During the past month, we have seen a common reality that has been transforming and challenging all sectors. In the Science Education Department at European Schoolnet, we have followed the situation closely as regards to STEM education, teachers and students. And as a team, we also faced many challenges with the current circumstances.
In fact, we were one of the first organisations to convert a face to face event to an online setting. At the end of February, when only part of Italy was confined, we decided to transform a three-day event in Brussels, which would have welcomed 40 participants from more than 15 countries to online meetings and workshops. We had 48 hours to do this, and while getting many encouraging words, also had to explain why we were being so “paranoid” to a few.
Our team has enough experience with technology, online tools for teaching, webinars and online communication so this was not necessarily strange waters for us, but we had never organised at such short notice a “lengthy” online event. Changing from face to face to online can present several challenges, such as keeping everyone engaged, having a feeling that you are talking alone, bad internet connection, learning how to make sure to have an ‘online signature’s list’, understanding and providing support to teachers facing all kinds of challenges all over Europe and so on.
I would not have been able to do it without the amazing colleagues I have in the Science Education Department. Each and every one of them, including three new colleagues that had only been with as less than two weeks when the whole adventure started, was amazing. They proactively took on tasks, helped each other, went and figured out different issues and not once did I see a smile falter. A very relevant successful aspect of this for me is having a great team. As a manager I work with colleagues with different skills and expertise, as well as personalities. When we understand our strengths, abilities, and weakness as well as those of colleagues, we can find ways of using them to our advantage and together we can make things even better.
On a personal level, I must admit I have been one of those that used to keep my camera off during online meetings, and I have completely changed my view on this. I now always turn on my camera. With my camera on, I know I help the speaker “feel the audience” better, support the dialogue and encourage other colleagues to participate more.
In addition to converting face to face event to online activities, for several projects, we have also had to transform, and help transform, competitions and learning scenarios into possible remote activities. We also learned that while the students might have to develop something at home, their parents can also engage and take part in some revolutionary, green, technical activities and learn something too… Finally, I have also seen teachers step up. They have quickly not only adapted their practices to the new settings but gone out of their ways to help others. And among all the sad news we get every day, I really want to see stories of success. Stories resulting from collaboration and support, especially (as we are in the Scientix blog after all) in terms of STEM education. With this entry, I hope to launch a series of stories of collaboration between teachers, between students, solidarity and the community feeling we already had in Scientix and that this crisis has brought forward even more.
Author: Agueda Gras-Velazquez, Science Programme Manager | Head of the Science Education Department
Picture Credit: CC-BY Scientix