Tuesday, 3 April 2012

US and EU: teachers meeting "the Other"

During the past decade, more and more teachers in the EU have been involved in international projects.
The Lisbon Process, in its effort to create a new knowledge-driven economy, set the basis for a lasting change in education and training. The knowledge triangle of research, education and innovation is the core of the whole process: and lots of educators, of all school levels, found these three elements in international cooperation.

Students from all over Europe had the opportunity to meet, study/work/play together, and even live together, thank to Erasmus, Grundtvig, Comenius, eTwinning. National barriers have been overcome - and prejudices with them, at least that's what we hope.

Now, after more than ten years, we got addicted to meeting "the Other". And we want more.
Personally, as a teacher, I just got curious. I wanted to know what was going on in the US, and I tried to contact teachers, or better, teachers' nets, living and working there. And once again, I couldn't help thinking how fantastic the web is. I found what I was looking for in a matter of minutes.

I started with a couple of great communities, Teacher 2.0 and Classroom 2.0. I met and chatted with lots of teachers from all around the world (literally!), I took Steven Hargadon's teacher 2.0 online workshop ...and yes, I'm a teacher 2.0 !!!

If you've never heard of this online workshop before, do give it a try: it's simple, clear and very useful.
At first, if you're already familiar with the web, you could feel it's easy for you - but in fact it's extremely interesting for both its content and its structure. And it could be a precious resource for eTwinning Ambassadors, teachers' trainers, and all of the educators involved with training others about the web and its opportunities.

I'm still an active member of these communities, and, as it always happen online, one place led to the other, one person led to hundreds of others. My Professional (or Personal? not so easy to draw a line) Learning Network is expanding day after day. And I love this!

Then, at the end of 2011, I found on the eTwinning Desktop some info about the Transatlantic Educators Dialogue (TED), sponsored by the European Union Center and the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This programme is supposed to "build bridges" between teachers in the EU and in the US, by having them reflect on their perception of "the Other" - and of themselves of course. The aim of these teachers' meetings is to better realize how we see others, and how others see us in the classrooms and schools of different countries.

"TED is an online platform for educators in the United States and the European Union to collaborate in an online format to explore and examine how other countries, and in particular, their own country, are represented in their classroom and other schools in the U.S. and the E.U."

When I was accepted in the course I was thrilled. And I am thrilled now, three monts into the course.
It's the first time I actually have the opportunity to talk about such delicate topics - personal and National identity, prejudices, approaches to teaching, students' and teachers' assessment, youth culture, immigration, and so on - with colleagues coming from so many countries.
I'm realizing how things work (or don't) in different realities, and I've lots of new ideas, suggestions, doubts, and hopes.

As I always say, the best way to learn it's out of your own experience... but learning from someone else's experience definitely ranks second. I've never had so many people, experiences, stories and identities available - and willing to share.

One of the best part of this course is that we work with colleagues on a chosen subject and we present our ideas and our perspective on that subject during the weekly online meetings. That's great, since we have the opportunity to work together with new colleagues, present our ideas and listen to the others' different points of view, experiences, doubts, beliefs.
I've had the opportunity to work with Gaelle Farout, and to discuss identity and otherness with Annamaria Donnarumma and Lorena Mihalec. It's a discussion and a reflection still in progress, and I hope it will last.

I'll write more about this great experience, so stay tuned for more :)

And thanks to all the great people who keep helping, supporting, and inspiring me in my job!



  1. Dear Laura,
    thank you for your post, I find it interesting and really useful.
    I always like for example in a Comenius project when we can visit a school, and we have the opportunity to talk with colleagues from other schools,and from other countries. I think, that's great, we can feel a real experience about everyday life, problems/possible solution.
    And, next to the personal visits, fortunately we have other possibilities as well.

    eTwinning helps us with projects, teachers'rooms, organising online meetings or online course and conferences, and I also like them.
    Talking about our experiences, sharing proposals how to resolve a problem, or what we found useful, theat's great.

    And I like it here, in our blog with other LifelongLearningTeachers:).

    Yes, we have experiences what could be happen here in Europe, or in our countries,but I am happy you could do it with new course and colleagues from US. And the topics about you talked are importants.

    I don't know if it is possible, but I will go to US at the end of June, and I would like to visit there a school and talking with colleagues. If I could realise, I will writ about my experience here.

    Thank you for sharing the link of Teacher2.0. I visited now the website, and I will return there, looking for ideas.

    And, I will be here to read about your experience, so I stay tuneed for more :)


  2. Interesting programme. I'd like to know if US schools have our same problems or if they are the sci-fi institutes we imagine. Let us know more as you go on with the course!

  3. Thank you Monika and Jack. The course ended last Sunday and it was very useful and inspiring for all of us. I'm going to write another post about it very soon!

  4. Nice programme. I'm definitely applying next year! Thank you Laura for sharing once more.