Riga (LT), October 2014 - A consortium of educationalists from six EU states has collaborated to produce a series of teacher-training courses enabling participants to offer much-needed educational support to pupils temporarily away from their home countries. Typically, such pupils need continuous help to develop their knowledge and understanding of the language and cultural background of their homelands.
The consortium developed four training modules designed to assist teachers to understand the special requirements of the migrant children and to learn the necessary skills to deliver the materials. They have adopted the name PUMO (PUpils on the MOve) to describe this project.
Pilot Trials in Lithuania Attract Great Interest
In April 2014, a PUMO pilot course was held at the Revuona primary school in Lithuania that was attended by a number of teachers from Lithuanian schools. There was particular interest shown in the range of contemporary distance-education tools. A questionnaire was circulated after the course was held; it revealed that the teachers found the materials very useful in extending their knowledge of distance education and that it gave them confidence in using the tools described.
A further practical workshop was held in the same location in May. This extended the range of distance-learning techniques covered and, in particular, introduced the participants to the "Miksike" learning environment - a tool for teachers to create and use forms of distance learning based on the learner solving problems posed to them in the environment. The best tasks created during this workshop were then used in a pilot programme in September 2014.
PUMO Grows from Experience in Latvia
Two events were organised in Latvia on 28 and 29 August 2014. The first took place in AllaÅ¾i´ and focused on distance teaching of the Latvian language. It was attended by sixteen leading specialists from Riga Education and Information Centre - a research body specialising in teaching methodology. Following a presentation of the PUMO project and its findings, participants shared their experience in designing learning methods for language teaching. Further discussions centred on the adaptation of these methods for use with Skype and other distance-learning communication tools.
The event on 29 August took place in Sigulda, with thirty teachers from Riga Secondary School Number 28 taking part. There were extensive discussions on the findings of the PUMO project and of the teachers’ other experiences in language learning and distance-learning technology. An outcome of this meeting was the creation of an educational programme entitled "Latvian Language and Culture Learning in an E-environment". This will be available for teachers to use in conjunction with distance-learning environments such as Skype.
Estonian and Latvian Cooperative Event in Saaremaa
In early September, the Estonian and Latvian partners held a joint seminar on the beautiful Estonian island of Saaremaa. Thirty-three teachers from Estonia and Latvia met to listen to a presentation of the training courses and to discuss how best to use the materials to help the children of migrant families. Following the group sessions, they broke up into small discussion groups and, together with the consortium partners, planned how best to form communities of interest to facilitate the implementation of the lessons.
Pilot Activities Demonstrate Usefulness of PUMO Training in Greece
The four PUMO modules were initially available in English, and it was thus necessary to translate all of the materials into Greek. Once translated, the modules were examined in terms of their suitability for use with Greek teachers. Additional material was developed where needed.
Training programmes at the Ellinogermaniki Agogi School were held on 11 and 19 March 2014. These included a presentation on the theoretical background and the implementation of the teaching of intercultural competencies. There was an exercise based on the practical aspects of this teaching in a classroom context. This was followed by discussions around the problems of teaching the Greek language to children of migrant Greek families whilst integrating this into their studies in their host countries.
These seminars were attended by a wide range of teachers from schools in Athens.
Greek PUMO Training Seminars Well Received
Further training sessions were held involving face-to-face contact and hands-on activities for all participants. After familiarising them with the training framework, the theoretical background, and the PUMO approach, they were introduced to the range of ICT tools that could be used to implement eLearning, including materials that could be used.
Following the training sessions, a feedback phase was undertaken and follow-up steps were discussed and agreed upon. In doing so, a community of interest was launched that has subsequently enjoyed extensive communication. It is felt that the enthusiastic response was generated because these thematic areas are not normally covered in teacher-training programmes, being restricted to postgraduate classes. Thus there was an opportunity for the professional development of the participants, as well as the fostering of a useful community based on the PUMO principles.
Follow-up Reveals Positive and Constructive Feedback
The Ellinogermaniki Agogi Research and Development Department then publicised the availability of seminars to the wider Athenian teaching community. They used direct contact with schools, as well as announcements on educational portals.
Almost forty teachers and students showed initial interest in the seminars, and more than twenty were able to attend. These involved presentations on the theoretical academic background to the PUMO project and hands-on sessions with ICT tools. There was some attrition at the hands-on sessions, and the presenters have made some changes to their programme to mitigate this.
Conclusions in Greece Support PUMO Objectives
Maria Arvanitaki and Anna Zoakou, the Greek PUMO project leaders, conducted feedback questionnaires with seminar participants and have made an assessment of the impact of the PUMO modules.
They concluded that they provided effective multicultural education. They offered teachers with little relevant experience a set of techniques and materials to enable them to provide support for Greek pupils temporarily resident in other countries. It covered practical skills and knowledge in the creation and use of eLearning materials in the teaching of the Greek language and culture. Most importantly, it provides a means by which children living away from their home countries can remain up to speed on their language development and cultural understanding of their home countries.
The PUMO Project
PUMO is an important development and is being implemented in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Germany, and Greece. It is also planned to implement the project in countries hosting significant numbers of migrants from these states, including Brazil, where a seminar has also been held.
The courses are available in English, Portuguese, and Russian, as well as in the languages of the consortium. They are freely available for use by teachers and educational authorities throughout Europe and beyond.