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European Innovative Teaching Award
Project

Increasing Students Employability and Enhancing Educators' Teaching Methods

School: Techniki kai epangelmatiki scholi ekpaidefsis kai katartisis Larnakas

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Topic(s) addressed

The project, a 3-year development plan built on Erasmus+ Programmes, addressed four strategic pillars, namely, the promotion of staff competence in ICT teaching and training through the use of new teaching methods and web-based platforms that can be integrated into the classroom; improvement to students’ employability through practical training with a European dimension; promotion of the European dimension within the school community to bring students and teachers closer to a multicultural and internationalised European environment (international visits or practical training to local firms/institutions with an active presence in other countries); and, the promotion of inclusion, so teachers could develop skills that help them understand and adapt to the realities of disadvantaged learners such as migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and learners from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Overall, the project allowed teachers to reflect on several considerations including marginalisation, isolation, bilingualism, and multiculturalism, while showing them how various active learning methods may be applied towards promoting inclusion, tolerance, diversity, and critical thinking.

Target groups

The first target group consisted of students between the ages of 17-18 who were enrolled in favourable sectors such as computer engineering, hotel and catering studies, and fashion design. They were chosen based on their grades, their interest in the programme, their behaviour and personality, and dependability. Active effort was also made to ensure that students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds were included in the project, which, by providing them with an opportunity for practical European experience in their field of study, would further broaden their educational or professional horizons, thus promoting inclusion and reducing social inequalities. The second target group was made up of teachers who were selected based on their academic qualifications, their experience with the subjects they teach, and their interest of being trained in new technologies. Moreover, teachers were selected based on their personal drive to provide new impetus to their subject matter – not only through the introduction of new technologies, but also through the application of new knowledge in collaborative efforts with European partners and companies that offer the school’s students internships. The project directly benefitted two mobility groups, which consisted of A1 (student internship), where 58 students and 8 teachers were involved; and A2 (teachers), where 8 teachers were trained in new technologies. The latter group enabled the project to indirectly benefit the school through their roles as core diffusers of new knowledge, where teachers who had been training organised several sample classes in which 3/4 of the school’s teachers (approximately 75 teachers from various disciplines) participated, and gained a better understanding of the ways in which new technologies are being put into practice. Teachers who attended these sample classes went on to manage and implement the Moodle platform and a number of other programmes (Kahoot, Socrative, TED, Webdesign, Weebly, Epuzzle, Magistro, Lenso) into the learning processes of their respective departments (electrical, computers, clothing, hotel and catering studies, carpentry/furniture), as well as other fields in general education such as Modern Greek, History, Foreign Languages, Physics, and Mathematics. Proportionally, 350 out of the school’s 500 students benefitted from the project (3/4 of the overall student body).  

Methodologies

Firstly, teachers were familiarised with the use and function of the Moodle platform so as to motivate them in the use of cutting-edge technology. In this manner, ICT was used to enhance teaching and learning processes by supporting access to new knowledge on open educational resources (OER) in training and education. The application of the Moodle platform within the classroom environment supported ICT-based teaching and assessment practices; promoted transparency for the rights and obligations of users and producers of digitised fields; enabled teachers to create their own controlled test courses on the Moodle platform; and, allowed teachers to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge in the creation and implementation of their respective e-learning environments. Furthermore, teachers were able to develop their students’ creative and critical thinking skills, as well as their communication abilities by introducing them to a platform that offers a variety of i) learning methods for all types of multiple intelligences (acoustic, visual, and kinaesthetic learners) which promoted the inclusion of all students – particularly those with learning difficulties; and, ii) assessment types (questionnaires, quizzes, assignments, hot-spots, and, audio and video assessments). Use of the Moodle platform also provided a dynamic feedback system that allowed teachers to understand the efficacy of their courses, trainers, and pedagogic methods, which would not have been possible without the platform. Furthermore, the platform provided teachers from various specialities (literature, fashion, music, etc.) an opportunity to collaborate and create interdisciplinary projects, which promoted a more interdisciplinary approach to the school’s education processes. Lastly, the Moodle platform gave the school an opportunity to communicate and organise online meetings with other European partners, which facilitated the teaching of online courses (co-teaching initiatives) between the school and its European partners, as well as the preparation of projects through the exchange of ideas and audiovisual material. In addition to the introduction and continued use of the Moodle platform within the classroom and other learning environments, the school’s teachers were also trained in other programmes related to the introduction and utilisation of new technologies in education, thus making them core disseminators of knowledge. Teachers were first trained in a number of programmes that were implemented within their respective classrooms/subjects, prior to the implementation of said programmes into all of the school’s teaching and learning subjects. One such programme was Kahoot, a game-based classroom response system and educational platform, where a learning game was used by teachers in the introduction, comprehension, and examination of new knowledge among students. This learning game consisted of multiple-choice questions, quizzes, discussions, and surveys that were projected to the front of the classroom and which were played in real-time by the entire class (using their personal devices). The platform promoted collaboration, teamwork, and the visualisation of new knowledge, which increased student enthusiasm for the platform and for its use in the development of their respective projects. Another tool that was used was Socrative, which was implemented within the teaching process in order to facilitate a departure from traditional teaching practices. The tool proved useful in the teaching of large groups as it allowed for the monitoring of learning processes in an enjoyable manner, with teachers being able to quickly assess students’ understanding through the use of prepared activities or on-the-fly questions. Furthermore, Socrative continuously provided teachers with the opportunity to receive instant feedback from students through the use of quick and fun assessment methods that allowed teachers to recap a concept, monitor student learning through ongoing feedback, assist students in identifying their strengths, weaknesses, and target areas that required more work, and finally, help them conclude the lesson. A number of video-creation platforms including Magisto, Lensoo Create (a virtual whiteboard), and Windows Movie Maker (for video editing) were taught to students so they could challenge themselves by creating videos to present their assignments in a more impactful manner. Students were excited by the use of these tools, particularly in the application of such newfound knowledge to their own videos and photos, to which they also added a personal touch through the addition of preferred soundtracks. The digital nature of such projects also meant that students had access to them through their mobile devices – which meant that they were able to carry their projects with them. A tool that was particularly useful for teachers who taught in laboratory settings such as hotel and catering instructors, electricians, and computer engineers was the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) platform, as instructors could use the platform to create and divide lessons into sections, include questions and at least one discussion prompt, as well as share additional resources under TED-Ed’s ‘Lessons Worth Sharing’ function. The Edpuzzle tool also functioned in a similar manner, where teachers were able to implement said tool into the teaching of a wide array of topics ranging from science to culture through storytelling (teachers who taught Languages, History, and Literature) and training courses (specifically instructors). The tool was particularly useful given that teachers could pause videos at strategic points in order to insert questions, audio, texts, and links. Lastly, Weebly (a web design tool) was used to create the school’s website (as well as blogs and online stores), which enabled the dissemination of teachers’ lesson plans among colleagues, and was also accessible by teachers from other schools (given that the sharing of knowledge is a vital component of our teaching practice, as evidenced by our motto ‘Lessons Worth Sharing’).

Environments

The use of the aforementioned tools and platforms to promote learning has positively impacted the entire school community. Following the introduction of these tools into the classroom environment, teachers were able to incorporate them to promote, modernise, and enrich their teaching methodology, while consistently capturing student interest.   Furthermore, advanced use of these tools by both students and teachers increased communication and collaboration between both parties, with geography not being an issue to the teaching process as long as physical attendance was not a requirement. Moreover, students enjoyed a thriving learning environment through the use of such platforms, as they were able to collaboratively source new ideas and insights on a particular topic. Lastly, cross-sectional cooperation was strengthened, as teachers from various specialties could cooperate and carry out joint (interdisciplinary) work, which further strengthened inter-disciplinary education approaches. These tools and platforms were not only implemented within the school community, but also applied in our collaboration with companies that support students’ practical expertise/internship programmes. Additionally, the innovative learning environment brought about by the use of these tools was applied across all European programmes in which the school was a participant, in order to facilitate cooperation, the exchange of ideas, and collaborative efforts with other European partners during KA2 programmes.

Teachers

As e-learning methods are suited to all students regardless of their level of preparation or pre-existing knowledge base, teachers were not only able to make their lessons more interesting, but also more student-centred. Another positive to the aforementioned tools and platforms was that teachers could now offer individualised teaching to students – particularly those with learning difficulties. Once teachers were comfortable in the use of such tools, they could independently select and apply the tools that best suited their students’ learning rhythm and style. Furthermore, by preparing sample lessons that were then shared among colleagues, teachers were able to select areas where they would like to most focus their attention (either through group or individual work), select appropriate materials, and even assess their respective knowledge base (self-assessment) towards improving their personal teaching approaches. Teachers, by taking on the role of mentors, were able to introduce distance learning in an innovative manner by applying both digital and blended-learning methods; this way, they were able to both design and organise activities when attempting to integrate new technologies into the classroom environment by selecting sources that best met students’ needs. Moreover, it became possible for teachers to provide individualised guidance that supported students from differing cognitive backgrounds, while simultaneously proposing questions that encourage student initiative and autonomy. To this end, the role of teachers was manifold – as a target-poser and designer that was flexible in the use of strategies; as evaluators and providers of feedback; as organisers, communication network creators, and incentive providers; as facilitators that led students to metacognition (‘to learn how to learn’); as group coordinators; as counsellors to both students and colleagues; and, as mentors and animators.

Impact

The project’s impact on the school community was predominantly on the modernisation of teaching methods and the provision of innovative education that extends beyond traditional standards. With regard to its impacts on students, the project enhanced their communication and cooperation abilities through the use of advanced multimedia tools; provided for a personalised teaching environment that was productive, resourceful and which took into account each student’s specific needs, inclinations, and difficulties; increased student familiarity of e-learning methods and activities; and, equipped students with knowledge on how to utilise various multimedia tools when presenting their views and discussing difficult questions, or when attempting to understand other perspectives, and resolving personal learning issues. The school’s experience with this project has crystallised our awareness of the importance of modern teaching and learning processes that fit contemporary digital life – particularly against the backdrop of COVID-19. In sum, the understanding we have gained from this project is that the more the school applies e-learning approaches, the more it stands to gain. Following the project’s completion, students were able to learn more effectively, access electronic platforms in the completion of assignments (written or otherwise), and remedy their weaknesses under the guidance of teachers. Indeed, mobile learning is the way forward in education due to its ease of access in Internet-based learning activities, and the use of electronic tools such as videotaped lectures to address student issues or concerns.

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Stakeholders

Participants

EUROMIND PROJECTS SL

Address
Spain

Istituto per la Formazione, l'Occupazione e la Mobilità

Address
Italy

ITC International TEFL Certificate s.r.o.

Address
Czechia

MAD for Europe

Address
Spain

New College Lanarkshire

Address
United Kingdom