This past weekend I gave a TEDx talk at American University. The theme of the event was “Exploring Our Global Future.” The title of my talk was, “Bridging the Distance: Teaching and Learning Peace Online.” In short, the talk laid out my reasons for believing in online learning as a valuable development in the field of education and how online learning can be infused with the values of peace and nonviolence. I also lay out in the talk what I have come to call, “The Seven Blossoms of Peace Education,” which is a pedagogical framework that any educators can apply to their work to integrate peace and nonviolence into their classrooms.
During the second session of American University’s summer 2013 semester, July 1st – August 15th, I taught an online version of my edu-596 Peace Pedagogy course. This course had approximately 13 students, all DC area teachers. The course description reads similar to the other EDU-596 courses that were taught on-site. However, a different pedagogical approach was taken given the online format. Click here to download syllabus.
The course was a blend of synchronous (weekly partnered phone conversations and three, all-class conference calls) and asynchronous learning (weekly discussion boards and daily peace actions). I also provided weekly videos or podcasts summarizing key questions and insights each of the students made in the discussion forums. The entire course was hosted on my customized website, http://peacelearner.org. This was an interested endeavor in that the in-person course, as one would expect, relies heavily on student participation, modeling, and face-to-face interactions and conversations . So, how was one to do this effectively online?
On July 16th and 17th, 2013 I helped organize and facilitate a 1.5 day intensive workshop for DC area teachers to learn about peace education programs and initiatives being implemented in the DC area. In this effort, I worked closely with Laurie Segel-Moss, Assistant Director of the Center for Peacebuilding and Development (CPD) and Maura Scully, Program Coordinator for the Mohammed Said Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace.
The purpose of the gathering was to elevate the peace education work that orgs, schools, and teachers are already doing throughout the DC area; escalate the work of peace education by integrating the skills, methods, and models developed by the featured organizations into the teachers’ educational practice, their classrooms, and schools; and spread these methods, models and programs to other teachers, classrooms and schools after experimenting with what was shared through this gathering.
This above interview with Barbara Wien is one of the many interviews I conducted over the course of the Spring 2013 semester at AU speaking with professors about the work they do, the courses they teach and how they relate to various elements of peace education. I had the pleasure of working with Katie Kassof, an AU staff member and former student from my 2012 peace pedagogy course, to do the actual filming. Katie filmed the actual interviews and I devised specific sets of questions for each interviewee, scheduled times with each of them in the studio, conducted the actual interviews, edited them into a series of shorter movies, and uploaded them my personal YouTube channel. Click here to see a playlist of all the videos edited to date.
This past Friday I was a panelist for the “Faculty Face Off” session at American University’s Social Learning Summit – a 2.5 day conference organized by AU’s Social Media Club that looks at the current and emerging role, trends, and a techniques of using social media tools in learning and education. I was joined by moderator Meghan Foster, and panelists Scott Talan, Jim Quirk, and Stef Woods. In the spirit of the summit, my reflection on the experience will be organized by tweets that members of the audience shared during the discussion.
This week I had the opportunity to give a presentation and lead some exercises around peace education with a group of 35 high school students (9th and 10th graders) from two schools in Queens, NY. They were visiting DC as part of a Global Kids trip. Global Kids is an “educational organization for global learning and youth development – works to ensure that urban youth have the knowledge, skills, experiences and values they need to succeed in school, participate effectively in the democratic process, and achieve leadership in their communities and on the global stage.” This was a unique and valuable experience for a number of reasons I will outline below and I very much appreciated the time I got to spend with the students.
This past weekend I attended and presented at the Ann Ferren Teaching Conference, which is a yearly conference held every January at American University. The last time I attended this conference was in 2010 and had gotten a lot out of it. This year I was invited to be a co-presenter for one of the sessions, “Finding Your First Flip: Getting Started with the Flipped Classroom Model. My co-presenters for this session were Maya Marato and Meghan Foster. The Goal for this session is to engage faculty in the process of “flipping” their lectures by helping them identify and evaluate topics and activities that are easily adapted to the flipped classroom model.
The above podcast was recorded on Wednesday, November 14th 2012 during the Peace Pedagogy (EDU-596) course I facilitate each year at American University. As a final assignment for the class I asked each student to develop what I called a “Peace Learner Commitment.” A Peace Learner Commitment is:
“…a pledge to yourself, and shared with our community, to achieve a goal that seeks to build and foster peaceable learning environments. This environment can be built in the classroom, your community, among your peers, with your family, in the work place, or for yourself. The choice is yours.
“The key is for an element of this course that resonated with you – skill, content, activity, attitude, technique, perspective, etc. – to bear fruit outside of the (tiny) classroom we shared this semester.”
In the podcast each student shares what their commitment is. And listening to this podcast, I can honestly say that it has been a privilege spending an entire semester with this outstanding, kind, and inspirational group of learners. The 14 students all came to the course for different reasons, with different needs, and from different professional and academic backgrounds. Given the diversity of the learning goals and needs, as the professor for the course I really had to give deep thought to what kinds of assignments were going to actually be useful to the class.
This weekend I organized a Peace Education Exploratorium – a full day with my students and some guest educators talking about, experimenting with, and modeling, and learning about different approaches to teaching and understanding peace education. This was the final class of the semester for my Peace Pedagogy class and it was a great way to conclude the course. Spending an entire day with these friends and colleagues and basking in the joy of peace education made my heart glad. I must also acknowledge my good friend and fellow peace educator, Arthur Romano, who came up with the title, Peace Education Exploratorium, and organized one of these full day events in the Spring with his peace education class at George Mason and invited me to be a guest presenter/facilitator. I also want to send much appreciation to the two other guest facilitators who joined the class for the day – Amanda Munroe and Johonna McCants (pictured above). Click to read more about each of the guest facilitators and the various sessions that they facilitated.
This past weekend my colleague, Maciej and I co-faciliated a skills institute at American University titled, “People Power: How and Why Civil Resistance Works.” We had 15 participants from a variety of backgrounds and covered a range of topics: history of civil resistance, conceptions of power, the role of media in civil resistance, frameworks for deciding how one considers what is violent vs. nonviolent, tactical innovation, backfire, and dilemma actions.