Thanks for the photo, Steve!
Thoughts about a collaborative EU Comenius school project 2012-2014, focusing on educational Internet use
During the spring semester of 2012 a colleague of mine (and also a fellow eTwinning ambassador), Lidija Kralji in Croatia, told me be about the plans to launch an international European Union Comenius project focusing on smart and safe Internet use. Would I like to join?
A fact is there are tons of interesting international project ideas around and sometimes I must literally brace myself, in order not to bite more than I can chew; however, it did not take long for me to realize that our school would benefit greatly from being be a part of what Lidija was planning.
The next step was to explain the general project framework and goals to our principal who pretty much instantly agreed that the project would be valuable to us; later on, the colleagues gave thumbs up as well so the application work got started for real with Lidija coordinating all the seven countries. By the time of this writing – late summer of 2012 – all participating countries, with the exception of Romania, have got the applications approved by their respective national agencies. We are a go!
Why so important for Tunaskolan?
Digital literacy has high priority in our school; the long-term investment in one-to-one (personal laptop to every student age 13-15 and the staff, including wireless Internet access at school) dating back to 2010 illustrates this very clearly. The BS2 project presents a unique opportunity for us to evaluate the startup phase of 1-1 together with other European schools also underlining the fact that modern functional citizenship can not exist without digital knowledge. Further, the project will most probably produce extensive, valuable input about the use of connected digital devices that will facilitate for us when planning the continued pedagogical ICT use. On top of these direct advantages, quite a few related spin-off effects are to be expected.
It is interesting to notice that the 1-1 initiative presently rolling out everywhere in Sweden like a tidal wave is far from something that is taken for granted in many other countries. In fact, none of the other partner schools of the BS2 project have introduced 1-1 yet and the nordic PISA-champion, Finland, is still mostly in ‘wait-and-see’ mode.
There are also additional key benefits from the BS2 project that should perhaps been mentioned right away in the very beginning: getting connected across the borders and learning together, both face-to-face and virtually, is a great priviledge for the teachers and students involved. The international, personal contacts that will be forged during the project can become a major asset for our school. And, of course, the chances are we would never have got onboard Be Smart, Be Safe if it wasn’t for the EU eTwinning school collaboration program!
Keywords and trends
It is incredibly easy to pay way too much attention to the hardware and the logo imprinted on it when discussing pedagogical ICT use. The really important stuff is, of course, all about those things that were completely impossible to achieve in global scale in the analogue era: connect, communicate, collaborate – right now! Internet access is the machinery behind the scenes and there are some interesting and very clear trends that we must pay close attention to:
- Mobile Internet connectivity is getting very fast and it’s going to be (already is?) in your – and your students’ – pockets. Considering this, blocking access to ‘inappropriate’ web sites at school probably doesn’t make much sense. Discussing ethics, empathy and morale does make sense! So does making pedagogical use of the mobile connectivity instead of trying to ban it. To ensure best possible results for the students, radical changes in pedagogy are necessary.
- The focus is rapidly shifting from the device as the container of your data to your cloud storage that enables you to access your data anywhere, from any device, providing there is an Internet connection. Two big players in this game, with free established offerings for schools including many collaborative tools, are Google Apps for Education and Office 365 for education (Microsoft). Lidija’s school has been using the Microsoft solution for some time and I have written a summary of Apps advantages (clunky machine translation!) here.
- Pretty much all daily school tasks can be performed right in the web browser, without the need for any program downloads and installations. There is definitely no reason to pay expensive licence fees for Office program suites!
- Email is rapidly losing ground as a natural means of communication for young people – social media (who does not have a Facebook account?), texting and instant messaging are gaining. Fast.
- The more we keep mailing static documents to each other, the more ineffective the information flow in the organization will get. In the end, there are countless versions of the same documents floating around and nobody has any idea about which of them is the latest one – if you manage to open them in the first place. The solution: create, update and share the documents directly on the web. Yes, it’s really that easy.
Additional urgent matters we should address:
- Transparency of the school activities for the surrounding society, publishing of student work
- Creating student assignments in a way that rules out the copy-and-paste approach
- Judging the reliability of (web) sources; the importance of using more than one source
- Sharing the use of digital technology and best practices among the teachers
- Defining digital literacy; definitely more than cranking up a computer!
- PLN (Personal Learning Network): our definition, build-up, use
- Students’ use of ICT as a learning tool
- Bullying takes place both in the physical and in the virtual world; different shapes and forms but the beast itself is the same. How do we tackle bullying as a whole?
- Combining our school platform and the collaborative, free online tools
Wrapping things up
Digital literacy is one of the key competencies in a modern society, as stated by the European Union and many other instances around the world. One of the best known writers and advocates for pedagocigal ICT use, Will Richardson, really nails it in a quick interview with Premiere Speakers Bureau. Watch it below – or follow this link!