Have you ever asked yourself how to make your lessons more interactive, engaging and attractive for your students?
This week, together with 13 teachers from different schools in Romania, which decides to participate in our course Integrating ICT and new technologies into teaching and education, we tried to answer this question by exploring a vast range of technological tools which, without doubt, helped to make their classroom more enthusiast.
We had a look at the most simple, yet quite efficient tools to edit pictures and video which can be used to prepare engaging multimedia, sum up or introduce a subject or challenge the students to create their own work of art. The teachers also learned how to energize their students and get their attention thanks to a extremely effective tool which helped them to create video presentation.
But there was more: are you wondering how to easily create a website in very few steps? Our group learned to do that thanks to our class, where they had the chance to experiment the easiest drag and drop tool to build their school website.
Since during this very difficult year the teachers had to manage online classes, it seems inevitable to explore some applications to conduct a virtual lesson: the participants therefore delved into the world of virtual whiteboard to create engaging and captivating distance lessons and to create collaborative learning experiences.
The journey into the universe of technology continues with another tool designed to organise presentations, social media graphics, info graphic, flyers, posters, collages, CVs, banners and much more. Our group had plenty of time to put the theory into practice and unleash their imagination!
Then, it was time for an outdoor scavenger hunt in Bologna, a practical experience that allowed the group, as one of our participants said, to learn and see new things I hadn’t noticed before. After having walked around Bologna with an “eye of discovery”, laughed and engaged in all sorts of challenges and missions, the participants were eager to start planning and creating their own game-based urban trekking experience for their students!
The group spent the last hours together practicing on the tools explained and discovered during the whole week, so as to start creating something relevant and immediately applicable upon their return in their classes. Finally, the group engaged in a game-based evaluation of the course using the inspirational touch of the Dixit cards to transform their experience in Bologna in a creative (and mysterious) story.
The week started with developing an understanding on the importance of 21st century skills and particularly the 4 Cs (communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking) in education. The teachers engaged first in a survey to find out what best practices are already adopted in the group and then in practical activities to lay the groundwork for further exploring creativity and critical thinking.
The Broken Telephone or the moment in which Critical Thinking became "a process"!
The group went on analyzing more in depth the concept of critical thinking through practical activities applicable in the classroom. The most relevant challenge was trying to remember a definition of Critical Thinking with a Broken Telephone exercise with which it ended up being simply “a process”. This was not only an incredibly fun moment forging the group Motto for the whole week but also a true eye opener on the weakness and ineffectiveness of traditional memorization-based education and the need to adopt a more challenging, practical and critical-consumer approach to education.
Want to hear the experience from the point of view of one of our participants? No problem! Have a look at the article Maria wrote about her week in Bologna :)
“How to plan and prepare a public speech?”
“How to understand the emotions of the students?”
“How to manage a conflict?”
To achieve these goals was challenging, but thanks to the contribute of each participant, and thanks to the experience that each teacher brought within the group, the content of the course was enriched by the added value of everyone, creating an exchange of strategies and useful tools for classroom management.
We started our journey from discussing the importance of soft and communication skills and how, as teachers, we all have a crucial role in offering to our students the possibility to improve their communication and soft skills. We analysed the most important principles of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and in particular the Watzlawick's axiom that say that “one cannot not communicate”, infact every behavior is a form of communication. Behavior does not have a counterpart (there is no anti-behavior) so it is impossible not to communicate. Even if communication is being avoided (such as the unconscious use of non-verbals or symptom strategy), that is a form of communication. Even if we’re not speaking infact we’re “speaking” with our body language. Participants discovered that only the 7% of our communication is represented by our spoken words meanwhile the 38% of the information is given with our tone of voice and the 55% with our body language.
Like the participants told us, sometimes at school it is difficult to capture students’ attention and motivate them to improve themselves. Guess what? Communication is essential to identify learning’s obstacles and to promote the continuous growth of the students. As we found out together, listening to students’ emotions is the first step to help them to identify new, more constructive and motivating beliefs. For this reason we’ve analysed as well the principles and pillars of emotional intelligence and emotional leadership. In particular we focused on the concept of empathic communication and its 4 elements: see their world, appreciate them as human beings, understand feelings, communicate understanding.
Furthermore, one of the aims of the training was to recognize the different communication channels (verbal, paraverbal and non-verbal) and to be able to manage them productively. Communication is not only about what we say, but also how we say it. The participants learn which mistakes to avoid with their paraverbal and body language communication in particular when delivering a speech. They moreover had the chance to participate in an intensive body language training in order to be able to decode the body language of their audience in addition to be aware of their body language when speaking in public.
To work on public speaking the participants were asked to prepare a public speech about a free topic. This exercise was crucial to analyse together which kind of communication strategies each participant used, and their effectiveness in communicating and capturing the attention of the audience. Analysing the body language was the hardest part! In fact, we often focus too much on words, overlooking our body language, risking to send the wrong messages. The participants delivered a 2-minutes public speech that was analysed by the whole group with the support of the trainer. This activity was highly appreciated since gave the participants the possibility to receive personalised feedback on their specch from both the other teachers and especially the trainer.
At the end of the training the participants had the chance to discuss about conflict management and discover how conflicts could be full of beauty and opportunities. The participants identified which words and phrases instigate and defuse conflict and how to speak responsibly in a conflict. The participants learn as well the 3 keys to effective conflict management and the 5 styles to manage a conflict.
There was no lack of cultural activities, the participants had the chance to discover the artistic and colorful landscapes of Palermo, Cefalù and Monreale in addition to networking among themselves and to building a multicultural team!
This training week was an opportunity for the teachers to become aware of them strengths and weaknesses, to improve themselves and to enrich the relationships network through intercultural exchanges.
Another topic that was analysed during the training days was how to lead a classroom and a team. To the question "is there one leadership style better than another"? together we found the answer: “No!”
Each leadership style is more or less suitable for different types of situations. Therefore, the participants challenged each other to associate leadership styles with different situations, discovering that each context requires different leadership skills.
Furthermore, one of the aims of the training was to recognize the different communication channels (verbal, paraverbal and non-verbal) and to be able to manage them productively. Communication is not only about what we say, but also how we say it. To further work on this topic and on improving public speaking skills the participants delivered a 2-minutes public speech that was analysed by the whole group with the support of the trainer. This activity was highly appreciated since gave the participants the possibility to receive personalised feedback from both the other teachers and especially the trainer.
To improve emotional intelligence, the teachers were also challenged to associate correct emotions with different kinds of behaviors, in order to train their ability to be aware of their own and others' emotions.
Of course, there was no lack of cultural activities! The artistic and colorful landscapes of Palermo, Cefalù and Monreale enriched the afternoons of the week, allowing participants to get to know each other, to network and to build a multicultural team!
The four main topics discussed during the week were the following:
By Friday, team spirit was so high that it was difficult to say goodbye. On the other hand, each person in the group was very eager to go back and start applying all the many ideas that emerged during the course. Another great week of inspiration was over, but only to be continued back in Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia and Poland!
Want to hear the experience from the point of view of one of our participants? No problem! Have a look at the article Tamara wrote about her week in Bologna :)