article image

Online Professional Development Workshop for Rural Schools 2021

The Online Professional Development Workshop took place from 21 to 23 April 2021 and involved more than 130 participants from 35 eTwinning countries.

Irrespective of their location, all schools are part of their local communities and constitute learning organisations that act in a specific context and within specific conditions. In addition, many schools are located in rural areas, where their remote location and small population may pose challenges both for their students and their teachers. 

Some of these challenges can be tackled with and through eTwinning by opening the window to the wider European community. Hence, in this Event we explored a variety of topics such as multi-level classes, parental involvement, media literacy, universal design for learning and their impact on the social-emotional learning and wellbeing both of students and teachers.

Going fully online for the second year, this Professional Development Workshop allowed participants to brainstorm on how eTwinning can support teachers’ work and students’ learning, as well as on which tools and pedagogical approaches can contribute the most in their work.

You can see the full programme here.

On the first day, Christos Bousoulas from the Central Support Service made an introduction on “eTwinning and Rural Schools: Challenges and Contributions”, discussing the concepts of urbanisation, deruralisation and isolation, and connecting them with the Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027. In the first keynote, Giuseppina Cannella, Principal Researcher of Indire, presented “The Role of Community and Schools in Small Areas”, highlighting several aspects of the Manifesto on innovation, quality learning and social inclusion. In our second keynote, Malgorzata Żytko, Professor at the University of Warsaw in Poland, discussed “Multilevel Classes” and the challenges that arise pertaining to modern pedagogical and psychological approaches to learning, as well as the need to change our educational philosophy and practice.

The day ended with a series of networking activities that invited participants to explore various online games about media literacy, engage with partner finding, and collaborate online in interactive group activities.

 Rural3

Three sessions of nine workshops took place for two days and were run by members of the eTwinning community as well as by other experts. A wide variety of topics were included in order to ensure that participants would acquire an array of ideas in relation to rural areas and media literacy, such as working with mixed-aged classrooms, students’ motivation, learning communities, universal design for learning, and non-formal learning and STEAM.  

On the second day, Kathleen McClaskey, CEO and Chief Learning Officer of Empower the Learner, LLC, was to give a presentation about “Empowering the Learner through The Power of Story”. However, we experienced some technical difficulties that hindered the process. In this regard, however, participants had the chance to attend a mini webinar with a Q&A session on the 5th of May delivered by Kathleen.

On the third day Elizabeth Gosme, Director of COFACE Families Europe, concluded the series of keynotes with her presentation, “Building Learning Alliances: the impact of parental involvement on students' learning”, stressing the importance of establishing communities of learning which offer many synergies between parents and teachers for a wide variety of topics.

Finally, four teachers, Ewa Przybysz-Gardyza, Renata Jakič, Cengiz Çetin and Nataša Gobec, presented their projects and talked about their experiences. After so many inspiring sessions, teachers were equipped with practical ideas and tools to improve and develop their eTwinning projects in rural areas. And this is just the beginning.