The opening session of the EMINENT and eTwinning joint programme kicked off with a video message from the European Commissioner for Education, Culture and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou.
The Commissioner congratulated the eTwinning network for its impressive work saying “eTwinning has grown into one of the most successful actions of the Lifelong Learning Programme”. She particularly noted the success of the initiative was linked to the simplicity and lack of bureaucracy, for new projects and partnerships to be set up. The role of the national and central support services was underlined, and she thanked European Schoolnet saying it “has played a crucial role.” She underlined the importance of the initiative, and said it is expected to grow and evolve into an even bigger network in future. See the full video message below.
Giovanni Biondi, chair of European Schoolnet and representative of the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research was the second speaker, who focused on the huge changes that technology can bring to education.
“We are in the middle of a revolution in the educational environment,” he said.
“We created a network for schools, dedicated to in service training, material exchange and a community of practice around using technologies” continued Mr Biondi.
However he underlined that technology is a tool to facilitate school reform and changes in teaching and learning – rather than an end in itself.
Alin Adrian Nica, Chair of the EDUC Commission for Education, Youth, Culture and Research from the EU Committee of the Regions then took the floor. He commended the impressive results of the eTwinning initiative, which have been noted by the Committee. A study launched by the Committee indicated the fast growth of eTwinning initiatives taking place at regional level. In addition he underlined that education geared toward sustainable development and media literacy is crucial for the challenges of modern life – indeed, these themes are covered by many eTwinning projects. These kinds of projects really facilitate cooperation between European citizens. He closed his speech by quoting William Gibson, the novelist and internet imagineer, saying “the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed”.
Donatella Amatucci, from the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, Directorate General for International Affairs was the next speaker. She echoed the remarks of Mr. Biondi, underlining that the revolution in schools is not finished – it’s still in progress and has to continue. She mentioned that eTwinning and indeed European Schoolnet are laboratories where we can experiment with new approaches.
These types of experimental spaces are important to help foster new types of partnership between schools. Such governmental initiatives should always target teachers and above all pupils.
Alessandro Clavarino, Liguria Regional Councillor for Education and Training was pleased to be engaged in the event as the next plenary speaker.
“In Liguria we have around 100 research projects for ICT in education,” he said.
The idea of such projects – like eTwinning – is to facilitate sharing and multiplication of new methods in schools. He remarked that there is plenty of interest in schoools for such projects.
Stefania Fuscagni, President of INDIRE, the Italian agency responsible for teacher training then took the stage.
“INDIRE is thrilled to be at the centre of the network at national level and also engage with the European scale,” she said.
She said there has been a growth in support for school programs – and now we see they can grow and expand themselves. This has been the case of eTwinning projects, which grow on the basis of new tools and approaches such as social networks and collaborative project based learning. She remarked the need to better communicate this success to the wider public (i.e. mainstream media).
Marc Durando, Executive Director of European Schoolnet explained the logic of the whole event. He said this was an ambitious programme bringing together three key networks, eTwinning, European Schoolnet and the Italian Classe 2.0 initiative. The first day is a joint programme between eTwinning and European Schoolnet’s EMINENT event for policy makers. This year, special effort has been made to bring together regional policy makers to engage them in the initiative. The second day is a joint event between European Schoolnet and Classe 2.0.
Anne Looney, CEO of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in Ireland was the keynote speaker closing the session. Anne gave an engaging speech covering eTwinning, community building, teacher/learner roles, competence standards for teachers and more. Some of her key points:
- teacher community driving eTwinning is the key to it’s success
- teachers are the most sophisticated knowledge workers, linking young people and the community
- eTwinning gives teachers a chance to develop and grow, and set up projects in an easy way
- the role of students is crucial – and need for consultation with them is clear. Some countries such as Ireland are including students (even very young ones) to develop policy and educational reform.
- students always want more opportunities to connect with other students in partner countries
She closed her speech by posing some challenges to eTwinning: could the future involve students setting up ther own projects and then engage teachers, so they drive their own learning processes?
- Giovanni Biondi, Chair of European Schoolnet presentation (pdf)
- Marc Durando, Executive Director, European Schoolnet presentation (pdf)
- Alin Adrian Nica, Chair of the EDUC Commission for Education, Youth, Culture and Research, EU Committee of the Regions speech (pdf)
- Anne Looney, CEO National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) Ireland speech (pdf)