From our perspective at the eTwinning UK National Support Service, the annual European eTwinning Conference is a massive highlight of our year. It gives us a chance to be part of celebrating the success of eTwinning and an opportunity to contribute to the moulding of its future. This year we were able to take 24 UK teachers and ambassadors as well as 6 NSS staff and a colleague from the Department for Education to Berlin for the conference.
Day 1 - Speeches and Awards
After being welcomed to the conference by local German school children in over 30 languages we listened to speeches from Minister Dr. Bernd Althusmann, Deputy President of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany and Xavier Prats Monné, Deputy Director General for Education and Culture, European Commission showing the support for eTwinning at policy making level across Europe.
Anne Looney CEO of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in Ireland then gave a key note address Convictions and connections; how teachers networks are changing how we change about the power of networks, eTwinning being a fantastic examples of this. She posed the question 'I teach because...' to the audience who replied in huge number via Twitter.
The day was capped by the 2012 eTwinning European Prizes awards ceremony where prizes were awarded to the best projects in 3 age group categories as well as in 3 special categories.
And the winners were...
4-11 Years Category - "The new adventures of the Twinnies around the world"
12-15 Years Category - "A Taste of Maths (ATOM)"
16-19 Years Category - “Reporting without borders”
French Language Special Category - "Journalistes en herbe"
Spanish Language Special Category - "Carpe Nuntium: voilà nuestra “FrItalianza"
The Marie-Skłodowska-Curie-Prize - "SOHO: Sunspots Online – Helios Observatory"
Day 2 - Workshops
On our second day in Berlin was all about workshops. A huge array were on offer, most being led by eTwinning teachers and ambassadors sharing their expertise and experience of being involved in eTwinning, with other experts contributing too. It would be impossible to review and sum up each workshop as there were just too many but you can get a flavour of their content and outcomes on the conference website.
Our team attended a number of excellent workshops on a really diverse range of subjects 'Learning with your Granny', mobile technology in the hands of pupils, building successful teams of eTwinners in school, Web 2.0 tools, eTwinning and your professional development and teachers talking to other teachers about their experiences of eTwinning all of which showed why eTwinning is so powerful - the community is driven by passionate people and fuelled by professional exellence.
Day 3 - Panel discussions and the future
On our final morning in Berlin we looked to the future. The future of eTwinning but also the future of teaching and learning. Marc Durando Executive Director of European Schoolnet spoke to us about whether schools were keeping up with their students in terms of harnessing technology, particularly mobile technology that has become extensions of ourselves, for the purpose of learning within the classroom. eTwinning has shown that it can and is being done, but we know that eTwinning, like the use of appropriate technology in the classroom has a long way to go until it is the norm across Europe so there is a great distance still to go.
We then moved on to a really interesting panel discussion with interactive audience voting chaired by Riina Vuorikari. The panel was made up of two eTwinning Ambassadors Tatjana Gulic from Slovenia and Steffen Toppler from Germany, Donatella Nucci from the Italian NSS, Adam Porkorny from the European Commission and Dorothy Cassells from European Schoolnet. The questions posed and answered touch on the here and now of eTwinning, how the development of technology is transforming the way pupils can and want to learn and the future classroom. The panel discussed at length their reaction to questions on: obstacles that exist within schools that stop teachers working together on eTwinning projects; the benefits of eTwinning School Teams, the role of social networking in school, the relationship between technology and teachers and the future.
It was an interesting and interactive conclusion to three interesting and interactive days where over 600 eTwinners from 32 countries came together, celebrated their achievements, shared experiences and explored ways in they could help share the benefits of eTwinning to students in their schools, their countries and across Europe. We can't wait for the future to arrive, the future is now.
Thanks to our wonderfully talented eTwinning colleague in Belgium Cecile Gouzee for the images.