Category Archives: Projects

Some thoughts on yesterday

I am not afraid, I am not afraid, I am not afraid” – This is what I kept saying to myself in the hour after hearing about the terrorist attacks in Brussels. Being more than 1600 kms away, from my family, my first thoughts were on how to get home as soon as possible. Whereas till then my concerns on this first journey away from my daughter was on “has she eaten?“, “has she slept?” and “I hope she’s not too naughty“, they now turned to “when will I see her?“.

And what irony, that I was travelling to attend a project meeting on developing and acknowledging intercultural competence – the knowledge, skills, attitudes and self-awareness that enable someone to truly understand and acknowledge, tolerate and accept (sometimes fundamentally) different points of view.

With the wonderful panel discussion at the Media and Learning Conference (with Renee Hobs, Rudi VrankxMoad El Boudaati, Divina Frau-Meigs and Karin Heremans) earlier this month, my head was just ringing with thoughts to make sense of reality throughout the journey home. Luckily, I was accompanied by four experienced teachers and expert educators. Here are some of my thoughts after my discussions with them:

  • The feeling of being accepted as part of a community and society is crucial to well-being of individuals and society as a whole. Many young people today do not feel part and this is a problem.
  • Young people also do not have a voice in the current popular media in Europe (as Divina Frau-Meigs explains so well in the panel discussion). With no voice, there is no recognition of their role in society; no debate on their perspectives on our world. Giving them a voice and acknowledging their issues has to part of any solution.
  • There is a tendency to react in panic with “us” and “them“-logic. This may be a natural initial reaction, but it should not inform policies or long-term strategies (on a state-level) nor attitudes, acceptance and tolerance (on an individual level).
  • More and guided intercultural interactions where young people are encouraged to talk about their inhibitions, prejudices and uncertainties in an open manner should take place. In fact, every learner should at some point have the opportunity to reflect on their intercultural skills together with a mentor/ more experienced person. Too often, this happens now through individual initiatives (of teachers, or personal interest) but some learners will not do this naturally, and they should.
  • Understanding that you are shaped by multiple cultures, and have multiple identities is an essential part of becoming intercultural competence (check out the manual created by the IEREST project on this). My note here is that multiple identities are often seen as problematic, whereas they could be (and should be) seen as an opportunity. In current Belgian (and European) society, many young people are shaped by different cultures and so, manage multiple identities. These young people are the ones who will shape our societies in the future. As parents, teachers, educators, government and corporate leaders, we have to support them in having the confidence to take up their roles in society as strong adults – and acknowledge that they are an essential part of our society.

At this moment, I only have the following wish for all our countries:

Where The Mind Is Without Fear (Rabindranath Tagore, 1912 – Bengali original, 1910)

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, My Father, let my country awake.

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MOSALEA Experiment at Eindhoven

Yesterday I took part in the MOSALEA Experiment, a role-play simulation of a crisis situation in an intercultural setting. I attended the experiment in the context of the CEFcult project, in which we try to create an online assessment platform to support self-assessment, peer assessment and expert assessment (if this is possible) of intercultural communicative competence. We are thinking of role-plays as a possible task to include in the platform. As OUNL, our role in the project is to think (in general) about the role of technology in this kind of assessment and in particular, the design of the platform.

Originally, I was supposed to play a role in the experiment itself, but as it turned out in the end, I made the video recordings of the session and acted more as an observer. This was very interesting and gave me the opportunity to think from the technical support point-of-view.

I have been considering the role technology can play in these kind of activities. Of course, much depends on the kind of assesssment you want to make possible (self/peer/expert), but I think there are three general issues to look at:

– technology as a means to elicit behaviour: with this, I mean the technology that is used in the simulation itself. For me, this can include the rooms the simulation takes place in, the supportive technology used in these rooms (projector, whiteboard, etc.), telephones, videoconferencing equipment, etc.

– technology as a means to capture behaviour: with this, I mean any recording technology that enables you to take away some (key) aspects of the simulation for later. For me, this includes individual and collective note-taking, audio recording, video recording, and additional technology to mark significant moments during an event.

– technology as a means to reflect on behaviour: with this, I mean the technology that allows you to go through the captured behaviour of yourself or of others and reflect on it. The result of this reflection can be comments/markers in the original recording and/or something independent from this original (such as a purposely created report, blog post, video/audio recording, etc.). This result can again be shared with others and they could add their reflection to it.

Just some thoughts to consider….

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