Level Up Village at the Global Educators Benchmark Group Annual Conference

For three gorgeous April days in sunny San Diego, an assortment of teachers, school administrators, trip organizers, visual storytellers, and the who’s who in Global Education coalesced at Francis Parker School for the Global Education Benchmark Group’s annual conference. The annual conference returned with full force after a two-year postponement. The three-day summit sparkled with enthusiasm and curiosity.

What have member schools been doing these past two years, with travel and experiential learning so stymied by different regulations and limitations? How has the landscape of global education changed? In what way has the burgeoning market of virtual experiences ameliorated or altered the ways in which teachers help their students connect to the world beyond their school walls, and what are the new best practices that have been developed over these two uniquely tumultuous years? These topics summarily comprised the heart of the conference, one long think tank and dialogue amongst the leading instructors, thinkers, and providers of global education.

Level Up Village, and parent company Language Testing International, attended as well, hosting an exhibitor table that comprised a horseshoe of vendors, education specialists, visual storytellers, and student travel organizers that surrounded the beautifully landscaped Lancer Lawn of Francis Parker School; these exhibitors formed a veritable bazaar of opportunities for growth for educators: classroom materials, service and leisure excursions, keynote speakers qualified in visiting schools and talking about current issues, and of course, the leading purveyors of virtual partnerships

Enter Level Up Village.

Level Up Village, or LUV, is a company designed to connect students from all over the world and help them learn together on a safe, secure, platform through which its participants can take courses that address Sustainable Development Goals, the sharing of culture, increasing language proficiencies, and learning about challenges that affect humanity across the globe. By setting up partnerships among schools, LUV excels at creating safe spaces where students can securely and openly share their opinions and the fruits of their learning via asynchronous video exchanges. Naturally, the popularity and the need for these sorts of experiences has burgeoned over these two years; and the GEBG conference was the perfect congress to host Level Up Village, and to connect their services to the vanguard of global educators.

Naturally, the GEBG is the perfect partner for a group like Level Up Village, as the organizations have similar missions and membership. GEBG began in 2008 when a group of sixteen independent schools converged to share data, ideas, and best practices. Of course, sharing these kinds of materials can’t be kept secret for long. So, naturally, by 2013, the organization transformed officially into a US-based non-profit. Now, the GEBG serves almost 300 member schools, including public and charter schools, independent schools, and parochial schools, all K-12, from sixteen different countries. The organization offers a wide range of member benefits focused on institutional support and professional learning, including regular seminars, meetups, materials, discounted rates on services and training, and of course the beloved yearly conference. All of this, of course, facilitates in sharing the mission that so many schools seek to follow on their journeys in creating the next generation of outstanding global leaders.

For GEBG and Level Up Village alike, global citizenship and global competencies remain paramount goals in the education of students, and both organizations sustain that a culture of encounter, collaboration, and open dialogue make the most fertile soil for these skills and proficiencies to grow. Both organizations understand that young people need exposure and a safe place to learn from one another, and that with the help of enthusiastic and cosmopolitan educators, life-long connections with peers from other countries encapsulate the heart of global citizenship. And this message was not lost on the attendees of the conference!

The Level Up Village table became an attraction, as word of an organization that curates virtual exchanges and partnerships with schools across the globe spread throughout the attendees. In breakout sessions that dealt with Cultural Competency, creating and sustaining meaningful Virtual Exchanges, Global Citizenship for younger learners, and Digital Global Citizenship, it was nearly impossible for educators not to discuss their experiences, their trials and tribulations, and their successes in the classroom and at their institutions with having students connect and share in discussions with other schools worldwide. Level Up Village even got shout-outs and favorable mentions in many settings, such as panel discussions entitled “Climate Change, Environmentalism, and Sustainability,” or breakout sessions like, “How to Pivot to (and Sustain) Virtual Global Exchanges,” hosted by Dr. Michael Roemer, Director of Global Education, Trinity Valley School (TX, USA), an expert in executing scholastic virtual exchanges, and longtime LUV user.

The references to a successful, easy to use and rewarding to implement virtual exchange program in these sessions does not go lost on educators. The attendees from Level Up Village reaffirmed at this conference that one of the best ways to endorse their product remains word-of-mouth and teacher recommendation. The positive affirmations of educators who have utilized LUV’s services at the conference, in addition to the glowing exhortations of users who were present, like Dan Pieraccini, Director of Global Programs at Delbarton School in New Jersey, who advocated on behalf of the organization and shared his excellent experience recently piloting a virtual exchange with a school in Italy in his Italian class, went a long way in both spreading the word and sealing the deal.

By the end of the three days, after attendees had shaken hands, made new friendships, and rekindled old ones, it was clear that they had spread a new fervor and invigorated one another to return to the classrooms and the front lines of global education with their new ideas, new tools, and new energy. A great multitude of the teachers, administrators, and global directors signed up to join LUV’s growing network of schools, and we’ve already heard from many of them who are ready to try a virtual exchange and get connected with schools all over the world. Whether it’s LUV’s STEAM legacy courses, or the language immersion or cultural competency programs that attracted these educators, the warm receptions, the inspired interactions and eager participants prove that the Global Educators Benchmark Group’s annual conference really was the place to be, and that Level Up Village has found its people!

About Dan Pieraccini

Dan Pieraccini was born in Northern Italy, but was moved to the United States at the age of 6. Dan’s B.A. in English and M.A. in Italian literature have opened the door to over a decade of teaching high school and college students a second (and in some cases a first) language. It is likely that having traveled through 82 countries, 48 U.S. states, and three disputed territories somehow factored into the decision to make Dan Delbarton School’s first Director of Global Programs. In his spare time, he manages events at his local Elks Lodge, helps feed the hungry at a handful of food pantries, writes and performs rock and roll songs with his band Forget the Whale, plays in a Dungeons and Dragons game, and occasionally goes out to brunch.