On Wednesday, March 5, 120 educators from all over Europe, the US, Iran and Israel came together in La Coruna, Spain for five days of discussion, collaborative learning and planning at the 22nd Conference of the European Schools Project Association. The theme of the Conference, Bridging Education into Society set the tone of the activities as the participants explored how ICT could be better used to educate young people towards full active citizenship. They worked together to develop new collaborative projects which would bring the students to interact with peers abroad fostering openness, generosity towards others and working together to build a better world. The conference was hosted by the Amancio Ortega Foundation, a philanthropic fund committed to promoting educational innovation in the area of La Coruna.
The formal conference opened on Thursday morning with greetings to the participants from the Foundation and Professor Henk Sligte, of the University of Amsterdam.

The Conference was then privileged to hear Mr. Frederico Mayor Zaragoza, former president of UNESCO speak about "Education for All, Commitment of the Entire Society". He emphasized that not only must we seek to bridge education into society; we must bridge society into education – providing a quality education as a basic right of all.
Collette Cotton described various projects between English elementary schools around the world with the help of SuperclubsPlus, an award winning e-learning site for children aged 6 to 11 which offers safe chat along with a range of other online tools like home pages, school pages and email.

The Thursday afternoon and evening sessions were devoted to having the participants get to know each other, hear about various ICT collaborative projects and resources and begin to look for prospective partners for forming their own projects. Kirsten M. Antilla and Vilienka Savli introduced the "Image of the Other" Portal a seven European language resource site for Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) projects. Dr. Sheila Gersh of the US introduced the Culture Quest Project, where students and teachers engage in inquiry-based classroom projects that explore other peoples and cultures. Other projects centering on teaching English, art, German and sciences were also introduced, while many of the participants began discussions with prospective CSCL project partners.

On Friday morning the conference participants split up to visit three schools in the Ponte dos Brozos educational ICT project supported by the Amancio Ortega Foundation in the town of Arteixo. Visits were made to an elementary, secondary and vocational school where ICT had been introduced across the curriculum and laptops were used by all the teachers and students.

In addition to visiting the schools for a first hand impression, the conference members heard a presentation by Professor Miquel Angel Prats of Universitat Ramon Llul on the ICT empowered educational innovation of Ponte Dos Brontos Project based on a two year qualitative – quantitative multidimensional study.
An in-depth visit to the Inditex factories and logistics services in Arteixo (Zara Fashions) gave a true demonstration of how ICT is deployed in the operation of a global concern as production, marketing and shipping are controlled by close online communication between the logistics center and its world-wide outlets. A reception by the Mayor of Arteixo followed before returning to the conference headquarters in La Coruna.
On Friday afternoon, more project presentations were made including projects with moodles and email, e-twinning and a head teachers' workshop. An interesting collaborative project by Danish elementary schools and an Iranian school was presented by participating teachers.

I presented how Information Literacy and ICT skills are integrated across the curriculum at Neveh Channah Girls High School in Israel. The presentation and related links can be viewed here. My presentation also emphasized the activities of the Hebrew University branch of the international KP-Lab consortium in collecting and sharing ICT materials of schools all around Israel.

Friday evening and Saturday morning were devoted to project design and planning sessions, where new projects were designed and ongoing projects were updated. The projects were uploaded to the conference website as they were completed.
The remainder of Saturday was devoted to social-cultural activities, a visit to Santiago De Compostella, the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia and the destination of the important medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James. A social evening with an ethnic Galician musical presentation was held on Saturday evening.

Sunday was devoted to the General assembly of the ESP members and goodbyes all around.
Participating in the conference provided me with a chance to widen my professional contacts considerably by getting to know educators in Europe who implement ICT in their curricula in a constructivist - authentic learning mode. Meeting face to face with people who are trying to bring their students to learn how to work with peers across the globe in order to improve the world they live in was a truly refreshing experience. The conference provided an opportunity for us to realize in our own social, professional lives the values we are trying to bring to our students by creating and sustaining a real-life global learning community. I hope to develop the ties I made there and cultivate them into an ongoing collaboration.

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Comment by Caren Levine on March 11, 2008 at 8:28am
The conference provided an opportunity for us to realize in our own social, professional lives the values we are trying to bring to our students by creating and sustaining a real-life global learning community.

Powerful stuff, Reuven! Thank you for sharing the conference's activities, and most of all, your reflections.


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