Anne Gilleran, Senior Pedagogical Adviser at eTwinning’s Central Support Service, served as moderator for the panel. She gave a lively introductory presentation Illustrated by reportages and interviews that followed the development of eTwinning from its inception until today. “eTwinning is a successful endeavour and it’s growing every day!”
She highlighted the many different opportunities that eTwinning offers, such as tools for communicating, sharing, learning, and teachers’ professional development aids such as learning events and pedagogical workshops. “ eTwinning arrives just at the right time, when teachers have a need.”
Then she gave the floor to the panel:
• Carlos Medina, Spanish Ministry of Education: “there is no bureaucracy; eTwinning offers reliable support.”
• Luca Volonté, Lombardia Regional School Office Representative: “this is a new approach, eTwinning represents a total engagement. Pupils have an active role. Teachers are taken out from their routine. “
• Eugenio Rivière, DG Education and Culture, European Commission: it was indeed a great idea to provide a tool such as eTwinning instead of simply funding a new project. eTwinners feel the complete ownership of the project.
• Tomacz Szymczak, Fundacja Rozwoju Systemu Edukacji: the success of eTwinning comes also from the fact that it has been fully designed from the bottom up.
Anne Looney structured her workshop around 3 main issues:
1. Where policies happen
2. Identify burning platforms
3. How eTwinning can respond to these burning platforms
1. Where policies happen
2. Identifying burning platforms to be tackled in the coming months/years
- Drop out rates
- Performance gap (class, gender, race)
- Initial teacher training
- Out of date textbooks/ quality of teaching material
- Transition between school / work / university
- Special needs in mainstream education
- Teacher appraisal
- Unrealistic demands
3. How can eTwinning address these burning issues?
The last question generated a debate between policy makers and educational practitioners attending the workshop.
Notably, from a teacher’s point of view, eTwinning has remotivated her: “eTwinning is an amazing channel to make new friends across Europe, which enables eTwinners to share best practices.”
Policy makers are not that interested in the development of friendships among teachers; they prefer to observe an impact on pupils.
Thus the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency representative mentioned the ongoing impact survey, which will be available mid 2012. It should provide evidence that eTwinning increases pupils’ motivation and autonomy.
The workshop continued the through the 2nd day of the conference.
By the end of the session a common agreement had been reached: eTwinning should stay flexible and free and shouldn’t be overly controlled, as it is a safe environment. The general feeling was, “Do we really need to embed eTwinning in education policies? Don’t we risk diluting the essence of eTwinning?” It was further agreed that the space for pupils should be fostered, as they are at the heart of education policies and they themselves can bring innovation into the mix.