Author: Gabriela Marusia Cobel
As school lockdown due to COVID-19 is being prolonged in many countries, technology is currently the only means by which we can reach our students out. It’s sadder four those who don’t have access to technology. Therefore, we need to reconsider where, when, and how learning happens and adapt our methodological approach, to create and innovate and get involved with all our dedication.
As a Scientix ambassador and science teacher, I have participated in all the STEM Discovery Campaign Competitions. I have always promoted the initiative in my country involving colleagues and motivating students, publishing articles about useful online tools to support teachers and students. In 2017 we won an award in such contest called “Make your Own Poster”, using the resources from Scientix and Esero.
This year, a year we will always remember, my involvement in this great campaign and in this great movement of education consisted of creating the conditions for students’ learning in the online environment.
Learning, participating, creating online
In order to support the students in continuing their learning, I founded together with my colleague, Cristina Nicolăiță, the eTwinning project – “ Physics Virtual Class”, a project approved by the National eTwinning Center Romania from 16th March 2020. Since then, it has been growing, getting richer, polished, built-up. And finally, we managed to give significant importance to online education, which so far has not been widely promoted in my country.
This project was created to provide an online learning space for studying the physics of high school students during school closure. In this way, students could interact, obtain learning skills and learn in a common space. The activities were organized in classes, targeting the content of the textbook of the second semester, for students in grades 6 – 8. Initially, I built the project for the classes that my colleague and I taught but there were also physics teachers volunteers from other counties and now the project involves 8 teachers from Romania and one teacher from the Republic of Moldova.
The real challenge was to provide effective distance learning with meaningful activities to keep students focused on their learning and performance goals. In our project, the objectives were related to the curriculum of the discipline and refer, of course, to the formation of the four general competencies, but also to specific competencies associated with them (structured scientific investigation; scientific explanation of simple physical phenomena; interpretation of data and information, solving problems by physics-specific methods). The resource used – “Go-Lab: Electrical Circuit Lab”
About “Physics Virtual Class”
Because it is not pleasant to hold students in front of a screen for hours, long video conferences were avoided and replaced with shorter online sessions and micro-lessons to explain the learning scenario. This happened on the TwinSpace, where students viewed certain videos posted during lessons and solve certain tasks. The TwinSpace is one of the solution tools in the context of today’s challenges, a tool that ensures the smooth transfer from real classroom to the online environment.
Thus, teachers turned some of the content of the lesson into videos that students could watch asynchronously at their own pace. The time spent online with teachers can be used for interactive, creative and problem-solving tasks, for example through surveys, moments of reflection. Equally important is the planning of post-connection deliveries and deadlines. Therefore, already long ago, I communicated using WhatsApp, Messenger, Zoom.
In the project space, students found and went through in a rhythm adapted to the concrete situations that appear, synchronously or asynchronously: theoretical support, in the form of text, images but also live videos or videos recorded by the teacher; experiments with domestic materials, which they can replicate at home; virtual experiments, science videos; medium-sized but also highly complex learning tasks; online assessment tools of the lessons presented; worksheets for the activities proposed at all learning units.
Teachers may also feel the need to formally assess students’ learning progress in order to provide personalized feedback. For example, students could complete online tests such as Socrative, GoFormative, play/solve tests such as Kahoot! or Quizizz in teams or individually. During certain lessons, students could perform experiments, which they could upload on the Padlet, that existed in each class, indicating the school and the initials of their name. Students could log in by participating in the threads created or in the project forum. At the same time, students could watch virtual experiments and simulations on PhET Colorado, Scientix resources that they could use inside the TwinSpace.
In addition to the tangible results of completing and solving tasks, such as photos, videos, comments, drawings, mathematical calculations, etc., we wanted our students to develop the skills relevant to today’s society, in the vision of the OECD-DeSeCo.
Thus, it might be easier to assess the learning process on the basis of creative tasks, such as digital storytelling, the reflection journal, and focusing on the acquisition of skills, such as learning to learn, cooperation, active participation, commitment and progress. About the ” Physics Virtual Class”, and the resources that can be used, I published an article in the international magazine EDICT, which was very appreciated.
Through projects carried out together, through campaigns in which I participated, through courses conducted together on Scientix and STEM Alliance, Edu-Arctic, ESA, Esero, Space Awareness, GoLab, on European Schoolnet Academy and School Education Gateway, I always kept in close contact with colleagues from my country and Europe. In 2019, I was invited as a speaker to the 32nd Science Projects Workshop in the Future Classroom Lab, organised by Scientix and 3Rs project, which took place in Brussels, on 13 – 14 September 2019. Using Kahoot! platform, I promoted and disseminated useful online learning tools for students and teachers in science education. The event was organised for the pilot teachers of the 3Rs project and Scientix Ambassadors and guest teachers. 52 teachers from 16 countries participated. Besides, I involved my students in lessons on Hour of Code, Code Week every year.
This year I had the honour to be selected for the TED-Transatlantic Educators Dialogue. The Transatlantic Educators Dialogue (TED) is a rare opportunity for educators in the United States of America and the European Union to come together online for shared exploration and examination of a variety of educational topics. This year, the participants were from 22 European countries and 19 American states/territories. The last session was be organized on 3 May 2020. It was the Session 11 – Opportunities for International Collaboration, where I presented the Scientix Community and eTwinning, and, of course, talked about this great initiative in which so many students and teachers from the EU participated. Colleagues across the Atlantic ocean were very interested in these communities with which they would like to interact. Who knows? Maybe after the presentation I made and after many other examples of my colleagues from Europe, these communities will extend their borders across the ocean and become even bigger, more interesting and appreciated all over the world?
The resources related to science, and for science teaching are unlimited. I am glad to be part of this great Scientix community that I love and promote in any corner of the world I am.
So let’s be positive, inventive, optimistic and focus only on the benefits of this pedagogical shift. Let’s retain the best practices to improve our planning for the future, to collaborate, to innovate and to crown the teaching profession, with a lot of glory! When teachers create games and projects everyone’s a winner!