by Elena Shulman, European Schoolnet, Belgium.
The latest Educational Repositories Network (EdReNe) meeting took place in-person in Dublin, Ireland in November and was hosted by PDST. Presenters and participants who took part represented organisations from Ireland, Greece, Germany, Wales, Italy, Norway and Belgium. The objective of EdReNe meetings is to nurture forums for the exchange of expertise and best practices in managing educational content repositories at the K-12 level in Europe.
The November 2022 meeting was the first in-person event since the start of the COVID pandemic. Presentations were recorded and are available to view here.
A common theme among all the presentations was the impact of COVID on repositories and teacher professional development services, the ways ICT infrastructure and platforms adapted to meet unprecedented demands and the evolving best practices and insights that emerged out of this experience. The common story was of efforts to provide effective, inclusive, and equitable access to quality learning content and charting sustainable frameworks for supporting teachers and learners.
In all their stories, we see that Infrastructures and expertise built up over the decade before COVID functioned as scaffolds for providing content, building awareness, and developing digital skills. These scaffolds supported the evolution of teachers and students from content consumers to content creators in collaborative environments. Platforms already in place were able to pivot to support the education of refugee students from Ukraine.
Although the pandemic period helped build awareness about repositories among teachers and students, the story is not all one of sustainable success. As the pandemic receded, repositories confronted a different kind of challenge: Virtual ‘burnout’ among teachers, high turnover, and desire to move away from remote teaching to in-person.
To address the need for ongoing teacher training in pandemic and post-pandemic conditions, we see increasing emphasis and evolution of video libraries demonstrating effective digital practices in the classroom. The role of video as a tool to improve digital competence among teachers was prominent in the presentations from Ireland’s PDST’s repository of Good Practice Videos (presentation of Madeleine Murray) and SODIX which has provided a platform to aggregate media content from across Germany (Dr. Suanna Friz, FWU Germany). Developing and promoting the effective use of digital resources was at the heart of the activities of the Welsh HwB Programme and central in the policy framework of Ireland’s PDST. In the case of HwB, digital platforms play an important role in promoting the use of Welsh language in all aspects of daily life.
There were presentations that illustrated the impact of successful digital strategies at the national level. Dr. Elina Megalou presented the European edition of e-me4all.eu which was developed with a strong commitment to democratise access to digital tools. It offers a social collaborative, cloud-based personal learning environment for pupils and teachers. A national Greek version of this platform today has 680,000 users from Greek schools. Key structures of the e-me platform are hives – spaces for groups of people offering communication, collaboration, and file sharing. These tools are freely available to anyone and in multiple languages.
Presenters of the ‘Beyond 2022’ project explained the fascinating efforts currently underway to virtually reconstruct the Irish National Archive both the architectural space and the archival material after a fire destroyed the national collections in the early 20th century. The project’s organizers are also collaborating with PDST to develop learning content and activities surrounding their project. Finally, the presentation of Gerry McGovern brought attention to another kind of sustainability. His compelling talk prompted participants to take into consideration the environmental impact of electronic waste and the exponential growth of virtual content and its contribution to CO2 pollution. At the conclusion of the event, participants supported a proposal to schedule the next face-to-face EdReNe meeting.
Elena Shulman, European Schoolnet, Belgium