SchoolNet delegates attend XXII iEARN Conference and Youth Summit 2015 in Brasilia

iEARN empowers teachers and young people to work together online using the Internet and other new communication technologies. Over 2,000,000 students each day engage in collaborative project work worldwide. iEARN provides a platform for teachers and learners to communicate, apply and share knowledge. The iEARN conference was held at ESAF School of Finance and Administration in Brasilia.


Delegates arrived on Sunday mid-day and were warmly welcomed by the conference organizers.  A total of thirty-five countries were represented by the delegates who attended the conference. At the opening ceremony teachers were invited to share their testimonials about how iEARN has transformed their lives. Overall, they spoke of their experiences in acquiring technological skills with the courtesy of iEARN i.e. how to use videos and software in class, how they also learnt creativity with their learners, virtual communication and diversity.

The benefits of global education

David Young, Executive Director of VIF International Education, one of the keynote speakers, spoke of the benefits of participating in global education as it focusses on the world as a whole. He mentioned that teaching students to have a global perspective prepares them to be more successful as it expands student’s awareness of the world and prepares them for success in an increasingly interconnected global marketplace. Learners love learning about different parts of the world thus teachers need to be trained on global learning and it should be integrated in the curriculum. Digital badges or certificates should be awarded to learners as a form of encouragement.


Where do I begin with iEARN?

Diane Midness, a volunteer who works with students in iEARN projects, shared a presentation titled “Where do I begin”. She provided steps on how delegates can register on the collaboration center and these were:

  1. Registering on iEARN website:
  2. Learning about existing projects on the iEARN project book and project database.
  3. Considering language, relevance to students or school curriculum, age of learners when choosing a project.
  4. Making contact with project facilitator and introducing students in the project forum.
  5. Reviewing etiquette and expectations – teachers get students involved by reviewing posts from other students and to respond to them. Encouraging them to learn new vocabulary of other languages.
  6. Starting off at a slow pace by sharing special and typical days through text, photos, audio and videos or Kindred family history project, oral history on themes ranging from migration to sport.


South African delegates tour on the third day of the conference

The third day of the conference was a full day tour. The South African delegates visited to the Metropolitan Cathedral, TV Tower, Juscelino Kubitschek Memorial, Army General Headquarters, the Congress Building and the Dom Bosco Chapel on the waters’ edge of Lake Paranoá

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A Thalidomide victim presents a fantastic keynote

Eileen Cronin the author of Mermaid: A memoir of resilience delivered a fantastic keynote. She started off speaking about the effects of the drug Thalidomide in her hometown of Cincinnati which caused many birth defects in the USA and other parts of the world. This drug was given to her mum to help with her queasiness during her pregnancy and resulted in her being born with no legs. She spoke of the many parents at the time who sent their kids away to live in an orphanage across the river-kept away from others and cites herself as lucky as her parents did not send her away. She went on to speak of her ordeal as a child to accept her disability and spent the majority of her youth trying to blend in and pretend she did not have a disability. Gradually, she discovered that she could accept and cope with her disability. She is now helping people with disabilities to understand and to cope with them. As quoted in the Washington post, “Her grit, grace and optimism are a lesson to anyone confronted by a severe challenge. She approached awkward situations with humor and poise rather than humiliation. Cronin’s strength, tenacity and wry humor led her to a full, successful life.”

Literacy and the brain

Lucia Willadino Braga, a neuroscientist, neuropsychologist, clinical researcher and author was the next keynote. She presented on how the brain works and how literacy develops the brain. As one grows older, memory starts to decline, processing speed slows down and working memory stores less information. The best approach is to stay mentally active, learn new things for example, learn a new language or music or play musical instruments. Learning new facts stimulates the brain and a well-developed brain can be less likely to be active and hence doing crosswords is not necessarily keeping you mentally active.|

The value of local history projects

Another exciting project for the day by Rhimma Zhukova was a local history project where learners research the history of their communities and share their findings with their global peers. The goal was to help to teach learners how to care about the places they live and for them to appreciate historical and cultural environment. By doing that learners would also appreciate historical heritage of the past and present whilst at the same time developing their research skills, academic skills, thinking, reasoning and teamwork skills as well as ICT skills. The local history project served the goals of iEARN and enables youth and teachers to collaborate locally and globally using technology to enhance learning and making a difference in their communities.

Ideas for future iEARN project topics

The last keynote speaker was Edwin Gragert – Taking the lead in addressing Global issues. He referred to 2015 as the key year and shared that the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have now been expanded to 17 sustainability development goals (SDGs). This will be tabled for discussion in September 2015, when the current MDG goals are reviewed. This is important as the SDGs are now meant to be achieved by ALL countries and not just the emerging economies. Ed challenged all delegates to come up with iEARN projects that will contribute towards changing the world making it a better place. They sustainability development goals are as follows:

  • End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages
  • Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Achieve gender equality and empower all woman and girls
  • Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Strengthen the mean of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development


The next iEARN in 2016 will be held in Pune, India between the 3-8 July and the theme is Fostering Quality in Education.

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