Rooms with a view
I was in Lisbon again, for the 3rd time in one year. The University of Lisbon invited me to give a presentation about the Future Classroom Lab and the Future Classroom community. As many institutes in Europe and in the world, the University of Lisbon got inspired by the Future Classroom Lab, the innovative learning space located in Brussels on the premises of European Schoolnet. The University of Lisbon wants to build a Future Classroom as well and integrate it in the curriculum of initial teacher training.
At the event I spoke to an audience of stakeholders and potential commercial partners. One of the key elements of a FCL like we have at European Schoolnet, is the ongoing dialogue with different stakeholders: industry partners, policy makers, educational institutes, Ministries of Education and of course the community of innovative educators. A Future Classroom, as we envision it, acts as a lighthouse and inspires educators in the area.
At European Schoolnet we have a blended communication model with our audience. First of all we welcome the many visitors and users of the lab in face-to-face encounters. Face-to-face meetings will remain very important but they have their limits. Therefore the Future Classroom is also becoming a brand for the online community of teachers who are or have been engaged in one of the projects of European Schoolnet.
I am convinced that the University of Lisbon will succeed and will soon have a learning space for trainings and for discussions and reflections about the future of education. For industry partners it will be a perfect occasion to disseminate and validate new technology in a real life learning context.
On my way back I took a picture of a quote on the walls of the metro station Cidade Universitária. It is the metro station students take every to go to the Univerdity of Lisbon.
This is the spirit of the lifelong learner. The Future Classroom belongs to citizens of the world.
Last weekend we had the 6th edition of the Flemish-Dutch eTwinning ambassadors meeting. This time around 20 participants met for 2 days in Amersfoort in the Netherlands.
The ambassadors weekend is a 2-day programme of workshops, of sharing good ideas and of team building activities. We started with an inspiring workshop on multiple intelligence and got great ideas to integrate different learning styles in eTwinning projects. The next day we focused on video conferencing tools and we explored the Social Toolbox for etwinning ambassadors. There was also the Teachmeet where all the ambassdors shared one good idea.
In between we did some social activities. We made etwilfies (selfies for eTwinners) and we did a gps treasure hunt in the refreshing nature of Soesterberg.
I am sure the ambassadors will have gone back to school with more creative energy, with professional input to inspire their students, colleagues and project partners. The network of eTwinning teachers and eTwinning ambassadors creates an on-going stream of CPD. The members meet Face-to-face and in the cloud to inspire and to be inspired.
eTwinning teachers enjoy the continuous treasure hunt for the best education.
Living Schools Lab is a 2-year European project aiming at mainstreaming innovative practices in education, especially in the field of technology integration. Schools taking part involve all stakeholders within the school and they also connect to other schools from the same region as well as to other LSL schools in Europe.
This weekend Living Schools Lab organized a Summer School in Dublin and around 120 delegates took part. The participants presented their work and shared good practices.
I had the honour of taking care of a group of students who acted as journalists but they also played a role in the core discussion of the summer school. The Scoop Ducks, as I had called them, had started their own group blog some days before they came to Dublin and they also used a group account to send tweets.
During the whole 3 days of the conference we had the Italian students Chiara, Lorenzo, Gabriele and Andrea. On the opening day Courtney, Aoife, Sinéad, Sian and Magaret, all coming from Dublin, were present as well. The students did short interviews, made pictures and created and presented movie clips and slide shows. The Italian students also took part in the main programme and had panel discussions together with the teachers. They presented their 10 priorities for education and it really made an impression.
At the closing day Scoop Ducks stole hearts of the participants again with a fab farewell song. All participants agreed that the presence of the students at the Summer School gave wonderful dynamics to the conference.
Putting the kids on the stage, that is what education is about.
Slovakia was not yet on my list of European countries I had visited before, but now it is.
I was in Bratislavia for 3 days and I enjoyed it. My primary mission was to attend the eTwinning Seminar but I had another appointment for starters. My friend Kornelia Lohynova invited me to attend an event organized by the students of her school, the Hotel Academy of Bratislava. The project was a wonderful example of entrepreneurship education. In 3 months’ time the students prepared and organized an event for more than 100 guests. They found sponsors, they found a venue, they arranged new outfits, they hired a popular presenter of a national radio station, and they prepared wonderful food and drinks.
So I went to the Holiday Inn hotel of Bratislava and I had a great night. We could taste the dishes and drinks, but the students also treated the audience with a line up of great entertainment acts with music, singing and dancing.
Students, parents, headmaster and teachers, they all looked proud and they had all the rights to be it.
At the eTwinning Seminar I delivered 2 workshop sessions. I will never get enough of meeting and teaching enthusiastic teachers, somehow entrepreneurs as well, managing eTwinning projects and a community of students and teachers.
The evening dinner of the eTwinning seminar took place on a boat at the Danube. The river makes you dream of travelling.
Bratislava is a lovely city. You see a rich history of many and diverse political histories. You see many young people in the streets.
They have all the rights to be proud.
Less than one week after my visit to the Microsoft’s Global Forum in Barcelona I took again a plane to the sunny south of Europe. I was invited to represent European Schoolnet at the School on the Cloud project in Athens in Greece. School on the Cloud is a Europe funded project with more than 50 partners: schools, institutes and NGO’s. The aim of the project is to share expertise on organizing and implementing cloud based solutions. The 1st project summit took place in the very well-equipped Doukas school.
In the morning I gave a keynote and told the audience about my experiences as a secondary school teacher. Like many others I have seen the shift taking place of What You See Is What You Get classrooms to environments with an augmented reality. But the same transition took place in the staffroom as well. The cloud brought opportunities for Continuous Professional Development for teachers as they can connect in virtual networks.
The condition of having the benefits of the cloud is that you need to fly. Sometimes there is fear of flying, sometimes teachers don’t have access or don’t know how to reach the cloud.
In my workshop in the afternoon we explored some cloud-based applications. It was fun but the cloud was just a tiny bit… cloudy at a certain moment. Also this is a reality: fast internet is a priority and the school on the cloud is still an ongoing process.
I spent the morning of the next day in the city of Athens and I made a walk around Syntagma and Monasteraki. I enjoyed a Greek salad with retsina.
The Greek sun up in the air was as bright as could be. With the cloud the sky is the limit.
Etwion is the latest educational project that Arjana Blazic and I developed. When the name Etwion was coined it referred to a 5-hour Twitter discussion marathon we organized for eTwinning teachers but also for anyone else interested. The event we held in December 2013 was so successful that we decided to keep the brand as a name for Continuing Professional Development for (eTwinning) teachers taking place on social media channels.
This time Arjana and I set up Etwion in Wonderland, a 10-day online Learning Event for 190 European eTwinning Teachers. As usual we built a Learning Lab platform with resources and descriptions of activities. For the deployment of the tasks the teachers went out to social media. We created a closed Facebook group but we also went to open air, especially on Twitter.
During the Learning Event the teachers explore from within the opportunities of social media for both students and teachers. The interconnection between staffroom and classroom is typical for eTwinning teachers. Teaching is learning and vice versa.
This is the third Learning Event Arjana and I organize, but this one is really special. We have never seen so much enthusiasm, so much creativity, so much innovative attitude. It’s a learning roller coaster. It’s a learning disco.
The climax of this learning party will be the 3-hour #Etwion chat of Friday 7 March. Everybody in the virtual universe is welcome to join us on Twitter. The discussion topics will be chosen by the audience.
Let’s see if the internet is big enough for all of us.
One of the benefits of living in a small country like Belgium is that is so easy and fast to go abroad… The longest distance between 2 Belgian cities is about 300 km.
So far some product information about my country.
Yesterday I took a train to the Netherlands. I went to Utrecht to see the Benelux finals of the First Lego League. About 50 teams of 10 members selected from regional pre-rounds took part. The competition consists of 3 parts. First of all the teams have to build and program their Mindstorm robots to carry out some missions on the tables within a limited time. Teams like the Brain Bots, the Red Tornados, the Atalanta Hazard Fighters competed in different rounds.
A second part of the competition is the presentation of a STEM project the schools have created over the past months. Within this year’s theme of Nature’s Fury they came up with technical solutions for the effects of earthquakes, tornados, floods, tsunami’s etc. The different teams developed higher thinking skills and studied phenomena of nature. They liaised with experts and institutes. At the presentation one of the girls said: “this is not a fairy tale. This is reality for the future. Watch out!”
Finally the teams also get a score on how they function as a team and also how they inspire other teams! One of the teams had a picture on their shirts of a class mate who hadn’t made it to the event because she had to undergo an operation. All day they carried a tablet and connected through Skype with the friend in hospital.
I was really impressed by this powerful and cheerful way of learning. The FLL puts the kids on the stage. This is cool. This is a bit of Rock & Roll.
Next year’s theme will be the Future Classroom.
I spent the previous days in the London Microsoft headquarters and attended a 3-day course on 21st Century Learning Design. I took part in the training Building Educator Capacity.
Adrian and Tracy were the facilitators and I especially liked the combination of some meta thinking and immersion. Learning by doing engages people. Experiencing the learning process from within gives you a full understanding. It makes you committed.
The group of European educators that attended the course was just great. The team work at the end of the last day resulted in some moments of magic that only teachers can produce.
On my last evening in London I treated myself to the musical The Commitments. I have read Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy. I have seen the film the Commitments. I am a fan.
The Commitments is a hilarious story about a bunch of working class Dublin youngsters who start a band to save soul music. They have arguments, they fight, they split up and re-unite again.
But they also collaborate, they share responsibilities, they all play their interdependent part.
Mustang Sally sounded brilliant.
I started this blog about 3 years ago. It is more or less my professional diary. The majority of the posts deal with travels or with special events I took part in or organized. I am quite sure I will be able to add more posts to the blog next year. 2014 looks promising.
With our small but hard working team of the National Support Service for eTwinning Belgium (Flanders) we will continue to support, expand and inspire the network of eTwinning teachers in Flanders. In March we will also be the host for a European Contact seminar in Antwerp. It is an event to look forward to.
The future for my other job at European Schoolnet looks promising as well. European Schoolnet is an organization of 30 Ministries of Education and the members of staff and experts come from many different countries in Europe. I love this international mix. I also love the mix of different projects I am involved with at EUN: Living Schools Lab, the Future Classroom, eTwinning, The European Schoolnet Academy etc. Most of the projects have a focus on Continuous Professional Development for teachers.
In my spare time I will be busy as well and be active with projects in the same field. There will be other social media events like the Etwion I organized with Arjana Blazic. I have some pending invitations as well for keynotes, consultancy and workshops.
I love this blurred wealth of opportunities, but they are not served on a plate, I can tell you. And sometimes things don’t go as you want. But that’s life. I enjoy it. I don’t want to move in circles but to step forward.
Each time I leave the Schuman train station in Brussels I see the statue that inspires me. The man has one foot on the ground. It’s his solid background, his expertise, his common sense.
The other foot reaches out to an adventurous future.