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Our second "Community-ED Project" took place on Saturday, February 1st at Jumeira Baccalaureate School in Dubai and was a great success! Over 90 teachers, parents and other community members attended and enjoyed the learning sessions and networking opportunities. 

Francesca McGeary, our specialist in linguistics and bilingual education, shared an interactive presentation about turning the "disability" of ESL/EAL (English as a Second Language/English as an Additional Language) into a gift.  In many schools around the world, not only in the UAE, children who do not speak English as a first language are often viewed from a "deficit model," focusing on what they cannot do rather than what they can do.  Francesca wanted the audience to flip this idea around so that we look at the "glass" as being half-full.

To illustrate her point, she allowed the audience members to experience what it felt like to learn a higher-order thinking task in French.  The results were interesting to say the least!  Only 2-3 people in the audience were able to speak French and so the majority of the people were simulating learning in a foreign language.  They were all asked to make paper airplanes by folllowing instructions in French but only the few were able to follow the instructions completely.  As Francesca began to add more visual prompts and supports, people could see how they were more easily able to cope with, and follow the task instructions.  Voila!  Everyone was then able to make their paper airplanes!  However, they soon realised that while they had expended a great deal of effort doing this one task, it really wasn't the point of the lesson.  The airplane activity had simply been a "warm up" activity to introduce them to a much more complex lesson about the "Bernoulli Principle" or the principles of flight.  

Francesca discussed how we can access the gifts of the students and begin to teach these more complex, cognitive tasks through alternative languages or the individual's mother tongue.  While we cannot always simplify these tricky concepts for the student to access in English, we can simply allow them to use resources like the Internet, for example, where they can then search for the concept in their mother-tongue in order to understand it at the deepest level.  Then, they can focus on translating the content vocabulary words that they've learned in their own language to English so we are essentially enabling their cognitive learning to continue without the typical language barriers.  Often as parents and educators, we forget to focus on what the EAL/ESL child already possesses and can use to help them continue their cognitive growth through the English language. 

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Attendees trying out their paper airplanes in Francesca's talk!

The Carian College Advisors gave an informative talk about preparing for application to a college in the USA.  Tips about entrance criteria, extracurricular activities and considerations for choosing a school were discussed.  One of the insightful points we discovered was how many potential applicants select schools based on their location rather than simply on the school offering alone. 

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Mary De Villers from Carian College Advisors talks about US college application

"Unravelling the Mysteries of Learning" was an interactive talk given by Alison Schofield, our specialist in learning and behaviour at IngeniousEd.  Mostly focusing on the uncommonly-known aspects of learning, she provided attendees several interactive opportunties to experience the mysteries.  

The most memorable "mystery" included having individuals take a self-assessment to see if they were "cooking dyslexics".  With a bit of tongue-in-cheek, participants learned how "cooking" itself is made up of ten different sub-tasks like:  combining ingredients, following a recipe, etc.  Using a simple "task analysis", people were able to understand how they shouldn't easily categorize themselves as a "good" or "bad" or "dyslexic" cook because it is not very descriptive or informative from a teaching/learning perspective.

While it wasn't a radical new concept she was trying to get across, she discussed how we often loosely describe learners as being "poor writers", "poor readers", etc.  without in fact, really breaking down the sub-tasks involved in the skill itself to see where the individual's gaps really are.  Writing alone is a conglomerate of 10 or more different skills and processes that come together to create a final product but for those students who have difficulties with writing, we should analyse whether it is with the motor task of writing, the process of generating ideas or with the basic ability to communicate clear thoughts.   With just this one new teaching strategy, Alison claimed that parents and teachers could be well on their way to building new expertise in learning support.

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Attendees interacted with others to try out the learning experiments in Alison's workshop

We also had a generous give-away at the end of the event, with More Cafe donating an afternoon tea-for-two, IngeniousEd. donating reading books, Carian College Advisors sponsored a gift-certificate to Borders and TESOL Arabia raffled several books and publications for teachers.  

The venue for our event, Jumeira Baccalaureate School, was generously provided by Taaleem education group.  Many thanks also to TESOL Arabia, Blossom Nursery and to the Tuck Shop Cafe, who participated in this event.  Thanks!

IngeniousEd. will be organising one more Community-ED Project before the end of the academic year.  All parents, educators and community members are welcome to attend by visiting our website and registering for the event.  

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