eTwinning Ambassador Susie Arnott attended the Future Classroom Lab in Brussels this month about eTwinning in the future classroom.
"I got lucky this month….I attended an eTwinning workshop set in an innovative space, led by an inspiring eTwinner and teacher, and joined by colleagues from across Europe. As ever, eTwinning proved itself to be a powerful force for developing the use of ICT in the classroom, for teachers and students collaborating and for challenging teachers to explore and understand their pedagogy.
We know what eTwinning is..so what about the Future Classroom Lab and its inspiring leader? Well the space is a large-ish room (probably a bit bigger than many of the classrooms I’ve worked in, but not vast) and divided into learning spaces rather in the way of a good Early Years Unit, with areas for different types of activity, such as collaborating, creating etc. Each area showcased a range of ICTs; there were at least 5 interactive whiteboards around the room, but also digital video equipment / green-screen tools, dataloggers, measuring equipment for science etc. The furniture was flexible and could easily be moved or reconfigured; the space proved very easy to work in our groups.
Our two day workshop was led by Bart Verswijvel, Pedagogical Adviser in the Future Classroom Lab. Bart had already inspired many UK Ambassadors at the Annual Conference in Nottingham this summer, with his blend of wry humour, excellent understanding of pedagogy and challenges to orthodoxy. Bart cleverly started our workshop off in a traditional classroom, with tables and chairs in rows and lines, with the teacher at the front, then quickly moved us into our new workspace, the Future Classroom Lab. We began to understand how different spaces support or hinder learning and recognised the value of the flexible space for the collaborative work we were engaged in. Futhermore, our understanding was developed through practical experience and therefore became real to us.
The project for the workshop was to design and present a new etwinning project with three or four other teachers from the group. Using as many tools as we wanted from the Future Classroom Lab, and supplementing these with our own and online tools, we were encouraged to explore the possibilities open to us. Although the actual space and equipment of the Future Classroom Lab seemed to be the classroom “to die for”… I began to reflect, firstly that many UK schools are already equipped with many of these ICT tools, and secondly, that so much is available online that actually the future classroom is more of a challenge in teachers’ heads, than a problem of wishing one had this or that new piece of kit.
My group created a classroom designing project, involving high school students observing how very young children learn, and creating a space that could be used by many age groups. We counted many useful skills, from scientific observation, to creating surveys and analyzing data, to creative design and to real communication and collaboration that could be achieved through one simple eTwinning / Comenius project. We shared skills as teachers, we tried out apps on each other’s iPads (the tool of choice for many), we swapped websites and email addresses, and felt very pleased with our final “product”, having learned much along the way.
For every “I wish we had a…” there seemed to be someone with a solution or alternative of some kind. One of these solutions is etwinning! The Future Classroom has already been running in a classroom near you, or even in your own classroom! How exciting is that?"