Creativity & Imagination in Education Mindmap

This mindmap was created using the program, Popplet. It is a visual representation of the understandings which emerged while researching and developing a framework for the cultivation of creativity and imagination in education.

For more detailed information on each area on the main page, click on the speech bubble icon in the right corner of each ‘popplet’.

Please click on the link below to be taken to the mindmap.

http://popplet.com/app/Popplet_Alpha.swf?page_id=3228629&em=1

 

 

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My five key learning moments in EDFD459

As the unit EDFD459 draws to a close, I have reflected back on the past 12 weeks and  tried to identity 5 key moments that have stood out for me.

1.  Salmon’s model of online learning

Learning about this model at the start of the unit really helped me to understand the process we go through when working in the online environment. In the beginning, I wondered if I would make it past level two. It was encouraging to see myself and others develop confidence and feel more comfortable contributing as the weeks went on.

2. Web 2.0 technology

It has been a very steep learning curve for me, becoming familiar with, and using, Web 2.0 technology over the past 12 weeks. I can hardly believe I have managed to set up a PLN, write posts, add images, embed videos, join Twitter (still finding that confusing), learn about programs I’d never even heard of such as Prezi, Amaze, Pearltrees, Piktochart, and put together an ePresentation.

3.  The concept of liminal space

The idea of liminal space had never really occurred to me. I hadn’t even heard of the word. It just makes sense to me now that we are all living in this space at various times and it is what we do while here, our attitude towards being here and the meaning we gain that shapes our future. I found the forum conversations about our students being in the liminal space while learning, really interesting.

4.  Becoming more informed about global issues

This unit required me to become more informed about global issues including the plight of the Syrian refugees. It has opened my eyes up to the suffering of fellow humans but also their resilience and the optimism they have for the future. I am sorry to say, I was a person who preferred not to know what was going on in the world as I thought it was too upsetting and sad. I would turn off Foreign Correspondent or SBS World News because it was too confronting.

I now want to know what is going on and try to make a difference, however small that might be. Through this unit, my children have been interested in what I am learning and we have talked about the refugee crisis and issues such as the education of girls. Maybe these conversations are the start of making a difference.

5.  Being part of a Community of Practice

I have been inspired by the contributions of others during this unit. It has been wonderful to see relationships develop with people sharing their thoughts, challenging ideas, offering alternative views, helping out each other, providing support, in a very respectful and encouraging manner.

To my fellow learners, thank you for sharing your ideas, your helpful advice and the opportunity to learn along with you in the unit. With this being my first unit, I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Though the last 12 weeks have been challenging, I feel I have gained so much from this unit and taking part in this inspiring Community of Practice. Thank you Adam for guiding us through, for providing endless support but also for setting high expectations and pushing us to continue.

I wish you all the very best for the future and hopefully our paths will cross again as we continue on our learning journeys.

What bodes for the future of 21st century refugees?

Children who are currently living as refugees will possibly be the generation to rebuild Syria. It is hoped that through education they will develop a range of skills and grow to be resourceful, resilient and positive citizens. They have lived through the horrors of conflict and war and hopefully through education, have learnt other ways of resolving conflict in a more peaceful way.

Education can provide children with neutral games and activities, where their focus is not on aligning with a certain group, fighting or conquering one side or another. Education can help children focus on more positive and less violent activities and thoughts.

According to the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) education is a productive way to address all of the issues that these children have and will be exposed to due to conflict. Informal education can be used to directly address non-violence, conflict resolution and peace while formal education keeps children engaged in the world, hopeful and motivated. Youth can be prepared to be leaders, whether or not they decide to take on the role in the future.

Education is critical to the development of young people who will grow into future decision makers and leaders of change in their communities, country and the world.

 happy girls in school

The role of educators of today in my future learning space

The Joint Education Needs Assessment Report (UNICEF & REACH, 2014) acknowledges that teachers in Zaatari work in an extremely challenging context. The report outlines a list of priority interventions regarding access to education in Zaatari. There are a number of recommendations regarding educators that I will attempt to incorporate into my future learning space.

Often teachers in Zaatari are quite inexperienced as many have only recently graduated. In my future learning space, educators will take part in professional development and training and they will be supported and monitored. They will be provided with learning materials and lesson plans to use as a starting point. They will plan activities and experiences with input from the students involved in the project.

Syrian refugee camp in Jordan

They will have access via technology to educators across the globe who provide similar programs which will allow them to share ideas, successes and find solutions to challenges.

Their role in this project will be of a facilitator guiding the leaders and there will be opportunities to build ongoing relationships with students in a more informal setting than the classroom. They will work with a smaller number of children than the regular, large class size. Educators will see a more cohesive learning environment develop as relationships are established.

Through this project increased communication and greater collaboration will occur between parents, educators and students. Awareness of the project will need to be raised so that everyone is familiar with the purpose and benefits of participating in the project. There will be opportunities to celebrate the achievements and participation of students.

My future learning space will see educators in Zaatari in a more positive light. For every two Jordanian teachers in Zaatari, there is approximately one Syrian assistant teacher. Syrian teachers are frustrated that they are only allowed to work as assistants in Zaatari camp, given they are fully qualified teachers.

Wherever possible, qualified Syrian educators will be utilised in the project. They will build relationships with both the students and their parents and hopefully feel more valued and supported in their important role.

peer support group

What may education need to provide the Syrian refugees in Zaatari?

First and foremost, education is a human right, documented and declared in the United Nations’ 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 28). The Convention places a high value on education and states that young people should be encouraged to reach the highest level of education of which they are capable.

The youth of Syria have been termed ‘a lost generation’ since the conflict in their homeland began to severely impact their access to education. For many children, especially those who have been out of the classroom for months or years, teaching literacy and numeracy is of vital importance. A report by Save the Children (2014) highlights that providing children with schooling during times of conflict helps them avoid child labour, early marriage and recruitment by armed groups, and can contribute to their mental resilience. Education also provides a sense of normalcy, stability, structure and hope for the future.

Greater funding and resources need to be allocated to educating children in a camp setting not just to keep children engaged and occupied while in the liminal space, but as a way of promoting a peaceful future. Education initiatives which acknowledge trauma and help children develop coping skills are required. Petche (2014) in his article, Witnesses to War: The shattered lives of Zaatari’s children, reported that there is an arcade games tent that has been set up in the camp. Computer games based on shooting and killing are the most popular along with imaginary war games on the street. As an alternative to violent play, cooperative learning games and activities along with explicit teaching of conflict resolution skills would be beneficial.

Violence on the way to and home from school is a significant concern for all age groups, and for parents. The walking school bus is an idea that can be implemented to protect children from potential violence. Given that some children are travelling over 2 km to their nearest school, different areas of the camp could have appointed and formally employed individuals to walk children to school after meeting at a certain point.

Kayri Shanahan, a peer from EDFD459 provided a very insightful comment on what education may need to provide refugee children. She said, “Ultimately, I think we need to consider what education we are hoping to deliver. Is it just literacy and numeracy skills? Is it life and survival skills? Is it psychosocial skills, perhaps in the forms of art-therapy or involvement in sport? Is it encouraging creativity and imagination in an environment where there are limited freedoms? 

The lack of aesthetic beauty (natural or man-made) must affect the psyche of those who inhabit this space day-after-day, year-after-year. Perhaps by incorporating technology in ways to experiment and experience things outside of the camp would be beneficial in encouraging refugees to think beyond Zaatari as just a liminal space and make real progress towards creating a future for themselves’ (Shanahan, 2015).

I agree with Kayri that children need to be provided with opportunities to explore, play, be creative and utilise their imaginations. They should be provided with rich and meaningful learning experiences and opportunities to build quality relationships with peers and teachers. Project based learning and collaborative activities will encourage students to work together, share their ideas and learn from each other.

Students in Zaatari should have access to the wider world through technology. Technological advancements including virtual reality platforms could open up exciting new learning experiences for students. Global connectivity is achievable with students in Zaatari being able to connect and interact with peers across the world.

Opportunities to see the beauty in nature, in the arts and in built environments are possible. Residents have even started planting their own gardens to recreate the homes they left behind in Syria. Gardens are starting to pop up throughout the camp.

gardens

“Gardening allowed them to make something with their hands and gave them a sense of accomplishment. We have seen an incredible change in them,” says Mohammad Abu Farah, a staff member from Save the Children, who now leads gardening workshops for the camp’s children.

“When the children arrived at the camp, they had just come from a violent war. A lot of the children were introverted and struggled to make friends. They were violent with one another. But after we started implementing gardening classes, the children learned to work in a team, and started to build friendships.”

gardens 2

Sport and recreational activities enable children to play, learn skills such as taking turns and fair play and improve their physical, social and emotional wellbeing. Exposure to the arts provides a way for students to express their creativity, imagination, feelings and hopes for the future.

taekwondo

Melissa Fleming (UNHCR, 2014) in her TED talk, How to help refugees rebuild their world, puts forward the idea of education as a “place of healing, of learning and of opportunity.” She explains, “Not investing in refugees is a huge missed opportunity. Leave them abandoned, and they risk exploitation and abuse, and leave them unskilled and uneducated, and delay by years the return to peace and prosperity in their countries. I believe how we treat the uprooted will shape the future of our world. The victims of war can hold the keys to lasting peace, and it’s the refugees who can stop the cycle of violence.”

 

Education capital of the refugees in Zaatari

Educating children is not just providing the academic and social curriculum, but is a combination of what individuals bring to school and that which schools provide (Howard, McLaughlin & Vacha, 1996). These two resources provide children with educational capital and are comprised of variables which enable students to benefit from school and their subsequent adult lives.

I believe the education capital of the refugee children in Zaatari is significant. Firstly, many students have a great desire to learn. Many Syrian children have not been able to go to school for months or years because of the crisis in their home country. Though they may be behind in their learning, many students have a great desire and capacity for learning.

In times of crisis, attending school provides safety and respite. Places of learning provide some degree of normality to the lives of these children living under challenging circumstances, along with some hope for the future.

Girl-with-glasses_22_SY-3252_EXPORT

“I am more than happy to return to school and study. I love my teachers, my classes and I really love my studies and the girls in my class.” Arwa

Some kids don’t go to school. They want to wait until they are back home in Syria. I think it’s silly to wait. How will they remember anything and there is nothing better to do here anyway.” Sidra

Secondly, most parents and religious and community leaders understand the importance of education. It’s the beginning of hope for many parents who see education as the only future for their children right now.

family

“Through education, you can reach your highest goals. Children are the ones who will build the community in Syria. They are the core of civilisation. That’s why we care about their education.” Abu Omar

It is this desire for education and hope for the future that will inform the development of my future learning space.