Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, eTwinning has tried to accommodate all the newly created needs for a teaching and meeting platform that can bring the excitement of school at home.
Javier Gascuena, a Spanish teacher with 12 years’ teaching experience, teaches in IES Ciudad Jardin, a medium-sized secondary school with 53 teachers and approximately 600 students located in the outskirts of Málaga.
The school offers compulsory secondary education, bachillerato (pre-university courses) and vocational training (specialised in ICT). eTwinning for Javier is part of the efforts of the school leaders to introduce active methodologies and a student-based approach that will help the community fight against educational exclusion, underachievement and early drop-out.
For Javier, as for every teacher in the world, the current period is a challenging one:
From March 14th, 2020 to the end of the school year, all schools in Spain were closed by the Government due to the outbreak of the pandemic. The following weeks were sheer educational mayhem: teachers, social educators and school counsellors strived to reach students, while school leaders struggled to organise online learning, often creating video tutorials and manuals for teachers with less digital competence.
Once a decent number of students and teachers were ready to start working online, teaching and learning were back on track. On a typical day, I would begin by checking my email, specially to try and get more students connected and help other teachers with technology challenges. Later, I would check if my student’s had logged in on Moodle, the platform that we decided to use, and make sure that every piece of work was assessed and that students got feedback on it. For each course that I was teaching, I would search for attractive competence-based materials that would keep my students interested and engaged. We also held a few videoconferences with our eTwinning partners and spent various lessons preparing them.
For both teachers and students, having worked in eTwinning in the last years greatly improved the implementation of the slow process of moving from the analogical and physical to eLearning through a screen. Collaborative work on the Internet is something that we have already experimented, so we based a great deal of our class time on skills developed in eTwinning projects.
Ever since I began in eTwinning, I set my mind to use it as a means to teach the curriculum of my English class and to develop school-based skills and competences.
eTwinning has allowed me to design activities that have a final product made by students from different parts of the world. Also, real communication in English is mandatory, letting the language that I teach become a means to reach the objectives and increasing motivation among students. Finally, eTwinning has changed how we use technology, allowing a higher degree of creativity and introducing concepts such as netiquette and eSafety.
Javier, having had extensive experience using eTwinning, came up with great ideas for online classes and homework. Below is a list with some of these ideas:
- Create walls on the TwinSpace where students post ideas on a specific topic and react to each other’s posts.
- Work on specific topics in collaborative digital products: videos, presentations, documents.
- Design escape rooms using contents from different subjects.
- Create interactive online lessons in which students need to work together and make decisions rather than just listen to the teacher.
- Create a videogame with the contents of the project and then play together on a videocall.
Javier tries to keep his students active by involving them in the design of the activities and letting them have a say in setting the goals of the class. At the same time, he engages them actively in the (formative) assessment. The tasks he gives are always centred on the students’ interests. The project-based learning approach is key to making learning at home as exciting as learning at school.