Monday, August 18, 2014

The Power of Real World Scenarios in Online Education: Non-STEM Based Scenarios.

I want to share another student anecdote from a class I was teaching in 1985. It was a grade 8 class in language arts and the students had been given the task of thinking back to how their daily life had changed from a year ago, prepare a presentation and give the presentation in front of the class. I want to focus on one presentation by a student whose first name was Ali. He and his family had escaped from Lebanon the year before due to the continuing civil war in that country and came to live in Canada. This is a snapshot of what his daily routine was like while he lived in Lebanon.

"Our routine was pretty well the same every day. At dawn we would go down to a basement which was poorly lit because it was at that time that the shelling would begin. We would have breakfast which would consist of whatever my father could scrounge in the streets the night before, being careful to watch for snipers. After breakfast, our father would take me and my brothers to another room in the house where we would continue with our education. He would place an AK47 rifle in front of us and test us on its parts and their function. We would practice loading and unloading it until we didn't have to think twice about it. Then came the real test where he would blindfold us and ask us to take it apart piece by piece. He would time us on it reminding us that our very lives and that of our mother and sisters depended upon us getting this right and quickly. After we were finished, we could remove the blindfold to see how we had done. Then we were blindfolded again and had to reassemble it quickly. This took a long time to learn. After we had repeated practice in these lessons, our father said that it was now time to go out and seek targets that were Christians to shoot...."

Our whole class was silent after this. None of us knew what to say to Ali but many of us had questions. One student asked why they came to Canada. Ali said that the main reason was that their youngest brother had been shot and killed and that their mother was in such grief that she wanted our father to take us away from the bloodshed and killing. So, as a family they chose Canada because Ali's father had relatives in Canada that they could live with until Ali's dad got work.
One important question that another student asked was why the children were taught to kill others. He said that they had been taught as their father and his father before him had been taught that they must kill their enemies.

Credit: Ramzi Haidar(

However, Ali also said the following about his wishes for the future:
  • He wished that the cycle of violence and hate could end. He said that our future now is to be born to die in Lebanon.
  • He wished that somehow a sanctuary for the next generation could be found where the new generation both friend and enemy could meet and learn the truth about each other. That they could look to a future where they could as adults work together to bring peace to their homelands.
  • He wished that the place where they would receive education together would be an environment of peace and learning.
Ali's wishes may be naive and perhaps unobtainable but his dream should not be disregarded and notice that his hope lie in education.

So, what does this all have to do with real world scenarios and online education? Perhaps this is the very issue that a young generation should collaborate on in an online environment. Although it is not a STEM based project, it holds potential and involves cross disciplinary learning. The "Sanctuary" scenario is worthwhile to consider and develop because Ali's nightmare is being played out daily in many parts of the world. I don't know where Ali is today. I just know that he and his family, if they are still in Canada, are no longer ducking for cover when a loud noise occurs in their new land.

Next...some ideas on how the Sanctuary Scenario might be developed....

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