After some anxious waiting, Fikra 3al Mashi is now back with a new project with Syrian refugee girls.
Fikra volunteers and organizers made their way to a public school in Madaba, Jordan, to work with 40 Syrian refugee girls in grades six to nine, and begin a three-month program centered on fluency in English and Technology.
In cooperation with "Basha'er al-Noor" (جمعية بشائر النور الخيرية), a local NGO, we were able to consolidate Syrian students from several different schools, and meet with them this past Friday and Saturday for three hours each day in order to teach them through our SOLE-centered approach.
The SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environment) was developed by educator and TED-prize winner Sugata Mitra (watch his talks here), in order to promote autonomy in learning. Essentially, it consists of the following: In groups, students use a laptop in order to research Big Questions, and try to find answers to these challenging, oftentimes abstract, inquiries. They groups may reshuffle, students may leave their group, go to another, group, look at what they're doing, and return to their group and replicate it. At the end of the research time, students discuss their results, their research methodology, and questions that are left unanswered.
We tried this model during the summer, but found that allowing students to move around in groups can act as a disincentive, and that students are sometimes discouraged by questions that are too complex or abstract. We found that students need a little bit of competition, and that research questions should start out as fact-seeking inquiries, and gradually evolve in complexity.
With this new group of children, we are employing the SOLE approach in order to teach conversational English, digital English, basic programming, and essential IT skills. On the first day, we focused on basic English grammar and vocabulary, in addition to the vocab required for the digital age, with words such as "search," "images," "program," "upload," "filter," and "video." This kind of English is necessary to lay a foundation of individual engagement with the internet, which enables students to search and learn independently online, and connect with people around the globe. This is just as valuable, if not more, as traditional education in these students' precarious and urgent situation.
On the second day, we focused on more complex research questions, and began the Hour of Code, an online challenge that introduces students to computer programming.
We will be meeting with this group on the weekends for the next 3-4 months, and in the end, in order to ensure sustainability in learning, donate 10 HP Elitebook 2740p laptops to the school, which will maintain a room dedicated to online education.
Stay tuned for more!