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Digital Strategy for Schools: eTwinning Supports
Liliana O'Reilly was our eTwinning National Support Service in Léargas. In this blog she describes how eTwinning can assist teachers in implementing aspects of the Digitial Learning Framework in their schools.
The Department of Education and Skills Digital Strategy for Schools provides an opportunity for teachers to dip their toes in ICT waters to see which strategies and tools are useful in their schools to introduce and implement 21st century learning. Rather than listing specific criteria that must be met by schools, the Digital Strategy provides a vision of how educators might consult each other in their schools/groups/regions about what’s working and what’s not, and why. In this post, we provide a summary of what eTwinning can offer in terms of the four main themes that the Department uses to frame its vision for developing 21st century learning skills in Ireland.
Teaching, learning and assessment using ICT
Pen and paper were the main 20th century tools that facilitated teaching, learning and assessment in schools, but gradually these have been replaced by tablets, iPads, computers, etc. These give students instant access to photography, voice-recording, movie-making, eBooks and so on, but such access is not a guarantee that learning is effective. Using these tools in a collaborative and creative manner is key to their success in the classroom.
eTwinning--which has been specifically mentioned in the Digital Strategy for Schools Action Plan 2017--can facilitate creative and collaborative work as follows:
- etwinning.net provides a free and safe online platform where teachers and students can register easily
- once a project is registered, its Twinspace allows teachers and students to use a project journal, chatroom, video conferencing tools and discussion forums as well as upload materials such as documents, videos, photos and PowerPoint presentations
- the eTwinning App can be used on mobile devices.
Teacher Professional Learning
Even if a school has the best ICT devices available, there is no guarantee that 21st century learning and teaching will automatically follow. Not only do teachers need training on how to use the devices available to them, but they also need to see and experiment with practical integration opportunities and best practices.
In this regard, eTwinning can offer the following:
eTwinning Groups are private platforms for eTwinners to discuss and work together on specific themes. The aim is to share practice examples, discuss teaching and learning methodologies and find support for professional development. Topics are wide-ranging, from language teaching to entrepreneurship in education to STEM teaching and learning.
Online learning events
Learning Events are short intensive online events on pedagogical themes. They are led by experts and include active work and discussion among teachers. Learning Events include asynchronous and sometimes synchronous activities, and are run in a widely-spoken European language.
Online Seminars are live communication sessions where teachers have a chance to learn about general pedagogical and eTwinning themes and discuss these with their peers. The seminars are led by experts, and are run in a widely-spoken European language.
These are long courses that address the needs of the eTwinning community in areas such as online moderation, teaching and learning, and ambassadors at national and European level. Each year, eTwinning promotes one course. Each course is led by a group of experts, and includes active work and discussion among teachers. Courses include asynchronous and sometimes synchronous activities, and are run in English.
Professional Development Workshops (PDWs)
PDWs are three-day, face-to-face training events, covering pedagogical topics. They are run in a widely-spoken European language. These events happen all over Europe about five times a year. All travel, accommodation and meal costs associated with the events are covered for selected participants.
Thematic conferences are three-day, face-to-face events. The themes are related to pedagogical aspects in general. The main goal is to inform and create awareness about eTwinning. These events are run in a widely-spoken European language and all associated travel, accommodation and meal costs are covered for selected participants.
The annual conference is a three-day, face-to-face celebration event, with a focus on a Europe-wide theme. The main goal is to celebrate eTwinning achievements for the year. Up to 600 participants may attend, including teachers of course but also non-eTwinners such as regional authorities. Participants are invited to attend by their National Support Service (that's us in Léargas here in Ireland) and may be selected according to theme. All associated travel, accommodation and meal costs are covered for selected participants.
Hundreds of webinars, expert talks and other online events are organised every year on eTwinning Live by teachers from all over Europe. Most of them are open to everyone – teachers can browse them in the calendar and join them. Any eTwinning teacher can organise online events.
Leadership, research and policy
According to the European Council conclusions on effective leadership in education (2013), good educational leaders develop a strategic vision for their institutions, act as role models for both learners and teachers, and are key to creating an effective and attractive environment that is conducive to learning.
eTwinning priorities include the support of innovative school leadership. An eTwinning monitoring report 2015 ('Twinning 10 years on: Impact on teachers’ practice, skills, and professional development opportunities') found that eTwinning can have a positive impact at school level, e.g. improving relations between teachers and students, and fostering cooperation among teachers. One of the key recommendations of the report was to target the involvement of school leaders, not only to raise further awareness of eTwinning opportunities for schools, but also to improve the chances that eTwinning practices will influence school policy and be mainstreamed.
Some concrete steps have been taken in 2016 and 2017: in September 2016, eTwinning held a thematic conference on eTwinning and Citizenship in Florence, Italy, for school principals and school management staff. A dedicated group was opened for school principals and other school management staff as a follow-up activity in order to exchange and explore common issues, such as digital skills, pupil motivation, the impact of migration, and what it means to be an “eTwinning school”. The group is open to all school leaders; eTwinning membership is required.
Ensuring effective implementation
While eTwinning does not supply funding for devices for schools, it does provide:
- a simple and safe online infrastructure
- a wide variety of tools to support collaborative learning
- peer-to-peer training and advice
- professional development
As part of Erasmus+ these are provided free of charge and without burdensome administrative procedures for educators. The eTwinning infrastructure encourages schools to form all types of partnerships in any subject area, and so provides an effective way to foster the use of ICT, language and intercultural skills in school education.
In addition, there is a team of 19 eTwinning ambassadors based in different parts of Ireland whom educators can contact for advice and training on the eTwinning portal. They are also experienced primary and secondary school teachers, who can provide pedagogical advice on how to implement ICT in class.
Find out more
Download the Digital Strategy for Schools
Download the European Council conclusions on effective leadership in education (2013)
Visit the conference website of Citizenship: A new ethic for the 21st Century - the contribution of eTwinning
Check other eTwinning posts on our blog to see examples of how Irish teachers and their schools have used eTwinning
If you'd like to find out more about the free tools and real-time support that are available through eTwinning, contact our eTwinning team
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Photos and images courtesy of eTwinning Europe, Léargas, and Liliana O'Reilly. We welcome contributions to ‘Insights’ at email@example.com.