1 The Seventh Open Classroom Conference The european school 2.0 Incubating Creativity and the Capacity for Innovation: Open Content, Social Networking Tools and Creative Learning for All October 2009 Porto, Portugal
2 etwinning in Early Childhood Education: an effective form of technological and linguistic imprinting by Silvia Dell Acqua LLP Italian Agency It is not really Christmas, till when I do not put the wooden cat with the pink ribbon under the decked out tree: I made it when I was five at pre-primary school, and the positive learning experience I had, at that time, makes me affectionately bound to it. Early childhood education policy and care (ECEC) has experienced a surge of policy attention in EU and OECD countries over the past decade. Policy makers have recognised that equitable access to quality ECEC can strengthen the foundations of lifelong learning for all children and support the broad education and social needs of families. 1 Looking at history we can state that an understanding of the particular nature of childhood and the development of a desire to provide a relevant education has influenced our culture only slowly. It was Rousseau who played a crucial role in our cultural history: education began with the start of life, at birth 2. This is now a universally accepted truth. Hereafter with ECEC I will refer to all arrangements providing care and education for children under compulsory school age, regardless of settings, funding, opening hours or programme content. In order to develop further our knowledge in this learning domain, we need to strengthen what we know so far by sharing information of the range of approaches and experiences adopted by different countries, along with the successes and challenges encountered. It is widely recognised that crossnational information and analysis can contribute to the improvement of policy development. The case-study I am going to present goes into this direction. My proposal focuses on the experience carried out by Scuola dell Infanzia Gianni Rodari based in Noverasco di Opera (Milan): two teachers and 60 children are protagonists of the etwinning project Hablamos de literatura infantil en el blog (http://infantiltremanes.wordpress.com/) This European project is twofold: children and teachers, while getting familiar with technologies, experience a new way of learning (the first) and teaching (the second) a foreign language, building up a collaborative e-learning environment. Through images and literature, namely the comparison of Antoni Tàpies, a Spanish illustrator and an Italian one, Bruno Munari - using computers, webcams, video-conferencing and the blog (as a tool to share and document their activities) - Spanish and Italian children (4-5 years old), together with their teachers, parents, experience collaborative learning through the use of ICT, in a European dimension. Moreover, it is interesting to see how Italian children have interacted with their schoolmates from Primary school, who were their tutors in the lab. This project has opened up to a partnership with a Jordanian school for some months, under MedTwinning project. It is particularly relevant to focus on a case-study dealing with early childhood education collaborative learning, through ICT, for the following reason: history reveals that while traditional educational systems (colleges, university) have been contracted through the centuries with a topdown approach; primary education, and especially pre-primary one, are on the contrary, the result of a bottom-up approach. In fact, ECEC is more addressed to educational needs, it is generally shaped to give answers to concerns which arise from practice rather than on principles. In other words, by trying different strategies to cope with new challenges put by children and by society, new learning ways are explored: through the case-study presented will be alleged that
3 collaborative learning through ICT is one of the most interesting developments which European learning society has experienced so far. Through this etwinning experience, I will explore a meaningful example of collaborative learning during pre-primary age, which is recognised as an especially sensitive period in children s development. Research has proven that ECEC, if certain conditions are met, can be extremely effective. The most effective learning programmes for ECEC - this case-study represents a case in point of these - involve intensive early starting; child-focused centre-based education; focus on competences to develop, with a specific attention on digital ones 3 ; together with a strong parental involvement, parent education and measure of family support. 4 It is important, to recognise that different views of children and purpose of ECEC can enrich the cross-national research in this field: there are not wrong or right solutions, in fact: - the reasons for investing in ECEC policy and provision are embedded in cultural and social beliefs about young children, the role of family and government - in many countries, the ECEC is shifting from the private to the public domain, with much attention to complementary roles of families and ECEC institutions in young children s early development and leaning - many countries are seeking to balance views of childhood in the here and now with views of childhood as an investment with the future adult in mind These diverse views have important implications for the organisation of policy and provisions in different countries. Moreover, investing in ECEC has a twofold effect: a social and an economic one, in terms of return on investment. The economist and Nobel prize laureate Heckman (Heckman 2006) has argued that high quality early childhood education and care provides one of the few effective policy means of increasing social economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities and, therefore, for the society as a whole. ( ) High quality pre-primary education, if provided on large scale in a sufficient dose, fosters the emergence of school skills in the area of language, maths, since and ICT skills: the better equipped at start, the more effective education in school will be. Investment in high quality pre-primary education works as multiplier of collective investments in the school system. Provided there are three major models for early education provision: a child-focused one, the homebased care services, and parent/family focused support programmes, this paper will deal with the first one. The child-focused approach accounts for the vast majority of pre-primary education provision, it adopts a centre-based, professional delivery strategy. The study-case proposed is a concrete example of the child-focused approach, in which the original model has been expanded by incorporating strategies to work with parents, families and communities, in order to support and empower them, leading to a combination model, where collaborative learning and digital-linguistic competences play a major role. In Hablamos de literatura infantil en el blog parents (a group of them and a grand-father, too) play an active role: the evidence indicates that an early start, together with an intensive, multi-systemic, high quality approach that combines a child centred developmental pre-primary school with parent involvement. Parent education and family support is associated with a whole range of long term gains, both individual and societal (Yoshikawa, 1994). In this experience are summed up the six pedagogical principles 5 to which pedagogical scholars normally refer, when analysing ECEC: psycholinguistic issues; didactical concepts; methodological transformation - in particular collaborative learning implications -; pedagogical principles, political and economic motives and socio-cultural ones.
4 Namely, in the etwinning experience presented : - psychological issues: insight in language L1 through vicinity, and L2 through ICT (etwinning tools, language awareness and meta-linguistic one) - didactical concepts: use of authentic material - for foreign language learning both through books and through ICT -, task oriented learning, exploiting ICT. In early language learning the use of ICT supports learning, which affects learning speed and learning strategies. This assumption will be fully explored in the case-study. - methodological transformations: supra-national and national learning dynamics, through the use of ICT, embedded in day-to-day classroom management, maximise exposure to foreign language using web-tools and software, visual approach (for early language learning is paramount); repetitiveness (a child benefits most through frequent repetition of content matter). - Pedagogical principles: reflection and practice in other languages trough ICT, under collaborative means; high frequency exposure; take account of learner characteristics; assess individual progress and in the meantime team learning and interaction dynamics through collaborative learning and integrative work. - political and economic motives and socio-cultural ones: cater for intercultural, social, imaginative, affective and personal self/identity and the use of particular language activities, combined with ICT which suits early learning. This case-study demonstrated what is claimed by the research: ICT approaches, if suitably thought-through and implemented, can help younger learners in integrating their languages skills and in developing important strategies of monitoring. (Morris 2005). etwinning tools are means to build up collaborative learning dynamics in languages, within early childhood learning context. It will be showed that: when ICT of an appropriate sort is made available to help young learners to access, then a great range of input and interaction and feedback is made feasible. This latter conclusion might indicate a new pedagogical principle: namely that ICT (in etwinning) will lead to greater input, interaction and feedback. The proposed experience relies upon the EXE theory, according to which the most effective way to deliver a sound education (in different settings, from pre-school to adult education) is to focus on two dimensions: the degree on emotional well-being and the level of involvement. In the case-study will be explored how different children are doing in a collaborative ICT setting: firstly we have to explore the degree in which children feel at ease, act spontaneously, show vitality and self-confidence. Hablamos de literatura infantil en el blog will show that once the need for tenderness and affection, safety and clarity and for social recognition are satisfied, emotional wellbeing is satisfied. The second criterion which will be explored involvement is linked to developmental process and urges the adult to set up a challenging environment favouring concentrated and motivated activities, among which collaborative learning ones stand out. In the case-study it will be showed that the crucial point in ECEC is the exploratory drive. In other words the need to get a better grip on reality, the intrinsic interest in how things and people are (even far away from the place where we live), the urge to experience and figure out. ICT and language learning (L2) in etwinning partnership within a pre-primary school context bring the observer to this conclusion: involvement in a collaborative learning context means that there is intense mental activity, that a child is functioning at the very limits of his/her capabilities, with an energy flow that comes from intrinsic sources.
5 This experience is particularly interesting because, due to these special ingredients - ICT use + language learning + early childhood context - one couldn t think of any condition more favourable to real development. If we want to have evidence of deep level learning, we cannot do without involvement. In this way we can make learning environments and school settings more effective and strong enough to meet the challenge of education: the development of (future) adults who are selfconfident and mentally healthy, curious and exploratory, expressive and communicative, imaginative and creative, full of initiatives, well-organised individually and in collaborative contexts, with developed intuitions about the social and physical world and with a feeling of belonging and connectedness - with or without ICT use - to the whole society. 6 Enthusiastic responses of children, when teaching efforts are successful, are very empowering and give the teachers deep satisfaction both at the professional and the personal level. To sum up: this case study stems from this assumption: adopting a child-centred developmental approach to promote children s self-regulation skills, providing a pedagogically safe and stable environment to promote secure social relationships and social competences, and combining this approach with authentic activities that guide children in exploring two important cultural domains of digital competences (ICT) and foreign languages ones, will serve the goal of equipping children with XXI century key competences, useful in the long term. In fact, the rapidly growing demand for highly skilled workers has led to a global competition for talent. While basic competencies are important for the absorption of new technologies, high-level skills are critical for the creation of new knowledge, technologies and innovation. For countries near to the technological frontier, this implies that the share of highly educated workers in the labour force is an important determinant of economic growth and social development. Starting collaborative e-learning from early childhood represents, indeed, a great advantage. Notes 1. Network on Early Childhood Education and Care ; Directorate fir Education; OECD (15/03/08) 2. We are born with awareness and from our birth we are affected in many ways by the things around pg. 38 education starts at birth pg. 68 Emile (Paris, Garnier Flammarion, 1966) 3. Recommendation of the European Parliament and Council on key competences for lifelong learning (18/12/06) 4. Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe: Tackling Social and Cultural Inequalities ; Eurydice (01/09) 5. The main pedagogical principles underlying the teaching of languages to very young learners, European Commission (10/06) 6. Network on Early Childhood Education and Care ; Directorate for Education, OECD (21-23/11/07) etwinning references: - European website: - Italian one: - Hablamos de literatura infantil en el blog :
6 ICT in the classroom: changing and opening the learning space. Guillermo Bautista (Open University of Catalonia - Universitat Oberta de Catalunya - UOC) Adriana Ornellas (Open University of Catalonia - Universitat Oberta de Catalunya - UOC) Introduction. The educational possibilities of ICT are endless. The question are how can we take advantage of them and what are the reasons for using them. This paper shows some findings and proposals from a research project carried out in aobut the participation of teachers in three telematic projects where kinder, primary and secondary schools were involved in. These findings are contrasted with theoretical ideas about the educational co-responsibility and educational integrated work (Subirats, Albaigés, 2006). Moreover, these ideas are illustrated with several experiences of educational projects with ICT in Spanish schools. Co-responsibility and integration of social agents in education. The role of ICT. The experiences and processes that encourage the growth of networks of citizen interaction are very important for the social cohesion and to the development of any community. Social capital is a set of connections among entities, persons and groups from a given territory that generates relations of reciprocity, trust and collective engagement in significant public issues for a specific community. Given that, education must be understood as one of those public issues and not only as a simple knowledge transmission process (Subirats, Alsinet, Riba and Ribera, 2003). Educational practice is located between several social forces, such as: parents, adults, teachers, media, government, religious and financial institutions, etc. It could be an opportunity oa a handicap. Thus, education requires the involvement and collaboration of different social agents. The social agents do not always have the same influence in education and are not always rulet by the same ethical principles. This can be a source of tensions and problems. In addition, we should take into account the spaces where influenced social agents takes place, for example: school, home, street, entertainment, jobs, etc.., (Delval, 2002). This is why it is necessary an institution that makes coherent and integrated the educational of individuals. That is the main duty of school and the reason why we should provide the best conditions possible for its accomplishment. Our research shows that it would be possible to implement this idea by means of developing educational projects from schools, from a conception similar o what Subirats et al's study (2003,
7 p. 147) calls integrated educational experiences. These experiences are defined by these authors as: "Community-based educational interventions in which different actors in the school environment (educational authorities for personal services, local authorities, parents, businessmen, merchants, neighborhood associations, civic organizations and associations, police, judiciary, etc.. ) jointly with the school involved in identifying and solving problems in education is partly responsible. Classroom enrichment and opening through ICT The technologies in the classroom can enrich mainly the learning opportunities and learning space. In our case study has analyzed three projects telematics. In this analysis we have observed that under an educational model which satisfies certain pedagogical principles, ICT allows the extension of the classroom ecology and development of educational co-responsibility processes. ICT enables improved efficiency in the development of these projects, along with many more possibilities for involvement and interaction of different actors in the specific tasks developed by the students. For example, in the projects observed in the teachers network called Lacenet (www.lacenet.org) studied in our research we can see how the projects allow families to observer the activities that children and also participate in some with them from home. Other projects include the participation of people outside the school, such as professionals from different sectors, other schools, neighbours, etc.. For Subirats and Albaigés (2006), this integrated work between different socio-educational, besides presenting a clear training objectives and the natural development at different levels of curriculum, which must be based on some basic principles presented below. Also, we show some examples of activities that include the telematic projects that use ICT in which can be observed these principles: Co-responsibility and mutual commitment: education is conceived as a collective matter which needed that the different social actors work together. From our point of view, this implies moving from a model of one fragmented responsibility and social synergy, which are built spaces of shared responsibility. EXAMPLE: In the telematic project Salix and the senses (http://www.lacenet.org/sentits/) the teachers work with the children the human senses in early childhood education. in this project, the pupils work telematically asking an expert in every sense that are collaborating with the project: a musician takes part for the ear, a cook for taste, and so on.
8 Participation and constructionism: The participation of all actors is needed in the integrated educational work to reach consensus decisions that are not vested in a single social agent. The permanently integrated work should be characterized by the collective. EXAMPLE: The network Lacenet (www.lacenet.org) is an association of teachers who voluntarily designing and delivering telematics projects to all schools that wish to participate. Their collective work has generated a professional and social network that typically communicates using the possibilities of the Internet. Plurality and comprehensiveness: Integrated work should be able to articulate the differences, without eliminating them, and without enhancing existing classical segmentation in education. It should seek the common ground and shared perspectives. EXAMPLE: The Espurna project proposes activities to do in the classroom face to face or online. This project is designed to be used in classrooms priority in educational services (open classrooms, classrooms, reception, etc.). However, the project has virtual spaces and activities that can be developed by any teacher and therefore it could interact students of any type (immigrant students, students with learning disabilities, students with behaviour problems, etc). ICT makes possible this interaction. Cooperation and interdependence: The different educational agents from dynamic and interaction spaces, undertake joint actions to achieve common goals and solve problems which are understood like shared. This implies interdependence among participants in learning activities. EXAMPLE: There are several telematics projects that promote cooperation and interdependence among participants. An example might be the "Tale traveller, which consists in creating a story collaboratively among schools (http://interconte.wik.is/). Communication for the joint creation of the story is done with telematic tools, such as a Google Docs (shared document), a Wiki, etc. Proactive and projection: Job sharing requires leadership in the development of projects. The freedom of social agents to make actions is a important issue to success of the education. Their work wouldn t be as a result of external impositions. Integrated work should be perceived by them like constructive and positive process. EXAMPLE: The people involved in educational telematic projects are outside school and usually do so altruistic. The proposals of project activities are highly motivating for them. Perceive that their participation is important. ICT help these people in contact with students, often geographically remote. The project Bitantart
9 (http://www.iearn.cat/moodle/) allows the students working on aspects of natural science during the project and remote contact with a scientific base in Antarctica. Proximity, rationality and transparency: The objectives of the integrated work should relate to everyday experience and the interests of agents involved. For this reason, joint action must be based on reality and the context in which educational intervention is made. Often, the integrated work is affected by perceptions of usefulness. In turn, it must be accompanied by information necessary to participate actively in discussions and decision making. EXAMPLE: In addition to knowledge of technological geo-positioning tools, in the project Publicart (http://www.iearn.cat/publicart/) is possible to work some aspects of local knowledge and public artworks, as well as respect for public spaces. By means of this collaborative project among schools teachers can work countless aspects of the curriculum in different areas of knowledge. There are many strategies and processes that may arise from school for the development of educational proposals that promote educational co-responsibility and work integrated of different agents in the life of the classroom will be a reality. While a important number of these strategies and processes can be implemented without the use of technology, the power of ICT in such a context is identified with the possible increase in the frequency and ease with which these interactions could give by means of technology it is possible to establish a learning stage in which these interactions with the local and global environment are gradually becoming more common to everyday life. The analysis of the ecology of the classroom and the arrangement of the elements that constitute it and participate in the teaching-learning process would not be only in a physical environment but also should be considered the telematic means. The possibilities for interaction and communication allow making a interactions network of varying intensity among, for example, social agents, sub-community systems or people, more or less directly related to the life of the classroom. Undoubtedly it increases or changes the size and extent of the classr ecology of the classroom. The community understood as a conglomerate of individuals and groups interact (Subirats et al., 2003), can now be linked to classroom activity not only from local context, but also considering the global context which is also connected by means of the ICT use. Teachers must now consider a range of information sources and resources, learning activities are not limited to the 4 walls of the classroom. The involvement of external resources and people becomes a natural aspect in the learning process, and so on. Undoubtedly, the learning process goes from being defined to be much more rich and complex for those involved, while it may be too much more stimulating for them. The interaction between the classroom and the social system, as well as among all subsystems
10 and elements included in them, they could be produced in a multidirectional network. Our point of view, the school and teachers should become the main node of this network. They would be a node with professional authority and generating synergies from the school and specifically from the didactic activity in the classroom, pointing directly to the social environment. This allows the configuration of a classroom group connect and open to the local and the global environment, because the subsystems or elements external to the classroom that can be opened at different geographic distances and / or belong to different socio-cultural realities. The possibility of opening classrooms by means of ICT has few limitations in this regard. The language, which for example could be one of them, could be exploited as an opportunity for learning other languages. Under this approach, the organization of school time and space, which are part of the ecology of the classroom, undoubtedly change as well. Bibliography. - Del VAL, J. (2002): La escuela posible. Cómo hacer una reforma de la educación. Barcelona: Ariel. - COLEMAN, J. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital, en American Journal of Sociology, n. 94, págs FIELD, J. (2003). Social capital (key ideas). London: Routledge. - JACKSON, PH. W., (1990): Life in classrooms. New York, Teachers College, Columbia University. - PUTNAM, R. D. (2002). Democracies in flux: the evolution of social capital in sontemporary society. New york: Oxford University Press - SUBIRATS, J. (Coord.); ALSINET, J.; RIBA, C.; RIBERA, M. (2003) : Més enllà de l escola. Transformacions socials i noves dinàmiques educatives i professionals. Barcelona: Mediterrania, Editions. - SUBIRATS, J. y ALBAIGÉS, B. (Coord.) (2006): Educació i Comunitat. Reflexions a l entorn del treball integrat dels agents educatius. Finestra Oberta Collection, n. 48. Barcelona: Fundació Jaume Bofia Editions.
11 Creation experiences of Virtual School Communities incorporating web 2.0 Juan José Gaitán General Manager e-ducativa Spain The use of ICTs in classrooms is usually one of the most chaotic and problematic tasks, it is many times based on the teachers personal experiences and on their own initiatives, they incorporate various types of tools in their teaching activities such as blogs, websites, open source LMS, Web 2.0, WebQuest, and a wide range of options, depending on what each educator does or uses frequently as a tool. This scenario takes place in every and each classroom in which the educator has enough IT knowledge and self-confidence and feels capable to organize a teaching experience incorporating ICTs having different experiences among the several groups of students. There are some exceptions, in which the activities are institutionally organized in the Principal s office. In general, technological islands are observed, generating confusion due to a lack of homogeneity. Widening our vision at the Educational System level, extending the limits on a regional scale, we can state that we could find differences among the realities of different schools, this makes a lot more difficult to find common aspects. Sometimes, coincidences can be detected in the use of some tools (for example LMS), but in any case these are always isolated and independent experiences. How can a Virtual Educational Community be created? The possibility of creating a Virtual Educational Community is not only limited to the integration of all the schools or teacher centers in a city, county, region or country, but also to the extension to private and religious organizations, so as to any institution that is interested in counting on a virtual space in their educational centers to share information, resources and educative experiences. One of the main factors that has allowed us to implement several projects of Virtual Educational Communities has been the official decision of Educational Authorities to offer schools a totally integrated system, so that all the tools work and are administer to an equal degree. A new system was developed then, one consisting of various modules with different functions in an integrated administrative environment in which the system administrator wouldn t find any difficulties to handle the different applications. The system developed includes initially three functional units: a website manager, a Blog manager and a Virtual classroom manager (LMS), all three available at every school. Furthermore, there are two very important tools: a repository of educational resources, and an interactive map of schools. (fig 1) The flexibility of the system and its ease of use, enables to include web 2.0 elements of different types, such as YouTube or Yahoo videos, maps, photo Carrousel, dynamic and spoken avatars, which become imbued with the different web pages that make up the application. Therefore, with a simple browser, any computer with internet access, no matter what its capacity is, can be used to navigate the different sections from the very school or from the students or teachers homes.