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Global Educators Conversations and the Importance of International Exchanges By Annelene Timmermans

Zoom Global EducatorsOn Saturday 29 January 2022 and Saturday 19 February 2022 teachers from Europe and graduate students from Loyola University Maryland School of Education engaged in two virtual Global Educators Conversations, in which they discussed media literacy education and social justice. Prof. Dr. Stephanie Flores-Koulish and I facilitated these discussions. We met in a post-NAMLE 2021 conference virtual break-out room where we started to talk about the importance of international exchange projects in our personal and professional lives. As a Fulbright alumna, I know very well that international exchange projects can be life-changing: spending time with colleagues from all corners of the world and discussing different aspects of our teaching profession shows that there are differences but also many similarities. Finding that common ground and realizing why differences exist, is unbelievably valuable and has in fact made me a better educator. That is why we decided to create a transatlantic exchange opportunity for Stephanie’s U.S. graduate students and my European fellow-educators. After exploring several options, Stephanie decided to create the seminar course Multiple Literacies, Social Justice, and Global Citizenship, and I organized the second edition of Media Lit Seminar 2022, a two-day professional development program on media literacy education for secondary school educators. That way we were able to bring together our groups of professionals from both sides of the Atlantic.

Media Lit Seminar 2022 took place in Brussels on 29 January 2022 and virtually on 19 February 2022. Educators from Belgium, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania and America attended interactive, practical workshops and presentations of recent research findings on the topics of media literacy education and social justice by experts from Belgium, the United States and Cyprus. More information on the sessions and the speakers can be found on Media Lit Seminar 2022’s website. Each seminar day also included a Global Educator Conversation, in which the participants of Media Lit Seminar 2022 met virtually with Stephanie’s class of American educators.

Global Educators ClassroomGlobal Educators Conversation 1 was the last session of Media Lit Seminar 2022 day 1 in Brussels on Saturday 29 January 2022. The Loyola students shared lesson plan ideas for kindergarten, primary and secondary school levels, and had prepared discussion questions for the European secondary school teachers, who had been attending in-person presentations and workshops on media literacy education and social justice. The U.S. graduate students at Loyola University had been working hard on their presentations on multiple literacies for class, but the European teachers were not very familiar with these topics because they had been focusing on media literacy and social justice and all work in secondary school education. It wasn’t always easy for them to answer the in-depth discussing questions, but still this Global Educator Conversation was well-received by participants of Media Lit Seminar 2022: “It was really interesting to see how the American students translated the theoretical elements learned from academic research articles into very practical lesson plans for different age groups.”

Global Educators Conversation 2 on Saturday 19 February 2022 was part of Media Lit Seminar 2022’s day 2 virtual program. All participants and Loyola students were now able to engage in smaller conversations in virtual break-out rooms on the topics of media literacy education and social justice. This Padlet shows parts of the rich discussions. The smaller discussion groups allowed for longer, in-depth conversations and clarification of what had been said in the first discussion. The teachers engaged in conversations on social and racial justice to discover the different historical U.S. and European background which impacts today’s views on dealing with issues of racial and social injustice. The conversations brought more understanding of our professional situations and allowed for a comparative study of schools, students, the education system and society at large. Participants of Media Lit Seminar 2022 later shared that Global Educator Conversation 2 was their favorite session of the second seminar day: “It was really interesting to get the (U.S.) perspective on questions of media literacy and education in general.”

Following these Global Educator Conversations, participants from both sides of the Atlantic have exchanged contact details and are now part of an international network of educators. Stephanie and I are also looking forward to future collaborations and hope to organize more Global Educator Conversations. The success of Global Educators Conversation 1 and 2 has confirmed our belief in the importance and value of international exchange projects.

Annelene Timmermans (Belgium) has been working in education for fifteen years and is currently teaching English (EFL) and Dutch at Sint-Jozefsinstituut Betekom. She is a teacher trainer at the Master of Teaching program at KU Leuven and also has experience as a journalist. As a language teacher, Annelene has been focusing on creating communicative classroom activities and integrating media literacy into language lessons. She is also the organizer of Media Lit Seminar.