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Delivering Future Classroom Lab training in Chongqing
Since its opening in 2012, the Future Classroom Lab of European Schoolnet has inspired many institutes and organisations to build similar flexible learning spaces in Europe and beyond. A few years ago, the National Institute of Educational Sciences in Beijing created its own version, inspired by the Future Classroom in Brussels. Since then, the NIES has built a network of educational institutes in China to promote the ideas of active learning. One of the members of the NIES network is the Jiangbei Teacher Institute of Chongqing, which will open a new flexible classroom in November 2017. To support this launch, the Teacher Training Institute invited European Schoolnet to run a summer school for 60 teachers and teacher trainers.
European Schoolnet designed a 6-day training course dedicated to the topics of Collaborative Learning, Entrepreneurial Learning and Project-Based Learning. The EUN team consisted of Tommaso Dalla Vecchia, Nair Carrera, Kornelia Lohynova and Bart Verswijvel, who travelled to Chongqing during the last weeks of August to deliver the training.
European Schoolnet's Future Classroom Lab training sessions have a specific format. Since they are aimed at teachers and teacher trainers, they include, on the one hand, information and explanations about certain methodologies and technologies; on the other hand, they put a lot of emphasis on experience, as well. Course participants are often assigned the role of pupils in the training sessions, in order to experience the joy of learning of the pupils they will teach.
Teaching in Chongqing was a bit of a challenge. Before leaving, the team had to find solutions to the fact that the majority of participants would not understand English, and that quite a lot of Internet applications we use in Europe would not work in China. However, it all worked out fine in the end, thanks to a wonderful interpreter and the invaluable support of Mr. Zeng Weiyi, the head of the Jiangbei Teacher Learning Lab of Chongqing. And of course there were the participants – enthusiastic teachers who share the same universal dreams with other educators in the world, i.e. to lead our pupils to the best possible future.
Interview with Mr. Zeng Weiyi
The Jiangbei Teacher Training Institute of Chongqing is an organisation which provides support and training sessions for primary and secondary school teachers. The institute also specialises in scientific research on topics related to education, ICT and facilities.
The head of the training institute is Mr. Zeng Weiyi, who is the driving force behind the upcoming Teacher Learning Lab. His role is to push forward the integration of ICT in education, and the new Teacher Learning Lab will play a prominent role in this. He will be responsible for the construction, management and research of the Teacher Learning Lab.
Why did you invite trainers from European Schoolnet?
We wanted to organise a type of training which would be in line with the international practice. European Schoolnet's Future Classroom Lab enjoys a great reputation worldwide in terms of research and practice of forward-looking education. By introducing the Future Classroom Lab's successful experience with the methodology and technology of flexible learning spaces, we feel we can empower teachers here at the Teacher Learning Lab.
Can you tell us more about the Future Classroom you will build in your institute? How will it be used? Who will be the audience?
The Jiangbei Teacher Learning Lab of Chongqing is a major programme by the Chongqing Education Committee, Beijing Normal University and Jiangbei District People's Government. This programme enables the construction of experimental educational zones where teachers can explore innovative practices. It is also the very first regional lab in China for studies on teachers' learning methods, and it will be put into use in November 2017. The lab will provide three environmental systems for learners: they are the Active learning field, the Internet learning platform and the Embodied learning environment. The lab will conduct empirical research on teaching and learning activities in these different environments.
The 7th floor of the Teacher Training Institute's building will soon be renovated and three new classrooms will be built: a teachers' future learning room, a teachers' remote observation room and a teachers' embodied learning room.
The Teacher Learning Lab will mainly be open to primary and secondary school teachers within the district, and to participants from ‘City training' programmes and ‘National training' programmes.
Will other future classrooms follow in the area or in other parts of China? Will you conduct research on the impact of the new learning space?
At the moment, three primary and secondary schools in the Jiangbei District are constructing Future Classrooms. Beijing, Shenzhen, Chengdu and some other cities are also in the process of constructing Future Classrooms.
We will study the learning space and the impact of it. Our research team is still under development and we hope to receive guidance and help from your Future Classroom Lab.
What are the opportunities and the power of the Future Classroom Concept, according to you?
Flexible learning spaces have fewer barriers, and they offer more opportunities for teachers to organise learning activities in the way they want. They also allow us to provide targeted and customised education to our teachers. We can also help the teachers by sharing the research results with them.
What are the main challenges for education in China, according to you?
First of all, there is the unequal distribution of high-quality educational resources here in China. Moreover, in my opinion, we put too much importance on the exam results. I also think that we should find a way to lead the best graduates to a job in education, as teachers or some other role in the educational industry.
Are new teachers entering the job well prepared for innovative teaching?
I am sure that most new teachers possess the spirit and capabilities for innovation, but they need guidance and some time to gain teaching experience.
What have you learnt from the trainings provided by European Schoolnet?
We have learnt a lot, in every respect. We learnt how to select the appropriate ICT tools to assist our teaching, as well as how to adjust the content according to our students' situations. Another interesting part was figuring out how to build attractive activities for students. An eye-opener for me was also the realisation that we should embrace failures to become better.
What is your dream regarding education in China?
I hope in the future we can provide targeted teaching to our students according to their personalities. I also hope our students can grow up in a free environment.
By Bart Verswijvel