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Designing Technology to Increase Engagement in Education of Displaced War-affected Children

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Rebecca Ferguson
15 May 2017

George Alain

Abstract:Conflicts often involve mass immigration of refugees and cause multiple cases of displacement where children are more than 50% of the Displaced population. Education of war-affected children is a key component of restoring their resilience. However, displaced people often live in basic refugee camps with little services and support. This makes education of displaced children a challenge that is gaining an increasing attention. Several organizations are organizing projects and conferences on designing technology solutions for such context. However, many projects focused too much on the hardware with little focus on the educational content. I have conducted multiple interviews with NGO members working with Syrian refugee children to enquire on the challenges they are facing and their previous use of technology. I found that many reported challenges are related to student engagement and to the absence of engaging digital educational material. It is suggested that to understand student engagement, we need to understand the opposite of engagement. The handbook of research on student engagement explains student engagement by listing factors of both engagement and disaffection. These factors are grouped by the 3 main types of student engagement (behaviour, emotion, and cognitive). In my work, I am investigating the factors of engagement and disaffection but in the context of displaced war-affected children. Then I am linking these factors with the possible educational technologies and learning approaches to form a process of approaching designing technology for displaced children. Additionally, I discover that we know a lot about factors of disaffection with displaced children, especially from the literature on psycho-social aspects of trauma, violence and severe lifestyle. But on the other hand, we know very little on what engages displaced children. Therefore, I am adding to my process a set of co-design workshop activities that aim to design technologies for education of displaced children with incorporating children and educators as co-designers. Children are very good at telling what interest them, whereas educators provide input on the pedagogic and the cognitive aspects of education. The process I end up with will be evaluated in my field study with displaced children in Syrian refugee camps.


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