Creek High School in Orlando, Florida

    “In tough economic times when buying a plane ticket is too expensive, my students have travelled the world through iEARN’s web forum projects. iEARN has opened my students’ eyes to a world full of unique cultures beyond Florida and Latin America and has broken many of their cultural stereotypes and misconceptions, especially about the Arab world. The global relationships I’ve built with teachers in other countries through the My Identity, Your Identity Project and iEARN’s international conference in Morocco have been life changing and inspirational.”

    iEARN (International Education and Resource Network) is the world’s largest non-profit global network that enables teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world.

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  • "In Project Voice, we learned that similarities transcend nationalities." In 2003, Global Nomads Group sent a team... READ MORE >

    American and Iraqi students, participants in iEARN's Iraq-US Project Voice exchanges (2003 and 2013)
  • American and Iraqi students, participants in iEARN's Iraq-US Project Voice exchanges (2003 and 2013)

    “In Project Voice, we learned that similarities transcend nationalities.”

    In 2003, Global Nomads Group sent a team to Iraq, then under Saddam Hussien’s regime, to connect youth in Baghdad to peers in Connecticut in real-time dialogue through videoconferencing. Two weeks after this historic cross-cultural connection, the two countries went to war. According to an Iraqi participant in March 2003, “Now is the right time to make these connections, because now the only way to get through [the war] is by talking.”

    GNG reestablished connection in a second videoconference weeks after the Bush administration declared an end to major combat in Iraq in June 2003, giving these young people the chance to re-connect and continue deepening dialogue. Ten years later, in March 2013, GNG brought the same Iraqi and American participants together in person to GNG’s New York City office, to reconnect and discuss the impact of their interactions on their lives’ trajectory and world views.

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  • Professor Randall Bass discusses virtual exchange as a signature pedagogy of education, while Georgetown... READ MORE >

    Professor Randall Bass, Associate Provost & Co-Chair of Core Curriculum Committee, Georgetown University
  • Professor Randall Bass, Associate Provost & Co-Chair of Core Curriculum Committee, Georgetown University

    Professor Randall Bass discusses Virtual Exchange as a signature pedagogy of education, while Georgetown students reflect on the impact of their Soliya experiences.

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  • “Soliya's Connect Program has shown, time and time again, semester after semester, the power to transform..." READ MORE >

    Professor Junaid S. Ahmad, Faculty of Law and Policy, Lahore University of Management Sciences
  • Professor Junaid S. Ahmad, Faculty of Law and Policy, Lahore University of Management Sciences

    “Soliya’s Connect Program has shown, time and time again, semester after semester, the power to transform my students in significant and meaningful ways — so that they become not only interested in more dialogue (which is important for its own sake), but also in mutual cooperative efforts, interfaith and intercultural, that advance global peace, justice, and harmony.”

    60 students from the Lahore University of Management Sciences have participated in the Connect Program since Fall 2011. The Connect Program is Soliya’s semester-long, web-based, cross-cultural dialogue and education program, which has been integrated into the curricula of accredited courses at more than 100 universities, spanning 27 countries. Students develop intercultural-awareness and the ability to think critically around global issues. They grow genuine relationships that cross borders, and they build essential skills for the 21st century workplace.

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Progress

Major Milestones

Public diplomacy has long pursued the transformative potential of new technologies. Likewise, educational leaders have long realized the importance of travel and exchange. Virtual exchange is the merging of these two efforts.

Twenty-five years ago, the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) was among the first organizations to pioneer educational virtual exchanges. In 1988, iEARN used cutting-edge technology to link educators and students with their peers both within and across societies. Other initiatives have followed suit, rapidly evolving to harness the explosion of new media technologies.

When leaders in the emerging field (Global Nomads Group, iEARN-USA, and Soliya, among others) formed the Exchange 2.0 Coalition, they recognized virtual exchange as a distinctive field, critical to any 21st Century education. This movement is gaining momentum.

May

2011

The Exchange 2.0 Coalition is Formed

Three virtual exchange organizations — Global Nomads Group, iEARN-USA, and Soliya — joined together in the Exchange 2.0 Coalition in order to collaboratively advance virtual exchange and reach more young people.

May

2011

United States Institute of Peace Publishes Special Report "Exchange 2.0"

The United States Institute of Peace published a Special Report entitled Exchange 2.0. This report was circulated to every member of the U.S. Congress.

November

2011

League of Arab States Endorses Virtual Exchange

The Education and Scientific Research Office of the League of Arab States endorsed virtual exchange programming in a communiqué to all Arab Ministers of Education.

May

2012

U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Includes Virtual Exchange in Report

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee’s report included language promoting the use of virtual exchange.

June

2012

Aspen Institute Holds Workshop Between Virtual Exchange Providers and Community Colleges for International Development

The Aspen Institute’s ”Partners for a New Beginning” hosted a workshop between virtual exchange providers and Community Colleges for International Development (CCID) to discuss bringing virtual exchange to students at community colleges across the United States.

October

2012

United States Institute of Peace Holds Day-Long Virtual Exchange Conference

The United States Institute of Peace hosted researchers, practitioners, and policymakers– including speaker Her Majesty Queen Noor Al Hussein of Jordan– for a full-day conference dedicated to expanding virtual exchange.

February

2013

Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau Establishes Virtual Exchange Unit

The Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau of the U.S. State Department (the world’s largest funder of exchanges) established a Virtual Exchange Unit.

May

2013

European Union Foreign Policy Experts Prepare Virtual Exchange Briefing

The European Union’s Executive External Action Service (the EU foreign policy bureau) organized briefings by virtual exchange program implementers, funders, and researchers with senior EU policy-advisors and funding bureaus.

May

2013

Secretary of State John Kerry Announces Virtual Exchange Initiative

At the Foreign Service Institute Overseas Security Seminar, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the Obama Administration’s plan to develop – in close cooperation with the family of deceased U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens – a major new public-private virtual exchange initiative intended to enable a substantially larger number and greater diversity of young people to have a meaningful cross-cultural experience as part of their education.

READ ANNOUNCEMENT >

“I’m excited to tell you that we are working closely with Chris Stevens’ family on a public-private virtual exchange…We believe this can lead to the largest-ever increase in people-to-people exchanges between the United States and the Middle East and North Africa.  We believe it will dramatically increase the number and diversity of young people who have a meaningful cross-cultural experience – the same experiences Chris knew were so important.  They are the kind of connections that led Libyans to take to the streets of Benghazi after the attack – not to shout terrible things about America, but to mourn Chris’s death and celebrate democracy, to say “thank you” to Chris and America.  After World War II, when I was growing up as a Foreign Service Officer’s kid, our country invested in the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, NATO, the Fulbright Program – all geared toward building understanding.  That’s what we must continue to do today, with programs like this one.”

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November

2013

Morocco Commits $5 Million to Support Virtual Exchange

According to a White House press release, “The President and His Majesty the King are committed to exploring further cooperation to promote mutual understanding and interfaith dialogue… The President commended His Majesty the King for graciously committing to donate $1 million per year over the next 5 years to the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative.”

January

2014

European Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee Issues Opinion on Virtual Exchange

The Committee on Culture and Education highlights new media technologies as instruments for promoting intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and urges the Foreign Affairs Committee to make virtual exchange a priority.

Get Involved

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I ♥ Virtual Exchange

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Thanks for joining the “I ♥ Virtual Exchange” campaign!  We’re looking to raise awareness of virtual exchange by sharing YOUR stories (and your smiling faces!) here on our site, Twitter and Facebook. We want to hear from everyone who has been involved in this movement, so regardless of how you’ve participated, please join us!

Promote virtual exchange in 4 steps:

  1. Download and print your own sign here.

  2. Grab a marker and fill it out! Don’t forget your name and virtual exchange program!

  3. Strike a pose and snap a photo with your sign!

  4. Submit your photo below.  (Note: You must click the box to certify that you give permission for us to share your photo for the purpose of promoting virtual exchange.)

Also help us get the word out by sharing your photo and our site through your own Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and more!

Thank you!

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Media Kit

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  • Soliya Fellows at the 2012 Soliya Summit in Jordan prepare to record interviews with their communities to share with the Soliya Network Community.

  • Soliya Fellows at the 2012 Soliya Summit in Jordan discuss virtual exchange, online learning, and community exploration. After participating in an online community fellowship with facilitation and media training, select Soliya fellows were invited to an in-person summit to meet their co-fellows in person and share ideas.

  • Joelle participated in the Soliya Connect Program, a virtual exchange program that brings together students from around the world into an online platform where they can discuss current events, cultural affairs, and expand their worldview by interacting with their peers in foreign countries.

  • Participants and professors at Menoufiya University in Egypt gather to learn about and discuss the Soliya Connect Program and meet Soliya’s CEO, Shamil Idriss.

  • Collaborative mural project designed and painted by Global Nomads Group students at their respective schools in Kabul, Afghanistan and Alexandria, VA

  • A reunion of Global Nomads Group’s Project Voice. 10 Years Later, Iraqi and US peers from historic videoconferences meet in person

  • Hindi Language Study Exchange between USA and India. A partnership with the Edison School District in New Jersey to enhance its existing language programs to include Hindi as an option for students in the district. The partnership enabled NJ students and teachers to utilize iEARN’s network and Collaboration Centre for language learning and cross-cultural exchange with native Hindi speakers in India.

  • Students Video Chat between New York and Karachi, Pakistan as part of iEARN YouthCaN project at the American Museum of Natural History

  • Students from Dubai and New Jersey connect as part of the iEARN Finding Solutions to Hunger Project

  • Students from Dubai and New Jersey connect as part of the iEARN Finding Solutions to Hunger Project

Download Media Kit PDF

What is Virtual Exchange?

Virtual exchanges are technology-enabled, sustained, people-to-people education programs. While new media technologies are often used for either superficial social interaction or intensely polarizing political display, virtual exchanges use the same technologies to build mutually affirming relationships and foster constructive and meaningful dialogue among youth. Employing a wide variety of platforms and educational pedagogy, virtual exchanges teach participants 21st century skills that prepare them to more effectively deal with difference and to collaborate and communicate across cultures, thereby enhancing global peace and prosperity.

While physical exchange programs, including study abroad, have long provided important educational experiences, those opportunities have only been accessible to a privileged few. The costs and logistical challenges of such programs prevent this model from reaching a broader set of students. Less than 2% of American college students study abroad, and those who study abroad often choose to study where there is less need for increased cultural understanding: 54% of Americans who study abroad go to Europe, while only 2% go to the Middle East. While Middle Eastern students who study abroad are likely to come to the United States, only 3% of higher education students in the Middle East study overseas.

By using low-cost, high-impact technology, virtual exchange makes it possible for every young person to access high-quality international and cross-cultural education, and it enables deep and meaningful exchange where it is most needed.  Developed over the past 30 years based on experiences in educational exchange and study abroad, virtual exchange programs are providing opportunities for students ranging from kindergarten through college.

It is critical that we provide vastly more young adults with the skills they need to participate in the global economy, and, given the current economic climate, we must develop models that are less costly without sacrificing impact.

The Exchange 2.0 Coalition has partnered with the Saxelab Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in order to establish evidence-based measures of educational impact. Currently, the Coalition and Saxelab are developing tools to measure the impact of virtual exchange programs. Following successful evaluation, these evidence-based measurement tools will be made freely available for adoption by organizations that run people-to-people education and exchange programs.


The State of International Exchange

Access

  • Less than 2% of Americans enrolled in higher education study abroad each year.
  • Less than 2% of students in most European countries study abroad.
  • Only 3% of higher education students from the Middle East study overseas.

Equity

  • Only 11.7% of American students who studied abroad in 2010-2011 were Black or Hispanic.
  • Only 0.2% of students who were pursuing an Associate’s degree in 2010-2011 studied abroad.

Experience

  • The most popular region for American students is Europe and the least popular regions are the Middle East and North Africa. Only 2% of American students go to the Middle East.
  • Only 4% of the U.S. higher education population are international students.

The Exchange 2.0 Coalition

In 2009, Soliya, Global Nomads Group, and iEARN-USA came together to form the Exchange 2.0 Coalition with the goal of making it the norm for young people—of all socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds—to have meaningful cross-cultural interactions throughout the course of their K-12 and postsecondary education.

These founding organizations all leverage new media technologies to expand access to high-quality, deep social learning across cultures. Recognizing that there is a growing number of new entrants to this field, the Coalition’s purpose is to foster a more supportive and generative ecosystem for such programming to develop, innovate and grow.

 Soliya: Soliya integrates virtual exchange programming at higher education institutions across the U.S., Europe, and Muslim-majority countries worldwide. Since 2003, Soliya’s flagship program, The Connect Program, has been implemented in over 100 universities in 27 countries. Many participants continue on to participate in Soliya’s virtual exchange facilitation training.

In the spring of 2008, associate professor Michael Kimball brought the Soliya Connect Program to his students at the University of Northern Colorado, where there is a large number of first generation college students who “often come to college ill-equipped to recognize its potential to change their own lives, never mind the world,” according to Dr. Kimball.  For many of these students, studying abroad isn’t even considered a possibility. But, since 2008, Soliya has already enabled 70 University of Northern Colorado students to engage with peers in places like Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, and the Netherlands. “It gave us the opportunity to tear down the barriers that keep us from learning what is really going on. It was like dry footage. I loved talking to the people in my group every week. It gave me an experience and a life-long understanding,” said one of Kimball’s students.

 Global Nomads Group: Global Nomads Group (GNG) fosters dialogue and understanding among the world’s youth by engaging and empowering young people worldwide using media including interactive videoconferencing, webcasting, social networking, gaming, and participatory filmmaking. For over 15 years, GNG has conducted projects with 7th-12th grade students in more than 50 countries and has reached over one million young people. Innovative educators across the world integrate GNG’s programs into their classrooms to expand 21st century learning opportunities in their schools.

Through its youth virtual exchange programs, GNG helps schools and educators expand their classroom’s experiences, as seen in Randy Barrette’s rural classroom.  Randy is a high school Spanish and World Cultures teacher at Menifee County High School in rural Kentucky. Through GNG’s Global Citizens in Action (GCA) program, Randy’s students connect with a peer classroom at the School of Leadership, Afghanistan in Kabul, via interactive videoconferences, an online platform, youth-led social activism projects, and follow a dynamic curriculum on cultural exchange, media literacy, and global citizenship. In an evaluation of GCA 2012-13, Randy said, “I have watched the power of this program in the past two years positively influence the paradigms of my students. We are a small, rural high school of 300 students, with limited access… I am hopeful that this year again a small group of students in my school will develop a similar worldview; one built on mutual understanding, increasing knowledge, and sincere empathy.”

iEARN-USA: iEARN-USA: iEARN (International Education and Resource Network) provides K-12 educators with the digital and curricular tools to create and collaborate on meaningful global projects that enhance students’ classroom learning, including their understanding of geography, history, language, and other cultures.  Since its start in 1988, iEARN has grown into a network of over 50,000 educators and 30,000 schools and youth organizations in more than 140 countries.

In the United States, over 3,000 teachers are integrating iEARN’s Common Core aligned curriculum and project plans into their classroom, and are leveraging interactive technologies to connect with other iEARN teachers and classes across the country and the world. For example, Deanne McBeath, a technology teacher for Village Charter School in Trenton, NJ, is teaching her students the fundamentals of technology through a project on world hunger. In any given class, her students can been found Skyping with a food transporter in North Carolina, chatting with peers in Nigeria, manipulating Excel spreadsheets that are keeping track of calories, or designing an animated video that will be used to educate their classmates on the state of global hunger.  Through technology-integrated lesson plans, iEARN is helping teachers expand their students’ cross-cultural understanding all while supporting standards-based learning.


Coalition Leadership

Shamil Idriss, Chief Executive Officer, Soliya

Shamil served as Executive Director of the Alliance of Civilizations Media Fund which merged with Soliya in 2009. Prior to that, Shamil was appointed Deputy Director of the UN Alliance of Civilizations by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2005 and continues to serve as Senior Advisor to the initiative. From 2000-2004, he served as Chief Operating Officer of Search for Common Ground (SFCG), a leading conflict resolution organization with offices in 17 countries. He has extensive experience in developing international and regional networks. Shamil serves on the Board of SFCG and was Chairman of the Board of Soliya from 2003-2009. He is a member of the Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow network of the ASMA Society and the Young Global Leaders network of the World Economic Forum.

Lucas Welch, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Soliya

Lucas founded and served as Soliya’s President from 2003-2009. Prior to his work with Soliya, he conducted research at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, examining how new technologies can enable collective action across traditional borders. Lucas has extensive experience in the Middle East. He taught new media at Birzeit University on the West Bank, and worked for ABC News and Search for Common Ground in Jerusalem. He also worked as a producer with Peter Jennings at ABC News to integrate abcnews.com more closely with the World News Tonight broadcast. He is a TED Fellow and was recognized by Echoing Green as one of the “world’s best emerging social entrepreneurs.”

Chris Plutte, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Global Nomads Group: Chris has more than a decade of experience in media development and conflict resolution management. Chris rejoined Global Nomads Group (GNG) in 2010 as Executive Director, where he previously led the organization as one of the original founders. Prior to rejoining GNG, Chris opened and directed all of Search for Common Ground’s programs in Rwanda and cross border initiatives in the Great Lakes Region. During his time in Rwanda he introduced innovative programs for peace building using technology in the classroom and secured new funding for program growth and expansion. Chris frequently speaks on media, youth and conflict and has his work with GNG has been featured in outlets such as The Today Show, CNN, NPR, Education Week and Chronicles of Philanthropy. Chris received his BA in International Communications from the American University of Paris.  He is currently a Pahara Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Daniel Rosenblum, Executive Director, iEARN-USA: A former journalist with broad international experience, Daniel assumed his role as Executive Director of iEARN-USA in May 2013. Previously, he was Vice President, External Relations of Japan Society, a cultural nonprofit in New York focused on U.S.-Japan relations. At the Society, he helped create and launch the U.S.-Japan Innovators Network, a multi-disciplinary network of emerging and established social entrepreneurs, business people, artists, educators and other leaders from Japan and the United States committed to creating a better world. Before joining the Society, Rosenblum worked as a journalist for 16 years, including 13 years as a financial correspondent and television producer with Reuters in Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Washington and New York. A graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio, he holds a BA in Japanese language and literature. Rosenblum spent his first 12 years abroad, living in Mexico City and Tokyo, where he attended the Nishimachi International School.

Lisa Jobson, Chief Program Officer, iEARN-USA: Prior to joining iEARN in 1997, Lisa was a high school history teacher in Providence, Rhode Island, and then Mmabatho, South Africa.  She has held numerous roles at iEARN-USA, including Assistant Director and Executive Director. Now based in San Francisco, Lisa serves as Chief Program Officer for iEARN-USA.  In addition to overseeing program and technology implementation, strategy, and new initiatives, she also helped to launch and manages iEARN’s Adobe Youth Voices partnership, a program of the Adobe Foundation. Lisa grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee.  She holds a BA from Brown University, and an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, with a focus in International Policy Studies.

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Virtual Exchange Practitioners

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Exchange 2.0 Champions

Exchange 2.0 Champions have provided crucial support in the form of convening power, advocacy, strategic thought-partnership, and/or financial and in-kind support.

Site Credits

In 2011, Global Nomads Group, iEARN-USA, and Soliya came together to form the Exchange 2.0 Coalition with the goal of making it the norm for young people to have a meaningful cross-cultural experience as part of their education.

Dedicated to using new media technologies to enable deep social learning across cultures, and recognizing that there is a growing number of new entrants to that field, the Coalition’s purpose has been to foster a more supportive and generative ecosystem for such programming to develop, innovate and grow.