“The classroom really must be a part of our global community, so it is so important to bring the world into the class!” – Olivier Dijkmans, Belgium

Olivier Dijkmans
Fifth Grade Teacher
Stedelijke Basisschool Omnimundo
Antwerp, Belgium

A few years ago, Olivier Dijkmans and his school found themselves welcoming an entirely new group of children and parents: refugees arriving in Belgium.  Like other parts of Europe, Belgium was struggling with how to best integrate these families and children, and Dijkmans and his fellow educators determined there was only one way forward.

“We as a school decided to welcome those people with open arms and help them to build a new future in our country,” says Dijkmans. “At that moment, I decided to turn around my way of teaching completely, to maximize the learning process.”

In a rather short time, Dijkmans’s class changed completely. “We had a whole new group of children that were non-native speakers,” he shares. “Some had never been to school because of the difficult situation in their country of origin. Suddenly we were confronted with children who are unable to write or read, or had to learn social skills. But first, they had to be helped to overcome all the terrible feelings they had experienced. As a teacher, it is a very challenging climate to work in, keeping in mind our main goal: preparing students for modern society.”

Dijkmans decided to face this challenge with IT, turning his classroom into a paperless “playground,” a hub to explore, learn, and broaden the view on the world.

“Using touchscreen devices, digital inking, and OneNote-based curriculums,” says Dijkmans. “The technology had to feel natural for the children, so that they could develop problem-solving and collaboration skills.”

Dijkmans and his fifth-grade students have named their classroom “Ollywood.” It is themed like a hotel, where every morning students “check in” for another exciting day of exploring and learning. “It is a safe, colorful, and cozy environment where the children can feel at home,” says Dijkmans.

OneNote, Sway, i3 Learnhub, iMO cubes, Skype, Moviemaker, Greenscreen, Lifeliqe, Makey Makey, Augmented Reality, and software from Lego Education create a powerful learning environment, where collaboration and communication are key.

“We try to work on one challenging subject every week that sparks the students’ imagination and interest. In that subject, we try to incorporate mathematics, language, science, arts and crafts, but also social skills.”

At least once a week, Skype brings the outside world directly to students.

“Speaking first-hand with students from another country is truly a unique chance to stop prejudgements and makes the world literally smaller and more understandable,” Dijkmans says. “Our most powerful conversation was a very interesting call we had with an Irish and North-Irish school about the situation between the Protestants and Catholics. This was a real eyeopener and a touching moment for my students and myself — an unforgettable experience.”

For Dijkmans, this new way of teaching is only the beginning.

“In the future, I would like to collaborate even more with teachers from around the world, in real life, or in a virtual way,” he shares. “Learning from each other and getting to know each other’s differences and similarities let borders between cultures, languages, and countries disappear. The classroom must be a part of our global community, so it is so important to bring the world into the class!”

About Olivier Dijkmans

  • Educational background:  Teacher training, responsible for ICT in the school, MIEE 2016-2017, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, Teacher of Microsoft Surface Pilot class Belgium, 2015-2016
  • Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology:  Microsoft Surface Pro 4, OneNote Class Notebook, Office 365
  • What is the best advice you have ever received?  Never forget the pleasure in everything you do.
  • Website I check every day: https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/ (a news website)
  • Favorite childhood memory:  My first visit to Disneyland Paris.
  • Favorite book:  Eva’s Oog, Karin Fossum
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