London Remembers

By Dina Mehmedbegovic-Smith

This whole week London remembers all those who lost their lives in WWI, with the main ceremonies taking place on Remembrance Sunday, 11th November, the date which marks 100 years of Armistice Day. Visual art, sound installations, poetry readings, films, plays, thousands of candles around the Tower of London and poppies everywhere: on people’s coats, monuments, buildings, they touch us and remind us, current Londoners, of losses and sufferings that went on then to give us the present we have now.

For children in schools today these remote events do not always appear as relevant and engaging. But in my experience, this type of learning can be transformed, if explored through personal narratives.

Autobiographical approaches which I presented at the Council of International Schools conferences in Hong Kong and Lisbon earlier this year use multimedia elements like the ones listed above to enrich the process of sharing personal experiences of historical events.

For all our readers in education keen to make history more engaging and personally relevant here is a link to download a publication with my chapter on this theme: Chapter 5: In search of high level learner engagement: Autobiographical approaches with children and adults.

For me this week is also about remembering my great grandparents: my great grandfather Mate Vanek who was 34 when WWI started and became a prisoner of war in the same year. And my great grandmother Maria Vanek who was 31 at the time and had to survive the war on her own with their four children, my grandmother Sofia being one of them.

Maria and Mate Vanek.

They were very fortunate to survive and continue with their lives. Here is their photo several decades after the end of WWI. They continue to live in my memories and gratitude. And I feel the same for all those whom London remembers this week. Learning about past is about understanding who we are today.

Sofia, Mate, Dina and Dragan

About the author

Dina is an associate professor of Education and Applied Linguistics at University College London, Institute of Education. Dina teaches on a range of programmes at PGCE, MA and doctoral level. She was on the core IOE team developing the National English as an Additional Language (EAL) Workforce Strategy; a key staff member in the development of the new programmes addressing the needs of bilingual children: MA in Bilingual Learners in Urban Settings, PGCE EAL Pathway and MA TESOL pre-service, which she currently leads. Her previous roles also include: Deputy Director of the London Education Research Unit (2009-11) and the editor of the IOE publication the London Digest, with the brief of generating and sharing knowledge on key education issues in London and global cities. Her research focuses on attitudes to bilingualism/multilingualism, minority languages and positioning of languages in relation to domination, political power and language disappearance. She is currently developing interdisciplinary work with colleagues from neuroscience aimed at providing a broader evidence base for advocating cognitive benefits of bilingualism in education and life-long learning. Her concept Healthy Linguistic Diet is an innovative approach to language learning and has been endorsed by the EU Commission in their report: Rethinking Language Education, as a part of the EU Language policy review.


Dina’s work on using autobiographical multimedia classroom approaches to develop intercultural competencies has been published and recognised as good practice by the Department of Education, NALDIC (National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum) and the British Council.

BlogAll posts


‘Saya merasa kehilangan’:
Apakah hilangnya bahasa ibu di Indonesia masih bisa dicegah?

Gambar di atas: Bersama para wisudawan di Universitas Udayana Translated by: Ince Dian Aprilyani Azir Tanggal More


‘Titiang Kaicalang Kasujatian Ragan Tiang Pedidi’:
Prasidakeh kereredan basa ibu ring Indonesia ketambakin?

Gambar ring baduur: Sareng lulusan Universitas Udayana Translated by: Ni Putu Sri Suci Artini Asih and More


‘I feel a loss in myself’:
Can the loss of mother tongues in Indonesia be prevented?

Image above: With the graduates at University of Udayana On February 21st we mark the UN More


When concepts migrate: Complexities of migrating Healthy Linguistic Diet

Image above left: Thomas giving a keynote at the first International Conference on Language Development and Assessment More