Spaces, technology and teaching: what improvements do you need in school?
This paper describes an Erasmus+ mobility project (Digital in EU) designed for ICT coordinators (Animatori digitali) of 34 schools in Calabria. Teachers, divided into 4 groups, during the month of November were received for a week at the Orestad gymnasium in Copenhagen. During this time the Calabrian, teachers from different points of view have had the opportunity to observe and participate in the educational practices that have made this high school famous worldwide.
This job shadowing experience in Denmark, promoted by the Calabrian regional school authority within the framework of Erasmus+ mobility programmes, allowed us to reflect on how to interpret our own role as teacher working within a professional learning community and how this latter can influence the form of public management. It is well known that the quality of the teacher is no longer sufficient to guarantee the success of the student, it is important that teachers interact, developing forms of collaboration as social laboratories within schools to achieve the goals of any pedagogical practice.
Performing the activities included in the mobility program we were able to observe and analyse new teaching standards established by the Danish government, which develop new ideas on learning objectives, teacher cooperation and skills development.
The role of spaces
The space is aimed at the organization, in order to allow the student to create the premises of their own work and transform knowledge into competence. Behind the organization of space, there is the goal of developing skills, offering students to relate, to share strategies to make the right choices. The diversity of the spaces creates new conditions for teaching both on the methodological and on the planning side. It essentially changes the traditional way of conceiving teaching to become flexible, interactive and collaborative. Organization and distribution of space inside the building great open-space let everyone take part in both teaching and learning processes. Classrooms glass walls and open school rooms without isolation frames contribute in socializing each aspect of school activities. Teachers are forced to find or even “invent” approaches and strategies suitable to make knowledge and competences acquiring processes happen without interfering or “disturb” colleagues or students working nearby. This results in a considerable broadening of everyone’s self-confidence and creates an open-minded and friendly atmosphere. It is really rare to meet somebody at Orestad Gymnasium who lowers his or her eyes in front of you.
The role of ICT
During the stay many teachers have been discussing the question whether many of Orestad Gymnasium positive features could be achieved without the contribution of ICT. After all to build up a school the essential elements have always been teachers and pupils. It used to be this way in ancient Greece, it was this way in the first parish schools, it keeps on going this way in every third world school. In western countries, during the last two decades, the development of digital tools has spread also in education and we are still trying to truly understand how the process could be useful and effective to foster the teaching and learning process. At Orestad and Borupgaard Gymnasiums digital tools are perfectly embedded in the process, their contribution is given for granted, they are the simplest way to speed up individual and group work, to support efficacy and efficiency and build up in learners abilities and competences suitable to transform them in “change maker” for our global world increasingly working in digital. The challenge here is not just acquiring knowledge but also producing it. Technology, then, at Orestad Gymnasium is a pre-condition for implementing didactics. With the full support of technology, students learn by doing while investigating, analysing, sharing, producing and communicating. To say it in rektor Allan Kiaer Andersen’s words: “School develops into a knowledge producing and communicating organisation with a complete new relationship between teachers and students”.
School social role
At Orestad Gymnasium it is said that the only one to have an office is the person who repairs bicycles. The school owns a high number of cycles to go round outside the school. It is scheduled in the school activity that some classes have to be held “outside” the school environment. Teachers and students carry out social projects by actually dealing with social issues, interviewing people, surveying, collecting data useful to find out a possible solution to chosen subjects. OE works with real life challenges and problems networking with other schools, local companies, institutions and organizations. This highly important social role is enhances also by innovation in didactics based on a scaffolded method called “the Compass”, an Index Design to improve Life Education and guide students through the process of innovation in order to make them become global participants in the society; change makers able to create value for other people since creativity and innovation are essential abilities for the future.
The organization of didactics – A new school for a new learning system
The organizational model is mainly based on three shared practices: responsibility, flexibility and collaboration “anything, anytime, anywhere”. Teachers are always committed to working together in groups to identify new skills to teach and to create alternative spaces where the students can practice new activities. In the case of the Orestad Gymnasium, its architectural structure seems to have been conceived to teach key competencies for lifelong learning (European skills). Teachers are aware that this type of teaching sacrifices a thorough learning, but the didactic organization, adapted to the achievement of linguistic, digital, scientific, social, civic and business proficiencies, allows them to reach previously set goals in an easy and precise way.
Speaking about language skills in the mother tongue, the key objective of the educational system is to preserve the Danish language from the English language, widely spoken among the population. We shared this aim during the conference from Copenhagen, organized by the school network DiCultHer: “La via digitale. Comunicare il patrimonio”. The richness, the strength and the identity of a population can also be found in the preservation of linguistic diversities: Danish like “Grecanico” and “Arbereshe” are languages that must be protected to keep alive in our memories costumes and traditions that helped in the building of what we all know today as the European Union.
Thanks to the experience in Copenhagen at the Orestad and the Borupgaard Gymnasium, our working group had the opportunity to observe and experiment the creation of flexible spaces and areas “without walls” where cross-curricular practices of cooperative learning can be carried out to seek and find innovative solutions for the enhancement and preservation of the artistic, linguistic and cultural heritage, identified a few years ago as the crucial sector for the development of the entire country.
The specific kind of activity needed for this mobility project, the job shadowing required a strong effort from the point of view of planning and arrangements, especially regarding the working plan and the contacts with the host institution.
Despite these difficulties, the experience was professionally very gratifying, with a meaningful impact regarding in particular the high quality of the educational model and the acquisition of competences through the observation of successful practices.
The level of satisfaction and appreciation of the experience was extremely high.
Among the most significant elements, it is important to remember:
- the use of CLIL methodology, “laboratorial” didactics and technology in classroom ;
- a shared planning and designing of activities so that the community of teachers can be defined a professional learning community ;
- school management through the involvement of a intermediate management;
- the possibility of reproducing in one’s own working context the competences acquired through the exploitation of new practices and didactic methods;
- dissemination and training activities for other staff members of one’s own school.
Autori: Checchetti Andrea (scientix ambassador), Abiuso Lucia, Romeo Vincenzo, Pristerà Pasquale.
Tags: Classroom, didactic, digital, exchange, ICT, italy, mobility project, skills, space, teacher