Online Arabic from Palestine course now launched!

The sun was shining in the Gaza Strip, yesterday morning, when the Online Arabic from Palestine language course for beginners was launched officially at the Islamic University of Gaza. The weather was much less kind to the Glasgow launch, yesterday afternoon, when people had to brave the Ali storm to come and celebrate the official release of the new course.

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As so many times before during the many months of collaboration that led to yesterday’s launch, the Glasgow team was in Gaza, speaking from a screen to a room full of proud people, while our Gaza colleagues were later a presence on a screen  in Glasgow, telling about their experiences and roles in the design and development of the Online Arabic from Palestine course. As so many times before, we documented the events, sharing the dizzying kaleidoscope of photographs of people on screens and in person in each other’s rooms from each other’s points of view…

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But sometimes miracles happen, and people manage to escape the confines of screens and meet in real life. Sahar, our IUG colleague (who is Sara in the course’s videos) arrived in the UK just a few days ago to study. Despite having a million things to do and having to recover from her long journey, she was willing – actually, delighted – to travel again to be with us, on this side of the screen, in the room she knew so well from all our Skype meetings over the years (“It’s much bigger than I thought!” was her first comment).

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So our colleague and friend Sahar was with us outside the screen, decorating with leaves the table for the post-launch celebrations, gifting Palestinian embroidery bracelets, slicing pomegranates, taking people through the course at the launch event, and being enthusiastic about everything (despite Ali!). And showing everyone that screens can be portals, through which flesh and blood connections can be made.WhatsApp Image 2018-09-19 at 10.50.57.jpeg

 

 

 

Mashallah! The Online Palestinian Arabic Course is almost ready…

We have now finished piloting the first two units of the Online Palestinian Arabic Course. There are adjustments we need to make, but we are well on our way to have the course ready for the end of June. Soon, Inshallah, the course will be available to anyone interested in learning Arabic with a Palestinian flavour, taught by experienced and trained teachers based in the Gaza Strip.

So, here are some details about the course (below we offer you the preview of one of the course’s videos!)

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Here are a few quotes from the evaluation questionnaire completed by the volunteer learners  who piloted the course:

“We were in Palestine, with Palestinian food, habits, accent and this made me [feel] very close to the people there.”

“I really enjoyed the one to one lessons with a lovely teacher and the opportunity to see a little bit of the life in Gaza”

“I really enjoyed the tailored approach of my teacher who sometimes added content when I was curious to learn but also brought me back to the main content of the class.”

“We got to speak a little about life in Palestine and my own life – though it wasn’t necessarily extending my Arabic, it humanised the whole experience and created a bond across borders, which for me, is one of the things that makes the learning experience so unique and valuable.”

“I really enjoyed the videos – I found them to be a great tool for focusing the lesson around.”

And now, to whet your appetite for this amazing new course, here’s one of the videos which introduces one of the latter lessons. In this video, Italian born Sarah and Adam, guided by their Gazan teacher Anas, take a look at some Palestinian artifacts, including a key, the symbol of Palestinian right to return.

As well as the key, the brother and sister also see a shawl and a dress decorated with the wonderful traditional Palestinian cross-stitch patterns.

By doing this course, you’ll be able to understand Adam, Sarah and Anas only after a few weeks! Get in touch and the admin team at the Arabic Center will tell you what you need to do to start this great adventure!

Getting here, getting there

Despite the tension and anxiety caused by the Israeli response to the demonstrations; despite the ‘normal’ power cuts and logistic difficulties; despite having to experiment with different tools and new materials; despite everything, the pilot lessons for the Online Palestinian Arabic Course have now started. Finding the right online platform and the right digital tools to do justice to the materials is proving more challenging than anticipated. As an online course with multimedia material, designed and developed with very modest financial resources, elaborate and costly solutions are not an option. However, technicians at IUG are doing wonders with the software they have available and, although not without glitches and setbacks, the word documents we designed are slowly but surely transforming into an innovative, engaging, creative, multimedia online course.

Managing a team of course developers, technicians, filmmakers, teachers, photographers requires constant presence and coordination. As we write this, Dr Nazmi Al-Masri, our wonderful colleague and project partner, is managing the Gaza team while sleeping rough at the border crossing. He has a UK visa (and this already meant several hurdles) and invitations from a number of British universities. However, the queue of people waiting to leave the Gaza Strip from Rafah, in the few days during which the crossing is open, is incredibly long. Having to camp just to get a chance to leave the Gaza Strip does not stop Nazmi from working to ensure that the technicians at IUG upload the materials, and the piloting course can continue. This is just the latest example of the Gaza teams’ wonderful commitment to our common project.

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As the pilot lessons take place, we are asking the volunteer learners and teachers for open-ended feedback. While we will be assessing more formally the pilot at the end of six lessons, for now we ask them just to let us know what they liked (so we can do more of it) and what they did not like or found tricky (so that we can redress this in preparation of the final version of the course). Unsurprisingly, all learners agree that the main positive element of the course are the Arabic Center teachers. Their pleasant and capable attitude is regularly remarked upon, and this does not surprise us: all of IUG’s Arabic Center teaches are trained and experienced, and while the materials are new to them, working online is not a new experience. Several of the teachers in the pilot have already worked in online collaborations with colleagues at the University of Glasgow: with team members Giovanna and Grazia in the context of the RM Borders project, and/or in Grazia’s doctoral study.

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The materials themselves are praised by the volunteer learners, including our videos (that are our pride and joy). The biggest challenge is making sure that the different platforms we are using for the self-study and the face-to-screen parts of the course work well together. As we are aware, successful e-learning depends heavily on the technical resources or tools used to deliver the course. The tools need to be easy to use, reliable and up-to-date if the lesson is to work. As the financial resources available to the team to design, develop and deliver the course do not allow us to buy sophisticated, state-of-the-art digital tools, all of IUG’s technicians’ creativity and knowledge are needed to make the course work for both teachers and learners using as much as possible free software. This is not without some serious issues, but we are confident that we will have soon a course that is ground-breaking in approach and content, as well as one that is sustainable in the long term by not relying too heavily on expensive software to function.

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