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News from the Third IERS meeting
IERS Digital Modules: An overview
IERS Digital Modules on Islam: A...
IERS Digital Modules: An Overview
IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015
What are the Digital Modules?
The main aim of IERS Proj...
IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015
Also the eastern and far eastern religions, which now
are being brought in Europe through...
IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015
religion, like "myth", "sacrifice" and "ritual process".
Theories and methodology regardi...
IERS Digital Modules on Islam: An overview
IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015
The study of Islam is divided in two modules:
IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015
After the dreadful terrorist attacks at Paris headquar-
ters of the weekly satirical Maga...
IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015
The IERS project has been organizing a number of
national workshops, starting from Februa...
IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015
The IERS partnership is currently developing an inno-
vative 5-days training course for t...
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IERS Newsletter 2

Intercultural Education through Religious Studies (IERS)

News from the Third IERS meeting
IERS Digital Modules: An overview
IERS Digital Modules on Islam: An overview
Politics Acknowleding the importance of studying Religions in schools
Selection of our partner schools
IERS Teaching Training Course
KA1 Teachers Mobility: A Digital Modules Training Course
IERS on Facebook: Give us your feedback

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IERS Newsletter 2

  1. 1. 1 NEWS FROM IERS Index News from the Third IERS meeting IERS Digital Modules: An overview IERS Digital Modules on Islam: An overview Politics Acknowleding the importance of studying Religions in schools Selection of our partner schools IERS Teaching Training Course KA1 Teachers Mobility: A Digital Modules Training Course IERS on Facebook: Give us your feedback From 27th to 29th April 2015, the third IERS meeting was held in Augsburg, Germany, hosted by the Uni- versity of Augsburg. Participants from the Institut Eu- ropéen en Sciences des Religions, the University of Salamanca, the Ca' Foscari University of Venice, the ONG Oxfam Italia Intercultura, and the University of Southern Denmark attended the event. In this third meeting the six teams of the consortium collectively assessed the finalization of the Digital Modules and organized the schedule for the last steps in the translation process. At the time of the meeting the Digital Modules production was almost 100% complete and the consortium had for the first time the complete picture of the work (for a synopsis of the contents and features of all the Digital Modules, see. "IERS Digital Modules: an Overview" p. 2-4). Thus, the consortium discussions shifted on how re- sults could be broadly disseminated and how to make them more sustainable. One important decision has been made in regards to the extension of the project's eligibility period: in order to ease the pilot phase im- plemented by the associated schools, the IERS con- sortium has sent a request to the EACEA Agency in Brussels asking for a prolongation of the project's life- time till April 2016. In this way teachers would have the opportunity to plan the Digital Modules' pilots from the start of the forthcoming academic year. In order to better advertise and to reach more poten- tial stakeholders, it has been decided to open also a Facebook account dedicated to the IERS project. Many teachers and other institutions dealing with edu- cation and intercultural activities communicate through the Web 2.0, and it is a good chance to pro- mote and disseminate the Digital Modules (for more see IERS on facebook: Send us your feedback, p. 7). The IERS consortium discussed extensively about how assuring that the Digital Modules will be used and ex- ploited also after the project life-time. The partners agreed on the Oxfam team proposal: the creation of a short-term training course on the IERS Digital Modules for teachers and educators, provided by the institu- tions of the consortium and inserted in the framework of the ERASMUS + KA1 "Learning Mobility of Individu- als". In this way schools and institutions willing to send their staff to this course can apply for a full founding from the EU (for more info see KA1 Teachers Mobility: a Digital Modules training course p. 7. The design of this training course will be finalized in the next meeting in Salamanca, in November 2015. IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015 News from the Third IERS Meeting (27/04/2015 - 29/05/2015) With support of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union.
  2. 2. 2 IERS Digital Modules: An Overview IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015 What are the Digital Modules? The main aim of IERS Project is to create didactical tools called Digital Modules. These offer 1) an articula- ted overview of different religious traditions, 2) a me- thodological introduction to the scientific study of reli- gions and 3) a selection of topics revolving around the theme of "conflict & coexistence, differences and simi- larities" in religions. The target of the Digital Modules are upper- intermediate school teachers of Humanities and Social Sciences (History, Philosophy, Sociology, Arts, Litera- ture and, of course, Religion). A Digital Modules is a ICT Application, to be used in class by teachers, to hold one or more classes on a certain topic. Every Digital Modules is made up of three to twelve sections, each with a specific sub-topic. Each section has two visualization. One for student and one for teacher. Each section is built around one up to seven resources (texts, pictures, maps, videos, audio…) which can be used in the classroom. Each resource is accompanied by a quick presentation (for the teachers and the pu- pils) which provides the background in order to have a better understanding of its meaning and purpose. The resource also comes with suggestions for work with the pupils in the form of broad guidelines since detailed questions may be useful in a curriculum and useless in another. Every section is supplemented by a text which gives the teacher detailed information about the sub- ject. Cross-references between pages of different Digi- tal Modules will encourage teachers and pupils to take a cross-cultural approach. A Digital Module is conceived as a whole. However each section, although featuring reference to other sections, has a relative autonomy. Therefore, teachers are free to use the different sections of various Digital Modules in a flexible way. Digital Modules' Topics (1) Introduction to Religious Traditions The principal set of Digital Modules is made up of ten detailed introductory modules that present the main religious traditions of the world. Six Modules are devo- ted to the three monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) that contributed building up the religious and cultural heritage of Europe and the Mediterranean area. The modules on the three monotheisms share the sa- me approach. Two modules are devoted to each tradi- tion: The first module deals with the historical develop- ments of the religion from its beginnings up to the present day. It contains topics that are commonplace in school's curricula such as Ancient Judaism, Judaism in the 20th century, Early Christianity, the Reformation, the predication of Muhammad and the first expansion of Islam, thus making them more usable inside the standard educational programmes. But their added value is to deal also with lesser known aspects such as Jewish modernity, Christian churches in the 19th century, the various schools of Islamic law or the mo- dern trends in Islamic thought. This in order to offer a comprehensive picture and to emphasize the diversity inside each monotheism. The second module highlights some shared aspects of the three religious traditions, such as the places of worship, the holy texts, the status of the image, the rites, the dogma, and more specific topics (the Jewish diaspora, the art of Islamic gardens, monasticism) also of contemporary relevance, like the importance of Je- rusalem, or the developments of Muslim Minorities in nowadays Europe. Each section is built around two to four documents. Different types of documents are used: excerpts form the holy texts (Bible, Quran), religious and literary works, maps, pictures and video... The documents are given with a short presentation to provide a context and identify the major issues. In order to help the tea- chers and pupils in their work with the resources, each document comes with a few questions or guidelines. A "teacher’s text" gives a more detailed analysis of the section’s topic in a secular, academic and non-biased way.
  3. 3. 3 IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015 Also the eastern and far eastern religions, which now are being brought in Europe through immigration and globalization, has not been neglected. One module is devoted to Hinduism and one to Daoism, whereas for Buddhism, which is characterized by a long history of diffusion and adaptations throughout Asia (and now also in the West) two modules have been provided. Since the history of the countries which witnessed the- se religious traditions is seldom touched in schools' subjects (especially regarding premodern times), in these modules the focus has been put on the doctrinal (beliefs and worldviews) and ritual aspects, rather than on a detailed historical evolution. Nevertheless, diversification of beliefs, developments of doctrines and ritual practices has been highlighted in order to avoid stereotypes and the false idea of eastern religi- ons as monolithic and timeless phenomena. In fact, for each religions traditions the most interesting chan- ges brought about by modernization and globalization have been taken in due account. Moreover, being reli- gions a social and cultural phenomenon, the interac- tions with the social structures, politics and arts are covered while discussing, for example, the theological foundations of the caste system in India (module on Hinduism, sec. 8), the diffusion of Buddhism thanks to various forms of state-sponsorships (module on Bud- dhism II, sec.1), the influence of Daoism and Bud- dhism in Chinese ink-painting (module on Buddhism II, sec.3). Since eastern religions are nowadays en- joying an increasing popularity in the West, some space is also devoted to foster a critical approach to- wards exotic or biased understanding [Module on Daoism, sec. 1,2 and 8; Module on Buddhism II, sec. 6]. The texts for teachers discuss the sections' topics following a common scheme: information are divided by categories, such as "main doctrinal tenets", "main rituals", "main texts of the traditions", "founders" etc. so that intercultural comparison between religious tra- ditions can be easily made. Analysis of the featured resources are also provided. The resources used are mainly translations of the most important texts, various images of religious art pieces and pictures of people doing rituals, but also audio and video resources are provided in order give the students some concrete glimpses of how a religion is lived. As for the suggestion of exercises, these four modules feature three type of questions: 1) introductory questi- ons that serve most of the cases as a preliminary brainstorming or as a point to start the exposition by the teacher; 2) questions that mainly engage the stu- dent in analyzing the resources showed; 3) questions aimed to foster intercultural debate, either by sugges- ting comparison with other modules topics or engaging the student on its own cultural or religious back- Digital Modules' Topics (2) Introduction to the Study of Religions But how about the category of "religion" itself? Being an ambiguous and sensitive matter, it is also important to provide students and teachers with a an introduc- tion to the theoretical and methodological approaches used and developed within the academic study of reli- gions and suggest different tasks in order for the tea- chers and pupils to apply this approach to their lec- tures and learning. All these modules aim at developing the students' ana- lytical-critical knowledge and skills in order for them to analyze and reflect on the methodological way of ana- lyzing and comparing different religions, on the notion of religion, on the relations between society, the indivi- dual and religions, and on contemporary issues about religion, multiculturalism and minority rights. For example, the "Introduction to the Study of Religi- ons: Subject Matter and Approaches" module provides some of the most fundamental theoretical and metho- dological principles applied in the scientific study of religion, including e.g. the insider-outsider distinction. The "Introduction to the Study of Religions: Compara- tive religion" introduces some of the important con- cepts and classifications developed and used as tools for systematic and comparative academic studies of
  4. 4. 4 IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015 religion, like "myth", "sacrifice" and "ritual process". Theories and methodology regarding relationship between society, the individual and religion are intro- duced by the "Introduction to the Study of Religions: Sociology of Religion" Module, which focuses in parti- cular to contemporary issues, presenting theories and concepts about civil religion, secularization, religion in modern and post-modern society, minority and majori- ty religions, individualized and lived religion. Lastly the "Introduction to the Study of Religions: Philosophy of Religion" provides an insight into some of the central philosophy-of-religion approaches to religion as well as examples of specific discussions and theories, including relations and differences between theology, the study of religions and the philosophy of religion. Apart from giving an overview of the foremost philosophical topics about religion, it deals also with contemporary issues such as multiculturalism and minority rights as well as the question of the "right place" for religion in the public space. In these modules students are given different tasks in order for them to analyse the resources presented (texts, images and videos) as well as the other Digital Modules, applying the concepts, the theories and the methodologies presented. Other tasks ask students to actively engage themselves in discussions concerning various topics in their own cultural, social and religious contexts. Digital Modules' Topics (3) "coexistence & conflict, differences & similarities" In the end, in order to present concrete case-studies that put in actual context the intercultural and present- day issues in studying religions, the rest of the Digital Modules are devoted to a series of topics revolving around the theme "coexistence & conflict, differences & similarities". These modules feature much more focused and shor- ter contents (no more than six section) in a broad ran- ge of topics: the module on "Religion and the Body" is aimed to show, in a comparative and intercultural way, how religions shape and informs notions and practice regarding something that we fell so natural and taken for granted like our body. Other modules on Funda- mentalism and Migration & Minorities are meant to foster a more critical and informed approached to two of the most salient contemporary phenomena related to religions. What is the character of Fundamentalism in the various religions? What are its historical origins? What role do religions play in the migrations and in the communities of immigrants in a foreign country? Another module on "Religious diversity in contempora- ry Europe" is aimed to clarify the difference between the traditional features of religious and denominational diversity coming from the past and the new forms of diversity due to migrations, and then to focus on some fields: urban space (coexistence of religious buildings in metropolitan cities), food (religious diets and prohi- bitions, religious food market), and law (international and European law and protection of freedom of conscience and of religion). In order to deal with the topics also in premodern times, and to facilitate the connection with standard schools' curricula (especially History), the module on Medieval Spain and Sicily studies two situations of reli- gious coexistence in an age otherwise characterized by violent conflicts — and in many cases religious con- flicts. Al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) and Norman Sicily are sometime seen as a golden age of tolerance and mutually beneficial cultural exchanges. This module is divided into four sections: the historical background (section 1), the situation in Spain (section 2), the situ- ation in Sicily (section 3), the cultural exchanges (section 4). The teacher will be able to give a more accurate assessment of the situation: indeed, in some cases, a peaceful and fruitful coexistence happened, but distrust and rivalry are nonetheless an important feature of this era.
  5. 5. 5 IERS Digital Modules on Islam: An overview IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015 The study of Islam is divided in two modules: The first module deals with the historical development of Islam, from the beginning of the predication to its contemporary transformations. It contains topics routi- nely addressed in the curricula such as the birth of Is- lam (section 1), the first expansion (section 2), the Holy Scriptures (section 4), Shia and Sunnah Islam (sections 5 and 6) or the situation of Islam in the con- temporary world (section 10). It also focuses on lesser known subjects such as the difference between Arabi- zation and Islamization (section 3), the major Islamic laws schools (section 7) and the modern trends such as the rise of Islamism or the liberal and modernist Islamic thought (sections 8 and 9). The second module uses a thematic approach to high- light some aspects of the Islamic faith and culture: the figure of Maryam (Mary) (section 1), the story of the people of the cave (section 2), the creation of Man (section 3), the “visit to the saints” (section 4), the le- gendary beasts (section 5), the gardens (section 6), the role of Jerusalem (section 7), the mosque (section 8), the image in Islam (section 9), the Muslim minori- ties in Western Europe (section 10). Each section is built around two to four documents. All these documents (with a few exceptions) come from the Islamic world in order to give a better insight of the diversity and the richness of the Islamic religion and civilization. Different types of documents are used: texts from the Quran and hadīth, religious and literary works, maps, pictures and video... This picture taken from a 19th century manuscript shows the de- struction of the idols by Muhammad after the capture of Mecca (module I, section 1). This photo taken in Cairo shows the difference between Arabiza- tion and Islamization: the Copts (Egyptian Christians) have kept their faith but now speak in Arabic (module I, section 3). This image is a popular depiction of the twelves Imams of the Twelver Shia (module I, section 5). This graph shows Islam as the 2nd religion (module I, section 10).
  6. 6. 6 IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015 After the dreadful terrorist attacks at Paris headquar- ters of the weekly satirical Magazine Charlie Hebdo, European politics, among other measures, be- gun also to focus the attention on the issue of the teaching of religions in schools. In France in particular, president François Hollande, in a speech at the Sorbonne, although reemphasizing the role of laïcité as a cornerstone of France’s education system, called for a "secular teaching of religions", ad- ding that laïcité "does not mean forgetting reli- gions, or indeed being in conflict with religions". This doesn't mean that teaching about religion was previously absent in French schools: such topic doesn't stand as specific subject as in other European count- ries, but is dealt with through different subjects, no- tably History and French. However, in this new context, there is a political emphasis on the ne- cessity to strengthen training of teachers on this topic. For example, the Superior Council of programs was asked to strengthen the contents of secular teaching about religion and media education and information in elementary school programs. During the 1st semester of 2015, several meetings were organised in different regions about laicity with higher education officers where Institut Européen en Sciences des Religions - EPHE, the French IERS Project Partner, reminded the im- portance of the secular teaching about religion and had the opportunity to introduce IERS pro- ject and its aims. Moreover, IESR-EPHE has been involved in the production of new educational re- sources on the pedagogy of laïcité and secular teaching about religion: resources for trainers; and one video training course concerning teaching about religion (outside an existing course on laïcité) set on the e-training platform M@gistère targeted to teachers of the first degree and of the second degree. IESR- EPHE also introduced IERS project to the Dean of In- spectorate in History in order to publicize the existence of still usable products. Outside the field of education, different parts of society (associations, local and regional govern- ment, private companies) are demanding more information on religious issues. As an example, IESR cooperates with a Council for Strategical research on the production of video-modules explaining in a comparative way how the three monotheistic religions approach some questions like death, hospitality. A similar awareness is rapidly growing also in Italy, a country where the religious education has been traditi- onally left to the non-compulsory hours of IRC (Insegnamento della religione Cattolica, "Teaching of Catholic Religion"). The Minister of Research and Education, Stefania Giannini, in a long message addressed to the Festival delle Religioni ("Festivals of Religions") held in May 2015 in Florence, urged for a reconsideration of the standard schools' pro- grams in Humanities in order to be enriched al- so with a keen focus to religions. Following this policy line, the Ministry of Education of Research insti- tuted a new commission called "Commission on Plura- lism, Freedom and Study of Religious Sciences" whose task is to open the schools' programmes to the present pluralistic and multireligious society of Italy. Selection of our partner schools "Antonio Canova" High School in Treviso/Italy was founded by the Napoleonic decreed 25th July 1807 and therefore has celebrated its 2nd centenary in Treviso. Since 1867 the High School is named after Antonio Canova, the great sculptor from Treviso and since 1922 holds its premises in the existing neo clas- sic style building. The curricular offers a five year course that can be a choice between either classical studies course or a for- eign languages course, where three languages are studied and which can be chosen between English which is compulsory and another two foreign langu- ages which can be chosen between Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish and German. In the academic year 2014/15 "Antonio Canova" High School was proud of hosting 1357 students divided between 54 classes of which 24 were classical study courses and 30 classes were of foreign language cour- ses. More information: Politics Acknowledging the importance of Studying religions in schools: the case of France and Italy. The Speech of the ministry of Education, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, explaining the plan of mobilization for the Republican Values at Schools
  7. 7. 7 IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015 The IERS project has been organizing a number of national workshops, starting from February 2015, ai- med to provide information and formation on the Digi- tal Modules, to ease the future implementation of pilot activities and improve the sustainability of these edu- cational tools. In particular, these workshops aimed to add further training and formation on the issue of the teaching of religions in school. In February 2 and 3, two workshops has been held at the Foscarini High School of Venice and the "Antonio Canova" High School of Treviso. The workshops started with the salutations and a brief introduction by Prof. Massimo Raveri, Professor of East Asian Religions from Ca' Foscari University of Venice and main coordi- nator of the IERS Project. Then Giovanni Lapis M.A. and Maria Rizzuto M.A. (two author of the Digital Mo- dules) illustrated the structure and design of the Digital Modules, their main features and their contents. Afterward Prof. Mariachiara Giorda (in the photo) from the University of Turin (who also authored a Digital Module) held a lecture on the theme "Value and Methods of Teaching History of Religions in Schools". Italian teachers positively welcomed the project outcomes and affirmed that they are quite a- ware of the importance of such issues to be dealt with in school in a comprehensive and sci- entific manner, especially in the perspective of eliminating religion-related prejudices among youngsters. The main feedback gained through the questions and answers session at the end of the work- shop were recommendation to give due importance to a comparative approach to the various religions traditi- on and suggestions of technical nature like the colours to be used in the interface. A video recording of the Workshop in Treviso is available at the URL: watch?v=UUvnm1qVt5w#t=3965 (in Italian). In Germany on 23rd February 2015, the Chair of Histo- ry Didactics invited the German teachers of the pilot phase to a one-day workshop at Augsburg University. During the kick-off presentation the teachers gained insight into the concepts, objectives and intended out- comes of the project. This was followed by an exemplary introduction to the design and handling of the digital teaching modules and the tasks, which the teachers have to fulfill during the pilot phase. Follo- wing this, the teachers exchanged their experi- ences with Religious Education in general and the inclusion of religious dimensions in histori- cal educational processes with respect to the curriculum. In a lecture the national IERS project leader Felix Petzold (first on the right in the group photo) then referred to the potential of intercultur- al education through religious studies in multi- cultural history lessons. The subsequent discussion gave the teachers the opportunity to adopt a critical stance on this presentation. The one-day workshop closed with a final feedback session and an outlook on the next stages of the project. "The numerous sugges- tions made by the teachers during this day were fruit- ful for the further course of the project", as Felix Pet- zold stated after the workshop. One example is them calling attention to the necessity of an offline-version for the Digital Modules, to use them in a "conventional" classroom. IERS Teaching Training Course: News from Italy and Germany Prof. Mariachiara Giorda from the University of Turin during her lecture on the theme „Value and Methods of Teaching History of Religious in Schools“ Felix Petzold with German History teachers after the one-day workshop on 23th February 2015 in Augsburg/Germany
  8. 8. 8 IERS Newsletter #2 August 2015 The IERS partnership is currently developing an inno- vative 5-days training course for teachers and educa- tors interested in promoting religious studies as a me- ans of inclusive and intercultural education using inno- vative ICT tools like the IERS Digital Modules. The courses will place as a residential seminar of five days situated in interesting cities such as Venice (Italy), Paris (France), Augsburg (Germany) or Sala- manca (Spain). The IERS in-service training programme will been de- signed by Internationally recognized Universities to promote the fundamental role of intercultural educati- on as a response to the challenges of religious and cultural diversity across countries. It offers unique career development opportunities for school staff, who feel inspired and valued, thus supporting professional development and staff retention. This course will be designed in order to fit inside the framework of Key Action 1 "Learning Mobility of Indivi- duals" of the ERASMUS + Programme. This means that schools and organizations in the field of education can apply for funding for their staff members to send ab- road for the IERS in-service training course. The IERS consortium will provide the interested schools or institution with supportive documents and information helping to apply for funding. Further information and details will be made available once the course will be fully designed. KA1 Teachers Mobility: a Digital Modules Training Course Contact Prof. Massimo Raveri Giovanni Lapis Department of Asian and North African Studies Ca' Foscari University of Venice Consortium École Pratique des Hautes Études, Institut européen en sciences des religions, France Universidad de Salamanca, Research GRoup in InterAc- tion and eLearning, Spain Universität Augsburg, Lehr- stuhl für Didaktik der Ge- schichte, Germany Syddansk Universitet, The Study of Religion, Denmark Oxfam Italia Intercultura, Italy E-mail: Visite our website: The IERS newsletter is published from time to time and contains information about project imple- mentation activities and achievements. All partners contribute to its contents, reporting also latest news on studies and research. To apply for this newsletter just write an E-mail to Project duration: 12/2013 — 11/2015 Project coordinator: Prof. Massimo Raveri/Giovanni Lapis Ca' Foscari University of Venice Project No.: 539803-LLP-1-2013-1- ITCOMENIUS-CMP Newsletter Editors: Giovanni Lapis Renaud Rochette Felix Petzold Graphic Design: Oliver Mayer-Simmet This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This newsletter reflects the views only of the au- thors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. IERS on Facebook: Give us your feedback about the modules In order to better advertise and to reach more potential users of the mod- ules and stakeholder, IERS created its own facebook page in May 2015. Many teachers and other institutions dealing with education and intercultural activities communicate through the Web 2.0, and it is a good chance to pro- mote and disseminate the Digital Modules. The IERS consortium presents once per month a new Digital Module on his IERS facebook page (https:// Teachers and teachers association are invit- ed to test and evaluate the modules. They share their feedback from prac- tice with other teachers and give proposals to the authors in order to im- prove the modules. The IERS facebook page is well connected with other facebook pages and groups from all over Europe dealing with intercultural education in school practice. We are looking forward to see you on face- book!