Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Learning amidst globalisation, solidarity, collaboration, & violence #brussels

Yesterday Belgian got his share of violence, and as it unraveled it struck me how much of the actions that are undertaken by all citizens, are similar to informal learning actions (but then I am a learning geek). And of course I do realize that being in an attack is by no means to be compared to learning... but still there is something that triggered my pro-learning mind. I lived and worked in Brussels, I am Belgian, and I hope peace can be achieved at some point. So this is my completely laymen view on some of the actions undertaken by people after the attacks on Brussels airport and one subway carriage. For it is clear that all violence is futile, and there is hope to see how people seek ways to help each other.

Over the recent years the European continent has had its number of violent attacks on civilians, no matter what age, background or religion. These terrorist attacks are carried out as a result of globalised violence, just like any other element of globalisation which reaches all of us. It would be strange that only 'good' facts came out of globalisation. At this point in time there is too much of a divide between regions to talk about effective, positive globalisation. Even primary education for all, a simple goal uttered for decades is still not realized, even though there is enough money in the world to put it into place.

Coming back to the Brussels attacks, the actions taken by people after the attacks struck me. It might be that I am too deep into my learning research mind at the moment, but it seemed as if people's actions paralleled learning actions: solidarity, using their network, collaborate... And maybe that is what is going on during those events. In order to get to grips with a new devastating fact, each one of us relates to what they know, and move forward based on their experience of what is perceived as efficient. People help people out, the government is only part of the solution, or to put it into learning terms: peer learning is in many cases more efficient, while the central curated content is delivered by recognised institutions.

Listing some actions:
  • Connecting to your personal network: after each attack, I take a look at those I know live/work in that city, just to see if they are alright. The same happened now, people tried to get in contact with those they know, and of course those they love. Social media got set up, e.g. Facebook Safety Check. It is simple and useful, if you are in an area struck by a disaster of any kind (and if the network is still working), you can 'check-in' to let others know you are alright. 
  • Press communications from government: the first official press releases took some time to get aired. A bit like lectures, it takes more time, and it is more of a general update on what has happened, less on what is happening at that particular time for specific people. 
  • Citizens helping all victims: on each occasion there are people who jump in and help others. For some it is part of their background to be able to help, for others it is simply helping people, acting upon a drive to get everyone to safety. The same with learners, some simply jump in during discussions, as they feel that what they have to share will help others. Even if that is simply being supportive in some way. 
  • Governmental structures get rolled out: there are known options that can be taken to relief the chaos after any attack or disaster. Which is part of the governments readiness to roll-out help. In this case all hospitals and medical personnel got sent out, together with the security people. These roll-outs are based on evaluations of prior disasters, otherwise they would not have been in place. 
  • Reacting to real-time needs: while people were being evacuated, thousands got stranded across Brussels. Once Brussels was in lockdown, trains, metro's, public transport were shut down, and all the people without a car were stuck in and around Brussels. The government let people know where the evacuation points were, but also informed everyone NOT to come to Brussels, as it was already completely chaotic. However, grassroots solidarity started to happen: people who were in Brussels by car, got word out through twitter that they had X places in their car heading to city Z. People who did not know each other helped each other out. Others simply picked up people with destinations written on cardboard on the side of the road. 
  • Get news out in real time: again twitter was mainly used to get the latest updates out to the public. A bit like a back-channel in education. It was not the government, but the twitter operators of the institutes struck by the attacks (e.g. brussels airlines), and most of the time people learning from each other, and sharing it asap. 
  • Personalisation, collaboration and solidarity: people organised themselves and others, those left to their own devices in Brussels, got word out to people in their communities to pick-up children after school. Those who were safe took action after hearing how they could help, even in a small way: e.g. giving blood as the blood reserves were rapidly depleting. 
  • Mobiles as primary communication: all along mobile devices were used, as these allow the quickest response time to actual events. Of course the amount of content shared is smaller: real time actions are shared through twitter, instagram, ... while news articles are read to get an idea of the overall situation. 
  • Societal action to safeguard children: one of the first strategies shared on the news was related to children. As a society, it seems that we care about the effects of atrocities on our children. Strategies on how to talk to your children about these attacks were sent out around midday, only 3 hours after the initial attacks.  
  • Societal solidarity: just like in any other city struck lately (e.g. Ankara, Istanbul, London, Madrid, Paris) actions depicting solidarity and non-violence through joining hands emerged. People gathering at central locations in the city to share their fear, and build on the solidarity which they want to show. Similar people join hands, those who believe a new world is possible. The same happens in online learning, similar people come together, feeling at ease by connecting to those who they can relate to, with (mostly) similar views. 
Learning is of course a very soft version of surviving. But whether we like it or not, it involves others, even those we do not know. The learning goal might be different from the goal for survival, but nevertheless goals are set, and the motivation is central to any action taken.

Learning is difficult to capture in frameworks, but it can be captured in its human capacity, as part of most of us, in a natural setting which always pushes us forward. I do not quite understand why I needed to fit the attacks of yesterday in something that I could understand, or at least from where I could start to see new hope... but then again, that might just be the reason itself.  But I do belief hope, and solidarity needs to be kept alive at all times, for we - as humans - can.