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Portrait of employee Anne Frank

Future-ready and inclusive schools

18 Feb 2019 - by Karen Polak

“Are you prepared to be disturbed?” school leaders were asked at the opening of the Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE) conference in San Francisco on 4 February 2019. In his keynote speech, Re-imagining schools for the modern world, Will Richardson asked the 400 participants to consider what meaningful education is in time of uncertainty. “The dissonance between what young people learn out of school and in school is one of the many challenges we face in education,” he said.

Michael McGlade and Karen Polak of Stories that Move gave a “head talk” at the packed conference, explaining the core concepts of the Stories that Move project and the benefits of blended learning and the power of the stories of the young people in the online toolbox.

“Social media, chat and online gaming provide forums and outlets for people to connect and share in a variety of ways,” said Michael, the technology director at the International School of Amsterdam. “Our students have opportunities to connect with their peers in ways we simply couldn’t when we were younger and many teens report that they find like-minded people in online forums and communities that aren’t part of their offline lives.”  But there are also major challenges, a trend towards negative and hurtful comments. A recent survey by Common Sense Media found that more than a third of teens report being bullied online. “The blended learning approach, mixing online and offline activities, brings the voice of young people to the classroom. It makes them equal and it empowers them,” said Michael.

“Not talking about discrimination is not a solution,” was Karen’s message. “We all label others, but when the labelling goes undetected, is not discussed, it can fuel tensions between nationalities and cultures.” She talked about creating safe learning environments and addressing tensions in classrooms. Early adaptors of the Stories that Move tool are happy to share their experiences with other teachers, she said. Several schools are now developing a multi-year scheme, adapted to different parts of the curriculum – to ensure that the conversations that Stories that Move inspires continue in middle and high school. The project is now also offering professional development seminars at various locations.

A survey commissioned by AAIE in 2018 into the main challenges facing international schools highlighted the imperative to be future-ready. It concluded that schools needed to become more inclusive, and to harness technology to amplify learning and promote student agency. The Stories that Move toolbox offers a way forward in both.


About Karen: Karen Polak is the Coordinator for the International Project Team at Stories that Move. She is also an historian and pedagogue at the Anne Frank House in the Netherlands.

About Michael: In addition to being a Technical Design Consultant for Stories that Move, Michael McGlade is the Director of Education Technology at the International School of Amsterdam.

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