Learning from experience: How and where to start again after the lockdown

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Woman participating in an online meeting

Going back to school after several months of lockdown highlighted the need for us teachers to reflect on the ways we teach and interact with our students. For this reason, a team of Italian Scientix Ambassadors organized an online event to exchange ideas and discuss with experts. During the meeting, we reflected on how distance learning changed the ways of assessment, and how teachers can support their students in growing culturally and professionally.

The new situation has marked a significant change for many teachers who were not familiar with the use of technologies and had to adapt quickly to learn the basics. In the past they often did not feel the need for professional updating in this field but, amid the emergency, the Ministry of Education intervened, and various Scientix Ambassadors joined the request of the Scientix National Contact Points (NCPs) to share best practices and relevant teaching resources on STEM.

You can listen to the recording of the webinar, moderated by Scientix Ambassador Enrica Maragliano, here (in Italian) and find a summary of the interventions made below.

Screenshot from the Webinar.
Screenshots from the webinar and its speakers. Source: Authors’ own creation – Attribution CC-BY

Scientix and the school: synergies and potential for effective teaching

Maria Guida, INDIRE Researcher – Scientix National Contact Point Coordinator for Italy

Scientix supports an enthusiastic community of teachers collaborating with the Scientix National Contact Points, which, during the lockdown, organized initiatives to support these teachers in organizing online classes. Several Scientix Ambassadors and teachers shared their experience by offering nationwide webinars for their colleagues. This way, they helped their peers manage the feeling of uncertainty linked with having to face a new way of teaching and to the fear of the spread of the virus.

This uncertainty is typical of the world we live in, which is changing at a dizzying speed. Big transformative forces are working simultaneously, and many are wondering what they should teach their students today so that they will benefit from in the future. The Covid-19 emergency urged us to focus on these issues, highlighting the need to learn how to design flexible and student-centered training courses, aiming to foster conscious and non-transmissive learning. In their webinars, the Ambassadors demonstrated that active STEM teaching is also possible remotely, thanks to smartphone apps, the internet, remote laboratories, and… imagination!

An city dedicated to education: school and its territory

Alfonso D’Ambrosio, Former Scientix Ambassador, Trainer, Headmaster of IC Lozzo Atestino – Vo’ Euganeo

Alfonso emphasized on the importance of providing students with tools that will help them learn consciously how to argue, regardless of their age. He highlighted that the current national legislation is mapping all possible solutions to further avoid health emergencies due to the limitation of laboratory activities.
To overcome this and to achieve the typical objectives of STEM education, he proposed some solutions. For instance, the use of devices to observe laboratory practices with video streaming, the organization of Game-Based Learning activities and their implementation at distance through online training environments, and the integration of tools for collaboration and sharing.

Slow-motion and time-lapse at school and the laboratory

Marco Nicolini, Scientix and Science on Stage Ambassador – LSS A. Tassoni (Modena)

Marco tackled the problem of laboratories and the challenge for learners to design and work in a groups while using everyday tools remotely. Nevertheless, there is the opportunity for many activities to be carried out remotely with the support of digital applications. He outlined some best practices and resources that, if saved on a database, could be useful for everyone. For instance, by using time-lapse and slow-motion effects, one could reproduce real movements at different speeds: these strategies could engage students in Statistics, Physics, Biology or Physical Education to carry out statistical studies, deducting rules and/or analyzing phenomena.

BLOOM Bioeconomy: The School Box for an eco-sustainable future

Costantina Cossu, Former Scientix Ambassador, Trainer EFT – Sardinia Territorial Training Team

Costantina presented BLOOM, a project funded by the European Commission, which aims at spreading the concepts and practices of bioeconomy, circularity and environmental protection. Inside the project, the BLOOM School Box serves as a repository of bioeconomy-related teaching resources. Teachers can use these materials to sensitize students on crucial societal challenges and raise their interest in STEM subjects. Five innovative learning scenarios lie at the core of the BLOOM School Box: these were created and tested by 20 selected European BLOOM teachers from Europe. Moreover, the repository gives access to additional learning scenarios on bioeconomy, the fruit of the teachers’ competitions “Teach Bioeconomy!” and “BLOOM Stories of Implementation” proposed by the project. 

To access Costantina’s presentation click here.

Assessing skills: between complexity and uncertainty

Enzo Zecchi, Creator of the Lepida Scuola Method – Scientific Consultant USR Emilia Romagna

As an eclectic physicist interested in pedagogy, Enzo thinks that smart design can motivate students by making them work autonomously while effectively monitoring the process. He gave an overview of how to assess competencies, starting from life skills, using the European framework of key competencies for permanent learning. Following, he offered a synthesis of main learning approach, with particular reference to Project-Based Learning (PBL). Teachers must learn new methodologies and establish new routines to become familiar with this pedagogical approach. He focused on strategies and rubrics used for assessment, acknowledging it is not easy to find suitable parameters to characterize creativity, “learning to learn” or entrepreneurship.

According to Enzo, assessment cannot be objective (he mentioned one should be content when being “scarcely subjective”). Expert teachers, however, can create rubrics, which are then validated, contextualized, adapted and finally used by other teachers. He described how to assess digital skills with guidelines produced at European level and widely used during the lockdown period. He finished by briefly explaining the European Union Council recommendations on digital skills that were firstly outlined in May 2018.

STEAM paths (virtual or real) with Europeana

Teresita Gravina, Scientix and Europeana Ambassador – IC De Amicis-Da Vinci (Caserta)

Teresita presented Europeana, a project funded by the European Commission, aimed at enhancing the European cultural heritage, promoting active and conscious citizenship. Access, visibility and use of resources available to anyone involved with cultural heritage allow for reaching Europeana’s goals. For instance, visitors can virtually enter a real museum. The resources of the project are relevant to every school, each subject, and students can independently and safely explore the Europeana website. From there, teachers as well can retrieve many ideas for their lessons and follow training courses (webinars, MOOCs and tutorials made by teachers who interact in the community). All teaching materials explain the activities carried out step by step. 

To access Teresita’s presentation clear here.

There are different ways of creating and being part of a network

Roberto Maragliano, Former lecturer in Education and Learning Technologies – Roma Tre University

Roberto began by explaining similarities and differences between distance learning and digital teaching, quoting Bruno De Finetti, a mathematician who in the 1930s reflected on the fact that knowledge changes perpetually. In the post-war period, Italian culture showed a critical attitude towards change and the possibility of thinking differently. These limits became evident during the period of distance learning induced by the recent pandemic. In the first phase, teachers used digital tools to interact with students, and schools proved they could overcome emergency closure by fully responding to their social functions. Hence, people stopped claiming that digital is the realm of the virtual.

The second phase, instead, pushed for a return to face-to-face teaching, trying to maintain an old idea of ​​schools that might no longer belong to this reality. Documents of these issues (see, for example, Scaffale Maragliano) highlight the dystonia of schools. When these institutions were born, poor people had to learn how to read and write, while the elite being the ruling class, had to be educated. Over the years, these two functions got entangled, and today schools do not respond to either of them. Consequently, by looking at the past, they cannot adapt to a changing world as they lack a critical attitude necessary to have if we want to build the future. Knowledge is generally expressed in written language and on textual logic. However, with the use of digital tools, it is now possible to overcome the limits of knowledge acquired through texts.

During the last century, people started to express themselves using media that are part of our cultural background and that formal education cannot ignore. Indeed, practices of simulation, interaction, sharing and construction, invite us to change our behaviours in relations to knowledge. In the end, Roberto claimed that, after this lockdown, we must recognize that the digital dimension permeates our lives and that humanities and STEM cannot remain separated.

Earth Learning Idea: workshops and innovative ideas to teach Earth Sciences

Giulia Realdon, Scientix Ambassador, EGU-European Geosciences Union Education Field Officer

Giulia presented Earth Learning Idea, an open-access repository of teaching resources for a hands-on approach to Earth sciences. The website contains lab protocols, pedagogical guidelines, video-labs, and a blog. EGU funds the offer of teachers’ workshops based on Earth Learning Idea materials in Italy and other countries. In addition, every year EGU organizes and funds Geosciences Information workshops for teachers in conjunction with the EGU General Assembly in Vienna (Austria). 

To access Giulia’s presentation click here.

Word-cloud with the results from the "What are you bringing home from this webinar?"
Word-cloud “What are you bringing home from this webinar?”. Source: Authors’ own creation – Attribution CC-BY

About the authors

Costantina Cossu is a Scientix Ambassador. She has worked for years in science-oriented high school, teaching science and chemistry. She is interested in real and virtual laboratories, robots, AR and VR. At the moment, she is part of the Italian EFT (Territorial Training Team) group, which has the function of training and supporting schools belonging to the National Plan of digital schools.

Enrica Maragliano teaches Maths and Physics, and she is a passionate Scientix and eTwinning Ambassador. She likes to learn new teaching approaches to present them to her students. This way, they are more motivated and engage with their learning paths while learning many soft skills relevant both to her subjects and to cross-curricular topics.

Lidia Nazzaro is a primary school teacher and takes care of internships for future teachers. With curiosity and interest, she chose to become a Scientix Ambassador because in Scientix she found a community of highly trained and motivated people. Moreover, thanks to the continuous collaboration and work of the coordinators, she learns contents to improve herself and her teaching. 

Giulia Realdon is a retired natural sciences teacher, working in education research, teacher training and non-formal education. She is Scientix Ambassador, EGU (European Geoscience Union) Education Field Officer for Italy and member of the Italian National Steering Committee of Science on Stage Europe.

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