Microsoft has released Sway which can be used to easily create and share interactive reports, presentations, personal stories and more. Through Sway one can create interactive content by including videos or charts. Sway is available on the Web, Windows 10, iPhone and iPad. It can be used individually and collaboratively with friends, family and colleagues. When a sway is created a link is generated which you can share with others and also one can embed his own Sway on a website as well. Below you can see an example of a Sway that I created (scroll down in the image below to see more).
The recently published OECD Report “Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection” is food for thought for researchers, teachers and public authorities. The data collected and analysed by OECD in this report, in fact, reveal that “countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies (ICT) for education have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science”.
Someone maybe was surprised by reading that “Students who use computers moderately at school tend to be somewhat more skilled in online reading than students who rarely use computers. But students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in reading, even after accounting for students’ background”.
But this is something that we already know: Increasing the use of ICT tools and computers at school is not “per se” the solution to improve the level of proficiency of students. ICT should be integrated into effective teaching and learning environments, and teachers and pedagogy are still the key elements for an effective learning.
The report also highlights disparities between advantaged and disadvantaged students in digital reading – which are very similar to the differences in the traditional reading test, despite the vast majority of students using computers whatever their background.
This it to say: to reduce inequalities in digital skills, we need to improve equity in education first.
For me as a researcher, it has been a great pleasure to collaborate with enthusiastic teachers and schools, and trying to improve teaching and learning together. On the other hand, such an approach – more or less normative, sometime even idealistic – has been shun in research because research is often regarded as neutral, objective, even free of values, and it should focus on clarifying the state of something (what, how, why) instead of guiding how the state should be. Of course there are different paradigms in which research has a more active role, but these paradigms are kind of “Others” while the true research is thought to be pure of values.
Our trialogical approach in KNORK has certainly a strong ideological emphasis. The design principles aim to direct education towards practices that enhance the development of knowledge work practices. (For the unaware reader, the design principles are the following: Organizing activities around shared “objects”; Supporting integration of personal and collective agency and work; Emphasizing development and creativity through knowledge transformations and reflection; Fostering long-term processes of knowledge advancement; Promoting cross-fertilization of knowledge practices and artifacts across communities and institutions, and Providing flexible tools for developing artifacts and practices.)
So are our studies about pedagogical practices research or not?
I had a possibility to listen prof. Anna Stetsenko in University of Helsinki while she visited Finland as an opponent for a doctoral dissertation. In her lecture which she also gave, the title was “Transformative Activist Stance: Implications for learning”, and one of her theses for science was that what if we researchers, instead of investigating “what is”, put forefront of our endeavors “what should be”. Her idea was that researchers could create the society, and world, in which we want to live and not only follow what is going on. I liked that approach a lot! For educational research it means, e.g., that we investigate what characterizes the school and education that is best for children, students and for the future, and furthermore, we investigate how can we improve or change the school and education to these aims. What you think, is it too ambitions to say that in KNORK we have an agenda towards future and we are actively working in schools and in universities to achieve that?
Co-ordinator of KNORK
Saturday, September 21st, at the “CERDO” (School for osteopaths in Rome, www.cerdo.it), it was held KNORK_LA SPERIMENTAZIONE ITALIANA to present the projects that schools and universities participating in the KNORK have realized in the years 2014-2015.
The event was attended by 4 high schools and 3 universities. Teachers and students presented their projects, the objects they built, the strategies they followed, highlighting pros and cons, limitations and needs.
The event was also attended by teachers who did not know KNORK and who have shown interest for further experimentation within their courses.
In addition, during the event, the participants were able to discuss about some crucial and recurring questions and recurring: how to integrate a challenging project like a trialogical-based one with the need to respect the national curriculum? how to decline objects according to various disciplines and levels of study? how to check the maintenance of skills over time? how to ensure the involvement of all students?
Here following some pictures taken by Beatrice during the event. Enjoy!
The first school hackathon “HackTUES” was organized by students of the Technology School “Electronic Systems” associated with the Technical University – Sofia (TUES) and took place from 26 to 28 June 2015. The hackathon is a new kind programming competition, which brings together a large number of participants divided into teams up to 5 people. For several days they work on solving practical problem or theme set by the jury of the competition.
The theme of the first full school hackathon in Bulgaria was “Automation and improvement of the learning process.” The purpose of HackTUES is to contribute to the automatization of learning process in school, and to enable students from different classes to gain practical experience in creating software, teamwork and the support of community causes such as automatization of education. Team mentors and jury members as teachers of the school and representatives of different companies working in the field of information technology HackBulgaria, ChaosGroup, MusalaSoft.
In hackathon attended by 88 students from the eighth to the eleventh grade in TUES, divided into 18 teams. The hackathon was won by students from the eighth grade.
The competition is supported by MusalaSoft, HackBulgaria, Chaos group, Software University, StandByte and Subway Bulgaria.
All participants in HackTUES
Winners in HakTUES 1st Place
HackTUES organization team
More information about the hackathon:
Publications for the hackathon in the media:
Technology school ”Electronic Systems” (TUES) associated with the Technical university of Sofia is one of the famous and elite schools in Bulgaria, specialized in the training of ICT specialists with secondary vocational education.
Implementation of innovative approaches to teaching, introducing new pedagogical practices of collaborative learning using cloud technologies are the basis for achieving outstanding results at the professional training of young ICT professionals. In this process the utmost importance is the high professional and academic qualification of TUES teachers.
After winning all the prizes in the national competition of computer networks by the TUES students, the school principal Stela Stefanova was interviewed by one of the national television of Bulgaria in the TV show “Best Teacher” in the field of information, communication and networking technologies.
At the end of April was completed her habilitation procedure as an associate professor.
abilitation of TUES Principal
Teacher’s training in TUES is realized by qualification workshops, scientific conferences and educational forums. In the end of June in the town Dobrinishte was held a workshop on the topic of “Using cloud technologies in the learning process.” The discussion was fruitful and the possibilities were considered to use cloud technologies for organizing collaborative education of groups of students on common tasks and projects in various disciplines of general education and vocational training.
TUES Workshop 2015
On Sunday 26 July a short presentation of the Knork project was issued on one of the most important Italian newspaper. You can find the text here Corriere della Sera
Thanks to Beatrice and all the other colleagues who made it possible!
The pilots at the Technical University of Sofia in Springwere conducted with 3 classes – second year bachelor degree students in Aviation engineering – obligatory course in Electronics (15 weeks), fourth year bachelor degree students (10 weeks – ASIC Design) and first year master degree students (15 weeks – Design and Analysis of CMOS IC). Second year students developed collaboratively 5 shared home assignments covering basic topics and one month long course work. Forth year students and master students used team work on common 3 month long project. In addition to the project work, students were required to submit five individual homework assignments. Each team had to choose a project subject from a list provided by the teacher. Two project milestones were set – intermediate report and final report.
All participants had to register individual Google and GitHub accounts (only for ASIC design and master course). The teacher was responsible for creating a Google Docs document for each project report and sharing it with the team. Students were encouraged to ask for help at any time without waiting for the scheduled classes. Usually they were getting a response during the same day. Announcements were made on a Google+ hangout and via email. Each class had a Google calendar with all relevant milestones and class schedules.
At the end of the semester, the projects or course work were presented by the teams. The scores were based on the project outcome, the individual home assignments and the activity of the student during the semester (email, participation in discussions, git commits).
Two teachers workshops were organized at TUS (5 teachers) and TUES (33 teachers) about cloud technologies – collaborative tools, feature of Google applications and their usage in education.
Very successful was workshop for teachers from TUES, organized in the town of Dobriniste at 01.07.2015, which was combined with the teambuilding. Practical examples of courses, using such technologies of already conducted pilots in TUS and TUES were also considered. Main activities was done by TUES – very nice presentation of cloud technologies and hyperlink to all considered application was done by yang assistants from the Technical University, but delivering all his classes at TUES. There were very active and fruitful discussions after the presentation. The school teachers were impressed from pilot results at their school; ask many questions, and express willingness a new workshop to be organized with the practical exercises on cloud technologies.
Meetings with Decision Makers
Together with principle of TUES we have participated in two very important meetings with the Vice Minister of Education and with the Head of Educational Commission in Parliament, concerning new educational law, introducing new approaches in education and more practical training. Our experience and results from applying collaborative learning with extensive use of digital cloud technologies was pointed as a good example to follow. In both meetings there were a lot of representative from schools, universities, business and industry. There was also one such meeting with Vice Minister of Regional Development for discussing the EU Program “Regions in growth 2015-2020” and role of education for the qualification and competences of future employees.
We have participated in two conferences with 3 papers already presented, and have prepared another 2 for publishing in the Annual Journal of Electronics, a part of the paper for Early symposium in Cyprus and one paper for the International Conference in Sozopol. The papers considered results from conducted pilots, and */features of the developed tool for analyzing collaborative artefacts in project based courses.
In the last year in Technology School “Electronic Systems” associated with Technical University of Sofia (TUES, TU-Sofia), Bulgaria one of the partners in the project KNORK, have been introduced new pedagogical methods for collaborative learning using cloud technologies. A new course plan based on the design principles of trialogical approach was developed and a project-oriented education and training were realized in the field of “Global networks”. Implementation of new pedagogical practices in the learning process yielded excellent results from training. Verification of acquired knowledge, skills and competencies is not only in the classroom but also in real situations of professional forums and competitions.
In the month of April 2015 was conducted National networking competition for students in Bulgaria, organized by the Ministry of Education and Science, Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics at Sofia University – Sofia and the Bulgarian Association of Networking Academies. Students from all over Bulgaria participated in the competition.
Competitors from TUES, TU-Sofia won the first six places in the ranking, as well as a total of 10 places in the group of the 20 finalists. TUES won the prize for the best school in the competition.
All finalists are admitted to students without entrance exam at the Technical University – Sofia and Sofia University.
At the award ceremony was attended by Deputy Minister of Education, government experts from the Ministry of Education, representatives of companies from the ICT sector in Bulgaria.
Deputy Minister of Education Mrs Vaniya Kastreva awards personally all winners of the networking competition.
Publications for the networking competition in the media:
- News7 , Channel 3, Europe Television, BNR , Bulgarian Industrial Association,
- Banker, Cross, Dir.bg , Ekipnews.com, uchi.bg, Keyfizine, Speshno.info ,
A somewhat skeptical title refers to Finnish educational system, in which primary school teachers have a lot of freedom because one teacher is responsible for teaching almost all subjects; lower secondary teachers have still somewhat freedom although their days are structured by a timetable which navigates them to new classes after every 45 minutes, but the upper secondary school teachers are tied with very heavy curriculum, very tight seven-week course and furthermore, the matriculation examinations which close the twelve-year schooling.
There are several calls for change at upper secondary level, now especially in the Finnish school. The final examinations will become digitalized in autumn 2016. Previously, especially upper secondary level teachers have used digital technology less than teachers of other levels. Now they all need to learn to use technology in teaching. Another requirement for change is expressed both by practitioners and researchers: students don’t learn in school what they need. Three recent studies* have produced results that upper secondary school students don’t gain in school the necessary competencies for further studies and work life; among the insufficient competencies are what we in the KNORK project call knowledge work competencies. The third reason is the changing curriculum. National Board of Education has accepted new curriculum in which integration of school subjects as well as project- and process type of work are brought forward (see http://www.oph.fi/download/158820_national_core_curriculum_for_preparatory_education_for_general_upper_second.pdf). It has become impossible for an upper secondary teacher to continue in a traditional teacher-centered way, if she or he has any interest to answer the demands.
Then, how easy it is to make changes in pedagogical practices? Our research results and collaboration with three nice upper secondary schools, Helsingin Medialukio, Tapiolan lukio and Olarin lukio, indicates that even when teachers are very willing to improve their course practices towards student-centered, longitudinal and authentic process-work, there are obstacles that are almost impossible to overcome. The courses are full of issues that students have to learn, and the new curriculum does not differ from the previous one. In Medialukio we faced this challenge in a very concrete way: when a course was 18 hours during seven weeks, for a teacher it is impossible to use, e.g., an hour every week for an assignment which does not cover more than a limited area of the content. Only 3-4 hours is possible for a teacher to reserve for a specific project but even then the teacher has a guilty conscience: “I don’t teach my students all they should learn.” In addition, integrated project with teachers of other subjects is very difficult to organise because, again, of the lack of the time, but also because students don’t participate in the same courses. A natural integration of two (or more) courses so that the students would be the same on the courses does not succeed. Even time for teachers’ collaborative planning is difficult to find – they are busy and free on different times.
Conclusion: if we set up new aims for upper secondary schools, something in the structures have to be profoundly improved. The change is not based on individual teachers being willing or unwilling but on structures that need to be changed on national level.
University of Helsinki