Introduction to Concepts
In T.H. White’s novel, The Once and Future King, Merlin counsels the young future King Arthur that “The best thing for being sad, is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails.”
For the millions of children who have been suddenly and violently uprooted from their homes, their friends, their schools, everything they’ve ever known, “sad” would be quite an understatement. For these children, I believe education offers a ladder out of a pit of despair. Learning can bring back purpose, energy, and hope for the future.
As a teacher myself, my most important job is to inspire children, to help them believe they can grow, to help them develop their curiosity and to create a hunger for knowledge. I believe there are hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of qualified teachers around the world, with a wealth of knowledge, from a variety of language and cultural backgrounds, who would be excited to donate time to mentor a child online. A teacher can counsel, advise, and tutor a refugee student, help him find free online resources to continue his education, give him feedback or inspiration or ideas, and also provide verification of work the student has completed when the student is able to return to a national education program.
I envision a Learning Management System which facilitates relationships between children who are caught in between formal education systems for a period of time with teachers who want to, and have the background and training to, help them through this difficult part of their journey. A matching software will connect each student with a teacher, according to language, age, interests, and fields of expertise. The platform will also allow larger learning communities to form, where resources such as free online educational sites, good online books to read and discuss, and ongoing research projects can be shared.
Within the Learning Platform, each student can also create an online portfolio. That student portfolio will contain a variety of the student’s work, including his/her own story written or recorded, and a collection of other pieces appropriate for his/her age and interests. The Learning Platform will store all of this work, along with teacher feedback, & also provide a safe forum for open discussions with other children interested in and studying similar topics. The teacher can also connect his/her own home class with the student and give them the opportunity to talk and learn together. The best part of the portfolio is that it gives the student work to be proud of, something no one can take away!
When the student finally reaches the end of his/her journey, he/she can walk in to a first day at a new school and tell the teacher, “Look at what I’ve been learning – this is what I’ve achieved!” A more confident and less fearful student — a more positive start to a new life.
Of the millions of displaced children, some are fortunate enough to have access to classrooms in or near their refugee camps, but so many others are left with no formal educational opportunities for months or longer at a stretch. Something can be done now to help this population of students; we can begin reaching them one by one, and then leverage the power of crowd sourcing to reach millions. I invite you to join me in this effort! Follow this blog, and email me and let me know who you are and what your interest is.