Body of the abstract:
The European Schools Project is an Internet-based network organisation of teachers in various countries of the European Union, and many countries beyond, including Japan. Teachers, with their groups of pupils and students within mostly secondary education, decide to participate because of the educational activities that enhance the quality of their teaching, of their pupils' learning, and of the school as educational system. These activities are guided by a profoundly educational and interactive concept: the teletrip or the teleproject. The concept encompasses telematic cooperations between teachers and pupils around 'conversation' topics that are thought to be relevant for learning and teaching of all participants. The topics demand inquiries from the side of the pupils, and its results are exchanged via telematic connections, while using a preferably mutual foreign language. Since ESP's conception in 1988, hundreds of participating teachers have designed and organised thousands of teletrips, on more than a hundred different conversation topics, using many languages. Many thousands of pupils in over 25 countries of the world, of which many European countries, have taken part. Various aspects were researched, educational materials were developed and produced, examples of good practice gathered, and teacher education, both pre-service and in-service, organised.
While based on the interaction of teachers and pupils, support for the interaction has to be organised. Teachers are volunteers: they decide to participate in a schools' network because of the expected quality of the interaction. If this quality lacks, or if interaction can't be realised, the teacher drops out. So the first function of the network organisation is to facilitate the possibility for interaction, and furthermore the possibility for successfully continuing the interaction. This function is implemented in a number of ways. Firstly an international help-desk is available: the Resources, Information and Support Centre (RISC). Secondly National Coordinators in most of the countries support teachers in getting involved in Internet-projects. The coordinators together form the Board of ESP. The Board has created a number of 'protocols' for the various types of actors within ESP, to provide for the right organisational culture, and to be able to coordinate the network properly. Thirdly a distributed WWW-structure evolved to support the various projects, and the organisation as a whole. Increasingly the WWW forms an extension of the teleprojects, both as a 'shared workspace' and as an evolving knowledge and information resource. Fourthly educational materials are produced and made available to guide and support Internet-projects. Fifthly the digital world is enriched by events 'In Real Life': every year a teacher conference is organised during which evaluation of projects done and design of new projects are the main courses on the menu.
The European Schools Project helps to provide for conditions for schools to start educational networking as well, for example by advising European and national governments on these conditions. Among these conditions are the ones related to:
The workshop is devoted to the question: "How to do Teleprojects?" In cooperation with ESP-members present in Tokyo, Alma Zecevic, (Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegowina), Karen Thomsen, (Kiel, Germany), and Hillel Weintraub, (Kyoto, Japan) we will sketch the design, use of teacher and pupil materials, golden rules for planning and interaction, contents, realisation, evaluation and Web-support of teleprojects. Among the teleprojects that are dealt with in more detail are "The Image of the Other", a teleproject on intercultural and intercontextual issues using English language as a second language, "Women all over the World", and "Me and the Media".
These plans refer to both the dimensions of quality, quantity and cooperation. As sketched above continuous effort is needed to the sustainable enhancement of educational interaction and support for that interaction. One aspect is the migration from mere electronic mail to more advanced tools for communication and information sharing, e.g. groupware environments, ICQ, CUSeeMe, etc. ESP participates in a number of R&D projects that are funded by the European Commission.
With regard to quantity national coordinators are asked to increase the number of participants in their countries, and effort is put into increasing the number of countries. During our last 12th conference this year new coordinators were assigned in France and Finland, leading to an increase of Finnish and French schools participating in ESP. Also more primary schools are asked to join. Last but not least, cooperation is stimulated with other (international) school networks and initiatives aimed at innovating learning, teaching and school systems, as we within ESP consider that to be the main mission.
Address, e-mail, URL:
University of Amsterdam
European Schools Project
NL-1091 GM Amsterdam