Education Talks: Learning online with the Teacher Academy

Have you ever taken part in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)? At the Teacher Academy, you can find an array of free MOOCs aimed specifically at teachers, and designed around their most pressing needs. Anna Laghigna, secondary school teacher and teacher trainer, relates her experience with these courses and explains how they have helped teachers to grow and branch out.

What are the benefits of taking a course with teachers from other countries?

When I first took a professional development course online, it was because I felt I needed something new, something else. I felt like stuck in my career. Since the beginning, you get this impression, this idea that you are part of the European Union, and that the European institutions care for us, for teachers, and that school and education can be another instrument, another way to promote social integration among European citizens. Flexibility, time, place... You can work at your own pace. You can also get together with an international community, so if you do it on-site, it's usually not many countries. Participants are coming from a few countries, whereas in the Teacher Academy, it's the whole of Europe really there.

How is the learning experience different to an individual approach?

This is the real asset, that you can learn also from your peers, and the peers, the more experienced teachers are willing to interact, exchange, and share their knowledge, their experience, their expertise, and so that we build up a community of professionals, of education professionals who really believe that school needs to change and that school can be a better place for our kids. It is a work-in-progress community and there are very experienced teachers, inspiring teachers that can help also the less motivated or those who are just trying to innovate and experiment with new ways. They help them overcome obstacles and fears, and the Academy has become a sort of a place where we can experiment and share ideas, and also share best practice.

What has been the impact on your teaching practice of participating in a Teacher Academy online course?

It's not only one course, it's all the courses. It's a sort of blending of different courses which have had a big impact on the way I teach today. It's completely different from what I used to do in the past. What I try to do with my students now is try to design learning scenarios. This word comes actually from these courses. I didn't know much about that before. Design also, not only take a book, a textbook and work on that, but prepare activities that can be motivating and engaging for my students. Try to give them voice and choice also along the process. Try to make them more active so that they can become owners of their own learning process. So I've been trying to move away from the traditional standard of teaching, which was academic, lecture style, and I now try to design activities that are less teacher-centred and more student-led, in which they can also put something of themselves. They can use their own creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, so all these sets of 21st-century skills.