In these unprecedented times, the need for community building has never been more important. And what better way to build a sense of community for this project than bringing the educators and teachers involved in the project from different countries together? That’s right – it’s time to break out the virtual meeting platforms, put on our best online meet-up attire, and get ready for some serious community bonding that takes place once a month.
But forget about Zoom or Webex Meet, let’s talk about the real MVP of virtual meetings: GatherTown, which is where the latest community building meet-up took place. If you haven’t heard of it, GatherTown, just like WonderMe, is one of those virtual worlds where you can create your own little avatar and walk around like you’re in a video game. It’s like The Sims, but for meetings. So picture this: You log into one of those platforms and suddenly you’re transported to a virtual world where you’re surrounded by other educators and teachers from all over the globe. You can walk around and interact with each other, just like in real life. But instead of awkwardly standing around a water cooler waiting for the blessed relief of a lunch break and some pie and coffee from the cafeteria, you can play games, attend workshops, and even explore different virtual rooms. These interactive platforms like GatherTown or WonderMe offer a change from the daily routine for teachers and educators and allow for a relaxed get-together.
Social anxiety? Feeling awkward about potentially meeting new people? Don’t know how to navigate a new virtual platform like this? No problem at all, because the KIDS4ALLL meet-ups are structured in a way that breaks the ice in a relaxing and fun way – introductions and icebreaker games are at the top of the list. Our organization geniuses Elisa and Kashmira come up with fun new ideas every time: the games, such as body-building, person bingo or creative story building, which was part of April’s delightful meeting, break down more than just one wall and get the creative juices flowing. Once the initial awkwardness is taken care of, the main topics of the meet-up can be discussed without pressure and in a relaxed way. That way, every teacher and educator who joins can learn about different creative methods and various digital tools.
If language barriers are what’s keeping you from joining: not to worry! Almost every participant can speak English, and if English isn’t your jam, that’s no problem either. The material of the project is in the target languages. There’s a big range of options so no one feels excluded and everyone can partake. Just like with the project Kids4ALLL itself, the focus of the community building meetings is diversity – and that applies to the topic of language as well. In fact, for a meeting in March, someone joined who did not speak English at all. The KIDS4ALLL team was happy to translate, and later on, another teacher started translating for someone from another country – a beautiful representation of collaboration within the meet-ups. Multilingualism is a fun challenge, not an insurmountable barrier.
These meetings are not about checking if everyone has done their homework. Rather, it is about bringing teachers and educators from different countries together, creating an open space for exchanging perspectives and discussing the content of the project. This includes sharing the experiences with KIDS4ALLL, supporting each other in creating and uploading content, and learning about ways of inclusion that go beyond language. You’ll soon find that everyone faces the same challenges and experiences – and talking about similar problems makes things easier for everyone and helps build a tight-knit sense of community among each other. So whether you’re an educator, a teacher, a seasoned translator for the project or just want to see what all this is about: Grab a cup of coffee, tea or whatever beverage you prefer and join us next time!
Nepomuk Bothe (University of Jena)