Overcoming language and cultural challenges: Thoughtexchange helps facilitate UNESCO event.
Gathering the thoughts of many people and then making sense of them quickly can be a tough task in just about any conference setting. But when you have a group of people from different cultures who speak different languages, the job gets that much tougher.
The group that gathered in Paris for Mobile Learning Week 2017 couldn’t be a better example of cultural diversity. Hosted by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Mobile Learning Week (MLW) brought together representatives from non-profits, universities and governments from around the world to discuss how affordable mobile technologies can help improve education for people living in crisis situations.
At the heart of the five-day MLW conference was a series of Strategy Labs, like the one co-facilitated by Julene Reed that gathered about 45 experts from across the globe to discuss the best concepts and designs for mobile learning resources to help bring education to displaced people and refugees.
Reed is a former Director of Academic Technology at St. George’s Independent School in Memphis, TN, who is now an independent consultant working on her doctoral dissertation in Educational Leadership at Lamar University with a focus on global education. One of the main challenges Reed and her co-facilitators faced in the three-hour session was making sure everyone in the international group had an equal voice.
“You have people coming from all over the world to join together, but some struggle with speaking English, and it’s more difficult for them to be open and speak out,” Reed explains. “And for some people it’s difficult to speak their minds verbally because of potential cultural repercussions. The confidentiality of Thoughtexchange® offered an open communications forum that helped overcome those challenges.”
“Thoughtexchange gives an equal voice where people have an equal opportunity to talk, without one person dominating the conversation.”Julene Reed, Education Consultant
Identifying key mobile education technologies
Reed discovered Thoughtexchange earlier in the year at a recent District Administration Leadership Institute (DALI) Summit. She immediately saw it as a great way to quickly bring the group together.
“It was the perfect tool for what we were doing at this event,” Reed notes.
At the start of the session, Reed and her co-facilitators simply shared the web address of their exchange, and each person in the room could easily and independently participate on a computer or mobile device.
Participants were asked to share which technology-enhanced practices they had experienced or heard of that provide educational opportunities for students in emergencies and crises. Each member of the group could confidentially share their thoughts and consider those of others. The facilitators could then quickly see which technologies were most important to the group.
After collectively agreeing on the top five technologies, they broke into smaller groups to discuss them and come up with a list of key points about each. The shared ideas will contribute to the creation of an action plan aimed at improving mobile education for crisis situations.
Giving equal voice
Reed says the exchange helped bring the diverse group of people together, moved discussions forward more quickly, and helped focus on the most important topics.
“We were able to quickly gather information and calculate what ideas floated to the top,” Reed says. “That was a huge benefit. It then allowed us to have further dialogue and conversation in the group around those key topics. In a short amount of time we were able to accomplish a great amount of work.”
“Thoughtexchange gives an equal voice where people have an equal opportunity to talk, without one person dominating the conversation,” she reflects. “Everyone has the opportunity to participate as much as possible.”
Thoughtexchange provides software solutions that bring people together, build trust and make progress on important topics. Whether it’s employees, customers or whole communities, our solutions effortlessly connect you to your stakeholders. People can confidentially and independently share their thoughts, appreciate other points of view and understand how their perspectives are connected to decisions. Our patent-pending data analysis gives you the insights to make informed decisions and take action.