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Transatlantic Educators Dialogue helps European and American educators connect

by The College of Education / Apr 9, 2012

photo of TED participantAn educator from east-central Illinois wouldn't ordinarily have the opportunity to discuss a riveting educational issue with a peer over coffee, at least not a peer from Denmark or Poland, for instance. And they probably wouldn't be able to discuss how immigration affects classroom dynamics in the European Union versus the U.S. or whether sharing artwork of a nude would raise parental eyebrows at the local school board meeting. (What's considered pornography in America is considered art and perfectly acceptable in some European countries.)

Bring to the scene a computer with internet, a cup of coffee (optional), and Transatlantic Educators Dialogue (TED), and voila, you have the perfect setting for some really good educational dialogue with an international flair.

TED provides an opportunity for educators to connect with colleagues in other countries to share their opinions, openly discuss their views, and learn from each other. The weekly sessions are led by TED participants on a rotating basis, and discussions focus on current educational issues. In addition to what they learn during the weekly discussions, the leaders in charge of each session prepare 30-minute lesson plans based on their respective week's content and share these at the last session of the Dialogue.

Lucinda Morgan, a Ph.D. student in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership who works in the College of Education's Office of International Programs, has coordinated TED since its creation in the fall of 2009. Using Moodle asychronically throughout the week prior to the TED session, participants share articles and videos, post comments on topic-specific forums, and send messages to fellow dialoguers.

Sponsored by the European Union Center (EUC) in the International Programs and Studies office on campus and co-facilitated by the College of Education, the EUC recruits the European participants for the Dialogue and Morgan recruits U.S. educators through College of Education networks. There is a brief application process to ensure a wide array of demographic representation. In addition to participants in the United States, around 20 European countries are typically represented during each TED session.

The Dialogue currently underway started mid-February and meets weekly on Sundays for 90 minutes synchronously at noon U.S. CT/5 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time. It will wrap up May 6. TED received 188 applications and out of those applicants, 65 educators were accepted. From the 65 individuals accepted, two groups were formed.

Upon successfully completing TED, U.S. educators receive six ISBE-approved continuing education units. Participation in the Dialogue is free of charge. Participants may be current teachers, pre-service teacher education students, school administrators, graduate students, college faculty, or involved in educational organizations.

While two to three European educators apply per available TED slot, U.S. applicants don’t come forth quite as readily, according to Morgan. Consequently, more U.S. educators are encouraged to apply in the future. The next TED will be offered in the spring of 2013.

Morgan said feedback about the program has been positive. "Teachers across the world face many of the same types of issues, but in different contexts. Through TED, they can discuss how different issues affect them locally, such as ESL concerns in the U.S. and varying language dialects in Europe, and it connects them globally," Morgan explained. "Not all teachers have the opportunity to talk to teachers in other countries or to teach there, so TED gives them the platform to share and compare contemporary classroom issues."

Along with geographical differences, the age of participants also varies. While some educators are 25 years old, others have taught for 45 years, according to Morgan, which helps to bring a variety of perspectives to the virtual table.

Photo: Laura Maffei, a high school language and literature teacher, participating in TED from her computer in Italy.