The focus group of Fikra 3al Mashi is Syrian and Iraqi refugee teenagers living in remote villages around Jordan, but before assisting them, Fikra 3al Mashi conducted a test pilot with a group of Iraqi refugee children in Madaba, Jordan from June 12 to June 18. The pilot proved to be as educational an experience for Fikra 3al Mashi, as it was for the children.
Fikra 3al Mashi had set out to employ the SOLE pedagogical method developed by educator and professor Sugata Mitra, but after the first day, it became clear that the approach would not work as had been planned. Over the next couple of days, the method was refined and adapted to the context of the children. The pedagogy was made relevant, and that's when it became impactful and effective.
A Modified Approach
With the 5 Microsoft Surface 2 tablets lent to us by King's Academy, a coeducational boarding school in Madaba, Fikra set off to the Catholic Church of Madaba on June 12. The goal was to see if the SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environment) could be as effective an educational tool for refugee children of diverse ages, without much technological experience, and with basic levels of English.
The program began with a traditional SOLE session, but the children seemed consistently lost. Not much guidance was given, as the SOLE dictates, but after two such sessions, we realized that something must change. After conducting the first two sessions about basic conversational English skills, we also realized that Entrepreneurship would not be an apt topic for this group.
The modified approach encouraged competition between the groups, which has proven to be the most effective incentive, and explored topics that were much more interesting and relevant to the children.
Instead of strictly adhering to the SOLE guidelines, which heavily rely on the Internet for deep learning, the new approach simply emphasized using the Internet as a tool to assist in hands-on projects. We had a city-planning activity, as well as a bottle rocket-designing competition, where the students used the Internet only to help them as they brainstormed and discussed their own ideas.
We also conducted an Hour of Code competition (the online program to teach computer science), as well as a web-design activity. The material was completely new, and the students were curious enough to persevere through any challenges, and learn.
The Future of Fikra 3al Mashi
As a result of this pilot project, will have refined our pedagogical approach to better serve refugee youth as we move into the implementation phase this fall. In the coming days, the Fikra 3al Mashi team will publish an assessment, reporting on the pilot, and outlining the new curriculum set for the next project.
Fikra 3al Mashi is constantly changing and adapting to make sure the education is engaging, fun, and most importantly, relevant.
That was the Pilot Project in Madaba.