Saturday, March 12, 2016

New Voices in the European Democracies part 2 - Debate finals and end of session

On Thursday, 10 March the finals of the debates took place. There were four debates that were carried out simultaneously in four locations, so arranging the whole event was a bit challenging and was carried out well. Unfortunately I was only able to attend the beginning of one of the sessions, where they debated whether refugees weaken democracy in host countries.

On the whole it seems that the debates went well, most of the speakers were Icelanders and Romanians. This activity was well organised. Nevertheless it is difficult for those who have lower English skills, and in a mixed group this is a challenge - were the element of competion, while adding a level of excitement, also can cause problems. Ways to solve this could be to allow one speech in mother language per team, or to allow alternative methods of delivery, using pictures, movements or whatever.

The last activities, on Friday, 11 May were a short introduction to Appland by me, an interesting film and rap from the Spanish team on what weakens democracy, and a film presented by Turkey on the same topic.

The social aspect of the visit was a great success, the students from Iceland were very happy with their hosts and sad to leave, and the teachers were treated to a number of very interesting tours, entertainment and amazing feasts! Takk fyrir okkur!! Below some pictures from the debate session I attended

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

New Voices in the European Democracies - meeting in Sibiu

Young Voices 12.jpgI have decided to write this post in English so that my friends in the project can read it - but to include in my educational blog, since the topic is obviously educational! I hope my loyal Icelandic fans (ha, ha) will excuse this!

One of the many things that have made career as a teacher at the Commercial College of Iceland has been the opportunity to participate in International cooperation with schools all over Europe, and once in the USA. Currently I am involved in a very large and ambitious Erasmus+ project, titled Young Voices in the European Democracies - with participants from nine countries, and a wide variety of schools. I am now attending my third meeting in Sibius, Romania, I was involved in organising the meeting in Reykjavík and had the pleasure of visiting Sofia, Bulgaria last fall. 

The partner school here is Gheorghe Lazăr National College an old school with a proud tradition, whose history mirrors the history of Romania and in particular Transilvania since 1692. The reception by the school has been exemplary, and the fact that the school is downtown a few minutes walk from our hotel is an added bonus. 

The winning team of Icelannd, Heiðrún, Helena,
Arnór, Hjórdís and Bára
The activities for the students have been interesting. The first part was a competition for posters and presentations for imaginary political parties. Germany won the place for best poster, but the Icelandic team won for the best presentation of the party 'A New tomorrow' - especially for their musical performance.... 

The parties from the countries were varied, but a clear theme that emerged were young people's concerns regarding the environment, the refugee crisis and the importance of education, a very good example is the German poster.

The beautiful German poster
The second main part of the activities for the students is participating in debates. The whole group was divided into four groups and each of those groups then divided into parts for or against certain motions. I followed the preparation of the teams today and saw that the students came up with many interesting arguments, and also that this activity is both engaging and challenging. In this activity, like in many others we have had in the project the language barrier is a problem, however, I am confident that this provides an excellent opportunity for all the participants to improve their English skills - but also their patience and ability to negotiate and making an effort to understand the other - basic democratic skills. Displaying 20160308_120514.jpgDisplaying 20160308_120514.jpgDisplaying 20160308_120514.jpgDisplaying 20160308_120514.jpgDisplaying 20160308_120514.jpgI will follow up with a report on the results of the debates later!
Hard work preparing for debates

The experience afforded to the students and the teachers when such activities are successful (and in fact also when they are not!) are invaluable, and a truer form of education and growth is hard to find - so like I said in the beginning, participating in great projects like this is a very important part of my identity as a teacher and I hope to take part in many more in the future, and encourage educators everywhere to make an effort to get involved in international cooperation!