eTwinning – what it is and why UK educators should get in quick

London Connected Learning Centre’s Peter Lillington reports back from last week’s UK eTwinning Conference.

Photo by Sebastiano Piazzi on Unsplash

If you’re a UK educator of 3-19 year olds and you haven’t yet heard of eTwinning – get up to speed and get in quick (and certainly before 31 October). eTwinning is a free online community for schools in Europe and some neighbouring countries, which allows you to find partners and collaborate on projects within a secure network and potentially access Erasmus+ funding.

This fantastic initiative is supported in the UK by the British Council and of the 670,000 registrations on the platform, more than 27,000 are teachers from the UK. Take a look here to get a flavour of some of the projects that show the power of online international collaboration between schools: from coding, robotics, Lego and laughter to challenging perceptions on migration, language learning, history and inclusion.

Democratic participation

Last week saw the UK eTwinning Conference take place in Nottingham and we were honoured to be there giving the keynote presentation. This year’s conference theme was democratic participation and how eTwinning supports active participation of pupils within schools as digital citizens, which ties in very nicely with our focus on news literacy and critical thinking. Christian Turton, London CLC’s co-director, and I were delighted with the engaged response to our keynote on Developing Critical Learners and Democratic Participants in the Digital Age.  

We covered a wide range of resources, tools and reports, from online safety to digital literacy, plus an international slant, and you can find links to all at https://londonclc.org.uk/etwinning/

Award winners

 Elsewhere at the conference it was inspiring to see so many examples of great projects being undertaken through eTwinning with award winners being celebrated and the clear benefits and impacts to participating pupils and teachers evident.

The conference was a good balance of full sessions in the main room, workshops on a range of themes, time to meet colleagues,  network and exchange ideas, and all culminating in a Teachmeet with seven-minute presentations at the end of the conference. Three sessions in particular stood out for me.

Discerning questions and Radical Reads

Peter Worley of the Philosophy Foundation provided some thought-provoking insights into classroom questioning techniques which went beyond the open and closed question categorisation and should prove helpful for encouraging pupils to be ‘discerning’ as well as leading them into some understanding of philosophy. I hope to share more detail on this in future.

The British Council has produced a new resource called The Radical Read. Inspired by the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre, The Radical Read explores the involvement of young people in peaceful protest to promote change, from youth resistance to the Nazis to the school strike for climate change. Designed to provoke questions and develop critical thinking, each resource includes activities to do with or without a partner school. I’ll certainly be highlighting these at the next London CLC humanities conference in April (book here!).

Finally, there was also an inspirational session from Elaine Manton, a teacher who explained the procedure for applying for a Churchill travel fellowship. This scheme provides 150 awards every year across a variety of categories including education. Elaine’s field of study concerned learning international lessons around encouraging girls to take up STE(A)M/STEMM (the last M stands for medicine). She’s writing up her report at the moment and I look forward to reading more about what she learned.

Culture in a Box

In the meantime, do consider registering for eTwinning before Halloween for your chance to search for school partners in more than 40 countries – and if you start an eTwinning project before 27 October the British Council will post a free ‘Culture in a Box’ resources to your school.

Colleagues from the London region had fun collaborating in a democratic way to produce a box in a very short time as part of a conference activity (Paddington, market stalls, River Thames and fish and chips made it to the final list of five tangible and five intangible items to be depicted):

·      Download all the presentations mentioned in this blog post on the conference download page

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