Portugal Cycle 3 – PD 1

Date and Time: 18.01.2012, 10:00 – 12:00

Participants: Three lower and upper secondary school teachers, two of them currently seconded at Competence Centres (one at a teacher association, another one at a university) : (1) Ana Pedro is a member of the Competence Centre of the Institute of Education of the University of Lisbon. (2) Maria João teaches Biology, lower secondary. She has been a teacher, a teacher trainer and an in-service training supervisor; she is currently seconded at a Competence Centre of a teacher association; she was involved in one of the key national projects which aimed at integrating ICT into schools ; (3) Francisco is a Geography teacher. He has been a teacher for 36 years and is a highly proficient user of ICT. He is a teacher trainer in the educational use of ICT in Geography education and is the ICT coordinator at his school and has been involved in various research projects pertaining to the educational use of ICT.

Scenarios discussed: Designing with multitouch technology | Digitally mapping biodiversity | Virtual engines

Main points:

1.     Designing with multitouch technology

There was consensus about the fact that implementing this scenario may be difficult, for two main reasons: (1) the lack of multitouch technology (multitouch tables, in this case; all Portuguese secondary schools are equipped with interactive whiteboards); (2) working with various colleagues at school.

Francisco noted that technology itself seems to be “accessory” to the scenario, in the sense that what is actually important are its pedagogical components, namely collaborative work among students, a panel of experts and the proposed approach to assessing students. He also said that there are obstacles but these do not seem unsurmountable.

Ana was of the opinion that it might be difficult to find schools keen on implementing the scenario.

Maria João thought it was highly difficult to implement as few schools have the necessary equipment (multitouch tables), but she also said that the main obstacle had to do with organizational issues.

If they had to put the scenario into practice:

Ana would first and foremost concentrate on finding colleagues willing to participate, talking to experts who could help from the very start and in motivating students in co-designing the project.

Maria João thought that the main obstacle could be to motivate students. The assumption that technology per se motivates students is clearly wrong. In a gaming context this is certainly true but in a “serious” learning context this may not be the case. She also said that the scenario was very demanding on students, namely on respecting deadlines. They had to be fully accountable, which is not always the case.

For Francisco the main challenges would be to motivate students, to involve colleagues and to design practical activities that are motivating and challenging.

Next steps:
Giving back what had been accomplished to the community.
Transforming the project into a transdisciplinary one.

2.     Digitally mapping biodiversity

Consensus about the fact that this is a very interesting but also overwhelming scenario. It is one of those projects one reads in books. It is interesting in the sense that it is subdivisable into smaller chunks. You can be more “modest” and implement it at different levels of difficulty and depth.

One of the main problems seems to lie in mapping the curriculum of the different subjects involved. All teachers involved must be rather flexible over what topics to teach when. This may make the project unmanageable, because of dependencies.

Study visits are rather complicated these days, both because of a lack of time but also due to financial constraints.

It is a “rich” scenario in terms of the methodologies involved. It may be necessary to pick up elements of the scenario and implement them, rather than the whole scenario. In 3 months, it is clearly not feasible as a whole.

It is an exemplary project, too exemplary, in fact. It seems to hold all that a project should be, should have.

The main difficulty is for students to monitor their area for 3 months.


What could/should change? /What are the main challenges?

Francisco: Time and time management. It is much easier to work with colleagues teaching other subjects in shorter time spans. One possibility would be to alternate periods of time devoted to the project and others studying other topics in the curriculum. He would adapt and select some of the proposals in the project.

Maria João: Scientific accuracy is of paramount importance. So teachers should be very careful about tentative species identification.

Ana: She would adapt the scenario in face of the time available. This seems like a repository of subjects, methodologies, technologies, people, students, teachers, self-regulation strategies, etc.


3.     Virtual engines

The scenario has good points in it. However, a possible “gender gap” should be taken into consideration. Girls get easily bored when using technology. Other methodologies may attract them more easily.

They all agreed that this is the least developed scenario and that there are unnecessary generalities in it, such as “The ideal outcome of this scenario is therefore that the students and the teacher reach a balance by bringing something valuable to the process.”

Francisco – the choice of software to be used that is simple enough for students to learn to use quickly. Another difficulty may be to define the initial problem to be solved, the initial question to be answered.

Maria João: It must be much more specific. Also, students have to master a number of concepts and variables which take time to sink in.

Ana – Motivating all students from the outset may be difficult.

The group in general thought that of the three scenarios, Designing with multitouch technology and Digitally mapping local biodiversity would be implementable and interesting to try out in Portuguese schools. If one were to be chosen, it would be Designing with multitouch technology. The Virtual Engines scenario didn’t get any “votes”.

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