Rooms with a view
For the second year in a row I had been invited to deliver a workshop at the Sirikt conference in Kransjka Gora, Slovenia. I love the venue, the atmosphere, the social interaction. I led a session about involving colleagues for e.g. eTwinning projects.
The Sirikt conference is in many ways unique. It is amazing that with a total population of just 2 million people more than 1000 teachers take part in this 3-day event. Sirikt combines several different initiatives for teachers into one powerful happening. In Slovenia the Ministry of Education also strongly supports schools and encourages them to create networks and hubs for ICT integration. For years now a master plan is being carried out to enhance the e-competencies of teachers.
At Sirikt you meet happy teachers. They enjoy the social interaction and the wide range of professional input in the field of integration of new technology. Like me they also appreciate the professionalism of this paperless conference.
Next to the plenary sessions and the workshops, the conference hosted an exhibition were industry partners demonstrated their technology. One event I liked very much was the live demonstration in a pedagogical context. In a big hall simultaneously 10 interactive lessons took part. Visitors could actively take part in one or more classroom activities.
In the end new technology should lead to empowering students and teachers, to empowering … citizens. In Slovenia all stakeholders share this common goal.
What I also liked: Ljubljana Airport has free Wi-Fi.
Gerard Mortier became famous as the artistic director of the Brussels opera house La Monnaie. Over the past years he has been professionally active around Europe in several opera houses and festivals. At the moment he is artistic leader of Teatro Real in Madrid. Gerard Morier is a man of the world. He is a man of Europe.
Every year the Flemish Parliament hosts an event called the State of the European Union and this year Gerard Mortier was the keynote speaker.
In his introduction Gerard Mortier went back to the second World War, when Europe faced the damage and the new global political constellation. The founding fathers of European integration which led to the European Union were according to him visionaries who established this long period of peace and freedom in the continent of Europe.
The problems the European Union faces now are caused by nationalistic tendencies. Gerard Mortier says that the concept of the “nation” at first had a very positive connotation. It referred to democracy, to the power of the people. It was Napoleon who created nationalism as we know it now, as he put the French nation against others. Nationalism led to fascism and Nazism. Populist parties are quite often nationalistic because nationalism appeals to small instincts.
Europe should not be considered as something “extra”. Mortier said that we need the best politicians for the European Parliament which should have more power.
Europe has always been a continent with a common spirit. Gerard Mortier, man of music, said that European music quite often has the andante tempo. There are no mountains high enough to prevent us from walking from one side of Europe to the other. All over Europe we have coffee houses to have discussions. We have so much in common.
Europe has its own identity and we should cherish it. We created 2 mythologies that make us unique. We incorporate both Don Juan and Faust. Don Juan refers to our open-minded morals. Faust gave us the freedom of thought, our drive to act, to discover, to take risks.
Gerard Mortier ended with a message for the young people in the audience. He asked them to create a Europe with a stable political structure, a Europe not just ruled by economy and where there is space for the richness and diversity of our culture.
Every year the Central Support Service of eTwinning rewards the schools in Europe that created the best eTwinning projects. The European prize winners get an invitation for the eTwinning Prize Winners Camp. This year’s edition took place in Terma Tuhelj in Croatia. Teachers as well as students enjoyed a four-day stay in a beautiful resort. This year we had participants from Spain, Italy, Romania, Portugal, France, Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece.
The programme consisted of workshops and leisure activities. There was a treasure hunt, sport activities and a city trip to nearby Zagreb. At night the kids showed their many talents with singing and dancing, and presenting their schools and countries.
It was a pleasure for me to contribute to the programme with workshops about Digital discoveries. Anne Gilleran, the pedagogical manager for eTwinning, took the lead for this camp. I am almost sure this eTwinning event is her favourite from the list with the many eTwinning events throughout the year.
This eTwinning camp was an ode to learning and friendship. It was an ode to joy.
Last Sunday I arrived in the late afternoon in Lisbon. I joined the rest of the staff organizing the Living Schools Lab Advanced Practitioner Workshop.
Living Schools Lab is a European project run by European Schoolnet. It aims at upscaling good practice in the field of ICT integration. Innovation can be instigated by individual teachers, by the school board or by the Ministry of Education. Preferably these actors share a common vision for the future of education.
Every country has some advanced school where a majority of teachers has integrated ICT in the daily practice of teaching. Most schools, however, are not yet that far. In these schools you have a limited group of frontrunners, sometimes lonesome cowboys, who embrace and integrate technology.
The workshop in Lisbon aimed at these Advanced Practitioners Schools where a large group of colleagues prefer to stay in the comfort zone of traditional teaching. The Living Schools Lab project wants to create regional hubs in the countries taking part in the project. In these hubs Advanced schools and Advanced Practitioner Schools will connect and share their expertise.
In the upscaling process of ICT innovation the leadership of headmasters and advanced teachers is crucial. The 2 day workshop with 80 participants from 11 countries focused on this leadership.
I was so happy that the hotel was situated in an area of Lisbon I hadn’t seen before. It was located at Expo Area. The marvelous buildings around the metro station of Oriente, the view on the Vasco Da Gama bridge at the water front… I just loved it.
I even liked the shopping mall. Can you imagine?
Back home from a 9-day visit to Denmark. I was on a trip with my family to visit our youngest daughter who is staying there for a gap year between high school and university. It was the best choice of her life, she says. But it has been hard as well. Learning a new language, finding your space in a host family, a new school, a new community. She was just 17 when she left and now, almost 9 months later, she is stronger and richer in many ways.
During the past week we spent our time in a lovely cottage at the seaside in Norsminde and we spoilt our daughter and ourselves… We met the fantastic host family in Tranbjerg and we visited Aarhus. Our daughter showed us her school and led us around in the city. It was a week of quality time. We made walks alongside the sea and the fjord, we played board games. It was hyggelig as the Danish would say.
A must see in Aarhus is the Aros museum. The collection of modern art is presented in a clever, playful, light way and the building is a masterpiece.
Visitors of the Aros museum can climb to the roof top and walk in a rainbow. They can look at the city and the world and enjoy its colours.
The annual eTwinning Conference took place in Lisbon this year. About 500 delegates participated in the event that took place in Hotel Corinthia.
It struck me again how the real and the virtual world can harmonize. It was wonderful to meet people you know for long… for the first time. Even more wonderful, of course, was to meet people again for the second, third or fourth time… Face to face contacts will always be the best, but I enjoy the social web every day. It will also help me with my fado of having to leave behind the lovely time I had in Lisbon. After the conference the participants took flights home and went back to cities spread all over Europe. At the same time they could say: I will be back to you… tomorrow.
I have been saying longer than today that eTwinning projects offer the perfect pedagogical framework for 21 century learning. At the conference Arjana Blazic, my compagnon de route in many professional projects, and I delivered 2 workshops about the pedagogical value of eTwinning projects. We highlighted 4 interrelated pedagogical pillars and made the transfer to digital tools.
eTwinning projects are like boats. They carry a rich freight of boxes full of new learning. Teaching is a permanent Learning Odyssey. It is an adventure to discover the pedagogical Terra Nova and to take new boxes on board.
The harbour of Lisbon was the place where so many odysseys started. The sailors came back with knowledge that made sense. They brought us spices to season our daily food.
Odysseus goes Portugal - Arjana Blazic
I was in Oslo for 3 nights. I saw the building where every year on the 10th of December the Nobel Prize for Peace is awarded. This year the European Union got the honour and I think it was well deserved. Despite some economic and nationalistic issues Europe is still an area of peace and civilization. 2013 will be the year of European Citizens.
I was in Oslo for an eTwinning Contact Seminar. We had participants coming from Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway. Each time I am at a similar event I am amazed how these 3 days can have such an impact on people.
I gave a keynote on how my professional life as a teacher drastically changed when I started taking part in networks for teachers like eTwinning and Partners in Learning. International collaboration has so many pedagogical and other benefits for both teachers and students. It certainly also contributes to the European ideals of civilization and citizenship.
At this contact seminar the teachers interacted, learned and created. They expanded their teachers’ room and found partners to run a project together. Over the next months their students will have a classroom without walls and they will broaden their view on society.
The conference venue was just fantastic. The hotel was located on a hill overlooking the city of Oslo that was covered with idyllic snow.
In Oslo I saw The Scream and the fabulous Opera house. We also made a walk in Vigeland park and we saw the work of sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943). In this place you just smell the European ideals of brotherhood, peace, civilization and citizenship. The many wonderful sculptures in the park portrait the cycle of life. Vigeland also designed the Nobel Peace Prize medal.
I think we all fell in love with Oslo.
Back home from a 6 day trip to London. It was a week full of educational and pedagogical high tech. I am a lucky man.
First of all I took part in Microsoft’s Appathon. Some 20 teachers had been selected for a 24 hours event to create an educational app with Touch Develop. It was a very nice experience although I couldn’t get my mock up running because of my limited programming skills. I think my strength is rather on the level of creating concepts and on the creative use of technology in the classroom.
The days after I was at BETT on the eTwinning stand but in between I also took part in two other activities in the Microsoft building.
The BETT Show is a huge educational technology exhibition taking place in ExCel, a venue located in London’s Docklands. I think it is a very good idea that eTwinning has a stand there. eTwinning offers the perfect framework to embed all this new technology in a way that it creates an added value to 21st Century learning. It was nice to talk to visitors coming from all over the world. For many of them eTwinning was an unexpected and nice surprise.
At the Microsoft headquarters in Victoria Street they had a hectic week as well, with an agenda full of meetings and activities. I co-led a workshop for 60 Danish educators visiting London, and then there was also Playful Learning, a one day programme full of short, surprising learning snacks.
This trip offered another unexpected surprise. At BETT I had the opportunity to attend the famous Teachmeet. A Teachmeet is an event for and by teachers where they share good practice and… passion. It is an ode to teaching and learning. And it is fun.
Believe me: I had quality time in London.
#msplay, #etbett, #tmbett2013
How will schools look like in 2025? Will students be allowed to bring their own devices? Will there be open wifi at all times? Will schools still stick to the system of boxes containing one age group, one subject and one time slot? Will learning take place in traditional classrooms or will there be open and flexible spaces? Will there be more learning without the direct supervision of teachers? Will the traditional role of teachers have diversified?
Some schools and Ministries of Education in Europe are already dealing with these questions. All will have to face the nowadays and upcoming challenges for education.
The Future Classroom in Brussels is a center where all stakeholders in this matter can discuss and reflect. At the same time they are immersed in a classroom lab that contains a wide range of innovative equipment while being embedded in new ideas for learning.
I was very happy to welcome visitors from my own school yesterday. Students and teachers, the ICT coordinator and the school head of the Immaculata Instituut (Malle, Belgium) all took part in the same learning activity I organized for them. The theme of the day was Redesigning School. During the activities all participants learned from each other, shared views and expertise, and… had fun.
Schools are like families. There is harmony when all voices are heard, when members feel connected and respected. Decisions on the future of education should not only be taken top down by Ministries of Education and School Boards. Teachers but also students must contribute to the design of the school of the future. And the future is now.
Ownership is crucial in developing schools where students and staff can build 21st Century skills.