14 Jun 2. Use a cybercafé initiative in Teacher Education?
The ability to integrate and exploit online technologies in the classroom has become an essential part of a teacher’s skill set in the twenty-first century. Teachers not only need technical competence in order to use online applications and tools, but they also need to know how to exploit these tools in pedagogically informed innovative ways. Online technologies have the potential to be powerful tools for professional development of teachers. In order for this to happen, it requires teachers to “reap the benefits of new ICT developments and adopt innovative and active pedagogies, based on participatory and project-based methods” (European Council & Commission, 2015, p.5).
Obviously, if teachers are to engage in innovative and collaborative approaches to online, they first of all need to experience this type of learning themselves during their professional development programes. One potentially effective way of helping teachers to have first-hand experience of online collaborative approaches to learning and teaching is collaboration in cyber cafe. In contrast to many forms of online learning which are based on the transfer of information through video lectures etc., cyber cafe is based on teacher-centred, intercultural and collaborative approaches to learning where knowledge and understanding are constructed through interaction with colleagues.
Nowadays, teachers interested in online collaboration are supported by networks and communities of practitioners such as www.etwinning.net and www.unicollaboration.eu, where they can find partners, resources and support for their initiatives.
There is a growing interest in how online collaboration can be used to train teachers to develop their ability to communicate successfully in intercultural contexts and to use technology in innovative ways in their classrooms in the future.
Online collaboration can be organised and implemented in a wide variety of ways. However, most successful examples usually share some common characteristics. These can be summed up as follows:.
- Genuine collaboration between the online partners and not merely the exchange of information.
- The topics and tasks are relevant to teachers’ professional development needs.