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Comenius In-Service Training Case Studies

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Digital Earth and School Education in Salzburg, Austria

Dr. Anne Dolan, Niamh Armstrong and Dr. Sandra Ryan from Mary Immaculate College, Limerick recently attended a Comenius course “Digital Earth and School Education” in Salzburg, Austria.



This course is based on the concept of "Spatial citizenship" - people engaging in transformative, participative and responsible ways to make a difference in their own space and place and within the wider world and to deal with change and future uncertainties. Geomedia is the visualisation of information from different media sources and is concerned with digital content and its processing based on place, position and location. The digital–earth.eu project examines the use of digital and geomedia for creative pedagogy in schools and teacher education.

The course provided hands-on training with a range of GIS, mapping and geographical software as well as other educational software and tools through a combination of theoretical presentations, practical hands-on workshops and field trips. Course participants presented their use of geomedia, and it was interesting to see the different ideas from participants in the eleven countries that were represented.

Karl Donert gave us an introduction to Digital Earth and its importance to our planet in the 21st Century. Josef Strobl from the GIS department, University of Salzburg gave us a keynote address on Spatial Enquiry, Place and Space. Alan Parkinson, a geographer and Geomedia expert, presented several workshops and seminars. We had hands-on workshops using some tools presented. He presented the use of mobile learning and smartphone apps. Outside in the streets of Salzburg we were given a number of geographical tasks to complete using apps and digital images. One of the highlights was a field trip to the local ski slopes. Throughout the course we made valuable contacts with course participants who share similar educational interests.

The B.Ed. Degree Programme in Ireland is currently being revised and the first four year cohort enrolled in September 2013. As lecturers in education we now have the opportunity to incorporate the use of geomedia in our courses for student teachers and postgraduate students. This course was an opportunity for us to avail of excellent continuing professional development.

Karl Donert is is Director of the European Centre of Excellence, digital -earth.eu, based at Salzburg University, Austria. For more information about this project and future courses contact kdonert@yahoo.com

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One Decade of Literacy, Portugal, September 2013
Mary Nugent, Regional Director, National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) attended the study ‘One Decade of Literacy’ Portugal, 11-13 September 2013

A central part of my work as an educational psychologist is to work towards improving literacy skills in school-aged children. However, the findings from the 2009 PISA testing indicated that literacy skills among 15 year olds in Ireland were declining relative to European standards. At the same time, literacy skills among Portuguese 15 year olds had improved very significantly.

The first thing that struck me was the broad conceptualisation of literacy in Portugal. They introduced me to the idea of"statistical literacy" and "cultural literacy" and introduced experts from agencies charged with improving these forms of literacy in the community. In Portugal, the literacy levels of citizens is seen as central to civic participation and democracy and national policy embraces older learners in a very proactive way.

The implementation of the National Reading Plan in Portugal is a case study in how a range of agencies can work together, including agents of social inclusion, library services, school services and national bodies. The sense of purpose and drive behind the Portuguese plan was striking. There was collective commitment to making progress. The media profile given to the plan and the range of local initiatives, including competitions, were of particular interest. Hopefully, this learning can be used in the NEPS response to the Irish National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy.

It was gratifying to note that participants were equally interested in some of the Irish actions to improve literacy and there was particular interest in our web-based resource Effective Interventions for Struggling Readers.


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Job shadowing to the Wergeland Centre (EWC) in Oslo, Norway


Dr Patricia Kieran, is a Lecturer in Religious Education at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, and a member of the Advisory Board for the Irish Centre for Religious Education. She undertook a job shadowing to the Wergeland Centre (EWC) in Oslo, Norway under Comenius In Service Training. This is her experience.

The Comenius In-Service Training grant enabled me to job-shadow the EWC Head of Research, Dr. Claudia Lenz. EWC is a European resource centre on education for democratic citizenship, human rights and intercultural understanding. It was established in 2009 as the result of cooperation agreement between the Council of Europe and Norway. Prior to the study visit I had heard much about EWC and read some of its materials through its website and publication s and this whetted my appetite to visit it and to learn from its expert staff as they worked in situ. I wanted to know more about research on intercultural and inter-religious education in Europe and to learn from best international practice. I was delighted to see from its website that Léargas funded job shadowing and so I immediately set about contacting EWC s Research and Development staff and put in an application to Léargas under Comenius In-Service Training/ Lifelong Learning Programme.
The EWC promptly and positively responded to my request to job shadow Dr. Claudia Lenz. After initial preparations regarding accommodation, transportation and negotiating a programme of events, in June 2013, I found myself in the heart of Oslo at the EWC head office. Claudia and everybody at the EWC made me feel instantly at home and really welcome. For me job shadowing was a rich and varied experience and I would whole heartedly recommend it to others. I got to participate in meetings with key personnel, educational practitioners and academics as well as to travel with Claudia to interesting places while familiarising myself with her research work.

Through job shadowing I witnessed the day to day issues that arose in the headquarters of EWC. I met EWC staff, including Dr. Ana Perona-Fjeldstad, Executive Director of EWC, and I had opportunities for in-depth conversation and policy analysis with Claudia and all of the EWC team. It was fascinating to compare and contrast the Irish and Norwegian educational systems and of course EWC provided me with a platform from which to survey policy and practice on education about religions and beliefs across Europe. While job shadowing I was able to access the amazing resources that EWC hosts and produces and to attend the weekly team meeting where EWC staff report on current Europe-wide projects and issues. My job shadowing was well timed because I was at the EWC during the Audit visit of the Ministry of Education in Norway. I had the good fortune of meeting expert members of the audit team and had a bird s eye opportunity to assess the implications of EWC research for teachers and teacher educators in Ireland and to explore best practice for teacher formation programmes in Ireland.

While I was shadowing Dr. Claudia Lenz I had the privilege of attending the launch of a book which she co-edited at the Centre for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities in Oslo. I was really interested in her own research. The book Seeberg, M.L., Levin, I. & Lenz, C (eds.) (2013) The Holocaust as Active Memory: The Past in the Present (Surrey: Ashgate) is a really interesting book and the launch at the Holocaust Museum in Oslo was another highpoint of the shadowing visit. I had the opportunity to visit the permanent collection at the Holocaust Museum with Claudia and to meet the Director of the Centre. During the 5 day visit I also got to attend the Norwegian Parliament in Oslo where 40% of seats are reserved for women.



(L to R) Dr. Ana Perona-Fjeldstad (Executive Director of the EWC), Dr. Patricia Kieran, Kjersti Toverud Klette (Advisor), Iryna Sabor (Project Officer) and Lars Gudmundson (Head of Capacity Building). 

I hope that my job shadowing visit is the beginning of connections emerging between the Irish Centre for Religious Education and the EWC. I hope to write for the EWC Statement Series (published and on-line journal) in 2014. I have a much greater awareness of the work of the EWC and I use their resources and publications in my teaching. The job shadowing enabled me to engage with a much larger network of expertise and resources than I was hitherto aware of and it has definitely impacted on how I teach and what I teach. The job shadowing was a real shot in the arm. I am so grateful to Claudia. Like all staff members at EWC she was generous with her time and expertise. For those contemplating job shadowing I would say – if in doubt, try it out!


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CLIL2012: From Practice to Visions 

Utrecht, the Netherlands, April 2012

Fiona Gallagher, DCU, Dublin 

"I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend this conference in Utrecht, Holland in April 2012. I had just finished a year of sabbatical leave for research purposes and had been reading extensively around the area of CLIL during this time. I applied to Léargas in September for funding to attend the Conference under the Comenius In-Service Training Programme and when I was told in December that I was successful I redoubled my background reading! 

So what is CLIL? Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) refers to a relatively new approach to second language teaching in school contexts which involves teaching a curricular subject through the medium of a language other than that normally used. For example, pupils in Germany might learn Science through the medium of Japanese or pupils in Sweden might learn History through the medium of English. This approach to second language learning is becoming increasingly popular in recent years, especially in mainland Europe and is being supported by the European Commission through the Comenius programme because "It can provide effective opportunities for pupils to use their new language skills now, rather than learn them now for use later. It opens doors on languages for a broader range of learners, nurturing self-confidence in young learners and those who have not responded well to formal language instruction in general education. It provides exposure to the language without requiring extra time in the curriculum, which can be of particular interest in vocational settings".

CLIL techniques and approaches are a core element in my work as lecturer in the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies in DCU. This event was likely to be of great benefit to me, particularly in relation to a module I co-teach entitled Language and the non-Language Classroom which is delivered to students on the Professional Diploma in Education programme in DCU. The module is aimed at teachers of other (non-language) subjects who find themselves teaching students for whom English is not their first language (usually children of migrant backgrounds) alongside native-English speakers. This is a relatively new phenomenon in Irish schools and the module aims to equip newly qualified teachers with the strategies and skills necessary to cater for the needs of this increasing cohort of students, and to enable them to differentiate from the perspective of language in the classroom. 

I felt that the Conference would help develop my understanding of the practical workings of CLIL at secondary level to complement the reading I had done. 

The three-day event lived up to expectations and involved a wide range of activities, including keynote presentations, workshops, discussions, school visits and various networking opportunities. There were over 200 delegates from all over Europe and also from as far afield as Argentina, Canada and Japan. Of particular interest to me was the school visit to Wolfert Tweetalig secondary school in Rotterdam with nine other delegates. This visit involved seeing CLIL "in action" in the school and gave me an opportunity to meet with the school principal, teachers and students as well as to observe a wide range of lessons conducted through English i.e in Geography, History, Maths, Drama and Art & Design.

The conference also provided me with a great opportunity to meet and discuss potential research collaboration with other CLIL practitioners outside Ireland.
So overall, I found this training experience was extremely worthwhile for me and hopefully will be of benefit for the student teachers I work with as well. I found that the conference was a most stimulating event which deepened my own understanding of key issues related to CLIL methodologies, enhanced my own teaching, and provided me with excellent networking opportunities."

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Teaching Russian in Europe: Development of Creativity & Thinking Skills
Latvia, 11 -17 March, 2012


Ludmila Snigireva, Galway

"What a joy to write a report after finishing my Comenius In-Service Training! Whoever will read these words might think that I work for some Advertising or Promotion Agency... No, I do not, I work as a teacher and I really enjoyed writing my feedback after the Comenius In Service Course I took last March in Latvia: Teaching Russian in Europe: Development of Creativity & Thinking Skills.

Léargas provided the necessary funding after my successful application to them in September 2011. The Course Provider, thinking-approach.org, organised the training activities, accommodation and cultural programme in Latvia. The other participants were from Estonia, Italy, Slovenia and the Netherlands. 

During my five days of training I got a unique experience of independent work on teaching the Russian language in Europe and using problem-solving skills with students. 

I have a long-standing experience of teaching English and Russian, but to be taught how to inspire students- to use their creativity; how to think not in a trivial way; to formulate their ideas not in a standard format - was absolutely revealing to me. Introducing the thinking dimension in the learning process became my priority after taking this course.

I gained not only that. I became so "infected" with the ideas which I got during the training activities that I started to spread the virus of developing my learners thinking approach to studies among my colleagues as well as my students. I presented a report to my colleagues and distributed handout materials which I brought from the course to them. Apart from these colleagues, I gave a talk at a Eurolog-Ireland* seminar and took part in round tables at International Conferences for Slavic Studies in the UK (in April) and Ireland (in May). I recommended to all my colleagues to take part in the next round of Comenius In-Service training after sending them e-mails with information about the thinking-approach.org and the funding opportunities available through Léargas. 

So what has this all meant to me in my professional life? Self-evaluation of my lessons--taught after the training course--has become more critical on the basis of the knowledge I gained in Latvia. I see teaching as part of lifelong learning for both me and my students. 

I also began working out a new programme for the next academic year using ideas and concepts received during the course. This meant that when I was offered contracts with NUIG and St Marys College Galway I was ready to deliver programmes for them. And of course, after establishing good contacts with colleagues from other European countries who participated in the training activities, I have a regular exchange of information with them, sharing experience and knowledge.

As we say in Russian: спасибо (spasiba) Thank you to all!"

*Eurolog-Ireland is an association of Russian organisations--local and language schools and cultural centres--as well as teachers, parents and adoptive families of Russian-speaking children. We hope to bring together all enthusiasts interested in the present and future of Russian heritage and language in Ireland. The association provides informational and educational support to its members by means of organising seminars, conferences, training courses and cultural events. We believe our work in promoting Russian culture will encourage further integration of the Russian community into Irish society.