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MON:Online international collaboration to analyse childcare practices (Angela Bonehill)
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16 January 2017
This presentation aims to demonstrate the impact of a collaboration between two universities. Online International Learning (OIL) projects involve online interactions between students studying at a UK university and other international universities, developing further ‘intercultural and digital skills’ between students and organisations ( Villar-Onrubia, Rajpal, 2016). A small amount of students get the opportunity to work or travel abroad as part of their studies, interactions through the internet can be a way forward for widening participation with regards to supporting the intercultural interactions.
The design of this innovative online project was to facilitate a working party of students from Denmark and England to converse and assess the differences of curriculum planning and childcare in the two countries. There is a vast difference in the childcare systems of both countries. This was explored through digital collaboration on a number of platforms.
What was the motivation? To educate the students on the different curriculums, to enable them to analyse, to evaluate, and to give them knowledge of other practices. We began with UK organisations linked to education, we invited guest speakers, we watched videos of different practices, we read studies and papers, we visited children’s centres, forest schools, nurseries, and schools, but the learning was passive, the students were not engaged, the students found it difficult to put this into practice or to contextualise their learning. The teachers were the depositors and the students were the depositories (Freire 1974). How could we change the perspective and practice of these new practitioners? We were beginning to get a vision: to expand cognitive horizons about early childhood studies and research beyond the United Kingdom with an interactive project where other students gave their perspective of curriculum and children’s development through online collaboration. The students became the teachers.
As a group we began to question…What if we could encourage students to unlearn everything that they have learned about education, to gain a better understanding of natural learning rather than the structured delivery here in the UK? How can we ensure the new practitioner goes out into practice with a new mindset? How can we empower new practitioners to make changes to the existing curriculum but still meet the government frameworks for the county? Why do children not go outside to learn? (Henley 2010)
Early childhood students in their second-year degree collaborated with their equivalent in Copenhagen studying a contrasting early childhood pedagogy program. This occurred through structured online learning using platforms; a shared Moodle, vlogs and skype.
The students had regular interactions and developed relationships as well as learning about the child care practices and culture of another country, from the initial feedback students and lecturers, developed an understanding of the democratic and spiritual care that pedagogues provide in Denmark and the importance of the assessments and milestones children are expected to reach as per the Early Years Framework in the UK (Gov.uk 2016).
The presentation will report on the experience of networking with academics, students and colleagues, it will demonstrate that digital communications will encourage wider collaboration, mobility and changes in practice for the early years sector.