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Connecting Erasmus+ Cooperation for innovation projects, such as PRO-LEARN, to eTwinning The significance of PRO-LEARN project’s tools

Undoubtedly, eTwinning is the most suitable place for collaboration among teachers, students, schools, parents, and local authorities. It is no coincidence that even in Erasmus+ collaborations partners are required to state how they will use eTwinning in their application form.

The eTwinning portal provides the perfect environment for the innovative and interactive enrichment of the project activities, supported by information and communication technology for motilities, as well as partnerships for the exchange between schools. The portal can also be used as a means of contacting project partners, as an electronic classroom that connects pupils, as a pool of documents, as a mean of dissemination of project’s results and the assurance of project’s sustainability even after the official closure of the project.
However, there are some Erasmus+ projects the consortium of which consists of non-eligible partners to use eTwinning. When such a difficulty appears how we can cope with it? Do we really want this kind of Erasmus+ projects to be included/registered in eTwinning?

During the last three years, we have confronted this kind of difficulty, since most of our partners in our Κ201 Erasmus+ Cooperation for innovation project, in the field of school education, were not eligible to use eTwinning. Our Erasmus+ project No. 2019-1-PL01-KA201-065726-PRO-LEARN – “Fostering children’s learning process and cognitive abilities through holistic approach and innovative methods” was a large-scale project, as it involved 6 different organizations (2 schools, NGOs, SMEs) from 5 EU countries, namely Poland, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Romania.

In our case, it was not too difficult to register our project on the eTwinning platform, since two of the project’s partners are schools. The difficulty relies on the fact that the other four partners cannot have access to the platform as being non-eligible. However, they could have had the choice to participate, for instance as guests with limited capabilities.

We proceeded to the registration of our project on the eTwinning platform, since we believe in the quality and importance of the tools developed. We knew that based on the consortium’s composition (various organizations) and the indirect involvement of the students, our participation in the platform and utilization of the plethora of tools, which includes would be limited. We also knew that we could not apply for any national or European label. Besides all the above, we decided to register and use the eTwinning platform for the dissemination of our project’s results, since the main target group of our project were the teachers and educators from primary and secondary education and of course the students.

Let us take things from the beginning and find out more details about our project…
Our project “Fostering children’s learning process and cognitive abilities through holistic approach and innovative methods – PROLEARN” responds to the Europe 2020 priorities in the area of education and training, youth and early school leaving in the context of globalization and labor market integration. As EC stated in its communication on tackling early school leaving (COM(2011)18 final), education and training systems often do not provide sufficient targeted support for pupils to cope with emotional, social or educational difficulties and to remain in education and training. Responding to the different learning styles of pupils and helping teachers to address the variable needs of mixed ability groups of students is still a challenge for schools.

Personalized and flexible learning arrangements are especially important for those who prefer ‘learning by doing’ and are motivated by active forms of learning. The basics of our learning skills are our cognitive abilities as they are associated with memory, thinking, attention and perception. They enable us to learn new skills and gain knowledge as well as communicate with the environment, as they are strictly associated with reception, storage and processing of information. The accurate diagnosis of cognitive abilities of pupils and their learning styles would allow tailoring teaching methodologies and to develop the individual educational support program for every child. Teaching/learning path designed according to the possessed cognitive abilities and individual learning style helps a pupil to function more effectively in the education process as it speeds up the learning process, helpw to overcome school failures and it positively impacts on self-esteem and self-efficacy of children and young people.

The PRO-LEARN project is the answer for the detected needs. The aim of the project is to foster the development of cognitive abilities and effective learning skills of children. To boost their brain power and maximize cognitive potential by developing, testing and implementing a comprehensive model of cognitive development support for school-age children (6-14 years old) with active participation of schools, pedagogical staff/experts and project partners in the participating countries.
The proposed outputs would also support students with special educational needs to fulfil the educational obligations, not to drop out of the educational system, which could result in social exclusion.

The project objectives are:
– reduce early school dropout through speeding up the learning process
– overcome shortage of specialists at schools (psychologists, pedagogues)
– improve engagement of parents in learning processes of their children and development of their cognitive abilities
– enrich scarce offer of free-of-charge and barrier-free tools (including the ICT- based ones), for diagnosis of cognitive processes and the preferred learning style of children aged 6-14 years old on their own and by their parents and teachers/educators,
– enrich scarce offer of free-of-charge training programs and educational-oriented materials for parents, educators, devoid of technological barriers to computer use, to support pupils in the development of effective learning skills, using their resources and full potential of the brain

The project’s Intellectual Outputs respond to scarce parents’ knowledge on children’s development of the cognitive and social skills and their low involvement in learning process of their children. According to the latest discoveries of neuro-pedagogy, parents influence on children’s education and have a significant positive impact on the child’s growth, development and school achievement (Menheere & Hooge, 2016).

The designed products are targeted at primary and lower-secondary school students (6-14 years old), parents and teachers/ educators (participatory involvement) to help them understand the importance of early cognitive development and its relevance to education, as well as the processes of children (6-14 years old) and then to support their development so as to boost their brain power and maximize cognitive potential within and outside the educational settings.

The PRO-LEARN is a large-scale project. The partners represent different geographical and socio-economic realities across Europe with the common aim to foster children cognitive development, as well as to support educators and the integration of new ideas/methods into the education system.
During the implementation of the project, the partnership has developed four main intellectual outputs that will be available in five languages – English, Greek, Italian, Romanian, Polish, starting with September 2022

O1: PRO-LEARN Kids diagnostic tool of cognitive processes and learning styles (for children aged 6 to 10 years old) – online, multidimensional, standardized, and normalized tool to diagnose cognitive abilities and processes and the preferred learning style of children in pre-school / junior school age. The tool is accessible online via computer, laptop, or smartphone, thus constituting a handy tool for those who otherwise could not benefit from professional services. The automatically generated report gives children, parents, and teachers extensive knowledge about the specificity of cognitive processes and learning styles of a child along with proposed guidelines on how to work with a child.
A manual containing a description of the construction procedure, its psychometric properties and practical tips on how to use the test and its results accompany the tool.

O2: PRO-LEARN Teens diagnostic tool of cognitive processes and learning styles (for older children aged 11 to 14 years old) – multidimensional electronic tool designed for the diagnosis of the preferred learning style and cognitive processes of children and adolescents at school age. It is a standardized tool prepared according to the psychometric approach. The tool automatically generates individual feedback on the subject of the student’s dominant learning style and cognitive abilities. Based on the diagnosis results, the generated report contains a number of hints for a student (how to learn effectively) and for parents and teachers (how to teach the child effectively and support his/her development). A manual containing a description of the construction procedure, its psychometric properties and practical tips on how to use the test and its results accompany the tool.

Both tools (PRO-LEARN Kids and PRO-LEARN Teens) enable to generate a group report for a teacher with suggestions for the teacher’s work, tailored to a specific group of pupils. Both tools allow pupils to function more effectively in education process as they would speed up the learning process, help to overcome school failures and they positively impact on self-esteem and self-efficacy of children and young people.

O3: Training Toolkit for teachers and educators available in a form of e-learning contains 10 on-line, short-term trainings (1-3 hours), in multimedia form focused on the latest discoveries of neuro-pedagogy (learning styles, how to teach children, multisensory teaching, etc.) to provide teachers with knowledge how to adjust support to pupils individually; to shape the teaching methodology according to the needs of students; to use the teaching methods which are coherent with cognitive potential of students; to involve parents in learning processes of their children.

O4: Educational Games & tasks for students aiming at the development of cognitive functions and support students in the development of effective learning skills and utilization of resources and the full brain potential, are composed of a unique on-line set of short exercises to support/ develop cognitive processes favorable effective learning and also exercises that develop various learning techniques and methods. The exercises are divided into three age-groups: 6-8, 8-10, and 11-14 years old. The educational games and tasks are available in the form of on-line resources for students.

We, personally, believe that the projects which aim to develop innovative tools indeed have a place in eTwinning and a way to register this kind of projects in the eTwinning platform should be found (although partners are not schools). Teachers and students who participate in eTwinning have much to gain from such Erasmus+ projects. The publication of results and products and the dissemination of Erasmus+ projects cooperation for innovation in the field of Education at eTwinning platform have a European reach with a rich collection of materials and should be accessible to teachers enrolled in eTwinning. In this way after completing the co-financing of the Erasmus+ KA2 project, we will keep in the touch with the existing project partners through the eTwinning Portal and we will recruit new schools interested in the project. Besides, it is a good opportunity to become mentors for novices and inexperienced schools and allow them an easier entry into the world of international cooperation.

*All the final products are published online and free of use.
This is the link to our twin space for more information about our project, activities, and outcomes:

Georgios Konstantinou, Head teacher at Dimotiko Scholeio Agias Napas – Antoni Tsokkou, Cyprus. Awarded e-Twinner and an e-Twinning ambassador in CYPRUS

Valerica Mititelu, Primary school teacher at School Elena Doamna, Tecuci, Romania. Awarded e-Twinner and an e-Twinning ambassador in Romania

Stella Timotheou, Primary school teacher at Dimotiko Scholeio Agias Napas – Antoni Tsokkou, Cyprus. E-Twinner