These year at my school I’m involved in a year-long professional development cohort that was organized by one teacher who participated in the Christopher Stevens Youth Network course last year. She traveled to Qatar for the annual conference with iEarn and came back to school this year impassioned with international eduaction and with infusing global awareness into her own curriculum. She started the cohort for any interested teachers at our school and I knew I had to join. I’m currently going through the same online course that she took and I must say it’s a great experience.
The basic underpinning of iEarn is using project based learning as a way to engage in inquiry learning with classes across the world. The organization provides a website where teachers can get ideas for projects and connect with teachers from other parts of the world so they can get their students to collaborate and carry out the learning. There are some neat opportunities to engage in for sure.
In the online course, I’m in a group with mostly other teachers from the Middle East and it’s interesting to see their perspective on the tasks and readings that we do. For one thing, the cultural background makes a huge difference into how we communicate and what details we focus on. I have found that even for someone like me with a background in cultural awareness and linguistics, I still have trouble understanding all of the language nuances in the dialogues and I also don’t understand the historical context of their personal stories. It’s a huge learning experience for me to engage with these teachers and I hope I’m also providing them with that same opportunity–I can only imagine what my students would gain from such interaction with their peers in other countries.
We’re halfway through the course and it’s been a positive experience so far. It’s nice to have such an opportunity for professional development and I hope to be able to utilize these types of projects more in my class. We’re fortunate to have leaders from the Christopher Stevens Youth Network come to our school during PD and facilitate discussions with us so that we have a forum for these conversations. One of the facilitators has spent a great deal of time in the Middle East and is getting her PhD in cultural anthropology so she shares a wealth of information for us teachers. This type of knowledge is critical for teachers in the 21st century to have in order to pass global competencies onto our students. I think that education schools don’t do a good enough job of imparting these skills to future educators.
Hopefully, after a few of the teachers get involved with iEarn and applying these skills to their teaching we can get more teachers school-wide involved in similar efforts.