Kevin Simpson and colleagues took me up on my offer to host reports from EdCamps around the world on this space. Here are some of the big insights from the very first EdCamp Dubai and the first EdCamp in the Middle East! Looking forward to hearing about many more in the future.
EdCamp Dubai, First of its Kind in the Middle East
EdCamp Dubai, held at Bradenton Preparatory Academy on May 12, 2012, attracted educators from all regions of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). From nursery to university, participants represented a diverse range of teachers who came with a purpose to share experiences, uncover and debate hot topics in education. Here are a just a few of them:
What role does creativity play in education?
This question cropped up numerous times throughout several different sessions. Participants were sparked into conversation by the opening address of Line Dalile, a 14-year old home-schooled student. Line shared her ideas about how education is killing creativity. This conversation continued into a full, stand-alone session that had educators discussing the tensions between the curriculum and the needs of the learner. Traditional classroom teachers expressed the desire to do more creative, open-ended work with students but felt constraints from the curriculum. Montessori educators had much to add throughout this discussion, focusing on how the child's needs should dictate the approach to learning. Throughout the conversation, Line was also able to answer questions posed by teachers regarding her personal experiences in designing her own "curriculum" and what it looked like.
Educators are keen to learn and share
Having educators take charge of their own professional learning and contributions turned out to be extremely positive. Teachers were pleased to have the opportunity to share their own passions and educational wishes which then determined the agenda for the day. A particularly exciting session on the "brain and learning" inspired educators of all kinds to come up with the understanding that when students were happy and felt safe, their processing and retention skills were more likely to be engaged for learning.
It was clear that the drive to share, spark off one-another and create new avenues for learning were a result of the educators' open dialogue. New relationships were forged amongst participants, helping them feel that together they could turn the "tides of mediocrity" in education. For many years, the Gulf has looked outward for educators, for thought-leaders and people to create a vision of the way forward for education. Dubai has over 13 different curriculum offerings, teachers and methods from around the world. Never have they ever had the opportunity to come together in such a way until now. EdCamp allowed for a grassroots opportunity - to bypass the traditional "HIPO" (Highly Important Persons' Opinion) so that those who are engaged, active and willing to be change agents had a forum to meet and mingle. EdCamp was not another topical forum without follow-up. Some participants met afterwards for an informal "tech teach-in," allowing specific needs to be addressed by others who could offer a solution
Rapid Fire Conclusion
The day of inspired learning and networking was completed with a "Rapid Fire" conclusion where all participants shared their big ideas, new learning, next learning and questions. Hungry for more opportunities, there were several requests for EdCamp to be held in other areas of the UAE.
EdCamp Dubai Organizers
Kevin Simpson, KDSL http://knowdoservelearn.org/
Alison Burrows, KDSL http://knowdoservelearn.org/
Alison Schofield, IngeniousEd http://www.ingenioused.com/
Francesca McGeary, Ingenious Ed http://www.ingenioused.com/
Zahra Hamirani, Blossom Nursery http://www.theblossomnursery.com/