Teachers Embark on a Study Trip to Florence as Main Prize in CONNECT 2.0 Pre-Conference Competition – April 2024

The Pre-Conference Teacher Competition held in the framework of the international online conference CONNECT 2.0 (December 12-13, 2023), a collaborative effort of UNESCO IITE, Huashi Education Group (China), and Europass Teacher Academy (Italy), unfolded for school and TVET teachers from October to December 2023, and garnered the participation of 45 educators from 4 countries.  

The event provided a platform for teachers to showcase their projects in the utilization of ICT within the classroom while developing certain skills in their students. The Competition spanned four categories, including Digital Teaching and Learning to Advance Green Society; Skills to Ensure Equality and Better Inclusion in Education; Facilitating Digital Economy Skills Development in Schoolchildren; The Role of ICT in Developing Leadership Skills. The winning teachers were invited to embark on a 5-day study tour to Florence, Italy as a reward to take a week-long course “AI for CLIL: Lesson Plans, Resources and Assessment Tools.” The course was organized and conducted by UNESCO IITE’s partner organization “Europass teacher Academy” (Italy). 

There were 4 winners: two from China: Mr Feng Ma (Shanghai High School International Division) and Ms Weiwei Wang (High School affiliated to Beijing Normal University), one from Pakistan: Ms Noor us Sabah Qaimkhani (Government Girls Lower Secondary School Mehran Sugar Mills), and one from Russia: Ms Marianna Ganiushkina (Private Lomonosov School Nizhny Novgorod). 

On April 8, the course began with the welcome speech of the Europass Teacher Academy founder, Dr David Baroni and a short presentation by Ms Tatiana Shutova (UNESCO IITE) about the teacher competition. The winners received certificates and memorabilia from UNESCO IITE and Europass Teacher Academy. 

For five days, the participants of the “AI for CLIL” course studied the ways of integrating AI tools into their teaching in order to make resource acquisition and content delivery more efficient and effective. The course effectively showed how teachers can optimize their professional growth by efficiently leveraging AI for activity planning, curriculum development, and resource creation. It provided hands-on experience and discussions of GenAI tools specifically designed for educationalists. Furthermore, the course demonstrated how AI can facilitate the creation of rubrics and assessments, automate grading processes, foster teacher collaboration, and enable self-reflection for continuous professional development. Additionally, the course encouraged discussions on data privacy, parent communication, and ethical dilemmas associated with AI use, providing strategies to mitigate potential challenges. 

On April 10, there was an official visit to one of the leading schools in the region –  Istituto Tecnico Statale Commerciale Salvemini. It was one of the first schools to actively adopt AI tools into teaching, assessment, grading, etc., and the school’s representatives readily shared their views, experience and expertise with the course takers. There were several reports (the school visit resembled a mini-conference) encompassing topics from Italian school system and European financing in the areas of ICT and AI adoption to the specific AI tools which the teachers of the school employ for the educational needs. 

In addition to the course content, the course was beneficial for both the participants from SCO countries and the course attendees from European countries as it was mutually enriching: there was interest from both sides towards the teaching / educational practices, technologies, and attitudes in other cultural contexts. The study tour concluded with awarding the certificates to the course attendees. 

The course was an enriching and enlightening experience, offering insights into most advanced educational practices, facilitating the exchange of expertise with fellow educators, and providing exposure to cutting-edge technologies and tools that can enhance classroom teaching. Visits to museums and libraries, encouraged and recommended by Europass Teacher Academy facilitators further enriched the intense educational program. 

The course left an impression on the winning teachers. To quote Ms Ganiushkina, “The AI for CLIL course has been a transformative experience for me. Now I feel empowered to use AI to plan my lessons more efficiently and effectively, catering for the individual needs of my students.” 

Mr Ma agrees: “The study trip to Florence is just amazing. It is my honor to have met respectful educators mostly from Europe and to exchange ideas and share experience of using AI in our teaching. The contents of the workshop definitely broadened my view and horizon both as a teacher and an educator. I am especially thankful for UNESCO IITE to have provided me with such a wonderful opportunity.” 

Agreeing with Mr Ma and Ms Ganiushkina, Ms Wang couldn’t help mentioning the beautiful city of Florence which the course attendees also had a chance to explore: “The trip has proved to be both educational and enjoyable, offering a unique opportunity to learn while exploring a captivating destination. The combination of a fun-filled experience with times of walking tour in a city renowned for its historical and rich culture greatly appealed to me.” As for the course content, she adds that, “I see the potential for AI to greatly enhance the learning experience for both teachers and students, making it more engaging, interactive, and effective. I will bring back the applications back to school and help more teachers with them.”