New project to investigate and share international best practice in digital technology within education
The collaborative team – made up of partner universities and schools in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Belgium and Hungary – will pool together new research and insight from each country to collectively strengthen the inclusivity of the education systems across Europe through digital learning opportunities.
Professor Mhairi Beaton, of the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett, and one of the leaders of the project, explained: “It is extremely important that we make sure that all children are included in an excellent education. COVID-19 has had a dramatic effect on education worldwide - and the use of digital technology has expanded vastly across all stages of education.
“It is very exciting to be working with our partners across Europe – whilst we are geographically different and have differing educational policies, we are facing many of the same challenges. By working together and pooling our knowledge, we can improve education here in the UK and make it a truly 21st century education for all children.”
The team will collaborate with young people, parents and teachers across Europe to find out what has been working, and not working, for them, in terms of digital learning.
Rachel Lofthouse, Professor of Teacher Education at Leeds Beckett, and co-leader of the project, said: “We have seen many instances of creative digital education developed by teachers during the pandemic. Rather than starting with a blank slate, we want to acknowledge this innovative practice and develop them further - providing not just guidance for digital practice, but resources to support changes in thinking, understanding of dilemmas and possible ways to develop solutions within digital practice.”
The key aims of the project are:
- To increase educators’ abilities and confidence in providing effective and inclusive digital learning opportunities;
- To support educators’ abilities to manage change in their working practices – through developing their co-coaching skills and attitudes;
- To help the wider community – including parents, carers and other family members – to understand and support educators and young people in digital learning contexts.
Professor Lofthouse explained: “One of our strengths here at Leeds Beckett is our unique CollectivEd research centre for mentoring, coaching and professional learning. We will use our expertise to help schools develop co-coaching communities to explore and share new ideas related to digital education – and empower them to make changes.
“Through the centre we also have a large international network of practitioners and researchers who will input into the project – and help to share the new resources that we will create. This means there will be a huge potential for long-lasting positive change in education practice across the world.”
Professor Beaton added: “During the pandemic, digital technology has brought many positives. For example, children with autism have told us that having the ability to attend online classes with their cameras switched off has been a great help in removing the challenging social aspect of school – allowing them to concentrate solely on learning.
“By drawing on the wide expertise of our project team, we want to focus on the positives of the digital tools we have been using and find practices that can work for us all – and support all children as best we can – through this pandemic and into the future.”
The team want to increase the capacity of school leaders to build professional competencies across the school – and will produce a series of free, practical resources for all educational sectors, and all career stages, across national boundaries.
The resources will all be available online and will include:
- An interactive learning resource for teachers to develop their skills in teaching in the digital environment;
- An online toolbox to develop educators’ coaching skills – to guide them through creating new co-coaching communities to support future change;
- An interactive digital resource for families and the wider community to learn how to support young people in the ‘what and how’ of creating a suitable digital learning environment – from digital security to methods of learning and teaching.
Professor Beaton said: “The project will be very co-participatory with the volunteer parents, pupils, educators and members of the wider community who share their views with us. In this way, our resources will be very practical and real – and have a real impact on teachers, young people and their families.”
Professor Lofthouse added: “It is so valuable to us to collaborate with our European networks – it helps us to improve education in the UK in a way that is unique. By crossing boundaries, we can draw from a wide pool of expertise and motivations and it reminds us that there are alternative ways that we can try – which can help us to meet the needs of all pupils.”
The two-year project – entitled Reimagining A Positive Direction for Education (RAPIDE) - has received funding of €292,882 from Erasmus+.
The Leeds Beckett University team leading the project is Professor Mhairi Beaton, Professor Rachel Lofthouse, Meri Nasilyan and Diana Tremayne; and the full list of partners is: University of Aberdeen (Scotland), PLATO Research Institute at University of Leiden (Netherlands), Fontys University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands), National Education Institute of Slovenia, Seminar für Ausbildung und Fortbildung der Lehrkräfte (Gymnasien) Tübingen (Germany), University of Aberta (Portugal), Katholiek Onderwijs Vlaanderen (Belgium) and Eötvös Loránd University (Hungary).