Author: Nada Ratković
Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic which started on the 16th of March, schools were shut in Croatia, so teachers and students were out of the classrooms like everywhere else across the world. Pandemic affected learning and teaching. Teachers were faced with the challenge of how to continue their students’ education. Teachers role did not change, even the teaching was organised remotely and on digital platforms. As a result, education had changed dramatically with the distinctive rise of e-learning and online learning which seemed to be growing exponentially.
There are many advantages and disadvantages of teaching and learning online. Learning online can be effective in a number of ways for those who do have access to the right technology. The challenge of online learning appears when some students do not have reliable access to the Internet and might not have access to high-speed broadband. It’s important to note that there is no single method which fits all when it comes to learning. Different groups have different priorities and the resources that should be used are context-dependent. There are also special considerations to think about talented students and for students with special educational needs and disabilities.
To organize online classes our school used Microsoft Office 365, Yammer, Google Apps, including Google Classroom. Resources that teachers used for involving students in online activities, lessons, quizzes, tests were digital tools such as LMS, Google Docs, MS Forms, Socrative, WordWall, Quzziz, Formative, Genially, Canva, Kahoot, Padlet, Linoit, Powtoon, Piktochart, Popplet, Wizer me, Learning apps, Loom and the videoconference platform Zoom.
In response to significant demand, many online learning platforms were offering free access to their services, Also, we presented to students the educational trends online and the characteristics of contemporary pedagogical methods. Moreover, the concept of contemporary school wa introduced that encouraged students to be active regarding the content of learning and fostered autonomy and responsibility in terms of learning from home. Modern pedagogy focuses on the student, her/his needs, interests and motives, encourages to stimulate creativity, communication, independence and critical thinking, and use elements of play and fun in teaching. We also introduce some new one: research learning, reversed classroom, collaborative learning, project teaching and gamification.
Tho whole situation related to the outbreak of Covid-19 did not disturb students from High School ban Josip Jelačić, Sinj in Croatia to participate in the 2020 STEM Discovery Campaign online and organise a STEM event titled “Green & Digital -Innovative Approaches to Learning and Teaching Online“. Students organizedg various STEM online activities in the virtual classroom and shared good practices. Using digital tools students made an exhibition and presented their innovative and creative works online.
During the event, our views and reflections on STEM were revealed to the interested online audience in a new, unique and original way, through the exhibition. Why green and digital? Because students message was to encourage the whole World to act on climate change and “digital” because the works were made by digital tools when presenting “A greener tomorrow for a greener school and a greener city! One person can make a difference but together we can make a movement”.
The exhibition “Green & Digital-Innovative Approaches to Learning and Teaching Online” was prepared and organised by the teachers – Nada Ratković and Želko Cvitković, involving students as part of regular teaching online in vocational subjects in virtual classes.
See the presentation on our STEM activities!
Before the Campaign, students were learning by researching which involves identifying problems of interest for research, goal setting and hypotheses, conducting research procedures and testing hypotheses, interpreting results, and drawing conclusions.
Students were enjoying this researching process which encouraged them to conclude independently and to use different and creative strategies in their research approach. It developed curiosity, creativity and enabled students to work independently and have a scientific approach to problems. Students built the knowledge that is more understandable and lasting for them, and ultimately more applicable in their life contexts.
The scientific approach to problems is especially important in vocational subjects, involving “flipped classroom” activities for learning at home (outside of class), pre-prepared on digital teaching materials placed on the Internet, the students study the material independently.
By collaborative learning, students were solving a common problem, exploring a common theme or upgrading mutual knowledge to create new ideas, new combinations or unique innovation. This goal could be problem-solving, problem research, creating a joint piece, and the like.
In collaborative learning, discussions are often conducted, students listen to each other, have to express themselves accurately and clearly, and through this, they develop their communication skills. In collaborative learning, students perceive differences among individuals, which prepares them to adopt different opinions and different learning styles. Through project teaching, students develop a number of skills, such as problem-solving, logical and critical thinking, communication and collaborative skills, organizational skills, and a sense of responsibility for their own learning. Upon completion of the project, students always present project results. The teacher is a moderator who needs to get students interested in the problem and its research and guide and direct them when needed. The game-based learning can motivate and interest students to work and make it easier for them to practice certain procedures that are often part of the curriculum. Digital games provide many opportunities for learning and rehearsing the learning content that contemporary teaching is seeing and using. Playing can help engage less motivated students and bring fun to the classroom, which certainly enriches traditional ways of working.
This event is a valuable contribution to the efforts to improve the system of STEM and emphasise the role of students in creating a modern and efficient system that can contribute to the smart and sustainable growth of STEM in Croatia and Europe. In this way our our school became one of the many European participants who want to promote STEM online in vocational education that develops creativity and innovative students, and leads to greater employment opportunities, high quality and extremely interesting jobs.