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Higher education perspectives on eTwinning: The future of Initial Teacher Training learning

Authors:

Abstract

Teachersʼ collaboration networks in fostering Innovation and Communication Technology (ICT) are essential to promote 21st century skills. Teacher education forms part of the core mission of many universities and eTwinning can help accelerate this educational change needed in initial teacher training (ITT) reforms. eTwinning is part of the European Unionʼs Erasmus+ programme, devoted to lifelong learning to promote collaboration between schools in Europe and enhance students' learning. This study discusses the perceptions of undergraduate and graduate college students about the impact of introducing eTwinning as a prospective pedagogical tool in ITT. Data for this study were collected via an online questionnaire distributed to 22 students actively participating in the eTwinning Teacher Training Pilot for Higher Education Institutions in Spain. Analysis of the responses revealed a number of beneficial effects on teachers training that facilitates constructive and successful collaborative learning. eTwinning participants experienced a greater motivation, improved academic achievement and language skills, and development of lifelong skills, such as cooperation and independent learning skills. The results suggest that eTwinning is a promising pedagogical tool in teacher training. The study concludes with a discussion of the challenges in the implementation with suggestions made for future research.
This is a copy of a conference paper presented at the 11th International
Technology, Education and Development Conference, 6th-8th March 2017,
Valencia, Spain. It is published by IATED in the INTED2017 Proceedings, pp.
1073-1076, ISBN: 978-84-617-8491-2. It is available on the publisher's website
at:
https://dx.doi.org/10.21125/inted.2017.0403
Paz-Albo, J., & López, I. (2017). Higher education perspectives on
eTwinning: The future of Initial Teacher Training learning. In L.
Gómez, A. López, & I. Candel (Eds.), INTED2017. Proceedings of the
11th international technology, education and development conference (pp.
1073-1076). Valencia, Spain: IATED Academy.
HIGHER EDUCATION PERSPECTIVES ON ETWINNING: THE
FUTURE OF INITIAL TEACHER TRAINING LEARNING
Jesús Paz-Albo Prieto1, Isabel López Cirugeda2
1 Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (SPAIN)
2 Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha (SPAIN)
Abstract
Teachersʼ collaboration networks in fostering Innovation and Communication Technology (ICT) are
essential to promote 21st century skills. Teacher education forms part of the core mission of many
universities and eTwinning can help accelerate this educational change needed in initial teacher
training (ITT) reforms. eTwinning is part of the European Unionʼs Erasmus+ programme, devoted to
lifelong learning to promote collaboration between schools in Europe and enhance students' learning.
This study discusses the perceptions of undergraduate and graduate college students about the
impact of introducing eTwinning as a prospective pedagogical tool in ITT. Data for this study were
collected via an online questionnaire distributed to 22 students actively participating in the eTwinning
Teacher Training Pilot for Higher Education Institutions in Spain. Analysis of the responses revealed a
number of beneficial effects on teachers training that facilitates constructive and successful
collaborative learning. eTwinning participants experienced a greater motivation, improved academic
achievement and language skills, and development of lifelong skills, such as cooperation and
independent learning skills. The results suggest that eTwinning is a promising pedagogical tool in
teacher training. The study concludes with a discussion of the challenges in the implementation with
suggestions made for future research.
Keywords: eTwinning, teacher training, educational innovation, project-based learning.
1 INTRODUCTION
The educational platform eTwinning, originally designed in 2005 and introduced by the European
Commission in the eLearning programme (2004-2006) as a tool for the development of technology
literacy among teachers, has evolved into a massive community for schools in Europe. This fast-
developing virtual environment has already produced over 55,774 projects involving over 437,543
teachers and 173,097 school centres [1]. It is a user-friendly, free, safe space in which teachers can
locate colleagues from the European Union and other countries, namely Croatia, Iceland, Norway,
Switzerland and Turkey, as well as other areas which can act as guest countries, to twin their schools
through the design and implementation of common projects for their students.
eTwinning participants, also known as eTwinners, report significant improvement in both motivation
and academic achievement [2]. Besides, the voluntary nature of this cooperation naturally reserves its
use for especially vocational and proactive educators and an estimated 95.2% participants willing to
learn about technologies [3]. Accordingly, the confluences created through the online networks spread
a good academic practice to a wide range of 21st century skills, ranging from those related to
collaborative learning to the use of Innovation and Communication Technology (ICT). This helps the
acceleration of school change and the evolution of educational systems through pedagogical
innovation without a previously-planned theoretical orientation different from the identification of good
practice [4]. Moreover, it promotes strategic alliances, partnerships, academic training, mobility and
even job searching through the parallel School Education Gateway platform.
Due to all these beneficial effects, eTwinning training courses and seminars are becoming increasingly
common among the different levels of non-university education, as its implementation for higher
education studies has not been planned. As the lack of technological skills or the inexperience
regarding task design and implementation prevent senior teachers from using the platform, instruction
on its use in initial teacher training (ITT) seemed advisable for the consolidation of eTwinning in
schools. Thus, younger teachers would be qualified users of the platform and would hopefully act as
mentors, instructing their peers. Therefore, since the academic year 2012/2013, the European
Commission has fostered this process in several higher education institutions in 15 out of the 37
countries of eTwinning, including the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos and Universidad de Castilla-La
Proceedings of INTED2017 Conference
6th-8th March 2017, Valencia, Spain
ISBN: 978-84-617-8491-2
1073
Mancha in Spain, which include eTwinning as a component of their training for undergraduate degrees
and Master’s degrees in education programs.
1.1 Purpose of the Study
In order to evaluate the impact of the experience on the students of those institutions who received
that training, a Likert scale-type online survey was conducted to measure their perceptions in terms of
motivation, ICT skills, collaborative group skills, implementation and evaluation of real school practice
and the derived sense of belonging and commitment to the educational community. All of these
aspects are very much demanded in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), so positive
feedback from the students would be interpreted as a hint for the inclusion of eTwinning into ITT in
Europe.
2 METHODOLOGY
2.1 Participants
A total of 22 students (3 males and 19 females) participated in the study. These students included
prospective early childhood, elementary and high school teachers from institutions participating in the
eTwinning Teacher Training Pilot for Higher Education Institutions in Spain during the academic year
2015 and 2016. The mean age for students participating in the study was 24.36 (SD= 6.58).
2.2 Procedure
At the end of the eTwinning experience, participants were asked to contribute in the study by taking
the online survey to assess overall perception of their eTwinning experience at the Universidad Rey
Juan Carlos and the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. E-mail invitation messages were sent out to
all students actively participating in the eTwinning Teacher Training Pilot, highlighting its purpose and
benefits of the study. Participation and responses were completely voluntary and anonymous.
2.3 Instrument and Data Analysis
The instrument used for this study was a questionnaire designed by the primary investigators. This
questionnaire was reviewed by a group of teachers’ educators and then pilot tested. The final version
of the survey instrument consists of 28 items that include demographic items and items included for
forthcoming analyses. Scale items 6-25 were coded using a five-point Likert scale ranging from
‘Strongly disagree’ to ‘Strongly agree’. For our analyses, ‘Strongly disagree’ was coded as 1,
‘Disagree’ as 2, ‘Neutral’ as 3, ‘Agree’ as 4, and ‘Strongly agree’ as 5. Descriptive statistics were
calculated via means, standard deviations and percentages, using the Statistical Package for Social
Sciences (SPSS 22.0).
3 RESULTS
Prospective educatorsʼ perceptions towards the eTwinning experience are presented in Table 1.
Preliminary analysis of studentsʼ eTwinning experience suggests that eTwinning should be included in
Initial Teacher Training Institutes (84.4%) since it improves participantsʼ decision making skills (86.4%)
and promotes cooperation and acquisition of key competences (81.8%). In fact, eTwinning participants
experienced a greater motivation (90.9%) and considered eTwinning as a tool to increase teaching
involvement and motivation (86.3%).
Generally speaking, an enriched studentsʼ academic improvement could be seen by most participants
actively involved in eTwinning projects. Additionally, students showed significantly more positive
attitudes towards independent learning skills. Participants believe eTwinning projects promote
students' autonomous learning (72.7%) through intercultural collaborative work. In addition, data
revealed a number of beneficial effects on prospective teachers training that facilitates constructive
and successful collaborative learning.
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Table 1. Descriptive statistics of prospective educatorsʼ responses.
Question items:
6. My eTwinning experience has reinforced my sense of belonging to the
educational community.
7. My eTwinning experience has shown me real school practice.
8. I have experienced the potential of digital tools in the classroom.
9. My group decision-making skills have improved.
10. My leadership skills have been reinforced.
11. My preparation for project-based learning has improved.
12. The schedule for the project has been efficiently handled.
13. I am aware of the challenges posed by eTwinning projects and I know how
to successfully face them.
14. I intend to develop eTwinning projects when I work as a teacher.
15. eTwinning is an advantageous tool for the multicultural classroom.
16. eTwinning reinforces the acquisition of key competences.
17. eTwinning fosters autonomous learning.
18. I have perceived great involvement among my peers / students.
19. I have been able to use my prior knowledge to design an eTwinning project.
20. I have improved my assessment techniques.
21. eTwinning projects can improve student motivation.
22. eTwinning projects can improve teacher motivation.
23. There is evidence that eTwinning projects lead to improvements in
academic performance.
24. I believe eTwinning should be used at schools.
25. I believe the handling of eTwinning must be taught at Schools of Education.
4 CONCLUSION
The feedback from students was highly positive regarding the introduction of eTwinning as a
pedagogical tool in prospective teachers training. Most participants believe that eTwinning should be
integrated not only into higher education classrooms but also into K-12 classrooms. Although many
different approaches can be taken to integrating eTwinning projects into the classroom, one must
consider the challenges in its implementation. eTwinning may provide one viable option to place
students and their activity at the center, but the role of educators must change by necessity [5]. To
further improve the effectiveness of eTwinning projects, measures should be taken to use this
promising pedagogical tool in most teacher training institutions and analyze its impact in the EHEA.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Support for this study was provided by the eTwinning National Support Service in Spain.
REFERENCES
[1] The official portal for eTwinning”, etwinning.net. (Retrieved: January 01/10/2017).
[2] C. Galvin, eTwinning in the classroom. A showcase for good practice (2008-2009). Brussels:
Central Support Service for eTwinning (CSS), p. 16, 20, 2009.
1075
[3] B. Moreno Peña, La dimensión europea de la Educación: Una investigación evaluativa en torno
al programa eTwinning. Granada: Universidad de Granada, p. 272, 2007.
[4] P. Kampylis et al., ICT-enabled innovation for learning in Europe and Asia. Exploring conditions
for sustainability, scalability and impact at system level. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the
European Union, pp. 6970, 2013.
[5] S. De la Paz & P. Hernández-Ramos, “Technology-Enhanced Project-Based Learning: Effects
on Historical Thinking”, Journal of Special Education Technology, vol. 28, no. 4, p. 1, 2013.
1076
... However, regarding the previous knowledge that pre-service EFL and bilingual teachers have about eTwinning (RQ1), it is remarkable that almost all participants in both institutions were not familiar with this European initiative (RQ4). The reason behind this finding may lie in the fact that even though the eTwinning training courses and seminars are becoming common at different levels of non-university education (Paz-Albo & López-Cirugeda, 2017), their implementation at higher education level is still limited (Bonet et al., 2019). Despite being a new experience for the participants, their feedback after having being involved in an eTwinning project was highly positive, in line with previous studies (Paz-Albo, & Hervás, 2017). ...
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Research shows that learning tools play an important role in social interactions in curriculum integration. Online social integration and interactive modality have been identified as two success factors for online learning from the students' perspective. There is little research on students' perceptions on the use of eTwinning in higher education (HE), and the use of eTwinning tools with the focus on creating a collaborative online learning environment in HE has not been explored to this date. Yet, it may have practical implications for curricular development. Therefore, the aim of the study was to learn whether eTwinning tools can play an important role in social and online curriculum integration in HE. This qualitative study aims at comparing undergraduate students' perceptions from two universities (UCO, Spain, and ULS, Poland) regarding the development of multimodal communication and telecollaborative learning. Key findings emerging from the study suggest the use of eTwinning tools enabled multimodal communication between students and the development of new social practices and social learning strategies between them. A new understanding of eTwinning tools in curriculum integration in high education was raised, and new knowledge developed, which may lead to a higher quality of teaching and learning.
... eTwinning has become a learning laboratory for the application of Innovation and Communication Technologies (ICTs) across schools in Europe. eTwinning is an online community for educational institutions in Europe that promotes collaborations across classrooms and "has evolved into a massive community for schools in Europe" [1] under the European Union's Lifelong Learning Program since 2005. eTwinning is a school collaboration initiative that has a high potential for augmenting collaboration between students, and between students and teachers in an online learning community. ...
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Tesis Univ. Granada. Departamento de Didáctica y Organización Escolar. Leída el 22 de octubre de 2007
ICT-enabled innovation for learning in Europe and Asia. Exploring conditions for sustainability, scalability and impact at system level. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union Technology-Enhanced Project-Based Learning: Effects on Historical Thinking
  • P Kampylis
P. Kampylis et al., ICT-enabled innovation for learning in Europe and Asia. Exploring conditions for sustainability, scalability and impact at system level. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, pp. 69–70, 2013. [5] S. De la Paz & P. Hernández-Ramos, " Technology-Enhanced Project-Based Learning: Effects on Historical Thinking ", Journal of Special Education Technology, vol. 28, no. 4, p. 1, 2013. 1076
eTwinning in the classroom. A showcase for good practice
  • C Galvin
C. Galvin, eTwinning in the classroom. A showcase for good practice (2008-2009). Brussels: Central Support Service for eTwinning (CSS), p. 16, 20, 2009.
The official portal for eTwinning
[1] " The official portal for eTwinning ", etwinning.net. (Retrieved: January 01/10/2017).