WHO IS BARBARA MOSER-MERCER?
“Higher education also needs to be part of the humanitarian action.”
“Technology has to serve sound pedagogical models, not the other way around.“
For most of us, a critical factor in creating a sustainable and satisfying career is the formal education we acquire. In the in development and aid space, a master’s degree from a credible institution is really the minimum bar for even an entry level position at any top shelf organization. Access to this type of education, and its benefits, are things many of us simply take for granted.
But what if your community were caught in the grips of conflict? Or what if you find yourself growing up in camp for displaced people? Or what if higher education infrastructure just simply doesn’t exist in your neck of the woods?
My guest today for the 107th episode of the Terms of Reference Podcast is Barbara Moser-Mercer. She is the founder and Director of InZone, an initiative that pioneers innovative approaches to multilingual communication and higher education in communities affected by conflict and crisis by designing, developing and scientifically validating learner-centered and technology-supported pedagogical models.
Barbara is also a Professor of conference interpreting at the University of Geneva where her research focuses on cognitive neuro-science aspects of the interpreting process, the human performance dimension of skill development and expertise, and on pedagogical approaches to digital learning in fragile contexts. Barbara also co-developed the Virtualinstitute, which is a virtual learning environment specifically designed for the acquisition of complex skills, which has been used by ICRC, ILO, UNHCR, and UNAMA for enhancing interpreting skills of interpreters working in conflict zones and to advance formal and non-formal higher education in emergencies (HEiE).
You can connect with Barbara here:
IN TOR 107 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- InZone and what it’s like to work and promote higher learning in conflict and refugee camps.
- Barbara’s background in language interpretation, as a practitioner and teacher.
- The role of technology in extreme situations of higher education: between a struggle to make pedagogy ‘catch up’ to tech’s pace, and leveraging it to maintain world class educational competitiveness.
- Neutrality, adaptability, listening: what the Language Interpretation community can contribute to humanitarian work.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Higher Education, in Zones of Conflict
- Multilingual Communication
- Language and Power
- Refugee Crises
- Online Education
- Collaborative Learning
- Pedagogy, Scientific Validation
- Raspberry Pi
- Design Thinking, Pedagogical
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
Technology based pedagogy.
Social impact of education. Building learning spaces in refugee contexts.
“How can people in conflict and crises truly understand each other?“
Language of power. Power of language.
After years of improving humanitarian workers’ conditions, Barbara sees the conditions of others can be improved as well through professionalization and innovative models for higher education in emergencies.
Syrian crisis highlighted the value of higher education in these contexts.
Almost uniquely for conflict zones, the Syrian higher education market was “well developed.“
Many refugees were enrolled.
’05 Early on Barbara is tasked with interpreters’ going to Baghdad, training in Geneva. “There has to be a better way.“
Online curricula is starting to become a thing, but there was not a solution ready.
Innovation is not always a moment of realization or convergence, it can also be a series of steps, theories and models that shape up.
Interdisciplinary approaches broaden one’s vision, “you start to see the connections.“
Simultaneous interpretation is among the most complex tasks, according to a psychologist and researcher.
From the Geneva moment, a period of observation about skill acquisition, application of virtual environment ensues.
A “sense of mistrust about technology in general” helps Barbara.
The relationship between technology and pedagogy is a constant struggle. “We must be on our toes about how learners use technology.“
Interpretation is also about neutrality, it requires a “distant look.” It has proven valuable in refugee work, engagement.
Collaborative learning is another cornerstone. Curricula is developed with at least one foot on the ground, competition is avoided and discouraged. Collaboration is conflict resolution.
How do people develop more than skills, expertise?
Expertise science has years of development, especially for higher education.
“Higher Education Spaces.” They are more than computer rooms. Access is important (and challenging for refugees), but the real strengths involves actual XXI century skills.
Another struggle is maintaining high intellectual activity and refrain from lowering the standards. Courses are demanding, but contextualized, “meaningful.“
Students are being “pulled up.“
Students receive a degree. They start online with a small group in a room, and start obtaining academic credits through testing. Finally, they have a number of degree options, multiple exit and reentry points, building blocks approach considering the instability of refugee life.
Validate the model (scientifically and humanitarian wise), gather data.
A set of indicators that partially determine success and roadmap. “We are always in the lookout, keep our vision open.“
Scientific validation is important, as it is not turning into a research lab.
“Refugee camps are not going away.” Some camps will eventually turn to cities.
Geneva is the “humanitarian capital of the world” and in so, University of Geneva has a particular duty and vision.
Expansion and demand rises will require additional sources. “We’re in conversation with funding agencies.“
Part of the job is showing the weaknesses of current approaches, particularly those of the short term kind.
Planning for sustainability or resilience
Routine expertise is not always best in unpredictable scenarios.
Refugees are taken out of comfort zone, they are primed to adaptability. They can also teach a lot about resiliency.
Some efforts have been done to include modules about history of forced migrations and statelessness.
“It is important to be metacognitive,” being more critical about successes.
Higher education is not a luxury.
Technology, “but not as important as one might think.” Reliability is not as good below the equator.
The most important pillar is “learning to learn.” Reliance on technology must not be full.
Barbara is looking up Raspberry Pi for refugees. So it is with new technology. The main criteria are refugee driven.
Becoming the standard
“I hope we never become the norm.” At least not at the expense of flexibility.
“We do want to become a source,” a reference to go further in concept, implementation, geography.
InZone will always strive for excellence.
Barbara’s favorite things
Pedagogical Design Thinking.
Social Constructivist, Collaborative learning movements carried into the virtual space.
“People like K~ (unintelligible at 39:50 ) inspire me.“
Architecture. Social spaces.
Anytime, anywhere learning.
Please share, participate and leave feedback below!
If you have any feedback you’d like to share for me or Barbara, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below! I read all of them and will definitely take part in the conversation.
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