By Sybille Fleischmann, Project Reconnect lead
In the year since the first Project Reconnect grantees were selected, 24,000 Google Chromebooks have been distributed to nonprofits working with refugees. The laptops are in use at more than 900 locations across Germany. On March 17, 2017, representatives from these nonprofits met in Munich to share lessons learned and swap ideas around computer-assisted learning, online content, and usage scenarios.
Wieland Holfelder, Engineering Director and Site Lead for Google Munich, welcomed the 45 participants to the Google event space in Munich, and complimented the organizations on the great strides they’d made in such a short time. Participants then spent the day exploring new content and apps, networking with each other, and discussing how they use Chromebooks to help refugees and asylum seekers.
The Deutscher Volkshochschulverband shared how adult education centers are using Chromebooks in a blended learning approach that combines classroom sessions and online courses. Representatives from Volunteer Vision, an online language mentoring program that pairs corporate volunteers with refugees, and Speex, which offers language training tools online, provided hands-on experience with their programs. And Cisco Networking Academy described how nonprofits can use free entry-level online courses about cybersecurity, and cloud computing that could lead to professional certifications.
Carmen Strigel from RTI International led a panel discussion called “Digital offerings for refugees: What works?” with Waltraud Haase, from Asylplus, Karsten Hammer from research institute MTO, and Klaus Krischok, from the Goethe Institute. All agreed that content to help refugees and asylum seekers tackle issues in their daily lives and succeed in education and job environments was most essential. One example is the job-specific language learning tools presented by Asylplus, and another, the scenario-based help offered through the app and website from AnkommenApp.
Project Reconnect grantees are making Chromebooks available in places ranging from internet cafes in large welcome centers to small group homes, and they all shared stories of Chromebooks helping refugees learn German, land a job or get into a vocational training program. Everyone took home new ideas and new content to explore. The Project Reconnect team thanks all participants for sharing their expertise and for their efforts to help refugees in Germany.