Peace Week 2011

Peace Week 2011 is a free global telesummit that involves “an extraordinary week of presentations, forums, music, art and reflection on the prospects of creating a sustainable culture of peace.”  There are 52 peacebuilders who will be speaking throughout the week.  I learned about this event from one of the people I follow on Twitter.  Upon opening up the website and learning more about the program, I immediately signed up to participate.

I find this to be a great peace education resource to bring into classrooms because its an opportunity to expose students to a global network of peacebuilders working in a variety of fields.  I think its most appropriate for high school, under grad, or graduate students, as I assume from the topics being covered, that the different sessions are somewhat advanced and would require some background in peace studies to fully appreciate or grasp the subject matter.  Given the large amount of presentations and the week-long schedule, I think this program could be incorporated into either formal or nonformal educational settings.

Learners could be provided with the schedule of speakers and presentations and then they decide which ones they would like to tune into.  For example, a learner interested in film making, documentaries, or the Israeli/Palestinian conflict might want to tune into Julia Bacha’s talk, “The Role of Media in Building Cultures of Peace,”  on Tuesday, September 20th at 6:00pm.  Bacha “is an award-winning filmmaker who has worked on films exhibited at the Sundance, Tribeca, Berlin, Jerusalem, and Dubai International Film Festivals, and broadcast on the BBC, HBO, Sundance, CBC and Al Arabiya television channels. Most recently, Julia directed and produced Budrus (2009), about a Palestinian village’s sustained nonviolent struggle to save their land from the route of the Separation Barrier.”

Depending on the timing of school or program hours, students would have to look at their own schedules to see which talks would work for them.  After each student picks their talk they could then be asked to write a paper, post a blog entry, or give a short presentation on what they learned: (1) how it connected with other themes already covered in the course; (2) how it impacted the way they view building a culture of peace; (3) how this speaker’s experience and background provide new insight into the student’s own professional and life goals.  The focus questions are really limitless.  Students could do this in small groups as well.

Another way this program could be used is to provide a remote, guest lecturer.  Teachers and students could look at the program schedule, see which presentations match up with the time of their class, and then start doing some background work to prepare for the talk.  Students could research the actual speaker to learn more about her/his experience and interest in the subject matter.  They could also start looking at how the speaker’s topic relates to some of the other themes they’ve discussed in the class thus far.

For example an economics class might want to tune in on Thursday, September 14th at 6pm, when David Korten will be giving a talk titled, “A Peace Economy.”  David Korten “is the author of Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth (August 2010), and The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community (2006). His previous books include the international best-seller When Corporations Rule the World and The Post-Corporate World: Life after Capitalism. Korten is board chair of YES! Magazine; co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, founded in late 2008 with the Institute for Policy Studies; a board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE); founder and president of the People-Centered Development Forum (also known as the Living Economies Forum); a founding associate of the International Forum on Globalization; and a member of the Club of Rome.” (peaceweek.info)  There are several elements just in this short bio of Korten that could be used as a launching pad into his talk.  Select readings could be taken from his books, articles of his could be shared from Yes! Magazine, videos of his other talks or interviews could be viewed before hand, and more specifics could be learned about the organizations of which he is part.

Then when the day of the talk finally comes, the teacher or one of the students could use their mobile phone or Skype, hook it up to a set of speakers, dial in to the conference, and then everyone could listen together.  I would recommend utilizing a note-taking exercise, a series of guiding questions based off of their background research, or some time of graphic organizer since the learners will only be hearing audio and not seeing any visuals. This should help learners stay focused and referencing the research work they had done leading up to the talk.

The potential knowledge development through incorporating this program in the above mentioned ways are quite expansive.  It really depends on the talks that the students choose, but each speaker brings with her/him a wealth of experience and resources upon which learners can draw.  Skill development includes researching topics and speakers prior to the talk, digital literacy skills in navigating the course schedule and registering process, and using their own digital tools (computer, mobile phone) to participate in the telesummit.  Depending on how the talk is used in the classroom there are also note-taking and group work skills that can be developed.  Attitudes developed would hopefully include a great awareness of peacebuilding work across the world, and a sense of solidarity with others doing peace related work.

I think that the two pillars of peace education most supported by utilizing this resource are (1) exploring approaches to peace and (2) community building.  There are so many diverse speakers represented in this telesummit, all of whom explore different approaches to peace, which I think helps students learn about what peace work looks like in a variety of fields.  Film making, psychology, literature, technology, theology, and many other sectors are all represented.  Lastly, not only does this telesummit expose students to a global community of peacebuilders, but I think giving students the opportunity to choose a topic gives them ownership over the learning experience, particularly if the talks are connected back to course materials and/or used as a way to explore their own thinking about their professional futures.

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