The Flat Connections Conference is a one-of-a-kind event pushing the thinking on teaching and learning with educators, leadership teams, and students as equals. During the three days at venue Shore School, there were only two short keynotes and a small handful of shorter Flat Talks. The majority of the time participants worked on projects related to the the conference theme What’s the other story?, collaborated with one another, and engaged in a diverse range of active workshops.
With a team of education thought leaders, I was thrilled to facilitate the student summit of the conference. The students were between ages ten and seventeen from a range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, with one group of girls coming from as far as Iran. Students worked in mixed teams and were tasked to develop a shared perspective related to the theme, then work out a solution they could implement and share in a final multimedia presentation.
Using strategies from Design Thinking and Challenge Based Learning processes, our team supported the students as they ideated and developed their projects. The result was outstanding, but the process itself, the most rewarding. Students said they felt heard, they increased their confidence, that it was meaningful to see teachers working on shared problems, and that they were grateful to connect with thought leaders in education. They also made fast friends and enjoyed networking!
Of the workshops, I ran a couple on Social Entrepreneurship and trialled a new activity. If you try it, tell me how it goes or what you do differently.
Audience: About 25 participants, mixed teachers and students
Preparation: Large paper sheets secured around a room, tables grouped in clusters with post-it notes and markers on each
After a conversation on what Social Entrepreneurship is, history, and a few examples I asked the group to share some social challenges they cared about. Once someone volunteered a social issue they were passionate about, I asked them to write it on one of the paper sheets around the room. We continued until there were about four challenges. (Let me know if you’d like my notes on the Social Entrepreneurship discussion).
Each participant writes down as many ideas for any of the social challenges as possible on the provided post-it notes. The idea is to be quick and to write them on individual post-its and then stand up and add them to the relevant space on the papers around the room. Encouragement for random or far-fetched ideas is good to really get brainstorming, no one will know who wrote what, so ideas can be serious, silly, or outrageous!
I asked everyone to move to the represented issue they felt most passionate about. It doesn’t matter if one issue has only two people and another six, it’s more important that the participants identify with the social issue then be evenly distributed.
Each team works together to read through all the ideas and make sense of any correlation and choose the most viable solution to the social issue and separate it on the large paper from the others.
The team then discuss what would need to happen, who would need to be involved, and the resources required to develop their solution. Once they have some time to brainstorm and record their ideas each smaller group shares with the larger group.
We concluded by talking about key Social Entrepreneurship traits and the importance of perseverance.
One young participant who was in the Generation Gap group approached me afterwards to say the activity was very meaningful for her and she knew that sharing her music choices would help her parents understand her more, but that she was scared to do it. Hopefully she gives it a go. Reading over the Inequality group ideas, it struck me how similar the concepts are to Auroville, the longest standing Utopia I visit frequently in India. Most of the members of this group were students. Read below the social challenges, solutions, and plans each group came up with in about 25min, imagine what students could do with this activity with more time!
Get in touch if you would like to continue with any of the below ideas or would like more support in running a similar activity.
Welcome newcomers to our urban and regional areas
Less rigid laws
Provide proper ways to seek refuge
Give them a starting payload
Redefine what constitutes a refugee
More efficient process of acceptance would equate to more jobs
Chosen Solution: Spend money on immigrant support not defence
How? Educate citizens, identify NGOs, enlist international support, research immigrant needs, review approaches in other countries, lobby government to move for faster processing, close processing centres, get financial data of refugee support and defence spending, get polling data and use Get Up! to add issue to the election agenda
Get to know them
Expand city dwellings
Improved conditions in Australia
Share their street
Sack Tony Abbott
Donate a room of your house for integration
Share Asylum seeker stories
Agitate for truth
Australia should be more open to people who need somewhere to go
Chosen Solution: 1. Share their stories, 2. Provide education, 3. Improve quality of life in country of origin
How? Empathy, understanding, public and government support
Invest in defence of human rights
Modify tax rates
Waste per house translated to money
Co-education world wide
Let woman wear what they want to wear
More female roles in society
Equal voting rights
Cross socio-economic interaction
Conferences that encourage and educate about multiculturalism
Government to make it easier for ‘pop up’ groups to get tax deductibility status
Universal pre school education
Chosen Solution: Global Education
How? Government, UN aid, online resources, scholarships, scaling country and student voice, new subject at school for all on global awareness
Australian families to host a family from another culture for a meal
Create work in connecting people around the world
Multi cultural communities
Hold cultural events
Video competition to raise cultural awareness
Build cultural awareness into the curriculum
Cross cultural excursions and international education
Chosen Solution: Education and Raise Awareness
How: Excursions and attendance at diverse culturally based schools to build communities that celebrate diversity, use the internet for communications and teach thoroughly in schools
Encouragement of students regardless of gender in areas of interest
Daughters not needed in home, easier home life
Have girls spend more time in school
How? Girls robotics science club, new online resources for teacher training in developing world, develop a system that share the ideas of education for girls in every country
Invite older people to school
Kids teach old people
Help parents understand what is going on in this generation
Encourage development of positive relationships between young people and older generation
Break down barriers of age in the classroom
Support parents to use current IT
Create interactions with people of other generations
Chosen Solution: More communication between parents and kids
How? Share music and hobbies and discuss what misunderstands may be, what are the fears?
New education topics about possible future diseases
1 year of medical research before specialisation
Network gaming community to problem solve research problems
Vaccines all over the world
Incentives for doctors and medical scientists
Chosen Solutions: Invest in research
How? Align with research institutes, target the 1% in fundraising, use gaming strategies, teach science and medicine and prioritise jobs