Yesterday I attended an Open Space event at my school entitled: “Working together to make a transformational difference to our children’s futures: issues and opportunities.” This was a fantastic event and I left work (on a Saturday!) with lots of ideas buzzing around my head. In this blog post I would like to share one particular discussion that I hosted, but first of all, I would like to take a moment to describe the Open Space concept.
When I woke up yesterday morning, I was very unsure of what I had signed up for. As I walked to school yesterday morning, I was still very unsure of what I had signed up for. As I stood in the corner of my school’s gym drinking coffee and eating mini-stroopwafels, I was still very unsure of what I’d signed up for. This uncertainty was soon alleviated when I and the other 25-or-so people present sat in a circle in the ‘Community Space.’ Claire, the facilitator, explained to us how the day would run on an agenda decided by those present. We were invited to write down a question or discussion point that we would like to discuss at some point in the day. These ideas were then posted on the “Agenda Wall” and those who wrote the questions selected a room and a time for their discussion. Everyone else was then free to join the discussions that interested them, yet they were also free to leave the discussion when they felt their contribution had been made or when their attention span ran out! This was referred to as ‘The Law of Two Feet.’
I really enjoyed this ‘unconference’ model, which reminded me of the Genius Bar concept used recently at MFL Show & Tell in Cramlington and of the Learning Conversation concept that has been used at Teachmeets up and down the country. I hate formality and being forced to listen to topics that do not interest me, so this proved to be the perfect model for me!
Over the course of the day, there were many inspiring and indeed transformational discussions taking place. In this post I am going to focus on the discussion I hosted: How can we inspire children to look beyond their local area and to become truly global citizens?
I had anticipated that my discussion would be brief and wouldn’t last too long, however it lasted for nearly an hour and a half, with a few people coming and going at different points. The participants proved to be a great cross-section of the education sector, as a Headteacher, a parent governor, a class teacher, an Initial Teacher Training course leader, a LA Head of School Improvement and a Deputy Headteacher all took part at various points. I would also like to give a special mention to @_imaginaryme, @Stephen_Logan, @airingcupboard, @MrWickensPE and @joanne_rich who replied to my tweet about the discussion and whose views I mentioned during the session. These are the notes I made during the discussion:
- Children enjoy looking at globes rather than flat maps, enabling them to visualise where different countries are and what the scale of distance between them is.
- Studying different countries in the classroom may be the seed that children need to inspire them.
- Do we utilise the knowledge and experiences of people connected to our schools to enhance international learning?
- Celebrating difference and diversity is key.
- Do we celebrate our own identity, our own religions, our own country, or do we always focus on other countries, so as not to offend?
- What are the global opportunities that are available in our region?
- Diversity is what makes us different and what makes us interesting.
- Children may need to be aware that it could be necessary for them to leave the UK for work.
- Are all children able to have equal access to technology in order to benefit from the international benefits of blogging?
- What is there are only a few members of staff in a school who offer children these international opportunities? How can all children have this experience?
- Comenius projects open international doors and enable international learning and cultural understanding through a stimulus already familiar to those in our schools.
- How can this passion driven by one person become a whole-school passion?
- How much influence does the leadership and vision of the school have? How can this be maintained if members of staff co-ordinating international work move on to work elsewhere?
- Do we have a responsibility to embrace new technologies to facilitate international learning?