Learning Spaces Reflection

This PLN has been developed as part of a B.Ed upgrade unit called Learning Spaces. It has been an interesting journey filled with exciting new insights on learning spaces. Having been teaching for quite a few years I feel that I have, through this refreshed my  understanding of learning spaces in line with most recent research on best practice.

The Learning Spaces were as follows:

The Personal Space:  I have many new understandings of learning spaces which have directly impacted on my everyday personal and professional life. I apply my own taxonomy of learning knowing that this is my guide and that in order to fulfil my potential I must be first aware of where I am and where I’m going. It is the SAT NAV of my learning.
img_4301The Group Space: I have reorganised my groups in my class and have focused more on cooperative group work. My class is engaged in  Project Based Learning this term and it is amazing how students of all levels rise to the challenge when given task responsibility and accountability to their own group. All students of all levels are engaged supporting each other.

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The e-Space: Therein lies a challenge. I was amazed at the variety  of e-Spaces that were discussed on the unit forums. New technological developments  happen almost overnight. I was certainly challenged through the unit in this area, but I am extremely proud of my achievements and look forward to participating in PD in this area.

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The Classroom and the School: The main change in my classroom has been to declutter it. Every square of inch is not  now covered in a piece of art or an anchor chart. This certainly has a calming effect on the students. I have rearranged my desk and the children’s seating so that everyone can see out the windows.

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Beyond the School: Literally outside your classroom door provides learning opportunities. Children love being outside. Children need to develop a relationship, a connection with nature if they are to be the ones who will preserve it for future generations. Having been on an excursion last week rolling logs, picking up insects and building shelters I know  that we must get our children outdoors.
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The Liminal Space is my favourite space. It is ‘unknowing’ space between old understanding and new understanding. It that dull pain in the pit of your tummy as you grapple to understand new concepts and ideas. I have spent quite a lot of time in this space over the last 12 weeks. This space I feel has had the most impact on my teaching practice. I look at my students learning in a totally different way. I am trying to teach them resilience, to understand that it’s okay not to know, but that it’s in the trying, in the effort, in the confusion that real learning occurs. We’re getting there slowly!!!

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Future Learning Space

I developed a FLS around the Teachers Without Borders  ICT initiative  incorporating the e-space, group space and personal space. It has been an enlightening experience, dispelling for me, my family and my students the stereotypical images and biases commonly held about refugees. The honest and confronting accounts of many of the refugees have left an indelible impression on us. As part of Mission Week last week in school, we watched several videos of children in refugee camps around the world. My year 4 students were shocked and outraged at what they saw. I have planted the seeds and will slowly nurture their understanding over the coming weeks. They will be the future champions of refugees’ rights.

Clouds Over Sidrah

Click HERE to learn how to watch a Virtual Reality  Video

 

 

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Inspirational Teachers 

“Education can provide stability, normalcy and hope in a child’s day to day life during a crisis situation which can last for months and years.”

(Global Partnership for Education)

Often when we think of refugee camps it is in the context of what can we do to help. It’s the helicopter image of swooping in and fixing it all because somehow that’s what we think is best. There is no doubt that support is vital, but it is important to remember that  within these camps  inspirational individuals are at work already providing educational opportunities for the young children where national systems have failed to do so. These teachers also have the benefit of  speaking the languages, understanding ethnic tensions and having first hand knowledge of the trauma suffered. We must ensure that the talent and skills within the communities are utilised which is in itself a rewarding and purposeful pursuit.

One of the key aims of the UNHCR Strategy 2012-2016 is the

“Rapid identification of teachers within the refugee population for additional training in participatory pedagogies, curriculum content, formative assessment, psychosocial support and peace-building. This should include identification among the existing caseload, as well as among new arrivals, preferably at the registration stage.”

Alnur Burtel fled from conflict in Sudan, in fear of his life and is now teaching high school English and Peace Education at Sherkole refugee camp in Ethiopia. Some of his former students also teach English to younger children. He has led by example and is an inspiration to his students.

           “Education is instrumental for life and development.”

Inspiring Refugee Teacher Is Revolutionizing Education in the Camp Where He Was Born
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Syrian Refugee Teacher Opens Camp School

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The Displaced

The following video shows the effect  war has had on a boy from Sudan, a boy from the Ukraine and a girl from Syria. The trauma that these children have endured is horrific.

“In the morning my mother was gone. We were separated in the confusion”

They say themselves that they are no longer children. When it all over it is their plan to become children again.

“They were put in the house and burned alive”

They are truly heart wrenching stories of children who only want to be children, playing with their friends, spending time with family and going to school.  How can we help this happen for these children? How can we give them hope?

“His body lay in the garden all winter”

They work long days, etching out a living  and in some cases avoiding getting  eaten by crocodiles, existing in the liminal space, waiting. Their sense of loss and hopelessness  is palpable.

“I’d go back to being a little girl like I was” Hana

“If I could I would tun into a lion and finish off my enemies and turn back into a child” Chuol

“..even if shells are falling around us, I won’t leave my home again” Oleg

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Fundamentals of Education

Empowerment and Hope

 The fundamentals of education within the context of refugees must include education that enables students to reach their full potential, giving them real possibilities in their present and new environments in a compassionate and inclusive manner. Education promotes self-belief and self-determination which empowers individuals to be self-reliant while also embracing and directing their own lives with clear purpose. Moreover education provides hope of a better life.

“In the midst of violence and instability, school is a place of learning and opportunity, a sanctuary for healing and health, and a haven of normalcy and hope for the future. Education not only increases the chances that, someday, children will be able to support themselves and seek a better life for their families; it also provides them with the skills to rebuild their societies. And it can instill in them a desire to seek reconciliation when the conflicts have been resolved and the catastrophes have ended.” Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director – July 3, 2015

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What’s in My Bag?

After basic needs of food, shelter and safety are met, education is the next aspect of life that refugees request. Education affects change. Having read and viewed the images “What’s in my Bag” several times, I am brought to tears each time as I see the meagre possessions that these refugees were allowed to bring with them. Practicality must be prioritised over emotional attachment.
I am struck by the presence of technology in ‘What’s in my Bag?” and see this as a vital tool and learning space in the 21st century. Technology allows flexibility of learning spaces which is important  for those who don’t have camp schools or children for various reasons can’t attend schools. It’s immune to the  uncertainty which surrounds the life of a refugee. Read more 

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Whole of Syria Education

I wonder what the future holds for the millions of children who are missing out on their education. Although education is a  priority after shelter and food, for many refugees education opportunities do not seem to materialise. There are many factors that contribute to this:

  • Girls are required to stay at home and help with chores.
  • Discrimination and victimisation of girls and ethnic minorities
  • Learning is difficult in classrooms that are overcrowded and dirty, that lack furniture, and that have insufficient or inappropriate equipment and materials.
  • Safety of route to and from school in the camps
  • Calais children are awake half the night in their efforts to jump on trucks travelling to Britain.
  • Disillusionment by parents and children in this liminal space
  • Psychological and emotional difficulties due to traumatic life events

WoS  in association with the UNCHR and Save the Children have developed a consistent approach  to the education of refugees in camps in Jordan, Turkey and Syria. Given that many of the children will spend their entire schooling lives within these camps, WoS recognises that  there is a need to provide resources to families and children who do not attend school. It provides reports, guidelines, maps and most importantly a Self-Learning Programme  which has been developed for out-of-school children and those who are at risk of dropping out in Syria. The Programme provides an alternative to those who cannot access formal education so they can learn and pursue national accreditation. Developed by the MoE, UNICEF and UNRWA, the Self-Learning materials cover all core subjects for grades 1 to 9.
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Teaching Teachers

The length of time children spend in refugee camps can vary, anything from a couple of months up to 17 years.  Therefore it is vital that children are given the opportunities in education in order that they may build a future. Teachers are key in this process. Children need teachers who are well trained not only in curriculum content and pedagogies, but also teachers who understand the pressures and challenges of teaching in a refugee camp.

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In Domiz Refugee Camp in Iraq a new initiative (in partnership with the International Refugee Committee, Ericssons and Asiacell) was launched in 2015 focusing on teaching the teachers who are already on the ground in the camp through an online platform called Connect to Learn.

 

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‘Ericsson’s cloud-based ICT platform, Connect to Learn, is accessed through 3G internet provided by Asiacell, providing teachers access to resources that help them learn how to better meet the complex needs of conflict-affected children and aims to improve children’s learning outcomes. Through this technology, teachers have access to teacher training materials that have been developed or curated by the International Rescue Committee, which are aimed at helping teachers to create safe, quality learning environments. Teachers will also be able to use the technology to connect to each other to share strategies and resources across partner schools.’

Building a Future for the Youngest Refugees

Connect to Learn

 

 

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“There was no tool we could use to dig her a grave and we left her body laying there as it was”

It is always the face of children that makes human suffering so real. Could you imagine one of your students comforting his/her dying mother on the side of a mountain and then having to leave her there alone, unable to bury her? Would he or she be capable of taking over the responsibility of mother and father to younger siblings. The unspeakable suffering that these children experience at such a young age is unfathomable.  It is a miracle that so many of them survive to reach a refugee camp. What can we do to help them recover psychologically and emotionally from their traumatic experiences?
It is truly inspirational what is happening in many refugee camps all around the world.Below is just one example.

The Forgotten Children of Iraq: Life After Escaping ISIS 

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