Video conferences in the Internet are a great contribution to in-service teacher training. How far can they cover the need of IST training? Would it be possible that, for example, today’s #ErasmusPlus courses on the spot could be replaced by live sessions in the net?
Before trying to answer this question, I first have to reveal that I don’t believe in national training only. Exchange of knowledge, skills and attitudes across the borders is necessary for the professionals of education. I have a strong opinion that if countries are not open to international their schools will lag behind the others not only in education but in all cultural and social development.
On the other hand, it’s justified to ask if it’s ecologically wise to organise F2F events here and there in Europe, sometimes even in overseas areas of some European countries. This happens in Erasmus+ program, where schools can choose faraway training courses to their teachers. Flying with jets is not ecological as we know.
The concept of ‘net positivism’ was launched by Finnish ecologists recently. ‘Net’ does not mean the Internet in this context, but it’s used as a mathematical term. Net is like 1 = 2 – 1. What do Erasmus+ courses look like, seen from an ecological point of view? Do they bring more good, ecologically seen, than bad consequences.
I couldn’t imagine European development, or actually any development, in schools without international collaboration. It’s been part of my thinking for more than 20 years, after I became involved in the activities of European Schools Project in 1996. I know I can’t ever stop thinking like that.
Should we restrict the interaction of schools to virtual collaboration only? No events on the spot, no job shadowing exchanges. Instead eTwinning, MOOCs, webinars and live online courses only? In that way we would decrease our ecological footprints. Such an approach would certainly correspond to the perspective of ‘net positivism’ in ecological terms.
My opinion is that it’s important and quite necessary to enhance virtual means of education and training. But I think it’s not just so simple. I have a long experience about the development of videoconferencing in the past. There’s been a most rapid technological development in schools within only few decades. At the same time development in pedagogy has been relatively slow. Most schools and teachers have not taken VC into use in their education yet.
I encountered live phone chat in the Internet in 2004. Soon after that I joined a course of Hartmut Karrasch from Germany and learned about videoconferencing. Then, for nearly ten years I worked together with Michael Goriany and Angelika Guettl-Strahlhofer from Austria in DaF Community. We gave live online training to teachers of German on a weekly basis.
What I want to state here is that video conferences have taken a longer time to become what they are now. Quite many businesses have adopted live online sessions into their daily routines. But is this the case in education? How many teachers of foreign languages have understood the real strength of live online in their lessons? In what scale is project-based learning PBL used in international projects of schools? I think such progress is still in baby shoes.
I suppose the speed of digital development in schools is often underestimated, whereas the corresponding development in pedagogy is overestimated. Therefore, I am afraid that it will take still years and years before the big masses of teachers in Erasmus+ member countries are really ready to virtual training, webinars or live online courses.
A lot of F2F training is needed before that. There are some hundreds of thousands of schools and probably millions of teachers in Erasmus+ member countries. There is a big gap between the demands of digitalisation and the skills of the staff in most schools of all countries. I don’t believe the gap can be bridged by virtual means of training only.
Much should be done about the emissions of flight traffic, true. And teachers are strong influencers also in ecological things. Children and adolescents listen to teachers’ words everywhere. Teachers can contribute to ecological ‘net positivism’ best by telling their students about ecological challenges. It’s much more than what the majority of their fellow flight passengers, tourists, are able to do.