Learning and Teaching: the Twins of eTwinning

After nearly 30 years of teaching the Dutch language, Bart Verswijvel made a major change to his teaching format. “I wanted to give my students an audience to work for,” says Verswijvel. “In the beginning of my career my students handed in an essay. I read, marked it, and… gave it back. This doesn’t make sense to the type of non-academic learners I had in my class. So I started with online European collaboration projects (eTwinning).”

Verswijvel has since won many teaching awards, including eTwinning Awards and Microsoft Innovative Teachers. In 2010 he was awarded the Queen Paola Prize for Education. To Verswijvel, the integration of ICT is of utmost importance, mainly because it removes classroom walls.  We talked to him about his views on education, and what he is most proud of.

Why is education important to you?

Education is part of life and it should not be limited to the period of being a student at school. When I finished university, I had for a very short moment the impression that my period of ‘learning’ was over, but very soon I discovered that I needed and enjoyed this input very much. I also found out that lifelong learning makes you a better teacher, and that it makes life much more interesting. It brings passion to it.

Describe the most inspiring day you’ve experienced as an educator.

One of my most inspiring days as a teacher was the kick off of my project, “Teacher Aid.” I had made a kind of secret arrangement with my headmaster, and we had invited all the teachers of my school. At the beginning of the meeting the students presented their digital universe, using all the features of the Smartboard. It was fantastic. I saw the open mouths of my colleagues when my students did their presentations. When he decided to have his students teach ICT to his fellow teachers for his project, TeacherAid, some colleagues thought it may be risky to put kids in charge. He said they asked: “Isn‟t a bit dangerous that you have teachers having to listen to pupils?”

How can other educators facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned?

Start a round table at your school and just get started! There is so much knowledge and competency in a school building: make use of it and share it. Students can be great tutors, as well. Learning and teaching are twins. It is a matter of give and take.

What is your greatest hope for the future of education in your country?

In the near future the education system in Flanders will be reformed. I hope they will give the teachers enough space…to teach.

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About Bart Verswijvel
Educator, Speaker, Workshop Leader in Duffel -Belgium

Bart Verswijvel is a Belgian educator who has been a mother-tongue teacher of Dutch in a secondary school for 30 years. Since 2011, he has spent part-time at the Flemish National Support Service for eTwinning in Brussels. He is especially interested in the integration of ICT in education. Verswijvel coordinates a Partners in Learning user group for Flemish teachers.
Birthplace: Lier, Belgium
Current residence: Duffel, Belgium
Education: Masters in Germanic Philology
Website I check every day: I am constantly switching from one mailbox to another, and this also counts for social media…
Favorite childhood memory: With my father on his bike
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Ljubljana, Slovenia
Favorite book: Voyage au Bout de la Nuit, J. F. Céline

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