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European Innovative Teaching Award
Project

Be a Master - Think Creatively

School: Przedszkole nr 32 z oddziałami integracyjnymi w Koninie

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Topic(s) addressed

The project "Be a Master - Think Creatively" was realised in partnership with institutions from Poland, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania, and Greece, with its main objective being the growth of partner teacher competences in the field of ICT through innovative methods of work with programming bases. The project’s additional objectives were to provide teachers with support through the use of attractive and effective educational aids that allow children to develop basic skills; prepare children to be free and safe in the world of modern IT; develop logical thinking and creativity among children; get children to learn the new practical dimension of robotics by fascinating them through science; encourage the use of modern technologies; integrate contents from different teaching areas with the English language through CLIL; develop children’s skills by using materials that attract them like Lego Education and Robokids; create a modern approach to education by further educating leaders on the importance of cooperation; establish international cooperation by exchanging experiences with partner institutions; and, to create equal educational opportunities for all.

Target groups

In total, 46 partner schoolteachers from Poland, Lithuania, Greece, Portugal, Iceland, and Wales participated in the project; during which they increased their own competences in a range of fields in the interest of introducing children to the basics of IT programming through the use of various teaching resources offered by the project. The group consisted of teachers of different ages, including young teachers, and teachers with many years of work experience, which facilitated inter-generational cooperation and mutual skill sharing. Children from partner schools (between 2 and a half to 6 years of age) consisted of 155 children (about 20-25 children from each educational institution), who were identified based on the project’s parameters. Furthermore, there were also several actions that included younger (1 and a half years old) and older children (especially those who needed to attend kindergarten longer due to their special educational needs). The educationally challenged and children of immigrants facing disadvantageous economic, cultural, and religious conditions also participated in the project’s activities. The former group attended kindergartens in partner institutions across Greece, Wales, Spain, Iceland, and Poland, with children from disadvantageous economic situations attending institutions in Lithuania and Greece, while the latter group on the other hand, attended 2 educational institutions in Wales and Iceland; of particular note was the school in Wales, which, due to its multicultural character, had over 60% of its student body consisting of immigrant children. The project’s actions were adjusted and individuated to the psychomotor development of each child, with both parents and children fully involved in all actions. Children from difficult economic backgrounds also had access to all of the operations throughout the project (with budget funding provided by the management pool), for example: they were able to enjoy the multimedia resources, participate in optional classes, and obtain certified Lego sets and robotics. The project aimed for the remediation of inequalities and chances for all children regardless of their disability, economic situation, or religious and cultural backgrounds.

Methodologies

The project included innovative and creative attitudes to the early education and development of very young children. The project’s innovative dimension included the following 5 considerations.

I.   The development of teaching programmes using modern technologies: we went beyond the core curriculum of each partner institution through the implementation of author programmes in the field of programming bases. For robotics and programming classes, we began with materials close to children, such as Lego blocks, and prepared constructions - robots that were programmed by children and teachers - which connected the learning of mathematical-environmental subjects with an enjoyable environment. Mathematics, physics, and construction issues were thus presented in an easy and interesting manner.

II. A European dimension: children and teachers actively participated in project activities, with every participant given the opportunity to communicate directly via videoconferences with children and teachers from different areas in Europe, which increased their understanding of people from different nationalities, cultures, and religions, as well as their   economic and social situations; this also contributed positively to making remote education more attractive and inspiring. III. Linguistic skills: we integrated English language content into the field of programming education through the use of CLIL, which enabled children to develop their linguistic skills. Furthermore, participation in videoconference sessions showed them the importance of English language in communicating with people from diverse backgrounds. Teachers from non-English speaking countries also had the chance to develop their linguistic skills in a natural environment by establishing international contacts that were necessary for life and educational experiences. IV. Levelling opportunities: our activities made it possible to address difficulties linked to the needs of every child, including special needs children, and those who come from different environments. The project’s chosen methods made it possible for both parents and children to work together using the creative and common approach forwarded by each partner institution; we also attempted to help special needs children to deal with the requirements of school education through the use of ICT technologies. V. Methodological skills: we used innovative methods and forms of work to create conditions that were conducive to education and learning. Moreover, the experience exchange made it possible for the use of innovative methods across our institutions; the project itself engaged an innovative approach to education and child development, especially during the difficult periods of the pandemic, for which we supported teachers in the use of innovative methods towards ensuring the success of schoolchildren. We decided to venture into programming for small children because we believe it will render our children into braver, more open-minded, and creative European citizens. As such, the child was not only the passive receiver of ICT, they were also able to use it to realise their needs and projects. In every partner institution, activities were based on innovative tools and the acquisition of knowledge in participation with projects members, which included teachers, children, and indirect groups (parents, local environment, organisations, institutions). The following are some of the activities that had been carried out in this regard: building Lego hero using Lego blocks and national colours of each country; organising plays using Lego blocks and materials close to the development of children’s basic skills in mathematics, and, the use of technical, social, and linguistic education (including CLIL) in a number of classes - Learn to learn - step by step; creating buildings using Lego blocks as creative products of children imagination, with exhibitions organised for parents and the local community; organising open classes for other teachers, parents, and members of the local community to promote the project’s outputs; creating animation cards with children from other partner institutions that were sent for Christmas (using Scratch Junior); and, creating the "Together in Europe" movie through the use of stop-motion animation as an example of innovative technology. In addition, children and teachers participated in online quizzes and puzzles that had been prepared by the Spanish school (with examples on the eTwinning platform); participated in Masters Coding meetings organised by teachers where we prepared scenario of classes and examples of teaching aids and multimedia presentations that were presented during mobilities. Furthermore, each institution (children, teachers, parents) created robots that were programmed for use in everyday activities using acquired knowledge, with said robots presented during an exhibition at the last meeting in Poland. Lastly, children received a Lego constructor certificate that reflected their skills and interest (as observed during activities).

Environments

Several of the project's activities saw the indirect participation of a number of groups, including children from partner institutions who participated in different classes, meetings, and celebrations; parents from each institution who participated in workshops meetings and festivals to create outputs with children; and, pedagogical staff from each institution (not including teachers who were involved in the project) who contributed to the development of the project’s activities, festival, open classes, the popularising of activities, and the everyday use of outputs created during the project. Other indirect participants included representatives of partner institutions (educational institutions, libraries, higher schools) who participated in workshops, consultations in the elaboration of class scenarios, and the acquisition of information on methods, innovative methodological results, and, actions; and, representatives from the local community, public representatives, and other institutions who participated in the dissemination of the project’s activities such as during celebrations, festivals, family meetings, and exhibitions. The dissemination of the project’s results was done through several outreach and cooperation initiatives together with a number of media stakeholders, illustrated by the following examples. Poland: cooperation with the target Community Centre to organise celebrations with parents, and workshops; cooperation with the Education Centre for Teachers and Pedagogical Library for substantive support during trainings and workshops on the project's subject matter; and, cooperation with local authorities to support project activities. Lithuania: cooperation with local schools to involve students as English language volunteers to help in the preparation of educational materials, lead classes with children, and organise workshops using coding elements and the Scratch Junior software to create movies, as well as the use of Lego bricks in language and technical education; cooperation with the Lithuanian-Polish newspaper ”Tygodnik Wilenski" in the production of online and printed versions http://www.tygodnik.lt/201921/. Greece: the sharing of experiences with the Afroksilia kindergarten in the leading of workshops and trainings; and, participation in international conferences and presenting lectures in the area of robotics use in pre-school education. Spain: cooperation   with   local authorities in the delivery of guidance   on the management of education in Spain; cooperation with the Educational    Centre    for    Teachers    Osuna-Ecija in the dissemination of results and the project’s outputs; cooperation with the regional blood transfusion centre (Sevilla) in the atypical action of blood donation (for which students created   poster to encourage participation); and, to promote the project's acceptance of differences among participants and student involvement in social issues. Iceland: cooperation with preschool educators in the area of coding to develop a presentation on the different kinds of coding used in toys (Makey Makey, Bee Bots, The Matting Code, Coding Mouse, and Scratch Jr.) to assist small children in the basics of coding. Wales: cooperation with the Newport Educational Psychology Service’s educational psychologist (Dr James Cording and his team) to provide Lego Education training for the development of language and communication abilities; and, cooperation with the Techniquest Science Discovery Centre Cardiff-Y4, where children worked together with a specialist   to create a vehicle and programme it for motion through the use of Lego WeDo 2.0 and iPads. Portugal: cooperation with Ctem Academy educational centre (which specialises in technologies, engineering, and mathematics) to involve students in simple activities in the area of robotics and solutions of Lego Robotics; and, cooperation with EDP (the Portuguese Electricity Company) in the celebration of the National Day of Energy, and in organising workshops for students.

Teachers

The project’s development led to awareness among teachers on the importance of being open to innovative activities. Thanks to the teamwork that complemented project activities, all teachers felt responsible and appreciated in theirs activities as educators. Teacher participation in the project took several forms such as raising competencies in the area through the use of modern and attractive methods and tools in working with children in ICT; and increasing knowledge on new programmes like Scratch Junior to develop children’s basic abilities in every developmental field. This allowed for the development of innovative materials that could be shared in our local environments such as robot Lego with software; a book of coding plays (a collection of educational scenarios to implement the basics of programming through partners’ teaching aids); the innovative “Learn to Learn - Step by Step" programme that included educational material for the development of basics skills among children in the use of Lego Education and RoboRob kids; online quizzes and coding puzzles; a time lab animation using Lego bricks (movies); and, animation cards that were developed through the use of applications that teach coding such as Scratch Junior. Furthermore, all teachers contributed their respective experience and competencies to the project, and participated in everyday educational work, as well as in the development of various national and international projects (including the project’s content, and in its formal implementation such as management, and the organisation of mobilities and training). Furthermore,  a number of abilities and competencies were engaged throughout the project’s development, including diagnostic ability, an analysis of needs, openness to innovative activities for children’s development, experience in working with children with special needs through the use of ICT, experience in working with children, families, and the local environment in the area of development cognitive and social functions, a readiness in the sharing of good examples and practices, the development of activities on the eTwinning platform, abilities and competences in communicating with partners from other countries, being openness to differences, and a desire to work in different local, national, and international projects. Additional activities that had been developed together were two eTwinning projects that were connected to the project’s subject matter: "Be a Master - Let's Celebrate Christmas Together" (for which we received a European quality badge) and “Keep Fit." These two additional activities took into account the use of skills that had been acquired during the implementation of the project, including programming and coding.

Impact

The project’s outputs positively affected individual participants, who comprised of children and teachers who were directly involved in the project. These included the enhancement of children's skills in basic programming; the improvement of children’s learning perspectives; children’s education in the creative and safe use of digital technology; and, the provision of opportunities for disadvantaged children to gain knowledge. As for teachers, they benefitted by acquiring qualifications for work with new technologies that could be used during distance learning; expanded their knowledge and experience through examples of good practices that were drawn from different educational systems; enhanced their competences in a range of teamwork processes; improved their knowledge on innovative methods and tools including the use of modern technologies to develop basic skills among children; improved their English language speaking skills; and, enhanced their awareness of multiculturalism and that of other cultures. Moreover, participation in the project also contributed to an upgrade in teachers’ abilities to cooperate with educational institutions from various European countries, which facilitated the learning of methods, programmes, and direct skill sharing in a range of aspects regarding the education, culture, and tradition of European countries. Also, teacher participation in classes with children was especially important, as it allowed them to discuss subjects and issues that are directly connected with their work. The comparison of different structures among educational institutions allowed for conclusions to be drawn, and encouraged the introduction of new solutions, innovations, and positive changes based on the needs of partner institutions. The exploitation of gained skills (language competences, ICT use, and the programming of participants) on the other hand, raised the kindergarten’s prestige in the local environment due to its attainment of certificates in modern kindergarten management. This further facilitated the introduction of innovative methods of work, participation in international EU projects, and the enrichment of everyday work in the development of new methods and forms with regard to IT skills. The importance of experience acquisition among participants and the resulting increase in their professional competences was evident among employers, the local community, and the municipality. Furthermore, we emphasised the possibility of implementing basic programming and robotics classes to young kindergarten children, and indicated the effects and results that can be achieved through such actions. Lastly, teaching staff of different   institutions (including institutions active in the area of child education and their gaining of professional competences) acquired valuable experiences from their exposure to various educational systems in ensuring their success when working with children, their families, and in the overall upgrading of their education approaches, with several schools having applied to Erasmus+ contests).

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Stakeholders

Participants

CEIP Lope de Vega

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Spain

EDIFACOOP - Cooperativa de Educação do Indivíduo, Formação e Apoio, CRL

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Portugal

Leikskolinn Furugrund

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Iceland

Nipiagogeio Drepanou

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Greece

Pillgwenlly Primary School – Wales

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United Kingdom

Vilnius Municipality's Grigiskes Nursery Kindergarden "Rugeli"

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Lithuania