Technology has become a part of everyday routine not only in the workplaces but also schools. Just less than 10 years ago an interactive whiteboard or projector was a luxury, where now many schools in Latvia have gone way further and use smartphones, tablets and even 3D printers.
For teachers of private secondary school “Klasika” lessons without use of technology are almost impossible. Visual programming, robotics and gamification are not just fancy unknown terms for them. Math teachers Tatjana Vinokurova and Ināra Vasiļevska have been involving their pupils in collaborative projects through Erasmus+ and eTwinning already for several years. These projects encourage pupils to learn different subjects through collaboration with teachers and pupils from different countries. One of latest success stories for the school is eTwinning project “ICT World 2017”, which in a competition with other 700 projects received an eTwinning European Prize (age category 12-15 years). Together with project partners from Germany, France, Finland, Spain and Czech Republic they will officially receive the prize this October during annual eTwinning conference, which will gather more than 500 teachers and educational leaders from 43 countries. EU representative Cecile Le Clercq also visited school this April to celebrate the success together with pupils, teachers, parents and supporters of the project.
The biggest achievement in this project is the improvement of digital literacy for the pupils. Work in international teams has also improved collaboration skills as well as English.
Tatjana Vinokurova, the project “ICT World 2017” coordinator in Latvia tells about their success: “It is very important, that pupils are not only the consumers of the technology but also creators. We are often wrong thinking that our children are born to be “tech pros”. It is a huge difference between chatting in Facebook, sharing photos in Snapchat or Instagram or creating a code for a game/ creating an animation, where they also learn math during the process. Of course collaboration skills are crucial, but in this century of technology it is also very important to teach our kids abstract thinking or how to understand and use algorithms, solve problems and use this all knowledge in the real life situations. Why is it important if humans might soon be replaced with robots? Because the humans are the ones that create these technologies!”
The key to success of this project is implementation of different, especially STEM subjects, in the real life situations. One of the project activities was an outdoor experiment to research the trajectory of stream of water. After that pupils modeled the process using the dynamic math online platform GeoGebra to come to conclusion that the trajectory of the stream of water is close to parabolic.
During the project pupils also used visual programming tool Scratch. In international teams they created 6 level games including different subjects and in the end evaluated the results.
Using GeoGebra pupils also created animations. To learn rules of geometry, they had to model moving objects focusing on the movement, e.g. carousel, train or moving bridge. They even managed to integrate art lessons, modelling Christmas stars using geometry rules.
In the end of the project Latvian team collaborating with the local “Baltic 3D” company learned the basics of 3D printing using Google Skechup and created fibonacci spiral as well as printed it using 3D technology. The spirals looked very similar to waves of the sea so the pupils had an idea to create an art installation “Baltic sea” during their art lessons.
3D modelling was also explored in international groups through important monuments of architecture in all partner countries. Latvian pupils designed a 3D model of Brandenburg gate, but a 3D model of The National Library of Latvia was created by Czech students.
Latvian teacher Ināra Vasiļevska shares her thought about the project: “This projects helps pupils to understand that math in not only abstract formulas. With help of math we can improve our spatial thinking. Pupils in our project proved that math can be amusing, exciting and interesting. That formulas and functions can be used to create even Christmas cards and decorations, therefore integrating math in other subjects.”
The knowledge and skills gained during different eTwinning trainings are also important part of the success – both project teachers participated in eTwinning training for Scratch as well as 3D modelling together with other teachers from different schools in Latvia. The coordinator of eTwinning in Latvia Kristaps Auzāns: “We have followed the project activities with curiosity, because the results achieved by both teachers and pupils are truly amazing. Even the fact that pupils are capable of solving math in foreign language is a big success. The hard work and dedication of teachers involved in this project is also very important – the materials created throughout the project can also be used by math and other STEM subject teachers all around Europe. We are happy to see that skills gained in our trainings are actively being used to educate pupils.”
To measure the impact, project leaders asked teachers, pupils and also parents to evaluate each stage of the project. The results published in project TwinSpace speak for themselves – 87.8% pupils agree, that during the project they have improved their ICT skills. 59.9% pupils also agree that project has encouraged their interest learning STEM subjects.
Project partners from Germany, France, Finland and Czech Republic have received eTwinning European Quality labels. Project received National Award in Latvia and 2nd place in eTwinning awards in Germany. Project also received a special prize form “Learn IT” in Latvia as “The best ICT project”.
The partnerships between project partners has not come to an end because this is just a part of long term project “ICT WORLD: Imaging, Coding, Transforming and Simulating the World” (2016-2019). Teachers are planning the nest step – project “Math, Art and Real Life with GeoGebra”, where math will be integrated with art subjects.