eTwinning conference: impressions of day 1

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Curtains are up for the 2015 eTwinning annual conference! We have collected and proudly present to you the best moments of the first day!

Anne Gilleran, eTwinning Senior Pedagogical Advisor, opened the plenary session by welcoming participants to Brussels “the heart of Europe where etwinning was launched” highlighted this year’s topic of active citizenship and intercultural understanding.

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At her welcome address, Joëlle Milquet, Vice-Présidente de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, Ministre de l’Education, de la Culture et de l’Enfance, stressed the importance of the role teachers play in promoting intercultural understanding and tolerance.

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Martine Reicherts, director general EAC,education, culture and sport, underlined that each of us as individuals have to make a difference and this students need to be taught in the classroom: to believe they can make a difference.

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Anne Gilleran, back on the stage, thanked the NSS and PSA for the support they provide throughout the eTwinning world. She also reminded conference participants about the very first eTwinning day that was celebrated last May on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the project and showed pictures from the celebrations, more of which are to come in the next years as eTwinning Day is going to be a new annual tradition! And of course, one cannot celebrate an anniversary without a cake, so participants were invited to stand up and blow the candles of the virtual eTwinning cake appearing on the screen!

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David Kerr, director of Education Citizenship Foundation, University of Bristol, gave a remarkable keynote speech “Active Citizenship Harnessing the Potential – Why, what and how”. “Wouldn’t it be great if active citizenship was not only considered in times of crises?”, Mr. Kerr asked the audience. “There are other aspects in education besides the curriculum that need to be emphasized.” he added. Mr. Kerr explained that as we are living in a society which becomes quicker and quicker, it is a challenge to re-educate oneself on what is happening but also young citizens need to be aware of numerous issues like global warming, migration of peoples, democracy in Europe, combating violence and extremism, global capitalism and jobs, student voice. In addition to the already known challenges, Mr Kerr underlined that there also will be new and unknown challenges that young people are going to have to face, challenges which will demand a global response. Therefore, the concept of Global Competence has gone up the agenda of policy makers as well.

Moreover, Mr Kerr explained how schools and classrooms are for many young people a powerful institution not just for learning but also for social issues and why active citizenship should be addressed not just via the school environment, but through three Contexts: the curriculum (classroom), school communities and wider communities. As a school and wider community, “eTwinning is a fantastic opportunity for people to work across countries”, Mr. Kerr exclaimed and did not omit to refer to the latest eTwinning monitoring report “eTwinning Ten years on, Impact on teachers’ practice, skills and professional development opportunities, as reported by eTwinners“.

Another point in Mr. Kerr’s speech that captivated the attendees’ interest as the interest in politics and how it develops over time. Mr. Kerr explained that according to studies, parents can have more influence in their children’s political attitudes and fruitful political discussions when they reach their twenties. What is more, he introduced to the audience the concept of Standby citizens (neither passive nor active) and concluded: “Instead of asking what kind of education system we need, we should ask what kind of society we want”.

Below are the presentation slides:

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By the topic of “Think globally, act locally” the second keynote speaker, Raffaele Salinari, Chair Terre des Hommes, Universita di Bologna, delivered an inspiring speech on globalization. Do we understand what globalization really is? Are we ready to work with the “other”? Are we really able to understand the consequences of globalization? Mr. Salinary shared some of his experiences from his missions around the globe as a doctor: Middle East, Angola, Colombia, Kosovo, all of which pointed him to the direction that despite any local differences, situations and needs are universal and that the “north” can also learn from “south”? All people in all places on earth have something to say, the world belongs to all: “There is no hierarchy in a sphere, in a globe. It’s not like a triangle where the hierarchy is clear. Managing a globe is difficult, you need to transform a two-dimensional map.” were the words of Mr. Salinari and he went on to highlight the importance of the role teachers play in formulating the world of tomorrow: “You, teachers are like Star Trek: You go where nobody has been before, you have to explore, and you try to understand problems that are not yet obvious but could visible for children tomorrow. We need your courage, your vision, we need to think outside the box and we need your opinions in order to transform our intuitions into public opinion on a political level.”

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After the plenary session was over, it was time for eTwinners to take part in the networking activity and explore the city of Brussels!

Here is a picture selection from Day 1:

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