CALL FOR PAPERS
“Exploring the impact of Virtual Exchange on Teacher Education”
Virtual Exchange refers to the numerous online learning initiatives and methodologies which engage participants in sustained online collaborative learning and interaction with partners from different cultural backgrounds as part of educational programmes. In recent years, teachers in both pre-university and university education have increasingly used Virtual Exchange to bring their classes into contact with partners in other countries in order to develop students’ digital and intercultural competence as well as global citizenship (O’Dowd, 2023). In the context of teacher education, there are numerous examples of classes of Initial Teacher Education collaborating together online around educational issues teachers (The EVALUATE Group, 2019), while in-service teachers have also used Virtual Exchange networks and platforms to communicate with colleagues, to form professional networks and to engage in professional development opportunities (Knight, 2020).
Such approaches to digital education have received strong support from the European Commission through initiatives such as eTwinning, Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange and the new European School Education Platform. The Digital Education Action Plan (European Commission, 2018) points out that “innovation in education and training depends greatly on empowering and connecting educators” (p.5) and Virtual Exchange provides teachers and future teachers with first-hand experience of online, collaborative international learning. The Action Plan also lays great emphasis on the development of digital competences for teachers through the European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators: DigCompEdu (European Commission, 2017).
Coming from this context, this conference will explore how Virtual Exchange and the related activity of Blended Mobility are being employed in Initial Teacher Education and Continuous Professional Development contexts in Europe and beyond.
The conference is being organised by two key actors in this area. VALIANT (Virtual Innovation and Support Networks for Teachers) is a European Policy Experiment project funded by Erasmus+ Key Action 3 which examines the impact of Virtual Exchange on both in-service teachers and students of Initial Teacher Education. The VALIANT Virtual Exchange networks bring together teachers, student teachers and educational experts in facilitated online collaboration around real-world educational issues. UNICollaboration (the Organisation for Telecollaboration and Virtual Exchange in Higher Education), has worked for numerous years to promote Virtual Exchange and has trained thousands of teachers in its use in university contexts.
This conference will provide a venue to explore what research-based studies and practical reports can tell us about how different approaches to Virtual Exchange can contribute to the professional development of teachers and student teachers and provide insights on the perspectives and experiences of teachers using Virtual Exchange in higher education or non-formal educational contexts. We will have the opportunity to listen to the voices of teachers and student teachers who have organised and who have participated in these innovative learning initiatives, and we will also hear from researchers who are carrying out academic studies in this area. Furthermore, we will reflect on the role of policy making and how public authorities can contribute to promoting Virtual Exchange as well as helping to overcome the barriers to the integration of these activities in Initial Teacher Education and Continuous Professional Development.