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?


  1. Hi Laura,
    thank you for sharing the Conference materials so that we can have a glimpse at what happened in Genova.
    I hope eTwinners will eventually see their work recognized someway. If the European Union believes in this action, they should reach a dialogue with the different Ministries of Education so that we have institutional added value as well as pedagogical value for eTwinning.
    Or do policy makers like eTwinning just because it is a non-expensive tool in a time of crisis?
    I hope that's not the scenario. We can't afford a "cheap" education in such a difficul moment for the European Union (I read your other post too).
    Thank you again for the ideas and materials you share

  2. Thank you for sharing! Really interesting thoughts! It's nice to know that the work we do in our classrooms is discussed! We must make school leaders and politicians avare of it!!!

  3. Hi Laura.
    Although I am much less involved in e-Twinning than you and I never attended one of those conferences, as a "normal teacher" I had already become concerned about what you explain in your post. This I say not for showing but just as a proof that what your diagnosis of the situation is quite sensible.
    I was really surprised to learn that you received no recognition whatever from your ministry. It's no consolation to see that education authorities are so careless of their best staff in other European countries.
    The last time I asked about how to get a recognition for my work on e-Twinning, I first received as an answer a link for the next e-twinning introduction course, what made me think they did not read properly my message where I referred to my four projects. I sent to them another message explaining it, but this time I got no answer at all.
    I wish I was so enthusiastical as you about the future, but what I see is that the "cheap scenario" will be our future and that the best teachers of the public education will be thinking of fleeding to countries or private schools where their work are better appreciated and rewarded.What a pity!
    Thanks Laura for your sharing, another fruitfull result from your e-Twinning involvement.

  4. Thank you Teresa, Agneta and Elena for your comments. I see we agree on many points - due to the fact that we are all teachers, I believe.

    Elena, your "adventures" in trying to find out how to get a formal recognition for your work on eTwinning perfectly resemble my own experience. That's funny (or maybe sad?).

    I am involved in eTwinning because I believe in an European future for my pupils - and for me. That's why I am so passionate about all of LLP actions (Comenius, eTwinning, Erasmus) and all of the oppurtunities the European Commission has been offering to schools since the very beginning of my career (I started with Culture2000, then Socrates, then LLP...).
    And here we go back to my previous post. I've been working for ten years taking advantage of these actions. But if European education is facing a crisis, does it mean all of them were in fact a failure?

    I don't know. For sure, they need a re-thinking.

    What I do believe is that the EU and the National governments do not speak the same language. This is the origin of the crisis in my opinion (both in economy and in culture).
    If an educational "good practice" is good for the European Commission but it's not good (or worse, it's uninteresting) for the national ministry of education, than something is missing. And no common result can be achieved (because there's no shared value).

    For this reason I agree with you Elena: the "best" teachers (I mean, the most motivated), will probably flee to different countries, different schools, or... different jobs.


  5. Just in case you are interested, specially for the Spanish e-Twinners. I finally received a answer to my question about how can I get a recognition for my participation in e-Twinning projects. They say that the national authority is thinking about it, but that if they finally vote for a certification, it will be only for projects made from 2011 on. I find it quite disappointing. What do you think?

  6. As I was reading Elena's comments and I was very surprised: Spain was presented to us as the eTwinners' paradise! We were told you already had an efficient system of "rewards" for successful eTwinners. Now I understand it's not true, and it's something that, maybe, will come in the future...
    And now I'm more pessimistic than ever, because I see it's the same all around Europe: politicians just say "we'll think about it" without doing anything in fact.
    Not to speak of the "2011 on" projects. Don't they know eTwinning has been going on for the past 6 years?
    I agree with Elena, it's very disappointing.

  7. Hi Elena,
    after reading your last comments I'd have to share my concern with Sandra: I'm becoming pessimistic as well.
    It's true what Sandra said, we were told that in Spain teachers successfully working in EU projects - including eTwinning - had lots of benefits: they could have their teaching hours reduced, they could get more money, they had a record on their CV and so on. Now we find out that's not "reality", that's just "future-perhaps".
    Not so reassuring.
    And what can I think of recognizing projects only from 2011 on? Our Ministires are in fact telling us "all you did before doesn't exist for us, we got to know about eTwinning ten minutes ago. So, all you did before was done behind our back."
    Ok, we should have expected something of this kind. Yet, who can believe European education has a future, if it has no past?