I certainly feel that a PBL in itself can be quite challenging for teachers, but one implemented on the global level presents a whole new slew of challenges.
For one, the most obvious challenge is the language barrier. There are translators provided online that students can access, but they generally only cover the very basic elements of speech. There are many phrases and figures of speech we use on a regular basis that if used with someone from another culture, may cause a LOT of confusion. It’s not a realistic goal to have your students learn an entire other language, but they should certainly become familiar with basic communication (whether through an online translator or some other source). Additionally, I think it’s important for the students to be mindful of who they are working with, and choose words/phrases carefully. You don’t want to cause confusion and/or anger due to misinterpretation.
Another challenge tied into the language barrier is being understanding of other culture’s. We as Americans tend to be a bit isolated from the outside world. The world, to us, is full of pop culture, fast food, movies, iPods, reality TV, etc. Part of the goal of global PBL is to become understanding of other cultures, but there needs to be a foundation laid before entering the actual PBL. I think a preceding “mini” unit leading up to the PBL would be a good idea. During this unit, you could study the country with which you will be involved with. Everything from religion, history, and even their daily lifestyle could be covered. Students would then enter the PBL with a good basis of understanding about the students with whom they are working with.
I certainly think that global PBL’s are a great extension of traditional PBLs in that it gives students a chance to approach global problems WITH the aid of other cultures. This very premise is one that man has struggled with for thousand’s of years (global cooperation that is). Today’s generation is growing up in a world that is more globally connected than ever, and it’s important that they understand how to function in it. Global PBLs combine the qualities of a PBL with the benefits of global cooperation. However, there are certainly challenges with it, but they can be overcome with a little planning and effort. I feel that we owe it to the students to try to overcome the challenges, because the rewards are worth it.