Friday, 17 June 2011

eTwinning and professional development

“Make it as free as you can.”
This sentence was one of the turning points in my growth as a teacher. With these words Professor Sugata Mitra ended his speech at the eTwinning Conference 2008 in Bucharest. After this speech I actually was a different teacher – I had a different perception of myself in my job, of what I was supposed to do, and how.

Through Professor Mitra’s words, I realized the link between social inclusion, education, and remoteness. He was talking about Indian slums, and his famous “Hole in the wall” experiments, proving that children in groups could self-instruct themselves via the internet. Soon I realized he could as well be talking about students anywhere in the world. A child doesn’t have to be born in a slum to experience remoteness.

In the exciting environment of the Conference, with enthusiastic teachers, awards, experts, futuristic ICT projects, Professor Mitra suddenly shifted the light from “teacher” to “pupil”. He introduced us to a situation where a teacher was barely needed: children, left alone with a computer, could learn by themselves, via a self organizing learning environment. I have a vivid memory of the audience being shocked. Is the internet a “better” teacher? Is the teacher useless? Or do we have to think of a different role for the teacher?

When I say I’m different since then, it doesn’t mean I do anything new. I just try to do it better.
I’m striving to change the pupils’ perception of who I am as a teacher – I’m accompanying them in their learning, not leading them. My eTwinning projects are flexible, no musts, no set pathways: our goals are fixed, but students are free to proceed at their pace and explore alternative ways. An already arranged project, where students are actors in a predetermined script, may give you a sense of success, but it’s fake, and above all boring. You don’t need an award to prove you succeeded in your job: sometimes the smallest steps, that won’t earn your project any prize, will be the most rewarding for your students. Now I run the risk of meeting the new and unexpected in my job. I work with my students, not have them work. And I just make it as free as I can.

Laura Maffei
Voices of eTwinning

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

School Beyond Borders

School Beyond Borders
Colle Val d'Elsa, May the 3rd, 2011

Conference Proceedings

The seminar "School Beyond Borders" was held in Colle Val d'Elsa on May the 3rd 2011, in the context of initiatives for the Comenius Week 2011.

With this event, our aim was to collect and enhance the experience of the Valdelsa region referring to school partnerships in Europe.
Our area has, in fact, a strong tradition of involvement in Community programmes - mainly with Socrates first and LLP and later.

The seminar was born out of many years of involvement by the school "Arnolfo di Cambio" in LLP, especially Comenius in its various actions: multilateral partnerships, in-service training, eTwinning projects.

Our involvement culminated in March 2011, when Mrs. Laura Maffei with her Class III L of Casole d'Elsa won the eTwinning Prizes 2011 for the age group 12-14: the resulting participation in eTwinning Conference & Camp in Budapest, with the resonance given to it by the media, has helped to spread on the territory knowledge of the action and involvement of families and entire community.

At the same time, the Institute has expanded the participation of classes in the running Comenius, achieving excellent results in terms of sharing among colleagues and professional growth.

It was therefore felt the need to cooperate with schools in the area, at all levels of education, in order to share strategies and solutions in the area of European projects, while stimulating the involvement of territory, stakeholders and Authorities to a higher level.

Therefore, the work was aimed at an audience of "experts", in particular managers and teachers coordinators of European projects. Our goal was to share good practices, recognize common problems and develop possible solutions together.

We wanted to adapt each other's success stories and paths to the different learners' needs and to create a local "network", a vehicle for training and information.

A new LLP action was introduced as well: individual pupil mobility, which could be a new opportunity for the students in Valdelsa.

The seminar resulted in a new commitment: the commitment to meet in the future on a regular basis, the commitment to keep up the exchange and sharing at the local level and beyond. And finally, the commitment to share the moments of dissemination.

We thus hope that this event will be just the first in a series, because by confrontation and cooperation from local to global, the school could really go beyond borders: not only geographical borders, but ideological and social borders as well.

We thank all the participating schools:
- Primo Circolo di Poggibonsi
- Secondo Circolo di Poggibonsi
- Istituto Comprensivo Folgore da San Gimignano
- Scuola Secondaria di 1° Grado “Arnolfo di Cambio” di Colle Val d’Elsa – Casole d’Elsa - Radicondoli,
- Liceo Statale “A. Volta” di Colle Val d’Elsa.

We thank the teachers and Headteachers who shared their ideas and innovations.

We thank Mrs Alexandra Tosi and Mrs. Maria Lacovara, who brought the experience and support of the National Agency, illustrating the opportunities offered to schools, pupils, and teachers.

Finally, we thank the Municipality of Colle Val d'Elsa, for the organization of the event: because we believe that in order to create successful European project, we need to have strong roots in our own area.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

June, the 2nd

On June the 2nd we celebrate the Italian Republic, which was born in 1946.
This year we're having a very special day, as we're celebrating 150 years of Italian independence as well. So, we're now celebrating our homeland, our freedom and our independence.

Happy birthday Italy!