Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Finnish Core Curriculum, international cooperation and eTwinning

The new Core Curriculum for Basic Education (approved on December 22, 2014) strongly supports the idea that school is closely connected to the community,  society and world around it. Finland is becoming culturally more diverse and global and local continuously mingle and overlap in our everyday life. This should be visible at school and inherent in teaching.
At school we work, if possible, together with schools and developers of teaching and learning from other countries. Basic education is a positive and constructive force for change in society, nationally and internationally. CCBE p. 16
eTwinning offers an excellent and easy way to co-operate with the developers of teaching. For registered teachers, the eTwinning portal offers a wide variety of ways to network and develop professionally. In different thematic groups (eg. Creative Classroom or Language Teachers groups) teachers can share their knowledge and get tips for teaching. If you want to exchange ideas and experiences on a specific topic, you can look for a Teachers Room. If you cannot find one, you can set up a room yourself. 

eTwinning also provides continuous professional development opportunities. Learning events and webinars are offered on many different topics, particularly the ones relating to student-centered pedagogy, ICT in education and 21st century competences. These are also included in new Finnish core curriculum and there referred as transversal (cross-curricular) competences (L1-L7).

The Core Curriculum for Basic Education brings up international co-operation combined with ICT.
During the basic education, students will have experiences of using ICT in international interaction. CCBE p. 21
Contacts with schools in different countries increase students’ skills to operate in a globalized world. CCBE p. 26
Twinspace (eTwinning’s virtual learning environment) has been designed and made just for this purpose. It offers students an opportunity to interact and learn together with their European peers and partner classes. Students can chat, write messages on forums, share photos, videos and a variety of files created by themselves or together with their peers in a safe and protected learning environment. This way they can enhance their intercultural and cooperation skills as well as communication and ICT skills.

An international project is well suited for multidisciplinaty, cross-curricular and phenomenon-based learning. In eTwinning projects foreign language and ICT learning are integrated in different subject- and content areas. At the moment, projects dealing with STEM subject areas (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) are especially popular. Global education, cultural heritage and cultural diversity related themes are also quite common. They encourage students to reflect on the state of the world and the future, engage them in making the world a better place and, thus, develop creativity and problem-solving skills. They also enhance "cultural knowledge based on respect for human rights, respectful interaction and diverse ways to express oneself and one's views." CCBE p. 19

International cooperation and eTwinning partnerships have, of course, a very special role in language teaching and learning.
Opportunities are created for students and groups of students to network and communicate with people all around  the world. Information and communication technology offers a way and an environment to implement language learning in authentic situations following students' communication needs. CCBE p. 243
I started my first eTwinning projects 10 years ago just because I wanted to create possibilities for my students to use English language in authentic communication situations. It was quite another thing to tell about oneself, one’s own school and hometown
to a young European partner, who is genuinely interested in exchanging ideas and experiences, than to tell these same things to a classmate you know since kindergarten. The active use of language on discussion boards and collaboration when carrying out project tasks increased students’ motivation and significantly improved their language skills.

It is clear that in basic education all students won’t be able to participate in student exchange or mobilities and, environmentally, it wouldn’t be very sustainable. However, eTwinning offers everyone an opportunity for encounters and friendships across borders free of charge and without carbon footprints. It is Internationalization At Home (IaH) at its best.


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