Current estimates suggest that 1.2 billion children across the globe are out of the classroom, as COVID 19 has prompted school closures in at least 183 countries. While educators and institutions look towards new forms of e-learning and online teaching, PositiveNegatives collaborations with the Centre for Peace, Trust and Social Relations (CTPSR) at Coventry University and secondary school teachers are now producing online learning resources — ‘Voices of Migration’ — for bringing migration and refugee experiences into the classroom in a safe and constructive way.
‘Voices of Migration’ are a cross-curricular set of resources based upon critical pedagogy, a teaching practice which allows students to question and challenge dominant beliefs or narratives. Designed by specialists and tested by teachers, these free resources are an adaptable set of tools that allow students to critically engage with the realities of migration. They can be used during remote learning to develop storytelling, maths and data skills.
For the past year Professor Heaven Crawley, the educational team at PositiveNegatives and schoolteachers in east London have developed learning tools for bringing academic research into secondary schools. Based on an ESRC funded MEDMIG, a research project led by Professor Crawley, which examines the journeys, motivations and aspirations of people arriving by sea and overland in Italy, Greece, Malta and Turkey in late 2015 and early 2016, the Voices of Migration resources provide access to a real-life data set on refugee journeys in the Mediterranean to develop students’ big data skills.
As Jess, the Assistant Headteacher who co-produced this project, explains:
‘This was, for me, an important opportunity for students to see how the things we teach in maths classes relate to real life. When piloting these with my own KS4 class in late 2019, one Year 10 student remarked how the topic of migration ‘is a story that just isn’t been told enough’. Others reflected on how different these lessons were, as they used their maths skills to tackle real-world issues.’
In pilot sessions, Jess encouraged students to go beyond the kinds of narratives surrounding refugees and migrants which often dominate newspaper headlines. Her classes prompted learners to ask their own questions of this data set and seek their own answers. These sessions also introduced them to ‘North Star Fading’ a PositiveNegatives’ award-nominated animation illustrated by artist Karrie Fransman and based on the testimonies of three Eritrean refugees. After watching the animation and interrogating the data, students could reach their own, informed decisions and display their data findings creatively using visual infographic posters.
This initial set of lesson plans have been downloaded by over 1.5K educators on TES, and shared directly with over 40 teachers in CPD and events. These resources and training days respond to the findings, outlined in a recent report from the Runnymede Trust, that 78% of teachers in Britain want greater support for teaching migration.
Building on the success of our earlier resources, ‘Voices of Migration’, PositiveNegatives worked with FutureLearn and the MIDEQ Hub, a new project led by Professor Crawley, to provide an online course called ‘Teaching Migration through Data and Storytelling’ where over 600 teachers’, seeking support with teaching on migration issues, enrolled for the programme. The course promoted the values of co-production and social learning which underpin the work of both PositiveNegatives and CTPSR, and made quality educational resources available to all. As many of us have been abruptly made to adapt to new ways of teaching and learning, we are determined to contribute free, educational tools that can be used by teachers across the world.
As Professor Crawley reminds us, the current pandemic has laid bare structural and systemic inequalities that have left many refugee and migrant communities without a safe home to shelter within. In this context, online learning offers an important means for learners to critically engage with the experiences of displaced peoples across the globe. As we make permanent alterations to the way we teach and learn, it remains imperative that we listen to voices of migration and act to imagine better futures for all.