Frederik Questier

ATEE Winter conference in Prague

by Frederik Questier on Mar.07, 2010, under Professional

Prof. dr. Černochová together with the ATEE Resource & Development Centres “ICT in education” and “primary education” organized a small but interesting and lovely ATEE Winter conference under the title “first class learning, first class teaching, and first class teacher education” There were great people and contributions.

Prof. dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey (USA) elaborated  on the idea of Professional Development Schools (PDS), where teachers and teacher educators work together. (American) schools often seem to miss “the collegial arrangement where teachers could collaborative reflect on the day’s activities and results, then discuss what would be improved tomorrow.” The physical space is one requirement; but teachers also need systematic, planned and scheduled time for collaborative reflection and learning. As teaching is increasingly complex, such needs are growing. Teacher educators should move their academic work closer to the schools. In school-universities partnerships teachers and teacher educators can work together. Teacher educators can help schools to find the right tools for the right learning needs, while schools can provide knowledge for / in / of practice.

Prof. dr. Arne Trageton from Norway elaborated on his ideas of “Writing to Read. Playful computer Writing.” He said: while we are convinced that we want creative humans, most of the ICT in education reports are about children as consumers instead of producers. Writing is easier than reading. And typing is easier than hand writing. So why are most schools starting with reading instead of writing? Prof. Trageton has set up programs where children are in pairs working on (old) laptops, standing up (who needs a chair?) They start writing random gibberish. And then they start counting the letters A. B, … Gradually they are writing and reading better and better, always about things that interest them (what happened last weekend? Keep it playful and keep it authentic! People like to write when they want somebody else to read it! The children write longer and longer texts and produce their own textbooks. IIRC, Prof. Trageton measured that children trained with computer writing score after 3 years one year in advance of hand writing trained children.

Also interesting were the country reports about ICT and innovations in schools.
It’s no coincidence this conference was in Prague. The Czech Republic has a long history of ICT in education. During the eighties they used their Czech produced 8bit-computers (IQ 151 and PMD)  in schools. We visited a school in Prague which has invested a lot in technologies with the help of many research projects. Many interactive whiteboards and videocams, but also something I never seen before: A Czech produced box with some twenty usb sockets. I first thought it was filled with USB-sticks, but actually it were all transmitters for wireless mice. It means you can give each child a mouse to control the same computer in front of the classroom. I can imagine quite some interactive use with that.
Prof. Davide Parmigiani from Italy reported about a Cl@sses 2.0 project: how to improve the learning environment in the classroom with ICT? 156 schools from different regions received 30000 Euro to transform classrooms to 2.0 environments. The teachers can decide what to buy. I can imagine this could go wrong, but this case was well organized, with as one of the nicer results a shift from individual to team teaching.
I had also a nice time with Hans Pronk and Jan Folkert Deinum who reported about their projects in the Netherlands. They care a lot about Nearly Qualified Teachers (NQT) and Induction (the phase after initial teacher training) for novice teachers. Dutch schools are now demanding teachers with ICT skills!

Under the mastery of Glynn Kirkham from the UK we concluded the conference with the Nominal Group Technique. These are the resulting most important concepts of the conference and their votes:
12 Towards interactive teaching; Role of the child as knowledge producer; teacher:child and child:teacher
10 Early childhood importance
9 Innovation (ICT)
7 “Back Porch”; Professional development schools (PDS); Much to learn from each other; School learns if its members learn; Lesson planning
5 Recognition of the competent child
3 Digital citizenship
2 Induction for novice teacher
2 Co-operation among students
1 Contextualization; Own the wheel
1 Important to experience both digital and tactile/sensory activities
1 Recruitment of male teachers in the early years school

Personally I was member of the scientific committee of this conference and I had a keynote about “What can we learn from One Laptop Per Child Projects?”

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