The project primary objective was to update the field of construction studies in secondary education through research work on domotics that are applied to ambient assisted living, in order to respond to private and public needs through the provision of efficient services in our changing society. The two partner schools intended to explore and transnationally compare the latest developments in building technology to provide students/teachers from the relevant line of studies with a new impulse to their teaching/learning programmes, in the light of the digital era’s demands. In this way, they also wanted to attract new learners to overcome the diminished interest in the aforementioned subjects as a result of the huge crisis that featured in Europe’s construction sector. Moreover, because both partners wished to cover a wide range of educational horizons through the project, they also invited applicants from other courses interested in tackling the interdisciplinary themes proposed by the two partner teams to participate in the programme. As such, a number of students from Galilei School’s language and sports science courses also pursued the proposal: the former in the perspective of improving their linguistic skills and being of support to learning/teaching/training activities through their competences, and the latter to put into effect the learning goals and mission specified in their line of studies, with “the sports science programme intending to favour the culture of sports as a valid tool to promote the values of solidarity and cultural integration.” The project’s second objective took shape during the project, which was to support refugees' requests for integration and migrants' need of education by facing concrete situations within the French partner school and within classes created by volunteer Galilei students towards providing migrants with some form of basic training prior to their entry into the Italian educational system. In this respect, the two partners had intended from the project’s very beginning to endorse the principles expressed by European Union Education Ministers in the Paris Declaration of 17th March 2015: promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance, and non-discrimination through education; developing social, civic, intercultural competences and media literacy; fostering the education of disadvantaged children and young people by ensuring that education and training systems address their needs; exploring synergies in the area of civic education and intercultural understanding; and, encouraging outreach and cooperation with civil society and social partners. In accordance with the aforementioned principles (and bearing in mind the great problem of drop-out in schools), the two partners agreed on making the subject an important consideration of mutual cooperation. The project’s third important goal was aimed at finding solutions to reduce disparities in learning outcomes through innovative and integrated approaches, while enhancing the performance of disadvantaged learners by facilitating their transitions from/to different levels/types of education and training, as well as from education/training to the world of work. They were therefore determined to face the challenge of disengagement among a number of pupils due to failures in studies (general or vocational) or ESL problem. In this respect, the project aimed at reinforcing students' retention in schools through the elevation of the quality of education by bringing into play a renovation of the curricula; provision of higher skills levels; delivery of diversified employability prospects through close interaction with the labour market in order to increase pupils’ motivation to study; and, the improvement of teachers’ professionalism and the use of more effective teaching methods that are inclusive of advanced ICT technology in order to support the theme of domotics for handicapped/impaired persons, as well as the elaboration of adequate solutions to help disadvantaged persons in educational contexts through the use of distance learning (or remotely through social platforms) that is blended with in-presence laboratory/class activities. Our project was carried out from 2016 to 2018, and thus can be considered a forerunner with regard to the annual priority set by the 2021 Teaching Award. Following the COVID-19 pandemic (which has made classroom lessons impossible since February 2020), an extraordinary number of hybrid developments in teaching and learning (such as distance/in-person/remote/online/in-class/flipped models) have been developed, with a diversified delivery of the aforementioned teaching models now being offered in the hope that they will meet the needs of students and teachers by addressing blended learning, professional development, staff support, the learning gap, social emotional learning, flexible scheduling, and student attendance.
The project’s target groups consisted of 12 Italian students (between 16-19) who participated in the learning/teaching/training activity to the project’s partner school La Mache (with 2 students selected from the 4th year of building/environmental studies; 4 from the 3rd year of sports science studies; and 6 from the 3rd year of language studies). Furthermore, another 12 Italian students (between 15-20) also participated in the learning/teaching/training mobility to La Mache (with 3 selected from the 3rd year of building/environment studies; 5 from the 3rd year of sports science studies; 1 from 2nd year of language studies; 2 from the 3rd year; and 1 from the 4th year). Classes from all three of Galilei’s fields of studies participated in the learning/teaching/training activities that were carried out within the school premises, with a fair number of non-beneficiaries having also participated in the external visits. Students were selected according to ICT competences, their knowledge of foreign languages, school grounding, motivation, and good behaviour (it should be noted that no students were refused participation based on their disengagement at school, or due to ethnic or economic discrimination). All student participants were in the middle of their education pathway towards the attainment of a diploma in higher secondary education in one of the three lines of studies chosen when they enrolled at Galilei School: Istituto Tecnico Tecnologico Costruzioni, Ambiente, Territorio+Liceo Linguistico+Liceo Scientifico Indirizzo Sportivo. Accompanying Italian teachers in the first LTTA mobility consisted of 2 teachers of foreign languages and 1 from construction and architectural design; while the teachers in the second LTTA mobility consisted of 2 teachers of foreign languages, and 1 from the sciences. Transnational project meetings consisted of an interim meeting that was carried out by 3 Italian teachers at La Mache in September 2017 (2 teachers of foreign languages, 1 of Italian and history), with two TPMs carried out by teachers from the Italian partner school (the project’s contact person and 2 French teachers in October 2016, and 3 French teachers in September 2018). The aggregate group of the first learning/teaching/training activity was made up of 22 students from various classes and 2 teachers from the Galilei School who travelled at their own expense with the Erasmus+ beneficiaries and who assumed a collateral role in a number of project-linked activities. On the other hand, French student participants from Fondation La Mache consisted of 12 beneficiaries and an aggregate group of 18 non-beneficiaries for the first learning/teaching/training activity to Italy, and 12 beneficiaries and 12 non-beneficiaries in the second learning/teaching/training activity. The age and background of the French students’ for both mobilities met the following profiles: approximately 17 years of age, in the midst of their education pathway for a diploma in higher tech education (French baccalauréat), selected from studies in domotics, technology, electrotech, and wood fitting (SEN and ELEC-electricity, and, connected services and networks IT-plus AEA-wood). The 3 accompanying French teachers in the first mobility to Treviso consisted of 1 teacher of technology, 1 teacher of English, and 1 teacher of History; while the second mobility saw the participation of teachers from the fields of physics, the sciences, English, and technology.
Multidisciplinary approaches were used in the implementation of this project, with the values of solidarity well represented in the various themes that intertwined with the project. Indeed, participants’ attention to, and understanding of, disability problems such as handicap and impairments (met by a sizeable part of the world population) not only set in motion a variety of actions that correlated to the laboratorial activities and research work that had been implemented during the project lifetime, but also to a number of external settings aimed at enriching the project’s programme, with all of them having contributed in the provision of formal, non-formal, and informal learning. The various activities, which were based on an inclusive method, allowed for the participation of all stakeholders regardless of their knowledge and skills, with all participants requested to measure their own acquisition of new competencies through self-evaluation questionnaires. During the project, participants had the possibility of actively contributing to the project’s programme and, when necessary, even modify certain decisions. Domotics, a new subject both at La Mache and at Galilei School, required the use of innovative laboratorial learning, and teaching activities and tools that were strictly linked to CAD design, electrotech, computerised technology, ICT (including smartphones and apps), and multimedia devices. As such, the development of connected house model that was framed within mixed-nationality/ability groups was a good vehicle through which students could ‘learn by doing,’ activate peer practice, and, exercise their problem posing and solving skills – especially during the exchange of technical specifications. Team work, individual, and group research in joint collaboration between students and teachers was also the methodology used for the implementation of a sports-based pedagogical method that was aimed at the integration of migrants. Learning by simulation saw mock experiences being carried out during learning/teaching/training exchange weeks, with students challenged to ‘live’ the experiences of the disabled through the use of wheelchairs within an urban context that was characterised by a number of architectural barriers (as occurs in Venice). Students were brought to rest homes in Treviso, where they carried out a number of physical exercises together with the elderly (who were constrained by ancillary equipment) such as hockey games in Lyon with disabled persons in wheelchairs. Furthermore, they were introduced to safety measures in building sites through a virtual 3-D experience that simulated electrocution accidents, which was carried out at the training facility of the national ENEL electricity company (e-Distribuzione), near Treviso. Key competences developed among both students and teachers from this experience included professional, transversal, and multidisciplinary competences, as well as personal, content reliant, methodological, linguistic, communication, ICT, technical, and multimedia skills. Social, civic, and global mindset skills were also put into action during team activities, making it possible for participants to flexibly and adaptively interact in new environments, and to understand the value of cultural diversities in welcoming the access, participation, and performance of disadvantaged learners (and migrants) within the learning environment.
The project engaged the whole school approach, which saw learning activities taking place during EGPs (exchange of groups of pupils) and in-between (also through) online contacts such as eTwinning/FB/WhatsApp groups, Skype, emails, and blogs, with the aforementioned having taken place in different environments including classes, laboratories, workshops, public institutions, cultural places, building sites, industrial plants, and gymnasiums. Furthermore, all of the aforesaid activities provided sufficient space for the exchange, communication, and sharing of ideas through cross-sectoral cooperation of various kinds within the institute (among the various departments/offices/members of the school community) as well as outside it (public authorities, educational-UST, USR, Università Terza Età, Erasmus+-agencies, representatives from the labour market and industrial plants, associations working for disabled persons or for migrants’ inclusion, health care providers, and managers of rest homes). The dissemination of the project’s contents and results were carried out during social events and info/open days that were aimed at families, the general public, and other schools, as well as professional stakeholders from regional organisations. The inspiration for the project’s inclusion of multifarious topics (all of which are very much interconnected), derived in part also from the many propaedeutic meetings that had been held at Galilei School prior (when conceiving the idea for the project and its programme) and during the implementation of partnership activities. For example, the school invited the Veneto Paralympic Committee to illustrate and demonstrate sports activities by athletes with advanced ancillary technological aids; and the Italian association ‘Informatici senza Frontiere’ to present the same subject matter and show Galilei’s students a number of cutting-edge technological tools and computerised mobile chairs that they had created for individuals who were disabled due to various reasons (old age, accidents, etc.). Furthermore, the individuals responsible for the Associated Rest Homes of Treviso elaborated to students on the design of flats that had been built for elderly people in need of ambient-assisted living, which came with domotics devices to help them cope with everyday activities – this included the availability of ICT connections to a central healthcare unit that was capable of remotely assisting such dwellers in the event of an emergency. The project’s most important deliverable (as agreed by the two partner schools) was a maquette/modello (model) that simulated a smart residential unit through the use of computerised devices, resulting from a number of stimuli that had been collected in the regions of both partner schools. The output took the form of an object that could be didactically adapted to become an interdisciplinary study case, which made it transferable in the future for use by new learners. The idea of the model was to innovatively devise a command for the model’s various automation devices through an app that was installed on a smart mobile phone that is operable not only within La Mache’s (the French school) electrotech laboratory, but also from that of the Galilei School in Italy. The preparation/advancement work and final achievement (maquette design and materials for the structure/electricity system/computerised technology) were carried out jointly during 4 mobilities by groups of mixed nationality/ability pupils tutored by an excellent and motivated team of teachers within the partnership. Schools as enablers of innovation: in the history of the two partner schools, the propensity of engaging in forward-thinking educational pathways through the stimulation of transnational comparisons was already long present. As such, the grounding of their previous positive experiences favoured the innovative scenarios needed for the project’s development in a more expedient manner. This enlightened outlook contributed to the successful results of implemented activities, with the fruitful practice confirming the need for the heads of schools to continuously strive for new education mind sets while putting into effect the goals that were expressed by the European School Heads Association in March 2021 through the ESHA magazine: “the purpose of education is to build knowledge, build character, build judgment, build resilience build social awareness and responsible citizenship, ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. The ways and means to do it is by using search engines and effective/efficient digital tools, conforming assessment criteria, personalized learning, teacher learning support.”
Teachers’ agency as innovators: professionals must be able to interpret changes to the cognitive, relational, and motivational processes of the younger generation in order to determine effective methodological mediations between parties and knowledge contents. Thus, this most-important fact cannot be ignored – every action undertaken during various life phases within the age of technology is marked by the use of ICT. Therefore project participants were encouraged to possess technological competences not only to improve their individual productivity, but also needed communicative skills that will them to better relate with learners through the huge potential of new media. The project’s success depended in large part on the extent and creativity of its teachers, and on their ability to encompass digital technologies within school activities. The experience that was carried out transnationally thus influenced the educational policies of both schools, and provided timely stimuli to proceed with a blended learning pedagogy, which, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, necessitated a new type of educational organisation among schools. Today, as a result of continuing professional development, the entire cohort of schoolteachers has set out to make use of a considerable number of advanced instructional approaches under the all-embracing ‘umbrella’ of hybrid learning, which, once again, is beneficial to the running of a new transnational project at Galilei School. Teachers’ skills and competences: teachers have to master communicative, linguistic, technological, and managerial competences in becoming legitimate professionals of a complex classroom that is open to cultures, local contexts, new technologies, and social web. During the project, such considerations continued – and should continue – to exist every day in the ordinary running of school activities. Ultimately, participating teachers began to exercise and upgrade their professional identities and consequently become bearers of a number of skills such as authors of change, innovators, technologists, facilitators, communicators, mentors, and planners. Teachers’ cooperation and peer learning: during the project, all teachers were aware of, and accepted, the fact that their work was to be cross-examined (including within transnational contexts) by all members of both schools’ communities and their various societal stakeholders. As such, it was essential that activities be carried out by means of dynamic, up-to-date, and accurate interdisciplinary cooperation and teamwork on a peer basis among teachers, while being simultaneously open and inclusive to participating pupils. Indeed, the educational actions to be conducted within specific multi-thematic projects needed a noteworthy contribution on the part of teachers in order to reach well-concerted high quality performance. Thus, they must have been capable of bringing in (for the benefit of other colleagues and towards a fruitful collaboration) the following ingredients: an in-depth knowledge of the discipline being taught; a well-wrought pedagogical experience for comparison with their peers; a good teamwork attitude that reflected a readiness to cope with different teaching styles and to pose and solve training problems by accepting other viewpoints; and, the sharing of innovative ideas, learning objects, and tools to enable the exchange of insights that were supported by facts – all of which came to be realised during the project’s lifecycle.
Schools: both partner schools measured the quality of the project’s innovative teaching and learning processes by using a number of indicators, examining the response to questionnaires given by participants, quantifying the number, category, type, and quality of participating recipients both internal and external to the two partner institutions. They also ensured the quality of the overall programme by implementing the accurate planning and provision of human resources, means, and arrangements with regard to the project’s internal (directors, teachers, staff, students, families) and external resources (organisations, professionals, enterprises, associations, the public, and educational authorities); materials for the realisation of tangible products; the setting up of planned training, content, and methodologies; the actions needed for assessment processes (questionnaires, interviews, etc.); materials for pedagogical activities during LTT/EGPs and for dissemination (flyers, posters, DVD, etc.); the availability of suitable premises and didactic instrumentation for participants; a schedule of all tasks, commitments, calendar of mobilities; the setting up of social media groups (eTwinning, WA, FB) and blogs on the web portals of both schools; and, the organisation of transportation, accommodation, and participants everyday needs. Students: students obtained a better understanding of Europe and the awareness of being European citizens; furthermore, working together not only allowed them to understand each other’s culture, but also enabled them to increase their competences in languages, and to use different ways of communication and new technologies. They became aware of new professional perspectives for their future careers (in sectors such as electrotechnic, building, languages, and sports), while learning how to work together and pool their collective knowledge and skills towards the production of common outputs. Students expressed appreciation on most aspects regarding the exchange, with many of them having showed a willingness to continue such experiences abroad. Students with learning difficulties acquired competences more easily thanks to the inclusive methods used in the project, and their motivation to learn and continue their schooling increased exponentially. With regard to students from migrant backgrounds, the experiment of an innovative pedagogy ensured their learning through a number of interesting and easily applicable sport activities, with their involvement in the project having enabled their integration into the school community in a well thought-out manner. The results of French and Italian students’ reports and questionnaires showed a general appreciation both for the programme as well as its selection of topics for development. Teachers: teachers have come to better understand different ways of teaching, while being able to adapt or change pedagogical methods in the interest of greater efficiency, thus contributing to their own professional development. Furthermore, teachers used innovative ways in their communication and approach to new technologies, worked in an interdisciplinary manner, and acquired a new mindset through their communication with other transnational colleagues. Thanks to the project, teachers became much more motivated and passionate about their job as they had the opportunity to learn from partners and observe other meaningful educational systems. Schools: the project opened both schools to other cultures and to a strong drive for educational cooperation with other European partners by further deepening their European dimension. Furthermore, there was also increased cooperation observed among teachers, parents, and administrative staff. Schools saw an increased flow from lower secondary to high tech/vocational education due to innovations in the education systems that were facilitated by this European project and their ongoing exchange with labour market organisations. Local and national stakeholders: a number of high quality relationships were developed with professionals; enterprises; and, companies that run industrial plants and facilities in the building, electrotech, and domotics sector – all of which appreciated the evolution of the tech/vocational studies as introduced by both schools. Furthermore, operators in the field of social security, voluntary services, and associations that support senior and impaired citizens through the use of various measures (e.g. advanced tech tools and healthcare programmes that provide sport activities, as well as medical, physical, social, and psychological support) valued the interest expressed by participants in dealing with themes relating to buildings, gymnasiums, and rest homes geared towards the wellbeing of the elderly and disabled persons, and to the provision of their support services. In fact, educational providers appointed by the Ministries of Education for the towns and regions of both schools found the project to be so innovative and rich in good practices, that both partners were invited to present it and its pedagogical innovations across both territories. Additionally, workers from voluntary, cooperative, and social service associations benefited from the educational policies produced by both schools on the subject of migrants’ inclusion into the greater societal fabric of both societies. At the broader level, a community far wider than that of the participating organisations benefited from the sharing of results, lessons learnt, and the project’s outcomes and findings, with said community also able to observe partner schools’ efforts at reaching the goals of the Erasmus+ programme towards improving/modernising education and training systems. This not only helped raise the profile of both partner organisations, but also raised their standing among local, regional, and national decision-makers, all of whom appreciated the innovative pedagogies developed by the project and its modularity with regard to its ease of use and future application. The Erasmus+ National Agency officers witnessed and valued the project’s activities during Erasmus+ events held in the Veneto region, and in Lyon, during one of the Transnational Project Meetings. A widespread impact also took place after the outputs/outcomes of the completed programme were uploaded onto the Erasmus+ project’s results platform. The reputation of both partner schools to conduct projects in a reliable and scrupulous manner brought about new requests for partnerships. To depict an example, the Galilei School is currently implementing a new strategic partnership with a German school, with the aim of completing the scheduled programme next year (if the pandemic allows for in-presence mobilities). This example evidences how the programme continues to be appreciated for the subject matters it developed and for its exemplary operation. In conclusion, such important engagements may continue to come through, with new alliances continuously established at the national and international level, thanks to the network created by both schools through past projects.
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Fondation La Mache