Mission Possible: Over 100 Teachers Were Successfully Trained Online
Over 100 teachers were trained entirely online as part of the EU project FIERST
Bulgaria has been in a state of emergency for 4 weeks now. In the meantime, schools have been instructed to organize a process of remote teaching and our team has already conducted the very first remote training for teachers participating in the EU project FIERST. The COVID-19 pandemic provoked us to reorganize the training we had planned for April 4 and do it entirely online. Over 100 teachers, experts, and representatives from the Ministry of Education and Science from different parts of Bulgaria successfully participated in the training.
The goal of FIERST is to disseminate best practices for inclusive education through the development of 21-st century skills in the classroom and the establishment of professional learning communities at school. The partner organizations from Bulgaria are Teach For Bulgaria, the Ministry of Education and Science, and New Bulgarian University. The Bulgarian Union of Teachers is an associated partner.
REMOTE TRAINING WITH OVER 100 TEACHERS
In just a few days the project trainers, who are also Teach For Bulgaria alumni with a lot of experience and expertise, were able to adapt the training and successfully conduct it online. The training followed the flipped classroom model. It required preliminary work, discussions during the online sessions, application, and sharing.
The teachers who participated in the training had to complete some special assignments beforehand (about 2 hours of prep work). There were two 2-hour live online sessions on the day of the training. Our trainers used a video conference platform which allowed them to break the participants into smaller groups when necessary. Even though the participants were not physically in the same room, they still had the opportunity to work in pairs or in small groups, to share, and interact with each other.
The teachers used Google Classroom for their preliminary assignments and practical work during the online sessions. They were able to share their thoughts and feelings by using Padlet and Polleverywhere. In compliance with the flipped classroom model, all participants had homework at the end of the training. Their homework was to write about their personal experience with the professional learning communities and the ways in which they teach 21st century skills. Their work will be published on prepodavame.bg where all teachers will be able to access and learn from it.
“The most valuable insight from this training is that the participants in the project are open-minded and ready to learn even during a state of emergency. They see it as an opportunity to develop their professional skills, create, and share with colleagues. The fact that we had to meet online did not affect the quality of our communication and learning in any way.”
– Ivelina Pashova, Head of School Teams Training at Teach For Bulgaria
“Online training does not necessarily mean a lecture. To us, as trainers and creators of learning experiences, it is crucial that we found a way to engage many different participants online and to provide them with the opportunity to work in groups, co-create and most importantly – we gave them a platform to openly interact with other professionals,” Ivelina added.
All 18 schools, selected to participate in this phase of the project, attended the training. As part of FIERST, their teams are learning how to create professional learning communities at school and how to teach 21-st century skills in the classroom.
Each school picks one skill and focuses on developing it throughout the school year. At the end of the school year teachers and principals from all partner schools will have the opportunity to share their results with a wide audience of colleagues and experts at a special event.
The majority of the teachers who participated in the online training on April 4 shared that the exchange of best practices and the opportunity to work in smaller groups were the two most valuable aspects of the entire training because that was what gave them the chance to learn from each other. Teachers also shared that the fact that this training had to happen online allowed them to “see the potential of remote teaching” and how “group work in the context of online training” could be executed effectively.
MORE ONLINE TRAININGS
There were two more online training sessions for over 70 teachers on the first Saturday of April. One of them was for the new participants from the class of 2020-2022 who just started their preliminary training and the other one was for the alumni of the program who still teach. They do action research on practice-specific challenges and explore different solutions.
FIERST is a 3-year, Erasmus +, Key Action 3 project which is implemented in 5 European countries – Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, the UK, and Sweden. The project is currently in its second phase; over 80 teachers from 8 schools participated in the first phase of FIERST last year. They received training and professional support as they established school-level professional learning communities. One of the key conclusions at the end of the first year was that sharing best practices and exchanging teaching resources were exceptionally crucial for teachers.
You can read more about the project here.
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