Interactive plenary

During the last part of the plenary session on the last day of the Conference, a discussion on serious eTwinning  issues was organized with the presence of a panel which contributed their expert opinion. The first part featured an introduction to the topics to be addressed and the main part was dedicated to an interactive Q & A that the audience had to answer with the presentation of the panel’s expert opinion. Tweets were also sent by the audience and read out. Last but not least, Mr. Antonio Silva Mendes, Director of the Lifelong learning policies and programmes in the European Commission gave a speech making a statement that encapsulates the meaning of eTwinning: “eTwinning  is a service that can be put to the service of society”.

The power of eTwinning teams and shared passion

“eTwinning is spreading a positive virus in Europe, the virus of pedagogical innovation,” stated Riina Vuorikari, moderator of the panel discussion on the last day of the Conference.  During this interactive session all eTwinners could vote to express their thoughts about eTwinning School Teams and the Class Room of the Future.  

“Teachers’ collaboration can be increased through School Teams.” said Riina. “Why? Because of the power of immediate and contextualized help from colleagues!  This is also shown by TALIS research of the OECD in 2009.  Cooperation among staff members creates social and emotional support, exhange of ideas and practical advice. Collaboration enhances professionalism, feeling of self-efficacy and even prevents stress and burn out.“

The details of the votes can be found in the presentation. Let’s take a look at the opinion of the eTwinners at the conference in Berlin.

What is the main obstacles for teachers to work with their colleagues?

1. There is never enough time to work together.
2. Curriculum does not support interdisciplinary team work in my school.
3. Working in a team is difficult.

Adam Pokorny (DG EAC European Commission) saw this as an important message for policy makers.  “Teachers constantly receive new tasks.  They do not get the chance to work on the challenges of the future of education. If policy wants to make changes, we have to think about that first. ” 

What is the main benefit for teachers to work with their colleagues?

1. Share competences and complement each others weaknesses.
2. Increase motivation both in teachers and students.
3. I learn a lot from colleagues from my school.
4. Pedagogical benefits for students are very clear, besides it s showing a good example to students.

“This is the same message as we find in the TALIS research. Teachers learn most from each other. There is an important task for the schoolleaders. eTwinning can be an opportunity for the  professional development of the school team. But how many heads know or see this opportunity? “  Adam Pokorny asked.

 “We as teachers expect our students to work together, so we should be a model for them. “ Inge De Cleyn tweeted.

What do eTwinners think about social networking?

  1.  Cooperating with eTwinners on things other than eTwinning projects also helps me to develop as a teacher.
  2. The eTwinning community allows me to keep updated with latest educational trends.
  3. Social networking features on the desktop help me network with all eTwinners.

Is eTwinnning a model for the classroom of the future?

Relationships between teachers and technology in the classoroom of the future. In the future…
1.… new technologies support teaching, but teachers are still the core of teaching.
2.… new technologies can take a lot of workload from teachers to free them for other tasks such as face to face time (for tutoring and mentoring with students).
3… new technologies can support teaching, but only with a limited scope.

 “Learning has to go outside the schools, integration of new technologies can be very important to reach this objective. Teachers should go outside, go beyond school and class rooms, so pupils can also do some informal learning.” Riina added to this discussion point.

All eTwinners in this session shared the last thought about the relationship between teachers and technology.  “Pupils do not pick up expertise or technology from the teachers,  they only take over the passion for a subject. The passion for learning is the most important thing we can teach our pupils.  This can never by replaced by a machine, technology or online tool.” The thundering applause of all the attendees for Peter Clarke who gave his view from out of the audience showed a major consent on this.

Now all eTwinners can go back home and spread this passionate virus across Europe.





Effective schoolteams

The workshop about effective schoolteams was presented by Peter Clarke, an Irish psychologist.  He gave us practical advice about effective teamwork.  We also had the chance to exchange a lot of personal experiences.

During the whole workshop we worked on activities in small teams.

What are the difficulties we experience working in teams?

During the whole conference we hear clearly the same issues coming back:

  • The extra time obstacle
  • The motivation and interest of teachers
  • Technical difficulties
  • Fear of the language
  • Support of the schoolboard

We concluded that both the bottom-up strategy as well as the top-down strategy can be useful to integrate eTwinning in the school.  A lot of enthousiastic students and teachers can influence the headmaster and schoolboard to support eTwinning (bottom-up).  But support and a bit pushing from the headmaster are very welcome to influence the schoolteam (top-down).

Successsful teams

To work with a successfull team we have to keep some things in mind.  Peter Clarke gave us a shortlist.

Also social-emotional issues have an influence on us working in a team:

  1. We need to belong to a team
  2. We need to know that we belong to a team
  3. We need to have a common aim for the group we join
  4. We need to have power and autonomy
There is a dynamic interactions between these four things.

Sharing experience

We had a lot of help from each other talking about things that are going wrong in our project teams.  We exchanged some useful tips and solutions.

Important quotes I take home from this workshop:

  • Teachers are not managable, but that’s a good thing!
  • Influence is about the passion of the topic.
  • Key golden rule: Honouring the end time!

Embedding eTwinning in a school. Case study on forming an eTwinning team in school

The workshop – on the conference theme of School Teams – was presented by Bart Verswijvel, a teacher of Flemish in a technical and vocational school in Flanders  and a member of the Belgian Flemish Nss.

“Like the chess board flying into the room in the legend of King Arthur´s knights of the round table”, an opportunity to find out more about eTwinning, presented itself years years ago at Immaculata Instituut. Bart and a colleague attended the first workshop and as they returned to the school they started a project together with a third teacher. The next year the three eTwinners got a few more teachers involved. Since that first workshop in 2006, the school has had more than 40 eTwinning projects. How did they do this, and what tips are there to be shared with eTwinners, who want to embed eTwinning in their school?

“There´s a role to play for every teacher”
An important point Bart Verswijvel made, is that not all teachers have to be initiators or leaders when it comes to eTwinning. There are roles for everyone; the role of the initiator, the role of the teacher partner (a teacher who participates in a project with an initiator) the freelance teacher (the teacher who might not even be registered but who contributes to a project through the content of his/her teaching), the interactive public (teachers and students you tell about eTwinning, who according to Verswijvel are important spreaders) and the head teacher.

”eTwinning is not a travel agency”
Explaining eTwinning to others is important – and can also be difficult, is another point made by the presenter. The conception of teachers not involved in the programme, can be that eTwinning is about travelling – or that it involves too much work. But it is possible to make it as simple as possible, says Verswijvel

One proof of this is the one lesson eTwinning project in English, where pupils in the Netherlands, Belgium and France met through FlashMeeting. Through asking and answering questions, and giving hints, the different classes had to guess what item was hidden under a towel in their classroom:

Internationaliseren in een lesuur

Some of the tips we got on how to embed eTwinning in our schools were

  • organizing eTwinning training or workshops at the school (inviting ambassadors or Nss to speak)
  • presenting eTwinning at the School´s Open Day
  • giving students in eTwinning projects the task of presenting what they have been involved in to other classes – reaching both other pupils and teachers
  • inviting colleagues into eTwinning activities, without them being part of the actual project
  • connecting your project to other activities done at school (for example Safer Internet Day)
  •  “don´t keep eTwinning a secret”

Participant reflection after the workshop: “When I go back to my school I will …”
Irena Rimc Voglar, a language teacher from a Slovenian school, is in the same situation as many eTwinners:  she´s the only eTwinner at her school. Has the workshop given her ideas for involving colleagues once she goes home?

“The workshop was very useful. I´m the only eTwinning teacher in a village school. When I go back I will present eTwinning and my project at the school´s Open Day. I will also set out to find two teacher partners for my next project.  I also liked the idea of the pupils presenting their eTwinning activities in other classes”