Blog Post

Mapping the Glocal: Pedagogies in Online Education

Here are some thoughts I am putting together for a paper for an upcoming conference. This is a rough draft, but I invite feedback and ideas.



Mapping the Glocal:  Pedagogies in Online Education


Introduction and Rationale:

            In this paper, I argue that we need a pedagogy that allows us to map the glocal. I argue that we need to focus on the minutia, and embodied communities of localness; we also need to articulate and act with an understanding of how locality is always inflected with global forces. We then need to create a praxis—an activism—informed by the glocal. In this paper, I spotlight my experiences trying to use a pedagogy of mapping glocality in two online courses for graduate students studying globalization and education. As part of these courses, I assigned students to go out in their community, take pictures of, videos of, and create reflections on, the minutia and processes of local community life. I then challenged students to make connections between what was being articulated in their locality, with global forces and the global imaginary. We also, as a matter of praxis, worked toward activism informed by the glocal. This paper explores the meanings and practices of a pedagogy of mapping the glocal, and then argues that a praxis around the glocal mapping creates more opportunities for informed activism and critical engagement by students and teachers.

            This pedagogy is particularly important as more universities, community colleges, and even high schools are turning toward an international focus. U.S. universities are courting international students, sending more students on international/study abroad trips, and creating more international campuses.[i] Community colleges are now offering multiple programs in international and comparative education.[ii] The International Baccalaureate Program is also seeing an increase in schools registered as I.B. Schools. [iii]  As educational institutions increasingly engage with global populations, it becomes more important to have a deeper sense of the ways that local spaces interact with global trajectories. As Paul Kennedy[iv] Fazal Rizvi, and Bob Lingard[v] argue, if educational institutions are to wrestle with the implications of globalized educational policies, international students, and the increased mobility of people and knowledge, then these educational institutions need to do more to study, research, and reflect on the glocal.[vi]


How does one map the glocal as a pedagogical strategy?

            One way to explicitly take up an exploration of the glocal is to map out the intersections, influences, and shaping power of the glocal. The practice of mapping out physical spaces, and then analyzing how these spaces show the shaping power of both local and global influences, is championed in the works of Henri Lefebvre[vii] and Felix Guattari.[viii] In my own research, I draw on these ideas to think about ways that teachers can map out material spaces in order to foreground the shaping power of both the local and the global.

            My desire for and practice of ‘mapping’ as a pedagogical tactic emerges from, or has been nurtured by, my own reading of other scholars’ work forcused on the connections between spaces, things, people, ideologies, and power. Ratiba Hadj-Moussa,[ix] reminds us that ‘acting out’ is framed by what counts as conformity and non-conformity in various places; what counts as dangerous or unremarkable is always framed by geography, custom, and specific spaces. Tovi Fenster[x] reminds us of a similar fact when she tells the story of Bedouin women who were socially constrained from using a park because city planners had created the park in a place—and in a way—that ‘unpermitted’ encounters between men and women would become more likely. The intersection of cultural norms and city planners who did not take into consideration the needs of women, resulted in a park that was virtually unused. The men didn’t use it because it was a ‘children’s’ park; and the women didn’t use it because it was deemed to be a forbidden space by cultural norms. I borrow from Guattari’s[xi] insistence on the importance of mapping out reference points in order to understand the assemblages—the part/wholes—that shape power, people, ideas, and environments. Guattari has a lovely way of focusing on an object or phenomenon and then mapping out the connections between that thing to power, ideas, emmotions, expectations, and the possibility for ‘the new’. Henry Lefebvre,[xii] too, reminds us that not only are spaces and objects shaped by human and societal actions, but that our perceptions of spaces and objects are also shaped by discourses—often hegemonic discourses—and expectations, and that this perception also shapes our practices around and understanding of objects and spaces. Tangible spaces are both real and exist apart from human intervention, understanding, and even consciousness, but are also shaped and constructed through human processes, both physical and discursive. And so, I take from these works the idea that we can create critical, subversive, visionary moments by drawing attention to spaces, objects, and things, and the ways that discourse, policy, expectation, human practice, cultural specificity, and global mobilty link into, are shaped by, and shape those spaces, objects, etc.

            To that end, the pedagogy that I desire, and experiment with, focuses on ways to notice the connection of the specific and the global, by paying attention to things, spaces, and specific phenomena. In my classes, I ask students to take every-day objects, or what they see in their own neighborhoods, and mark out the ways these spaces are both local and global; they are glocal spaces. This pedagogy may best be described as a rumination on things, in order to get at power, policy, practice, and connectivity.  

            While mapping pedagogies can be used in brick-and-mortar classrooms, I argue that they are particularly fruitful in online educational spaces. Online classrooms are shaped by the fact that students connect to the classroom from places all over the world. The online classroom—in particular—benefits from an pedagogies of glocal mapping because students are living in varied locations; there is more fodder for the mapping of the local and the localness of things that are shaped by ideologies and social systems which, increasingly, transverse the globe.

            I promote this enmeshment in the glocal when I teach online courses in Global Studies in Education, and in other courses as well. Because my students are living in multiple different countries and multiple different time zones, there has been a wealth of different places and views that have been displayed and discussed in order to develop our glocal understandings. We have been able to map out privilege, inequity, silencing, diversity, and difference, in unique ways. We have marked and critiques the connections of the local and global, the specific and the hegemonic, by focusing on objects and spaces in our own homes and neighborhoods. Let me provide a few examples.


Example 1:

I have asked students to document objects that show transnational connections in local spaces. I have asked them to take a picture of an object close to them, in their own homes or on their own neighborhood streets, and then analyze how that object connects to global policies, the global imaginary, and globalization mobilities. For this exercise, I have had students take and share pictures of an Iranian school in Mexico; a Japanese car made using parts built in the U.S.A., and parked on a street in China; German beer in a refrigerator in Puerto Rico, and a textbook published by a British press, for a course taught through a U.S. University, used by a student living in Nicaragua. Mapping out our glocal transnationalisms through everyday objects was a fascinating exercise in seeing the ways that discourses, policies, and practices are manifest through tangible objects that we tend to take for granted.

             Students were also able to talk about the ways that these objects of globalization were also shaped or understood within local communities. For example, only certain stores sell German Beer in Puerto Rico, and these stores are associated with local communities, spaces, and practices around catering to a specific clientele, which inhabits specific local spaces, as well as ideological spaces, within Puerto Rico. The Iranian school in Mexico is not only an example of global mobilities, but also points to specific geographies and cultural practices within a defined location. There is a small Iranian population, living as a somewhat sequestered community, in a specific area in Mexico, This, too, shapes the production of an Iranian school in Mexico. It is the combination of the needs of a local community that are part of larger global trajectories toward mobility.


Example 2:

            I have asked students to document the ways that physical spaces—their own neighborhoods—are shaped through both global and local norms. I had one student talk about her neighborhood, where a methlab was right down the street. She talked about the global production and trade of meth between the U.S. and Mexico. She also talked about the discourses that create teacher salaries so low that the only place she can afford to live anywhere close to work is in a neighborhood where she is afraid to go out after dark; where you can occasionally hear sirens in the background when she turns on her mic to speak during class. I had one student talk about the tensions of being a Western woman living in the U.A.E., where expectations around what was permissible for a woman to do—and where a woman was allowed to go and be seen—fluctuated with both cosmopolitan understandings of gender norms and local understandings of gender norms. We were able to have students mao out their neighborhoods, and the expectations of their neighborhoods, and then analyze the ways that these spaces were shaped by global practices, as well as times when local practices pushed against global practices. We strove to interrogate the connections between social interactions, ideologies, and material tangible places and objects.


Example 3:

            One final example of this kind of mapping that connects spaces to culture, ideology, practice, and power, comes from multiple conversations with students about having access to online education. As mentioned, I teach many online classes to graduate students in multiple locations, and while each of these students is enrolled in the same institution, and has access to the same link to our online space, the actual classroom experience of each of these students is shaped by both local and global forces. The experience student have with online education often depends on how they access the internet. This is especially true with synchronous education, but it is also a factor in asynchronous education. What you see when you go online, how you are able to interact online, and whether or not you feel connected—and often whether or not you are literally connected—or perhaps continually get kicked off or dropped from a site—depends on which device you use to go online, and what type of infrastructure you have access to. These access points are local in the way they shape students individual experiences of online spaces. They are local in the sense that one location can offer a very different experience than another location. But, they are also global in the ways they link into power and economic factors that shape access to online spaces.

            For example, mobile phones and tablets—hand-held devices—are cheaper than desktop or laptop machines, and often, students have greater access to and use of hand-held devices rather than more tethered devices.[xiii] However, the web, and specifically many online educational sites, games, and classroom spaces, are optimized for tethered devices rather than hand-helds. In my own classroom , this has meant that students using their mobile phone to connect to class had some options, like using a mic to talk to the rest of the class, or seeing some of the messages sent by the professor, disabled. These students had a qualitatively different experience of the class than the students who could use all of the options to interact with both the professor and other classmates.

            Furthermore, your experience online is shaped by how fast or slow your connection to the internet is. If you continually get kicked off an online meeting site, or if you find you cannot see or download certain games, speeches, videos, or online meeting spaces, because your connection is too slow, then you will have a very different experience when compared to others in the class who can download, upload, and participate with others without giving it a second thought. Your access to the internet is shaped both by the decisions of local municipalities—to support the creation of their own local internet infrastructure or not—as well as global forces, geographies, economies, and policies that create realities where one state in the U.S.  has high speed internet, and a neighboring state has internet so slow that this affects the kind of experience you get when you go online. (See map for a general sense of this.) The act of mapping out students’ varying levels of access to the internet has also spawned productive conversations about what it mean to be an online student, and how this is shaped by the glocal.


Map of internet access speeds:



This map also shows the varying speeds and access points, with a little more detail. This map has the darker colors associated with high speed, and the lighter colors associated with slow speed. The white spaces show no broadband connection at all.





            The mapping of the glocal allowed us to share each others’ spaces, and to create a new awareness around the connections that exist, and imagine how practices and spaces might be different through activism. We were able to map power in our own locations, and see it in the location of others. We were better able to engage in informed activism.(Activism section is missing, due to time constraints.) A pedagogy of mapping glocality creates the opportunity for more intimate and critical discussions; and for more engagement in the classroom and in our communities.

[ii]    See statistics from the American Association of Community Colleges Brief on International Programs at Community Colleges at:

[iii]    Statistics from International Baccalaureate Program website at:

[iv]    Paul Kennedy Local Lives and Global Transformations (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010)

[v]    Fazal Rizvi and Bob Lingard Globalizing Education Policy (New York: Routledge, 2009)

[vi]    This is a neologism that unites the global and the local, creating the glocal. It is becoming a well-known term in international and global education research circles.

[vii]   Henri Lefevre, The Production of Space Trans. Nicholson-Smith (Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 1992)

[viii]  Felix Guattari Schizoanalytic Cartographies (London, IK: Bloomsbury Academic, 1989/2013)

[ix]    Ratiba Hadj-Moussa “Arab Women: Beyond Politics” in A Companion to Gender Studies, (Oxford, UKWiley-Blackwell, 2009).

[x]    Tovi Fenster, “Space and Cultural Meanings”  in A Companion to Gender Studies, (Oxford, UKWiley-Blackwell, 2009).

[xi]    Felix Guattari The Three Ecologies (

[xii]   Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space


No comments