“There are more than 100K families in Palestine where the head is a matriarch, most often a widowed woman. Half are poor families that the Union tries to support. Forced by poverty, some of these women work in the settlements or live in camps. Union support means providing the families with both money and material means to make a livelihood, machines, and equipment, but also livestock. […] For example, there are poor families with members with disabilities asking for sheep or machines to make a living and educate their children”.
These are the words of Muharram Barghouthi, General Director of the Palestinian Youth Union (PYU) during an interview discussion we had at the premises of PYU in Ramallah in mid-May 2023. During the discussion, different topics came up, including Muharram’s own childhood and youth years, with memories of his mother’s daily life that are characteristic of other Palestinian women’s lived experiences. These memories are tightly linked with lifetime choices and his current role and work with PYU.
PYU’s mission includes empowering the Palestinians to resist the Israeli violent acts and be able to stay in their land despite the settler colonialism regime. The Union encourages community involvement and supports social cohesion and solidarity in Palestine and internationally through a marked media presence and advocacy for youth interests, human rights, political and public participation of youth and women, and other issues concerning youth and women inclusiveness.
Toward this direction, Barghouthi and his team work on building an international profile for the Union, by seeking cooperation, for instance, with EU member states. Barghouthi started as an activist journalist writing and thus spreading the news about youth volunteer work to rebuild communities in rural and urban areas all over Palestine. In this way, he shaped his leadership with equality and equal opportunities for youth and women as landmark and mission. On the way, Barghouthi’s and other activists’ work was met with reactions from different directions. The Islamic movement was one such source with their claims that women’s position is only in the home with the family.
Despite odds, constructive activist work has earned the trust of Palestinian families and gradually it becomes possible for young women to take action, move to the city, get educated, claim a livelihood and build a future beyond confines for themselves and their families.
Born in a poor family, Barghouthi attended the local school before he transferred to a government school. There, for the first time, he met with people from other villages. Soon he became the leader of the school students’ council that was coordinated with students from Birzeit University. Barghouthi’s activism against the colonialist regime covered areas such as economic measurements (e.g., the price of olive oil), land deprivation and the settlements. His work as journalist for a popular Palestinian newspaper gave the opportunity to address wider audiences and share the vision for equality, human rights and women’s rights.
In our discussion, Barghouthi did not seem to think twice about why he chose to take distances from those traditions that limit the freedoms of women. Throughout his life, he has been inspired by the story of his mother and all those Palestinian women who, day after day, throughout the years, from generation to generation, carried the water from the spring, to plant the home garden, bring in the wood to cook on the fire, pick up in the olive season, nurse the sick and seek income for the family.
These same women were kept hostages and saw their sons arrested when their own homes were invaded by Israeli soldiers. A story with constant repetitions in the ‘70s, the ‘80s and today.
At the same time, women’s position, especially in rural areas in Palestine was oppressed. Not only did the colonial regime harden the lives of mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. It was unfathomable for local societies to recognize young women’s education as a right. And that was a narrative that had to change.
Nowadays, the landscape is different. More and more women are recognized professionals, university teachers, researchers, medical doctors, practicing lawyers, musicians, working and studying home and abroad. But it took some years and some activism and hard work to turn parochial beliefs and allow a dynamic perspective for the future of Palestine to emerge.
The struggle toward this direction is ongoing.
Collaborative teaching for relational rigor
Co-teaching or collaborative teaching or teaching with colleagues is a common practice in Finnish teacher education (e.g., Kokko et al, 2021; Kähkönen & Airo, 2019; Pesonen et al., 2020). The practice can take different forms (e.g., teaching and observing, teaching and assisting, parallel teaching, alternative teaching etc.). In all cases, co-teaching involves the combination of teachers’ abilities and skills in course planning, implementation and evaluation and learning together. There are different benefits listed in the relevant literature, including work in heterogeneous classes and setting up reciprocal environments (e.g., Kokko et al., 2021). Importantly, as Kähkönen & Airo (2019) argue, co-teaching contributes to the transformation of university teaching with the possibility for experimentation and community building that it offers.
In our article, where we discussed metaphors of mentoring for education without walls, we argued for the need to decolonize engagement with learning (Stein et al., 2022) through narratives of relational rigor. Relational rigor requires seeing education otherwise and this means opening up spaces of hope. We see spaces of hope as being tied with the process of collaboration and the need for a critical understanding of reality, given that we aim for sustainable systems and sustainable futures. In their study of collaborative teaching in school environments, Pesonen et al. (2020) found that the practice is linked with the sense of belonging of those involved in the co-teaching situation. The sense of belonging, therefore, depends on with the ways relations are built with colleagues, the leadership and the wider school and societal context.Continue reading “Teaching together in action: the case of creative situated writing”
OLIVE project and the pedagogical cafe organized a panel discussion on the topical issue : Women in STEM – current situation, challenges and opportunities for more equality in the future. The discussion took place online on Tuesday 31 January 2023.Continue reading “Women in STEM in Palestine and Finland– current situation, challenges and opportunities for more equality in the future “
OLIVE project and the pedagogical cafe organizes a panel discussion on the topical issue : Women in STEM – current situation, challenges and opportunities for more equality in the future
The panel aims to present/discuss the current situation as a global phenomenon with a focus on Finland and Palestine as two cases. Another aim is to point out the need to take action for more equality in the future; to possibly identify necessary structural changes; to map out an action plan; to offer policy recommendations; and, to offer the basis for future events and frameworks for further collaboration.Continue reading “Panel discussion: Women in STEM”
*For details about the artwork and artists, check the links in the embedded Sway below. The photos are from works exhibited at the Palestinian Museum at Birzeit in the West Bank.
Cultural heritage is not a direct aim of OLIVE project, in the sense that the activities do not focus on cultural heritage issues per se. Cultural heritage is, however, about the symbols and aesthetic developments that are associated with the growth of our communities and wider societies. Cultural heritage, therefore, is sine qua non in and for education and educational research.
According to the definition provided by UNESCO :
Cultural heritage includes artefacts, monuments, groups of buildings and sites, and museums that have a diversity of values including symbolic, historic, artistic, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological, scientific and social significance. It includes tangible heritage (movable, immobile and underwater), intangible cultural heritage (ICH) embedded into cultural, and natural heritage artefacts, sites or monuments.
It would be, therefore, no exaggeration to say that it is not possible to implement an international (or any) project, such as OLIVE is, in the absence of cultural heritage. Some manifestation or element of cultural heritage is present in some form, be it in an explicit or implicit way. Especially nowadays, when sustainability is prioritized in the wider educational discourse, cultural heritage is becoming more and more a vital part in higher education curricula, particularly in connection with the use and applications of digital technology.
Within the framework of OLIVE project, visits to places such as HEUREKA as part of the exchange program of staff from Birzeit University and Al-Azhar University Gaza in Spring 2022 is a manifestation of cultural heritage elements. Heureka is a science centre in Helsinki that combines technology and art-inspired installations to signify the state-of-the-art in socio-economic and technological development and innovation.
In fact, the impact of digital technology has generated a variety of discussions and even introducing the notion of digital heritage as ‘new Renaissance’.Continue reading “Cultural heritage with digital technologies: new imaginaries through time “
Visiting Ramallah and Birzeit University in June 2022 came unexpectedly and took place within the framework of Erasmus+ staff exchanges. The prospect of the trip shook the still waters of lockdowns of the previous winters and, although it came when work overload had already piled up, I saw it as an opportunity to meet up with colleagues again and get to know the actual place and its life and vibes.
This means that a big part of the visit happened on the move.
Normally, this does not have to be a very long journey, especially when you come from Europe and have a EU passport. Then, you book a flight (direct or transfer) and land in Tel-Aviv. However, after landing, the simple can become complicated. To get around things and manage to stay true to the main purpose to develop the planning of the project, I chose to spend a night in Jerusalem and then head to the West Bank from there. Soon I realized that my plan might have to freeze, since it happened that the day after was a Sabbath, which complicated movement and transfers.
Fortunately, my good friend and colleague Dr Ahmad Fteiha, who was going to drive to Birzeit on the same day, offered to give me a lift there. And the journey to Ramallah turned into a road trip in many ways.Continue reading “Visiting Ramallah and Birzeit – a road trip “
The author of this blogpost is Mia Laitinen*.
Featured image credits: Ayman A Rezeqallah, Faculty of Education, Birzeit University
*Mia is a Master’s student at the Faculty of Education, University of Helsinki. Currently she is writing her thesis. For this blogpost, Mia met online with OLIVE members from Birzeit University and discussed with them themes related to the project aims.
I was kindly introduced to three participants with undeniable impact for OLIVE project. The participants are Ahmad Aljanazrah, Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs at Birzeit University and coordinator for the project, welcoming the discussion and ideas concerning OLIVE; Refa’ Ramahi, Dean of the Faculty of Education at Birzeit University, who’s working on planning structures of workshops and developing practicum courses; and Abdallah Bsharat, faculty member at Curriculum and Instruction department of College of Education at Birzeit. Abdallah is supporting co-operation in the school field and the upgrading of courses.
All the participants have worked with the project from its early stages to develop the quality of teacher education in Palestine with colleagues around the world. When sending the interview questions all the way from Finland I was curious to know, what kind of roles are needed to run an international project such as OLIVE. I have come to realize that it’s very important to include the administration level in the co-operation as well as the sense of believing in the project. This engagement can be seen in participating in activities and common projects and planning, but also as an aim to reach goals that flow at an abstract level. Such goals include equality in teacher education and sensitive learning environments.
From a Finnish perspective, I guess that, at some level, these apply to our educational system as well. In addition, during the interviews I came to realize these are issues we’re dealing with all around the world. When adding the current pandemic situation into the plot, this turns out to be a story of global teacher hood.
“We don’t have control over the future” – but… shift in education during the Covid-19 pandemic
OLIVE project is future-oriented, raising the discussion about using technology in teaching, so the pandemic – even when shaking the norms of teaching – may have offered some forcing power to really elaborate on how technology can be integrated into teaching.Continue reading “Behind OLIVE project – Faculty and facts “
One key point in the OLIVE project is to explore ways to integrate digital technologies in teaching and learning and figure out technological tools, platforms and services of the Internet that best serve pedagogical purposes. The integration of technologies in learning and education requires different types of decision-making from the part of teachers. Based on this consideration, the focus of this blog post is on themes relevant to complex decision-making required when technology use comes into the foreground of pedagogy. These themes were discussed during the workshop of OLIVE on 7 & 8 December 2021 that was organized online by the School of Education at Birzeit University in the West Bank.
The themes and topics of discussion concern instructions of use (manuals) and issues of cyber security and violations of digital rights in Palestine.Continue reading “Integrating digital technologies for learning — A complex multi-dimensional decision-making process”
Pedagogical café — Developments in Educational Technology, 2/2022Continue reading “In Brief news & activities of OLIVE”
Sixth Finnish Colloquium of Middle East and North African Studies
Distance learning and the use of technology in teacher education in PalestineContinue reading “OLIVE – panel discussions – Colloquium of Finnish Institute in the Middle East (FIME)”
The discussion in the pedagogical café in the beginning of October 2021 had co-creation in its focus. For this purpose, the café hosted Laura Salo, project manager at the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. To bring co-creation in focus, Laura used examples from her massive experience with integration of technologies in schools, mainly as part of the activities of Innokas network.
This post aims to give an overview of the main themes of the café. The discussion departed from cases of implementation and the use of techniques to promote methods for STEM education. From concrete elaborations on specific uses of technology (e.g., to make a robot, to measure a change etc.), the interactions in the café set off to respond to participants’ questions. The participants were colleagues and friends of OLIVE from partner universities in Palestine (Al Azhar University Gaza and Birzeit University) and in Finland (University of Eastern Finland) and affiliated associations (e.g., Teachers Without Borders).
The participants’ bold questions set the ground for discussions about the ethical matters underlying the integration of technology into the classroom and the role of technology in society. Although the focus of OLIVE activities is on STEM education, nowadays there is a pressing need to extend the narrative beyond a tool-based orientation.
Co-creation in learning with technology is not about technology . Well, at least, not only.Continue reading “Using technology to work creatively together in the classroom –”
Authored by Hanna Posti-Ahokas
Reflexivity and critical thinking should be both the aim and the basis for teaching and learning in higher education. What can help us to become critical thinkers? How can we support our students’ and colleagues’ critical thinking? We suggest critical thinking as one of the core topics to discuss when renewing curricula and pedagogies for teacher education.
The OLIVE project aims to create spaces for critical thinking as not only a theoretical/pedagogical principle but also as a practice in the project activities (see e.g. Online Teaching and Learning Environments). Defining critical thinking for different purposes brings out different aspects of being a critical thinker. A recent definition focusing on University learning is suggested in a pedagogical guide (Moate & Posti-Ahokas 2021) for the University of Jyväskylä, Finland:
Critical thinking requires inclusion of multiple perspectives and acceptance of there not being a single, objective truth. It evolves through time and is never complete. It is about recognition of one’s subjectivity and positionalities of each teacher and learner; making assumptions explicit and asking difficult questions. It is an applied learning process that develops through practice. Thinking critically requires a combination of skills, such as inferring, analysing and evaluating, as well as open mindedness, self-efficacy and inquisitiveness. ‘Why’ and ‘How come’ questions can be a useful starting point for critical thinking.
How do the current practices of teacher education allow critical thinking to evolve? Content loaded curricula, assessment systems based on command of a given content, performance evaluation and other practices can easily push us away from the goals of reflexivity and critical thinking. As this a challenge in higher education, how can the future teachers we educate be ready to fulfill the curricula objectives in basic education and help pupils to become critical thinkers? Bringing critical thinking to the core of teaching and learning in higher education is critically important to generate change in education.Continue reading “Critical thinking as a source of pedagogical renewal”
co-authored by Marianna Vivitsou, Ahmad Aljanazrah & Montaser Al-Halabi
Blogs entered the pedagogical landscape in the late ‘90s and have changed the way we understand web-based interaction and online communication. Now the users could set up a space to post and share ideas and arguments, research, teaching material, textual, visual and multimodal with the world. Those were the days when the blogosphere was a promising public sphere for many.
For progressive teachers, considering matters of student agency and engagement in the classroom, blogging is seen as an opportunity for more collaboration-oriented pedagogies. A pedagogy based on the principle of collaboration aims for engagement and allows student ownership of the narrative that emerges out of the writing process, more opportunities to articulate own voices, to become authors themselves, and co-authors in the process of the pedagogical narrative.
But how can collaborative blogging be possible when writing collaboratively and in public has proved to be challenging in many ways? More particularly, when it comes to blogging, not only does it take loads of time to maintain a blog, to thoroughly think and outline its posts, it also takes commitment to the purposes of writing and the intended audiences.
As well, as our experiences from integrating collaborative writing into our teachings show, blogging cannot be an end in itself. Integrating blogs into our curriculum needs to be linked with the overall purposes of the course and the needs of the students.
As Ahmad writes about blogging experiences in a newly developed course, part of a master’s program in education at Birzeit University in Palestine, students’ blogs have been used as assessment tools for- and of students’ learning. The course titled “Learning and teaching in the Digital Age” consisted of 15 sessions addressing the educational foundations of using Web 2.0 technologies in diverse educational settings. The course started by providing practical training for students on developing and sharing blogs and it was set as a part of the course assessment. Each student was provided 10 to 15 min at the end of each lecture to write two short paragraphs describing what was newly learned (if any) and to reflect on that learning.
this post has been co-authored by Marianna Vivitsou, Ahmad Aljanazrah & Montaser Al-HalabiContinue reading “Becoming active in the public sphere – Blogs and collaborative writing for pedagogical purposes”
Possibilities and challenges for pedagogical use.
Author: Marianna Vivitsou
As virtuality is a topical issue in OLIVE project, online teaching and learning environments are at the core of discussions that take place in the pedagogical cafes. In the gathering early last April, I came up with the idea to frame the discussions on the basis of types of interaction and on whether platforms and/or web services are integrated in the official curricula. Here are some highlights that emerged out of this framework, along with my reflections upon these conversations.
The categorization is an initial one and is linked with institutional practices. Thus, the category formal online teaching environments concerns those playing an integral part in the everydayness of teaching (e.g., Moodle) and have substituted (to an extent) its conventional paper-load (e.g., by uploading digital assignments instead of their paper versions; inserting links to resources thus replacing photocopies; uploading slides instead of blackboard chalk writings and notes, etc.).
Despite their contribution to a potentially more ecologically oriented pedagogical practice, it is questionable whether online teaching environments have kept their promise. Instead, it seems that technologies have been received as self-fulfilling promises themselves. Very often they are treated as the content of the pedagogical practice, when the interest turns to what brands we will bring into the classroom at the expense of a student-centered pedagogical use. Also what pedagogical use means in different situations.
This instrumental approach to technology integration (whether for online, blended or hybrid teaching), as research has shown, has reproduced patterns of fragmented, a-contextual learning.
The use of Moodle groups is one example of this situation. Teachers, for instance, often comment that student exchanges in group work are lacking depth, thus limiting the narrative to superficial interactions, comments and so on. Questions that arise, then, concern the root causes of such phenomena. What are the reasons underlying content limitations? And, what can we do to overcome them?
This is, then, a quite complicated affair that the rhizomatic use of technology makes it even more complex than we are, possibly, willing to admit.Continue reading “Online teaching and learning environments”
Out-of-the-box approaches and practices for thinking critically
authored by Marianna Vivitsou
Thinking STEM in education
The theme of STEM education is intertwining with many of the basic areas of interest in OLIVE and relates to different outputs and project activities.
These include, among others, the need to establish virtual peer mentoring teams to strengthen exchange of ideas and learning from one another, to define new practicum strategies and set a framework for shared teaching in the OLIVE partner universities. Undoubtedly, this is a complex situation. Yet, this is not the only kind of complexity that approaching STEM education presents.
As it spans across major fields of science, research and teaching, considerations arise concerning the epistemologies and the pedagogies that should underlie the effort to introduce a working model of STEM (i.e., an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in education. In addition to that, although science, technology, engineering and mathematics related occupations are expected to experience rapid growth in the years to come, STEM does not seem to be for all.
Recent studies show that gender gaps and other divides and inequalities in the professional domain are rooted within expectations, stereotypes and structures established and observed early in the education continuum. In alignment with these, an introduction to a collection of articles with a focus on participation barriers, Nature Research and Scientific American point out that many groups are underrepresented in research including women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and socially disadvantaged populations. Far more action, therefore, needs to be taken in institutions and scientific communities.
Taking these insights into consideration, in the pedagogical team of OLIVE we departed to set some commonly agreed principles aiming to frame the basis of joint work. At the same time, we recognized the need to think and act differently and in ways that would align with out-of-the-box approaches and practices. «Out of the box» is a metaphor that signifies new, creative ways that are go beyond established (here, teaching) practices and look into the multiple dimensions of phenomena with a critical eye.Continue reading “Teaching STEM with technology and collaborative work”
Co-authored by Marianna Vivitsou & Hanna Posti-Ahokas
How does digital learning challenge our thinking around assessment?
Assessment is a multi-dimensional and highly debated topic in higher education research and practice. The Olive team gathered in its first pedagogical café to discuss assessment with the aim to think how the digitalization of learning challenges practice. The new ways of teaching and learning require new ways of assessment. How to respond to the change in a way that makes assessment work towards it intended purpose of supporting learning?
Assessment in focus
Assessment is multi-dimensional and highly debated. For a start, it draws parallels with research, as when we set off to construct an assessment tool, we should take care that we assess what needs to be assessed. Validity, therefore, is one significant criterion of the assessment process. Second, assessment seems to be often confused with evaluation. While evaluation is product-oriented, assessment is process-oriented. In education, evaluation concerns the outcomes of a course, a lesson or a project, where learning has taken place. Contrary to this, assessment concerns the process that leads to learning outcomes. The fact that what constitutes a learning outcome (or not) is itself a highly debated area makes even more pressing the need to revisit assessment and evaluation as intertwining and overlapping concepts.
In this complexity, it could be helpful to think of what the focus of our assessment is and what the purposes of assessment are.
In the small group discussion during the pedagogical café, one recurrent theme was how the use of technology in teaching and learning relates with assessment. While it was agreed that the new ways of teaching require new ways of assessment, the path towards renewed assessment practice is not a clear cut one. The functionality of technology and fairness of online assessment have already manifested as obstacles after moving teaching and learning onto digital and technology-supported environments. These may be considered as implications of more fundamental issues around assessment.
Assessment should be connected to the learning objectives and expected outcomes. However, learning is not always measurable. The instrumentalist, exam-focused culture of assessment does not necessarily capture/support deep understanding. Large student groups may also have influenced the use of instrumentalist approaches. However, as Gandini & Horák (2020), among others, point out, it is essential to seek ways to integrate into technology-supported assessment personalised feedback for students. In this way, we will be able to highlight areas they need to work on and give suggestions, and, thus, guide them through their future learning. In addition, personalised feedback opens up the whole process of assessment and allows the students to get deeper into its logic. Based on this understanding, students can be better equipped to modify their own approaches and practices in the learning process.