Katherine Korte, an iEARN educator from Pattonville High School, Maryland Heights, MO, shares her iEARN International Conference Top 10 List.
Two Americans, two Syrians, two Palestinians, one Iraqi and an Moroccan sit down to play a game of “Never have I ever.” No, this is not a start of a joke, but an actual example of a cross cultural experiences that has happened at an iEARN conference that changed the professional and personal direction of this educator. iEARN conferences are unique in their ability to bring passionate educators together to share best practices and build global communities of collaborative learning. I have had the pleasure of attending two iEARN conferences: Qatar (2013) and Argentina (2014). The following are my top 10 reasons to attend an iEARN conference:
10. Sustainable Thinking—iEARN conferences push you think in terms of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. iEARN project participants are encouraged to assess their involvement and commitment to ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all. The long term investment in our collective future requires us developed critical thinkers who take ownership of critical world issues. iEARN projects create an authentic learning environment for students to practice their global competencies and promote Sustainable Development Goals.
9. 21st Century Digital Technology—Education technology is always a focus at iEARN conferences. Especially in terms of effective tech use to develop global competencies in our students. Specifically, in building cross cultural communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills. You will walk away with applicable technology tools to embed into your global curriculum. These can include multi platform apps, video production, translation and global communication programs.
8. Keynote Speakers—iEARN brings in dynamic and inspirational keynote speakers. I’ll never forget hearing Peter Copen, iEARN’s founder, speak in Qatar 2013. He spoke of how a small directional shift can lead to new and exciting destination. That speech has remained close to my heart as I have made small, yearly changes to create a world class education environment for my students, in one degree shifts at a time.
7. Multiple Narratives—There is no danger of a single story at this conference. Presenters and conference participants bring a world of experience to share. Each story shared with one another adds a new lens for you to expand your global knowledge and perspective. Attending an iEARN conference challenges you to be reflective on the perspectives included in your classroom. As you engage in conversations and attend sessions, you are constantly evaluating your practices and thinking about new questions to explore with your students.
6. Travel Bug—International travel is one of the best teachers you will ever have. Traveling abroad teaches you to be comfortable with ambiguity and unfamiliar situations. The excitement of new places, people and experiences will leave you wanting more. Don’t be surprised if you start seeking out other global education opportunities that take you abroad and fill up your passport!
5. Cultural Excursions—A local iEARN team is responsible for organizing the conference and includes a day for cultural excursions. This can include activities such as shopping in local markets, visiting heritage sites, or exploring natural beauty. In Qatar, a group of us went dune bashing and felt the thrill of racing up and down sand dunes in a SUV. Our guide gave insights on the local geography and environment. In Argentina, we went whale watching and were up close to the movements of the Southern Right Whales.
4. Spontaneous Moments—iEARN conferences are filled with unexpected moments of joy and connections. Most conference participants stay at the same hotel and eat meals together. So at breakfast you might dine with an Australian, Argentine, and Russian. While at lunch visit with a Taiwanese, South African and Peruvian. All the while enjoying savory local cuisine and engaging in rich conversations that span a world of topics. You may stay up late discussing Egyptian politics or learn to dance a Jordanian Debka. You might find yourself listening to the most insanely talented teen beatboxer from Ukraine or end up in a local school talking to students about their aspirations. These unexpected moments are the true treasures of iEARN conferences and stay with you long past the conference closing.
3. Networking—Your social media is about to get a lot more interesting. Get ready to have news feeds from around the world as you network with your global professional peers. When you pose education questions on Twitter, be ready to have the world answer you back. Your new friends will keep you updated on global affairs and share with you their daily routines. Be sure to bring lots of business cards.
2. Fun—iEARN conferences are a great way to reconnect with the joy of learning. If you are feeling burnt out or overwhelmed, attending a conference will remind you of the shear fun of connecting students with their global peers. Typically, at iEARN conferences there is a youth summit and watching global teens interact, laugh and connect is a great reminder of fun and important work we do as teachers every day and the lasting impact we have on the future.
1. Humility—The creativity and devotion of the educators that participate in iEARN conferences will leave you humbled. The global education community is rich and deep in inspiring, innovative and passionate people. By the end of the conference, you will have acquired the tools and connections to create a new global approach to learning and a sense of satisfaction that with this many talented educators, global youth are in good hands.
Ready to attend the 2017 Conference in Morocco, July 17-22! Visit http://iearn2017.ma to learn more. Registration is open until June 15, 2017.