Can Time Spent Playing Online Games Help Teens Develop Cultural Competency?


Can Time Spent Playing Online Games Help Teens Develop Cultural Competency?

Gaming companies and learning experts often disagree on the effects of online gaming among teens.

Despite the fact that we have watched our children play online games for decades, and that a whole generation of gamers has grown up without civilization collapsing, there is still an intense fear among many that online gaming is "dangerous" and has no positive long-term value.

Every few weeks we come across stories from psychologists and others detailing how battling opponents in games like “World of WarCraft” can make children have violent tendencies. We have also heard stories about online video games making kids hyper and anti-social.

Within this backdrop, it is fairly safe to conclude that the fact that researchers today have begun looking into ways to introduce video games to accelerate classroom learning might be unnerving to many. And yet still others are able to extoll gaming’s virtues, including the authors of a 2014 American Psychological Association article, “The Benefits of Playing Video Games” which surveyed the landscape of video games. In it they identify four types of positive impact that video games have on the kids who play them: cognitive, motivational, emotional, and social.

Why would gaming be approved in schools in the first place, and can online gaming really help teens develop cultural competency?  I will dive into this a bit deeper below.

One Path to Cultural Competence

The reason is simple – video gaming online appears to be one of the unique ways to cultivate cultural competence.

Our world is a connected world.  Through television, travel, and the Internet we have opportunity to intersect with others around the globe in various capacities. Gaming online is another means of opportunity for youth to connect and team with people all over the world.  The opportunity for leaders is to harness the potential of this reality to see that deeper learning takes place.

To live and thrive in this world, today’s children must learn the intricacies of a connected globe. Anthony Johnson, Director of the Center for Global Education at the Asia Society, calls this “global competence.”

Anthony makes it clear that if the current generation is serious about bringing the world together, which I also advocate for strongly, then they must arm the current youth with knowledge and skills in global competence.

But, What Exactly is Global Competence?

I was reminded of the Asia Society’s excellent framework in a recent related session I attended while keynoting at the ASCD conference last month. Their recent report titled “Teaching for Global Competence in a Rapidly Changing World" defines global competence as a combination of four domains, which are the ability to:

1. Explore local, intercultural, and global issues

A globally competent individual combines knowledge about the world with critical reasoning whenever they form opinions about a global problem.

2. Understand and appreciate the perspectives and worldviews of others

Being globally competent brings with it a willingness to look at global problems from different perspectives.

3. Engage in appropriate, open, and effective interactions across cultures

When you are globally competent, you can engage in respectful dialogue without undermining marginalized groups.

4. Take action for collective well-being and sustainable development

Globally competent individuals are ready and willing to respond to local, global, or intercultural issues for the common good.

Conclusion: Online Games Can Teach Many of These Skills

Games can help kids appreciate cultural diversity and become global thinkers. Game play online often requires teaming and that can be with anyone, anywhere around the world.  Unique partnerships can develop, which while simple and focused on game play, actually do lay a foundation for global cooperation. Online gaming can be one method, among many, that can assist and provide young people with simple skills in cultural competence.  When reflected on and combined with other methods, such as my Ravi Unites Schools initiative, the overall effect and impact can be significant.

What is needed is the intention to provide stakeholders with the necessary insight to make video gaming a tool that we can confidently use to teach cultural competence as we seek to prepare the future generation for a peaceful and economically productive coexistence.  I aim to provide some of that intentional insight into how to utilize what currently engages youth via my keynotes and to help educators turn experiences like these into deeper learnings about cultural competence.

Does this topic pique your interest? Consider booking Ravi for a keynote at your next education leadership meeting or conference. Get the conversation started by reaching out to Ravi at


Ravi Unites Schools Cross-cultural Interaction Between Students in Ohio and India

Ravi Unites Schools Cross-cultural Interaction between Students in Ohio and India

Poland Middle School students Skype with students in India as part of their "Capture Kindness" month programs Lauren Barrett - asks a question... of her Indian counterparts.

Ravi Unites Schools Cross-cultural Interaction between Students in Ohio and India

The Ravi Unites Schools initiative kicked off with a spirited real-time audio-video interaction last week. I am so proud to have facilitated another cross-cultural experience for a new group of students. Nearly 50 eighth and ninth graders from two schools—Poland Middle School in Poland, Ohio USA, and Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project in Tamil Nadu, India—discussed what matters to them. For this group, this included their favorite foods and music, to the issues caused by the class and caste systems, to combatting world hunger. I greatly appreciate the enthusiasm and preparation of the students and teachers at each school—they are what makes Ravi Unites Schools a success!

One educator expressed this to me after the event:

“As a school counselor, I am always looking for inspiring lessons and resources to teach character development. Our live video-audio session covered more lessons in 45 minutes than I could cover in months and the students loved it! I highly recommend any classroom or school system to partake in one, it is truly a unique, engaging, inspiring experience for kids and adults. Thank you, Ravi!”

Exchanges like these enable kids to bond naturally, even across miles and time zones. They truly benefit from this cross-cultural peer-to-peer discovery. As we head further into a future that includes globalization, cultural competency is rapidly becoming a required skill. And as access to technology increases in schools, there is no reason why interactions like this cannot happen regularly in classrooms all around the world.

The online meeting began with a short introduction by me. Followed by the first peer-to-peer question, which was posed by a US student: “What is your weather like?” Such a seemingly benign topic quickly revealed several things: degrees in Fahrenheit were converted to Celsius to establish an understanding. Next, it was discovered that what might feel like a warm day in Poland, Ohio could feel frigid in Tamil Nadu, because in general, it is so much warmer there. And while the students in Ohio expressed that they were sick and tired of snow, their peers in Tamil Nadu expressed that they had never seen it in person.

Food-related questions were also revealing. Students shared that, in India, eating beef is against their religion, while many Americans eat it several times per week. On the popular subject of sports, students bonded over basketball and volleyball and explained American-style football and Indian-style cricket to each other.

Then came a big question from the US students: “What one thing would you change in the world?” This sparked discussion about social injustices, including the issues that arise from classism and from India’s caste system. The relatively elite students in Ohio were stunned to learn that they were engaging with peers who are from some of the poorest families in the world. Enough commonalities had already been established between these students for them to recognize that classism has no place in the modern world. This discussion also explored ways that we can combat world hunger by addressing it in our own communities.

The conversation then lightly gravitated back to musical tastes: both groups shared similar preferences for Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran and others.

All too soon, it was time to say goodbye. It was obvious that minds had been opened and bonds formed. As for me, I could not be happier with the outcome, which brought me back to the very first online interaction for students I created nearly 8 years ago. Then as now, in less than one hour, students felt a greater affinity with their peers of other cultures and faiths. People are still people, wherever they live; we simply want to get along and learn from each other. There is nothing stopping us from carrying the ball closer to world peace.

If you are a school seeking to participate in a similar interaction between your students and those of another area, please reach out by joining the Ravi Unites Schools Facebook group and posting your interest there. I am committed to helping you facilitate this experience for your students.