Wednesday, 30 November 2011

eTwinning Conference "Leading 21st century education" - part two

The Eminent - eTwinning Conference in Genova has actually been a great series of events and a brilliant first step towards giving an institutional role to eTwinning.

Do you remember the key questions the conference was supposed to address? I do, but if you don't, just have a look here. I believe thousands of eTwinners are now anxious to know which role they'll be playing in the near future in their schools, in the European educational system and in their national educational systems.

Before I start with my own, very personal reflection, let me say I tried to keep track of all speeches and info I could put my hands on. Sometimes I wonder if eTwinning is actually disseminating itself well enough, as it was very difficult for me to find materials, presentations and speeches delivered during the conference. Anyway, you can find something here, through Eminent. And, as usual, I uploaded all that I could find in the TNG twinspace - first folder under "Useful materials". So, if you're curious and you'd like to know something of what was said and done, just have a look there.

Now, back to the key questions. I can't deal with all of them in this post, so, this "conference soap opera" will have a third chapter as well (maybe more). As for now, I'm just starting with the first question.

- How can professional development policies benefit from eTwinning practice?

Not sure of the answer - but believe me, all of the important people, policy makers and stakeholders were just as puzzled as I (the "normal" teacher) was. Of course eTwinning is a great place for professional development. Of course it's a place where we meet, share ideas, develop projects and thus we grow as better teachers (that's what a social network based on educational shared interest is supposed to do for us). And of course again, professional development policies already benefit from eTwinning (at almost zero cost: teachers choose eTwinning for no other reason that their passion - no funding involved for us).
So, eTwinning practice has already done a lot for professional development policies.
Now, in my opinion, the question should be different: what can professional developmet policies do for eTwinners? can our work and our passion be recognized someway?
The good news: in some countries, it is already. The bad news: most of the others think what we already have (?) is more than enough.

Now, let's talk for us in Italy. You can be a brilliant eTwinner, develop the best projects ever, have a collection of QLs and a fantastic net of reliable partners all around Europe. Great! You grow up to be an almostdigitalnative teacher, you have lots of competences, you're happy in your job and your pupils are enjoying their learning process. Now, say, one day you decide (or you have) to move to a different school. And ops! nothing of this beautiful world of experiences and competences is kept in your professional record. That is to say, your curriculum vitae is just as good as that of any "chalk & talk" teacher.
All of your eTwinning experience (which is precious, and I do believe it is), in fact does not exist for your Ministry of Education. Better, it is of no interest to them.
Well, I don't think that's much to encourage any teacher to enter the eTwinning world (or the EU projects world).
Lots of us are "old" eTwinners, we were pioneers first, then we developed in time the belief that the eTwinning  methodology can be both an incredible tool and an incredible meeting point for our teaching. We are here because we are sure that's the right pathway. But if we want to involve more teachers, if we want to have a bigger impact on education, if we want to go beyond the pioneer-stage... if we want more, we have to give more.

I believe the last 6 years in my life as a teacher cannot be kept apart from my life as an eTwinner. I learnt, shared and taught a lot in the eTwinning community. Is it so difficult for policy makers to understand this? Would have been better for me to pay for a traditional University course, and just sit there and listen to a lecturer for some 20 hours? In terms of my professional record, yes. In terms of my professional development, it would have meant learning, by listening, 1% of what I learnt through eTwinning, by doing.

Now, I get scared when I read things like these (quoting the Eminent blog)

" By the end of the session a common agreement had been reached: eTwinning should stay flexible and free and shouldn’t be overly controlled, as it is a safe environment. The general feeling was, “Do we really need to embed eTwinning in education policies? Don’t we risk diluting the essence of eTwinning?” "

Which general feeling? Not that of the teachers, be sure.
Of course we do need to embed eTwinning in educational policies! (still my very personal opinion) Otherwise it's like having a perfect educational world that doesn't exist for the real world. And I don't want to live in educational Utopia, I want real life. National and European policies should be able to speak the same language.
By the way, what was this conference for, if we don't think eTwinning should be embedded in education policies?
But I was there, and it was a good event: and I believe it was the beginning of something. I still believe utopia and reality can meet somewere.

Or am I just Alice in Wonderland?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

WHY? - facing the crisis of European education

You may be just like me. You may be the biggest fan of quality education, public school, innovation and ICT, cohoperative learning and European actions (read: LLP).
And you may think you're doing your best and you're a brave, curious and engaged teacher. Maybe not the best ever, we're not so self-confident, yet working hard. You see lots of fellow teachers in different countries striving through tons of red tape, stressing day-to-day routine, economical crisis, dysfunctional schools, lack of ICT equipment: yet we set our projects, we run them, we motivate our pupils and we try to promote culture and a sense of belonging to something bigger than just "my" country.

Then you happen to read the 2010 Joint Report of the European Commission about the 5 benchmarks we were supposed to reach for 2010.

"There has been a general improvement in education and training performance in the EU. However, the majority of the benchmarks set for 2010 will not be reached in time, while in the case of the vital benchmark on literacy performance is in fact deteriorating. Attaining these benchmarks will require more effective national initiatives."

So, the situation is actually getting worse. You can find the complete document here and in the TNG twinspace as well. Rest assured, not a funny reading.

Just look at the picture, it says more than tons of words.

Now, where is the mistake?

Obviously we (them?) did something wrong. It's interesting that the document goes on explaining how we need more effective national measures. Is the EU giving up?

What do you think?

Were the European measures not good enough?

How much - in terms of energy, money, people - did the EU spend on education? Was it too little an effort? Was it in a wrong direction?

Were the benchmarks simply too difficult to reach?

In a time of crisis, is Europe - just as all of the individual countries - trying to save on education? (not a smart move, as we all can guess).

I've no answers for all of these questions. Yet I can't help wondering WHY those goals were not met. And HOW we are supposed to meet the new ones, if we don't know the reason why we failed. I would have loved to stop all of the very important people, all of the researchers and all of the policy makers I met in Genova and ask them these questions. So, if any of them is reading me, please give me your point of view.

Otherwise, I think we can go on exchanging ideas among us "normal" teachers. I know this is not an amusing post. But as my favourite blogger says "Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but sometimes a girl has gotta vent"!

Monday, 21 November 2011

the X factor

"Remember: upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.”

This sentence by Alexander the Great (someone who definitely knew what "SUCCESS" means) inspired me in my presentation for the eTwinning Conference "Leading 21st century education" in Genova.
If you think about it, this sentence could apply to soldiers in an army, to pupils at school, to ourselves as teachers, or as members of our cummunities... and even to European Countries.
I was a teenager in the 90es. I celebrated the "break in the wall" in 1989, I danced and cried and dreamt of a better, happier Europe. Now everything is so sad to me. We need hope. Someone at the conference told me "they're stealing our pupils their hopes". It's true. Except that this "they" is in fact "us". All of us adults.
I think our hope is in learning to feel and to act as a team, not as individuals trying to prevail one over the other. We have to learn how to work together to build our future. That's still my dream and my hope.

So, that's my presentation for the conference, and you're free to re-read it in this light. The eTwinning X factor, can be Europe's X factor: feeling part of a team.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

What actions are needed in order to improve the status of teachers?

Hello everybody,
this time I'd like to share with you my concern about a core issue concerning all of us: the status of teacher in our society and in our countries.
Recent studies have shown that the teaching profession is not attractive for young people. It is perceived as a not so profitable option, with a very low social status and few career opportunities.
We have time until November 30 to take part in the European Commission research on policy measures to improve the attractiveness of the teaching profession in Europe.

The situation is in fact so serius (appearently, nobody would want to be a teacher!) that the European Commission has launched a consultation on how to improve the status of teachers.

The study aims to identify factors that can make the teaching profession more attractive and to determine which policy interventions can influence these factors. The final report will then contain a series of recommendations to that effect, addressed to policy makers and stakeholders.

In order to achieve these goals, a questionnaire was developed for students, teachers and school officials from 32 countries. The answers to the questionnaire will provide valuable information, especially about what teachers think about their profession.

The questionnaire is available online and the Commission requested the help of all professionals involved in education, and in particular:
• University students of mathematics, physical and natural sciences, humanities and languages​​;

• Students involved in initial teacher training courses;

• Teachers of all disciplines;

• School leaders;

• Teachers' trainers.
The European Commission ensures that the answers will remain anonymous and all information provided will be treated in compliance with current legislation on data protection. The questionnaire will remain online until November 30, 2011.
So, do take part! This is the link to the questionnaire the first page is in Italian, but if you click "avanti" (bottom of page), you'll be able to choose your language in the next page.
We're all enthusiastic, experimental and motivated teachers, and we LOVE our job despite all of its problems. So, it's our duty to let the EU - and young people all over Europe - know what we need to improve our wonderful profession :)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

eTwinning Conference "Leading 21st century education"

ABCD is  the leading event devoted to school and education  in Italy, whose aim is to cover the whole school world in one exhibition. It is held at Genoa Fair & Exhibition Centre, featuring exhibition areas, workshops and conferences. It represents both the perfect meeting point for students, teachers, and exhibitors (leading players in this ever-changing and evolving sector) and a tool aiming to meet their needs.

This year, ABCD is for the first time hosting eTwinning, with an international conference for stakeholders and policy-makers.

The EMINENT - eTwinning Conference "Leading 21st century education" (Genova, 16-17 November 2011) is organized by the eTwinning National Support Service Italy and European Support Service - European Schoolnet, in close collaboration with the European Commission, and it involves joint sessions with the 2011 Eminent conference.

The conference, taking place on November the16th and 17th, will face issues related to the changes of the 21st century school: teachers' professional development, pupils' and teachers' motivation for learning and teaching, key competencies for the training of European citizens.

The main goal of eTwinning is actually to encourage the creation of networks between schools and teachers, to provide opportunities for professional development through training of teachers on-line and on-site, with a focus on collaborative learning and teaching aspects related to the use of ICT.

For the first time, the eTwinning conference will bring together policy makers, educational authorities at various levels and educational actors in a mutual effort to identify and develop actions and strategies to get a better 21st century education.

The conference will provide an opportunity to learn, to address and help answer some key questions:

- How can professional development policies benefit from eTwinning practice?

- Which ones can be considered to be the best examples of promotion and dissemination of pedagogical practice?

- What competencies are needed for individuals to participate fully exploit the opportunities offered by eTwinning? and how can eTwinning help in developing these competencies?

- What synergies, within the use of eTwinning, could be created between European and National educational policies?
That's much to talk about, isn't it? I find it to be one of the greatest eTwinning challenges so far. And I hope you'll be as thrilled as I am to get to know more. So, keep tuned for more:)
                                                                                               [to be continued]

Friday, 11 November 2011

International Drawing Contest

Dear LLT Friends,
I would like to share with you some news about an international drawing contest for schools partecipating in the eTwinning programme.

I know the deadline - 17th of November -  is very close, but probably some of you or your colleagues could work on it.

Maybe just like me, you didn't hear about this opportunity before. I think it is a nice initiative, and children like drawing, my small class for sure. :-)

So, an activity you could do with the youngest ones too.

I uploaded the info about this competition in the TNG TwinSpace in the "Activities for children" folder , and I also uploaded there the application form.

Let's draw together! :-)
Hugs, Mónika

Sunday, 6 November 2011

eTwinning Learning Events

I think you've already heard of eTwinning Learning Events (LE). If you haven't yet, well, you definitely should.

That's a great opportunity eTwinning offers for free to us teachers: an expert introducing you to different subjects, while interacting with other eTwinners. So you get the whole lot of benefits: expert's guidance + fellow eTwinners' experience and opinions.
During the last couple of year, I've had the opportunity to attend different LE on various subjects, sometimes dealing with my everyday teaching, sometimes just out of curiousity  (my bravest attempt being that at nanotechnology). All of them enriched my teaching and my feeling of being part of a larger community.
Of course, since LEs usually cover a short period of time, it's difficult to experience there a real feeling of the eTwinning community: yet, you feel part of a group who share your same eagerness - get to know more, improve your teaching, move to the next level your competences in team working... or just get to know more about a specific subject (ICT, languages, proget-planning, etc).

In October, I attended the "Children’s Rights" LE, presented by Miriam Schembri. That's how Miriam introduced it to us:

"During this event we will be looking at children’s rights from an educator’s perspective and see how we can use these rights as guidelines in our daily school life to give dignity to children. We will explore how they will affect classroom practice and how to make children conscious of their rights and responsibilities."

At the moment, I'm dealing with a difficult situation in my school, having to face lots of behaviuor issues (sometimes even rage issues) in my pupils. I believe this is connected with a larger-scale social unrest in our communities, yet teachers have to deal with it. That's why this LE provided me with the right kind of reflection, at the right moment. And the opportunity to rely on the opinions of fellow teachers from all over Europe, often sharing my same problems and concerns, was more than welcome.

The LE was structured in 5 steps, with a reflection at the end of each one:
1 - The relationship between needs and rights.
2 - Rights and Responsibilities
3 - Teaching in a rights respecting class
4 - Participation rights for children
5 - Giving children a voice

It ended up being a journey in my beliefs, doubts and fears. But also a first step towards a possible solution (at the very least, an attempt to one).

As well as her experience and know-how, Miriam shared with us some useful documents. I believe they can be of interest for a larger number of teachers, so I'm sharing them with you, as usual, in the public section of THE NEXT GENERATION Twinspace (under "useful materials"). I hope you'll find them as useful as I did. (so thank you Miriam!)

By the way, there are lots of new documents in the TNG TwinSpace, so do have a look and see if there's anything for you.

Looking forward to reading your impressions... and to seeing you at the next LE !