A Course in the Time of Pandemic
By Miroslav Mihaylov,
Teacher in EFL (English as a Foreign Language)
PTG Dr. Nikola Vassiliadi, Gabrovo
This article has been written by Miro, one Bulgarian teacher participant in our course “ICT for Teaching and Learning” in Valencia in March 2020, just before the Covid19 pandemic spread around Europe.
The original article was published in the online newspaper Gabrovo News (www.gabrovonews.bg).
The current fact of the fading pandemic and as well as the psychosis caused by the coronavirus is a good news for all of us. It makes us go back in the early days of March – the beginning of all that and recall with nostalgy in mind the normal course of our daily lives. Just before the onset of the virus, which spread across the Globe, our two teachers – Miroslav Mihaylov and Kosyo Hristov from the Vocational Technical High School Dr. Nikola Vasiliadi – Gabrovo, were on a week-long training course in Valencia. Miroslav Mihailov, an English teacher, talks about the new educational methods they have learned, the way they have got back home and everything interesting they have come across.
The one-week course with the participation of Miroslav Mihailov and Koso Hristov took place from 9th to 13th of March. It was a natural continuation of the PTG – Gabrovo participation in the project for teacher qualification «Programming and ICT for better technical education in the IT sector», with code 2019-1-BG01-KA101-061368 of the EU program Erasmus +. Unlike the first part, which was held in September last year, now the educational emphasis was on the application of various classroom communication technologies which would eventually lead to modern approach to teaching as well as acquisition of good practices and skills. Based on our previous collaborations with ESMOVIA, as well as our previous participation in projects, e.g. «Train to Europe», it can be said that over the time PTG Dr. Nikola Vasiliadi has been gradually established as a reliable partner in various educational projects in its international integration.
The way of modernization and obtaining of useful educational practices chosen by the school’s management has already become our tradition. It was confirmed by our collaboration with ESMOVIA in March, in Valencia as well. As in our previous joint venture, the hosts from ESMOVIA have structured the training course at an excellent level. Owning to the lecturers Joaquim Ortiz – Ximo and Hermelando Ferrando – Herme, we were shown a modern approach that concerns teaching in a real classroom in a lesser degree. The substantial part of their seminars and practical tasks were entirely concentrated on the distance teaching-learning which somehow became important issue during the current pandemic situation.
Ximo’s training was conducted in two directions – the use of ICT as a helpful assistant to teacher’s work in a real classroom. His classes concerned ICT’s main idea of time saving through broad practicing with its multimedia tools suitable for any given educational situation, e.g. the benefits of Whiteboard’s multimedia potential, which supports teacher’s achievement of goals set either during or before the process of working in a real classroom.
The second direction of Ximo’s teaching included working with cloud technologies in online classes and reaching out the optimal efficiency with Symbaloo (MS Teams alike) as well as various opportunities provided by Google. The practical activities made us familiar to: Jamboard – a cloud interactive whiteboard easily accessible for every student; Classroom screen – an online tool for lesson management which includes teacher supporting software such as – a screen with instructions, traffic lights which regulate students’ activity and discipline through the three light signals.
We experienced the big potential of Google Suite – the cloud technology assisting the teacher with a number of opportunities such as: setting up teachers’ own site without being a programmer, classifying documents, tests and other classroom materials as well as building a mutual teamwork net among other colleagues.
Other Google’s hidden gems, such as Timeline Tools, made us familiar with instruments for flexible management of the teacher’s lesson. Basically it is a graphic timetable which, by means of curves, tracks each student’s learning progress or his difficulties. It provides a quick feedback and according teacher’s own discretion the annual lessons timetable could be edited and, if needed, more extra time for exercises, not previously fixed, could be added.
Padlet, another tool-gem, would help us in creating our own source of materials and a cloud locker for collecting and storing the pupils’ projects and home works.
The whole information mentioned above, regardless of its advanced methods of a fashionable «cloud dimension”, supports the classical concept of education – the feedback between a teacher’s leading role and a student.
In Herme’s seminars we experienced a new approach with the so-called Flipped Classroom – the leading role of a teacher is inverted to a team of students who, by means of the entire potential of smart technologies would prepare and teach the new lesson to their classmates. The teacher in the Flipped Classroom is just a team’s manager and coordinates the process while the class should be taught by their classmates’ team and learn the new topic on their own.
Afterwards the Plickers technique was shown to us by Herme as well. It uses special A4 size cards handed to students individually. Instead of oral answers they have to lift the cards in a specific manner or direction to show their answer to the teacher. In turn, the teacher takes picture with Plickers application of the entire class’ answer-cards and evaluates all answers for a minute or so. I could add that the students do not need smart devices while using Plickers.
Having experienced and practiced all of the ICTs, either online or in a real class environment, the time to get familiar with the idea of learning based on playing computer games has come to us. Along with ICT, the so-called Gamification or GBL – Games Based Learning are the core of the active method of teaching embedded in the concept of sustaining and strengthening the students’ motivation for learning.
Following the irrevocable principle that the computer games are put into educational practice only as an assisting tool, but not because of the game itself, Herme has introduced to us the game of Class Craft. Its gaming philosophy covers role-playing models applied to educational environment. Eventually it should increase pupils’ motivation to focus on learning. The teacher could track the progress of the player (i.e the student) in a real classroom environment by means of introducing a game model with its supporting system of rewards bestowed to the student having overcame some lesson challenges. Technically, the game is created by the teacher – it has its own plot and evolving storyline, which includes teaching material adapted to the level of the class. The game is set in a virtual environment and the students must have their own created avatars and profiles as well. During the game they have to undergo different lesson levels, each of the levels has a content which is a part of the entire teaching material that should be taught. In other words, the teaching material should be learnt in a non-direct approach by means of GBL. It is suitable for any school subject.
In conclusion, we can only be grateful to the professionalism of our teachers Ximo and Herme, because of their positive attitude and helpful experience we were able to enjoy the course and the practices of the new methods and techniques of the distance learning.
Somewhere at the end of our stay in the beautiful city of Valencia, at the end of our seminars, the pandemic cast its shadow upon our daily routines. As if, that challenge was subconsciously set in the topics of our seminars. The ICTs, along with the peculiar current situation within Europe have gradually changed the course of our common teaching and posed new challenges in our job for which we have already been prepared during the training with ESMOVIA. So, just a day before the announcement of the quarantine throughout Valencia, we flew back to Bulgaria. The day before our flight, nothing was suggested of what was coming over. Two days after the declaration of the state of emergency in Bulgaria, we got back to our homeland and completed our 14-day mandatory quarantine without any issues. Fortunately, both of us were safe and sound and even under quarantine we continued our classes of online teaching with the young students of PTG Dr. Nikola Vassiliadi in Gabrovo.
April 24th 2020
*the headline is loosely based on the Gabriel García Márquez’s book title “Love in the Time of Cholera”)