Global Learning, Digital Global Citizenship and the SDGs – 8 Learning Opportunities for SEND Settings

Dr Harriet Marshall portrait

Written by Dr Harriet Marshall

Head of Educational Research at Lyfta and has been a global education advocate for over 20 years, as a teacher, researcher, consultant and education project leader.

The challenge of bringing the outside world into an indoor learning space has had a lot of attention recently as a result of ‘lockdown-learning’ requirements. However, many in the field of global learning have been actively working on this pedagogical task for decades in a variety of ways. Recently, practice has been ramped up a gear, thanks to youth mobilisation to stop climate change, David Attenborough’s chart-busting ‘Our Planet’, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and a new range of digital global citizenship education opportunities.

Global citizenship education, sustainable development education or human rights education can be an empowering, enriching, and transformative educational experience. The extent to which UN states also believe this work crucial is manifested in Target 4.7 of the SDGs:

By 2030 ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development. (Source: sdgs.un.org)

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the resolution adopting the SDGs, pledged to ‘leave no one behind’ and recognises the dignity of all and equality among all. The plan therefore rightly highlights an opportunity to consider complex global issues relating to equality, diversity and inclusion in all sorts of settings – including schools.

There are many ways in which schools are opting to bring in global learning – from school awards (such as UNICEF’s Rights Respecting Schools) to working with regional Development Education Centres to engaging in programmes like the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms. Some teachers are familiar with publications such as Oxfam’s Guides for Teachers on the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ or ‘Global Citizenship Education’ and so use these to identify a curricular and pedagogic strategy right for the needs of their students. Research hubs such as the Development Education Research Centre (UCL London) have also now established global learning as a credible educational field by researching practice around the world and producing peer-reviewed publications such as the International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning. However, we do not yet know enough about effective global learning practice in SEND settings – but we do know that some exciting and transformative practice is taking place.

An increasingly popular methodology for supporting global learning and empathy-building combines both an ancient pedagogic technique with a modern-day one – storytelling and film making. We believe in capturing human stories through powerful short films which can then be turned into 360-degree interactive spaces for learning. Through this, students and teachers can navigate a virtual globe, explore different countries and visit various storyworlds. The films offer a unique glimpse into someone’s life and/or home and a snippet of how they see their lives and the world at a particular moment in time. No story provides a complete picture of an issue, but it helps bring things to life for students by using real-world examples and themes. Aligning this with lesson plans and resources mapped to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will also help build cultural awareness and global citizenship amongst students.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which global learning can positively impact students with special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities by drawing upon schools already doing this through various global learning methodologies:

  1.   Enhancing independent learning and confidence building: Most case studies and reports emphasise how digital global learning resources can enhance independent learning and build confidence – something educators working with students with SEN have especially noticed and appreciated. One teacher from Elms Bank school has been using Lyfta’s global learning immersive digital stories with her class of students with autism. Although at first sceptical about how students might respond to the international storyworlds and subtitles, she noticed the extent to which the children engaged and empathised with the people featured in the stories and how it opened up opportunities for them. The teacher explained, “it brings the outside world into the classroom without having to go anywhere… it immerses them and engages them in a world which isn’t open to them, which they would find so difficult to be able to go and travel to places and talk to people…it allows them to do that without having to leave a space… without the pressures of unknown and the pressures of communication which might happen, they can become more independent”. Another example relates to how teachers and students are often similarly unaware of the details of global learning issues and this more level knowledge playing field can be empowering for students – offering them an opportunity to lead on topic direction or independent exploration on a range of levels. 
  2. Supporting blended, remote and flexible learning: Global learning through immersive platforms can support a blended learning approach in a variety of settings. Digital resources that offer flexibility and choice about delivery methodology support SEN teachers in their unique settings. From a group of physically disabled students in Finland who have enjoyed the post-viewing discussions after watching real-world videos covering specific scenarios and themes to a UK teacher in an alternative provision setting who found students actually participated thanks to the option of collectively inputting ‘student’ responses to global learning questions (thus navigating obstacles to participation such as the shame felt by ‘poor spelling’).
  3.     A useful opportunity to map, connect and combine different global learning approaches and pre-existing activities: Combining a whole school award with deeper-dive resources can provide the collective overview and the bespoke teaching methodologies required for SEN settings. For example, one teacher from the Venturer’s Academy said “I work with students who require a lot of sensory input to their learning so I’m using Lyfta to support them by creating an immersive learning experience. We are a Rights Respecting School and the platform works alongside this perfectly, enabling me to fully embed the Rights and SDGs across the school.” Other teachers have talked about how the practice of reflecting upon where global learning is already taking place in the school (such as gardening projects for sustainable and healthy lifestyles or international school-linking initiatives) can be helpful in many ways.
  4. Increasing engagement with physical activity (and other subjects): The UN’s SDGs combined with an immersive digital global learning resources can support PE teaching with children with SEN. For example, alongside the Youth Sport Trust and Lead Inclusion Schools across the country, we created a guide that uniquely connects PE, school sport and health and wellbeing together through immersive storyworlds aligned with the UN’s SDGs. The aim was to provide practitioners with the opportunity to engage young people in their schools that may not have previously accessed school sport, and develop confidence to access new opportunities, with the long-term outcome of increasing take up in physical activity. 
  5.     Global learning resources offering a non-sequential (and non-hierarchical) ordering of themes can fit in well with student interests and curriculum topics and priorities. Global learning is a lot about values and attitudes, but it is also about real world knowledge which has been reported as being perceived to be both relevant and interesting by students. Teachers in SEN settings have also talked about how immersive technology and storytelling can be used within a range of subjects, providing links and continuity to support student understanding.
  6. Global learning and digital global citizenship resources can be a way of teaching across different age-groups. Linked to point 5, opportunities for vertical teaching strategies are often useful when working with mixed-aged groups of students with different needs. The consistency of common themes can also assist in transition work.
  7. Building intercultural understanding and meeting those from other countries without traveling: One teacher at Rivermead School (post-16 Partnership) said how much she had enjoyed seeing her students engage with resources: “I work with students with SEN and we are a very small provision (seven students) but I have loved seeing their reactions and behaviour during our sessions where we discover new worlds. They are very respectful of other cultures and it is lovely to hear them discuss these later on that week or even a few weeks later.” Another teacher who worked with students with autism said that it was a unique opportunity for students to feel part of the world and meet people from other cultures or countries when they are highly unlikely to in their non-digital lives in the near future.
  8. A useful pedagogic technique for bringing in PSHE, relationships, challenging stereotypes, life-skills and self-care themes. Storytelling can help reinforce life-skills around subjects such as hygiene and health by addressing these themes but in a different context. The same can be applied to introducing more sensitive topics such as stereotyping and difference.

Prior to 2020, we could not have predicted the vital role remote learning would play in delivering the curriculum and enhancing human connection at a time of physical disconnection. While most evidence here is anecdotal and there is a need for more rigorous research on the extent to which global learning can facilitate a greater understanding of other communities and cultures, there are several educators working with children with SEN who have discovered many reasons to be optimistic. In fact, some settings may even be able to lead the way in developing innovative and useful methods, strategies and pedagogies when working with digital global learning resources.

If you would like to hear more about Lyfta or access free teacher training and trial access, sign up here.

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#DiverseEd’s Top 10 Videos of 2020-21

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

We love to amplify the voices, share the journeys, and celebrate the stories of our community.  Our events are inclusive and representative. Our speakers provoke reflection and stimulate discussion by: 

  • sharing their lived experience; 
  • reflecting on their classroom practice and curriculum design; 
  • evaluating the impact of policy changes; 
  • disseminating strategies for diversifying recruitment and governance.  

Last year we hosted:

  • 4 virtual conferences
  • a #DiverseGovernance series
  • a #FastForwardDiversityInclusion series
  • Bennie’s book launch
  • World Book Day
  • A Conversation With…

You can meet our speakers here you can review our events archive here.

Deepening our thinking around DEI starts with who and what we listen to, helping us to develop our confidence and our competence, both individually and collectively. Listening to our community provokes learning through reflection and conversation to help us all understand the breadth and the depth of DEI issues we need to develop an awareness of. 

Themes explored in the 2020-21 video collection include: allyship, belonging, coaching, community, culture, curriculum, governance, identity, leadership, mentoring, policy, recruitment, representation, role models, student voice, teaching and wellbeing.

 

Here are our Top 10 Most-Viewed #DiverseEd Videos in the 2020-21 academic year:

  1. #DiverseEd Live 2 – Oct ‘20 
  2. #DiverseEd Live 1 – June ‘20 
  3. #DiverseEdGovernance – 14th Jan ‘21 
  4. #DiverseEd Live 3 – Jan ‘21 
  5. #DiverseEdGovernance – 19th Nov ‘20 
  6. Bennie’s Book Launch – 14th Nov ‘20 
  7. #DiverseEdGovernance – 3rd Dec ‘20 
  8. #FastForwardDiversityInclusion Episode 3 – 19th July ‘20 
  9. #DiverseEd Live 4 – April ‘21 
  10. #DiverseEd Live 1: Session 2 (Curriculum) – June ‘20 

 

Thank you to everyone who has spoken at one of #DiverseEd virtual events to date – we appreciate you sharing you experience and expertise with our audience. 

Our calendar for 2021-22 is updated regularly here. Please do get in touch if you would like to speak at one of our future events or indeed host us! You can complete our google form for speakers for 2021-22 events here.

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As a Woman, I Would Be the Perfect Husband

Ninna Makrinov portrait

Written by Ninna Makrinov

Organisational Psychologist with over 20 years' experience in Higher Education. Currently the Chair of Governors at Water Mill Primary School.

People sometimes laugh when I say I would be a great husband. I think those who understand the patriarchy in the West might get it though. 

This weekend I had a lot of fun washing my car and doing DIY, while my house is a mess. The last three things I bought for myself that gave me joy were a nail gun, a battery-operated drill, and a pressure washer. I love work, I might even be a bit of a workaholic. In my spare time, I volunteer as chair of governors in my local school. I spend the rest of my time gardening, reading and watching TV. I also like sewing and cooking. I am a solo mum with two children, is it a surprise that I just mention them at the end of the paragraph? 

It has taken me 40 years and quite a lot of pain to understand that all I described above is fine. That I can be my true self. That I can be loved even if I am a terrible housewife. That it is OK to love my children and say openly that they are not the centre of my life. Are there others who feel the same way? I also often wonder if some men feel trapped too, if they crave to be the main carers and not the main providers in a family. If I can be the perfect husband, they can be the perfect wife. I have noticed too that I have focused on the binary, I understand and respect that gender is a continuum. So I suppose my question is more how we all respond to gender stereotypes. I also realise that I am writing of the ‘traditional’ family, maybe because I crave companionship and community living is not something I know much about or is common enough in the UK. I am also writing as a white, Chilean, cis, heterosexual woman. Please open my eyes to other ways to live!

What does it mean to be a woman?

I am not sure we really know. I recently joined a feminist reading group (I know, late to the party) and it has been great to discover feminism in more depth. It has made me wonder why I define myself as a woman. My preferred pronouns are she and her. I suppose I was naturally a child who liked to please and tried to fit in. It was hard though!

At some point early in life, I might have been 8, I realised life would be easier for me if I was a boy. Most of my friends were boys, I thought girls were silly. I liked Lego, He-Man and Star Wars; I was given Barbies and dolls. I also liked the Care Bears, I must admit. I loved being part of the boys’ world. Why was it a boys’ world though? 

A little later, I had to discard some of my ‘dream jobs’. I wanted to be a fighter pilot like my dad but in Chile (where I was born and raised) women were not allowed to join the airforce. Women police officers had to wear high heels, madness! I love that some women were less accommodating, so there are now women fighter pilots in Chile too. In my teenage rebellion I became a Catholic and I would have loved to be a priest; again, not a job for women. I am not going to get into a discussion about religion.

I also remember a time when one of my best friends told me that if I wanted to have a boyfriend I needed to act as if I was less intelligent than they were. I am glad that in that case I realised how stupid that idea was. Maybe that is why I did not have my first boyfriend until I was 17. 

I don’t believe being a woman means focusing on being pretty, quiet and subservient. I am a woman. I am a loud leader and I love being the centre of attention. We have moved on in what it means to be a woman. Have we moved on what it means to be a wife though?

Being a wife and a mother

Attitudes are changing, at least in the UK. According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, in 2017 almost three quarters of people disagreed that a man’s job is to earn money and a woman’s job is to look after the home and family. However, In 2018 most people agreed that the mother should take either the entire or most of the paid maternity leave period (52%), while 34% thought it should be split equally and none thought the dad should take most; 13% could not choose.  In 2017, most people (51%) also thought that it was best for the mother to stay at home or work part-time and the father to work full-time while children were under school age; none thought I was best for this to be reversed.  Interestingly, when only asked about the mother, 33% thought they should stay at home, 38% that they should work part-time and 7% full-time. For mothers of school-age children, 2% thought they should stay at home,  49% prefer for women to work part-time and 27% to work full-time (percentages don’t add up to 100% as some people responded they could not choose). I could go on for ages. Read the excellent Section on Gender Inequality and Family Change section of the Understanding Society Insights 2018-19 for many other details. It clearly states that “there are gender inequalities throughout the life course”, these increase when becoming a parent. 

I found the analysis on how our attitudes change when becoming parents very interesting. The report suggests that women change their gender role attitudes when becoming mothers, and it is likely that most progressive women change their attitudes more. The authors suggested this could be due to cognitive dissonance, as women adjust to new roles due to lack of alternatives. I can see this in my experience too. When I became a mother, my role changed from full-time worker to worker and mother; my responsibilities increased. I hated it; particularly when people criticized me for having a messy house while praising my ex-husband for being such a good dad when he changed a nappy. He was a good dad, but that was his role and no-one told me I was a good mum for changing nappies. No-one criticised him for our messy house either, they just wondered what I had been doing all day (I had been working from home). 

Living the dream: ‘being a husband’

I had the experience of turning this around when I first became a single mum. Not really in the full sense of being married to someone who did the work. But for a while I was the provider for my family and, because I was living in Mexico, I could afford to pay my sister-in-law to be my ‘wife’ (nanny, cleaner, cook) – to be clear the analogy ends there. The arrangement worked for both of us, her daughters and my sons. It was so lovely to come home from work to a clean house and dinner on the table. I understand why the status quo is kept. Women have ‘earned’ the right to work, we have not earned the right to stop ‘being the wife’. If married, most women take on more caring responsibilities, particularly when becoming mothers. If going solo, we tend to keep children for a bigger percentage of time. I know this is not the case for all, I also know some men would prefer this not to be the case. My point is just, can we just do what we do best, forgetting ‘traditional roles’?

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#DiverseEd’s Top 10 Blogs of 2020-21

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

We love to amplify the voices, share the journeys, and celebrate the stories of our community.  Our blogs vary from sharing lived experience, to reflecting on classroom practice and curriculum design, to evaluating the impact of policy changes. We published 150 blogs from our network last academic year. You can meet our bloggers here and you can review our collection here.

Deepening our thinking around DEI starts with who and what we are reading, helping us to develop our confidence and our competence, both individually and collectively. Reading the blogs by our community provokes reflection and stimulates conversations to help us all understand the breadth and the depth of issues we need to develop an awareness of. 

Themes explored in the 2020-21 blog collection include: allyship, belonging, careers, coaching, commitment, community, curriculum, culture, governance, HR, identity, ITTE, language, leadership, policy, recruitment, reflection, representation, research, safeguarding, strategy, teaching, wellbeing. 

 

Here are our Top 10 Most-Read #DiverseEd Blogs in the 2020-21 academic year:

  1. How do we deal with racism in the classroom – Hannah Wilson 
  2. How to promote an anti-racist culture in social work – Wayne Reid 
  3. Interactive diversity calendar 2021 – Carly Hind/ Dual Frequency 
  4. How does material deprivation intersect with ethnicity to understand the variations in the achievement among BAME students – Nicole Edwards 
  5. Don’t tuck in your labels – Bennie Kara 
  6. Dear Secretary of State – Hannah Wilson 
  7. Gender is wibbly wobbly and timey wimey and gloriously so – Matthew Savage 
  8. Engaging with diversity – giving pupils a voice – Gaurav Dubay 
  9. Black lives matter, then now always – Wayne Reid 
  10. Breaking the cycle anti-racist plan term 1 – Dwain Brandy 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our #DiverseEd date and please do get in touch if you would like us to publish you. You can find out more about how to submit here.

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Broaden Horizons with Technology

Serdar Ferit portrait

Written by Serdar Ferit

Filmmaker, digital experience designer, and teacher who has won numerous awards and worked in over 20 countries on film, new media and education projects. Co-CEO of Lyfta.

This article first featured in the July edition of Headteacher Update Magazine.

While great strides have been made with LGBTQ+ equality in recent years, there is still so much more to be done to improve how these topics are discussed in school. Teaching children about sex education, human relationships and gender identity is vital to creating more accepting and well rounded global citizens. Education plays a fundamental role here and this is an area about which many teachers are passionate.

As of September 2020, it is mandatory for all English schools to teach an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. Educating children from an early age about diversity and equipping them with the skills to better understand and celebrate this is one of the most important things we can teach in schools. It is the key to eradicating discrimination in society and fostering a future generation who are more empathetic and inclusive towards one another. 

Teaching pupils, particularly younger children, about Pride and what it means to be LGBTQ+ is sometimes perceived as a thorny subject. Sex education should be treated with sensitivity in schools, to ensure that children feel safe if they wish  to open up and express themselves. It’s vital to equip teachers with the resources and skills that will help them confidently teach diversity in the curriculum and usualise it as a subject for children. Sharing real-life stories from people who come from different backgrounds can be a powerful way for schools to approach this. Hearing people share stories of their own lived experience, helps to nurture empathy and understanding and can make  sensitive themes such as inclusivity and sexuality easier to understand. 

When these real-life, story-based lessons are presented in an immersive way, the impact is even greater, offering an incredibly powerful and engaging way to introduce children to different themes and allowing them to explore new cultures and perspectives which they otherwise might not experience. This is especially powerful when teaching an inclusive curriculum. Some pupils might have never met someone who is openly LGBTQ+, or they might have even witnessed, or been subjected to, negative stereotyping and homophobia. Sharing human stories with pupils through an interactive, 360° learning environment gives them the freedom to explore and hear first-hand from people whose lived experiences can help broaden understanding and foster inclusivity.  

Immersive storytelling platforms like Lyfta allow schools to take pupils on virtual trips, for example to Curacao in the Caribbean, where they can hear from Qwensley, a young gay man living in a conservative Christian community. Children explore what it means to Qwensley to be part of the LGBTQ+ community and the challenges he faced, whilst discovering the power of resilience, empathy and acceptance. Introducing children to multiple perspectives, and demonstrating diversity will not only help to broaden pupils’ horizons and sense of cultural capital, but will also equip them with the knowledge and confidence to express their own identities and be proud of who they are. Human storytelling enables teachers to bring depth, breadth and meaning to sensitive and complex concepts for children and can create a safe space for the class to discuss and engage with the themes. 

With the coronavirus pandemic limiting travel and close human interactions, speaking to children about diversity around the world is more important than ever. Technology is a wonderful tool for broadening students’ horizons, bringing human stories to life and helping to develop more confident, empathetic and globally-conscious thinkers who will go on to make a positive impact in the world.

You can find out more about Lyfta and sign up for free training and trial access here.

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