Friday, 20 April 2018

Netherlands - Day 1 Travelling to Harderwijk

Today was another day spent traveling on this year's adventures. This trip to the Netherlands is with 4 students and an English Teacher. We are coming to the Netherlands to do a project with students from the UK, Netherlands Spain, and Italy. The theme for this week is the Binary number system and ICT. The plan for this week is our students will share what they have been doing in our lessons with ICT and Maths and then we will spend the week working on creating an escape room with puzzles and problems that involve binary numbers.

Back in an airport and thinking back to my thoughts in Paris about the possible interactions of people and the romantic notion of where people are going and what they will do when they get. We sat next to a group of scouts church-based based group on their way to Orlando. It is these token conversations that lead to shared experiences and help influence the idea of these interconnections between people and their worlds. This is when the mathematics sparks imagination when you start to look at combinations and possible journeys.

So today I have used a car, minibus, Plane, and train. Whilst the first 3 are normal it is always interesting working out tickets and routes in another country especially when it isn't a language that you speak. As a non-Dutch speaker, your first thought is to think about how difficult it is to work out where to go and how to get there and what do we have to do with our tickets. Every country has some sort of public transport system and having been to other countries where not only the language is different but the alphabet is totally unrecognizable you start to think that getting a taxi or rent a car would be a great idea. How hard can it be? What is really useful is finding a really friendly local that didn’t wait to be asked for help but volunteered it as they recognised the lack of our understanding.

The Dutch rail service is really easy to follow. Each train has a really useful display that not only shows the next station but also the time and platform numbers of stations and connecting trains, also some incidental information about train speed and temperature. It’s these simple additions of technology that would have made a journey without it far more daunting but with the simplest amount of information makes it more of a manageable adventure. The trains are also broken down into 1st and 2nd class compartments and both categories seem to be well used. The trains are clean, punctual, and appear well looked after. The ticketing system uses smart cards that are scanned as you enter and leave the platforms. The conductor on the train also scans the ticket to ensure that the journey has been validated. Locals have a photo card that they use for their journeys similar to the uk Oyster system. Our tickets were singles so simple to use and scan on the platforms. We were met at the station by the teacher and the host families and we departed company and let our students go and be acquainted with their new families for the week.

There is always a nervous energy around these occasions when people meet for the first time but that there is an alternative. The requirement that they need to make the situation work or it will be a difficult week and the fear of the unknown despite an email or two that have been exchanged prior make for a nervous few hours in the host family home.

The teachers all met for a dinner. My expectation was for something traditional and local but instead, we were taken to an Indian restaurant. This was music to our ears as being British a curry is almost a native dinner for us. The other teachers were staying well clear of the spicy dishes in favour of the mild and sweet dishes. I opted for a more spicy dinner than I am used to at home and a local brew to accompany it.

The dinner conversation was around education and our experiences and the Dutch teachers were discussing their plans for teaching their subjects in English next year. So I sat considering this for a short while. Would I be able to teach Maths in a different language? Simply no. My knowledge of any foreign language isn’t strong enough to get by let alone trying to teach my subject at any level. The situation isn’t the same as in the Netherlands English is taught almost as much as Dutch and so they are incredibly prepared for taking this on but still when you learn a language you don’t generally learn key phrases and terminology that would be necessary in any academic pursuit.

Tomorrow brings all of our students together to deliver some presentations on the topics that they have learned and how they are learning them and also a chance for teachers to mix and see how learning is done in the different countries.

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