News

Updated information of events and initiativesof the Faculty of Education, University of Malta

Department of Technical Design and Technology

Sat May 16 2020 06:30:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

One of the courses being offered by the DTEE is a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Technical Design and Technology. Throughout this three-year programme, students are provided with a strong theoretical foundation in the domains of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


 
STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) education has received increasing attention over the past years, as it integrates subjects which were previously taught separately while also underlining how these subjects can address challenges in the real world.  An important commitment of the Department of Technology and Entrepreneurship Education (DTEE) is the formation of educators in Computing, Technical Design, Technology, Business and Entrepreneurship. The DTEE offers several programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. These programmes are intended to provide pupils with the knowledge and practical skills concerning the various aspects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

One of the courses being offered by the DTEE is a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Technical Design and Technology. Throughout this three-year programme, students are provided with a strong theoretical foundation in the domains of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These subjects are integrated throughout numerous design projects were students are required to design and develop a solution to a problem. In addition to the theoretical aspects, students learn how to use of design tools and technologies such as Computer Aided Engineering Design (CAED) software, 3D printing, augmented reality, electronics and programming. 

An underpinning philosophy of the undergraduate programme is that the process of ‘designing’ is an iterative learning experience where students can exploit STEM subjects to ideate, explore, create and test solutions to an identified problem. A unique characteristic of the undergraduate programme is that in addition to the theoretical knowledge, students can develop hands-on experience with technologies such as electronics, materials and manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing. In this sense, students can design solutions and also develop physical prototypes.

Despite the plethora of definitions, designing refers to a process whereby the designer identifies a problem and develops a solution to address this process. In this sense designing is a transformative process in which a problem is ultimately transformed into a solution. Throughout this process, the designer obtains new knowledge, by gaining a better understanding of the problem itself and the potential solutions that can address the problem is solved. The idea of learning through the process of designing is an important concept which educators are encouraged to introduce in the classroom. 

The DTEE is also engaged in research pertaining to design and technology particularly in the realm of education. An ongoing research project being undertaken by Dr. Lawrence Farrugia and Dr. Sarah Pule’ who is the Head of Department has the objective to identify the factors which render design and technology education an enjoyable learning experience for pupils. To this end, a preliminary study was carried out to identify the concerns of pupils as well as factors which influence their attitudes towards the area of Design and Technology. The initial results show that the type and complexity of the technology used in the workshop or laboratory has a profound effect on pupils’ attitude judgments and their likelihood to enjoy their learning experience. In essence, students prefer to interact with technologies which are inherently simple (e.g. lathe, multimeter, pillar drill, etc.) and can provide an immediate visual feedback to the student. The goal of the research will be to develop guidance for the teachers delivering training in Design and Technology.

Official Launch of lovetoteach.info

Thu May 21 2020 22:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

In an attempt to fulfil its obligations towards Maltese society in these turbulent times and beyond, the University of Malta's Faculty of Education has developed a far-reaching outreach programme, which is being enriched with the launch of a brand-new portal, #lovetoteach.

Lovetoteach.info is the collective effort of many academics and top practitioners in the educational field. It is a site intended to support a very wide spectrum of learners, educators and parents.

The site was launched on Friday 22 May 2020 by the Minister of Education & Employment, Hon. Dr Owen Bonnici, together with the Dean of the Faculty of Education, Dr Colin Calleja.

The site, which is updated frequently, is built around four distinct sections: one for students falling in the junior and senior categories, another for parents, a section for educators and educational leaders, and the fourth section for higher-education students, adults and their educators.

The site also offers the vEDUti webinar series in which Prof. Carmel Borg hosts prominent authors and thinkers. The first such interview was with Professor John Baldacchino from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Juniors and Seniors section provides resources and interactive, as well as, authentic learning activities for young learners. The Parents' section provides resources as well as podcasts and webinars for parents who have now also assumed the role of home-schoolers and co-educators. The Educators' section also provides resources and webinars for educators. The 'Connect to Learning' webinar series, which is part of this section, provides Continuing Professional Development for educators that will equip them with ideas and skills to enhance their practices.

The series has already attracted many educational professionals and is proving to be a popular space for Maltese teachers and school leaders.

"I am very proud of all the hard work put in by the educators for the benefit of the students, but I am especially pleased with how dedicated they have continued to be after the temporary closure of schools and educational institutions", said Minister Bonnici.

Attendees, who actively share ideas in these webinars will be rewarded with a Certificate of Participation issued by the Faculty of Education at the end of the series. The last section offers updated resources developed by local and foreign authors and practitioners as well as support in the form of webinars and short courses to students, adults and their educators, particularly those dealing with this new online teaching and learning reality.

The academics involved in the design and maintenance of the site, the webinars and short courses, include the Dean, Dr Colin Calleja, the Deputy Dean, Dr Michelle Attard Tonna, Dr Karen Mugliett, Professor Christopher Bezzina, Dr Philip Bonanno, Dr James Calleja, Dr Patrick Camilleri, Dr Joseph Vancell, Mr Mario Testa and the Let Me Learn team.

"At the Faculty of Education, ranked among the best 400 faculties of education across the world, we believe that knowledge should not be constrained to lectures between educators and students, but it should be shared with the rest of society. This outreach programme, especially this portal we are launching today, is our latest effort in reaching all of those who might need it and somehow improve their lives during these challenging times and beyond", said Dean Dr Calleja during the launch.

"Lovetoteach.info complements the invaluable work being already undertaken by schools, and is our way of participating in this wave of support to all educators, students and the Maltese population at large", agreed Deputy Dean, Dr Attard Tonna.

For more details please contact Dr Joseph Vancell at elearning.educ@um.edu.mt

Meeting with Dr Frank Fabri

Thu May 21 2020 22:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

The Dean Dr Colin Calleja and the Deputy Dean Dr Michelle Attard Tonna yesterday held a meeting with the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry for Education and Employment, Dr Frank Fabri.

The COVID-19 framework for the reopening of childcare centres, schools and educational institutions was discussed. This framework provides five possible scenarios and five key elements, and stakeholders are now being asked to provide feedback for each scenario. The way the faculty can contribute to the reopening of schools was also discussed, based on a number of concerns expressed related to the lack of engagement of some students and the lack of capability of some parents to support in homeschooling, particularly if these parents need to return to their workplace.

The Changing Roles of Teachers and Parents in the times of COVID-19

Sat May 23 2020 22:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Schools as we know them have been closed for over eight weeks in Malta and in many other countries around the globe. Teaching and learning has shifted to online modes so that the use of digital technologies has become an indispensable tool for the education of a whole generation of children and teens. Whilst the benefits of slowing down our lives and spending more time with our families are indisputable for those whose homes are welcoming, nurturing spaces, many parents wonder, sometimes even worry, about the impact of social distancing and isolation on their children’s education.

The changing roles of teachers and parents in children’s education is evident.  Whilst a major concern for teacher respondents is to ensure access for all learners through a variety of online approaches that range from synchronous real-time online sessions to the provision of detailed instructions and resources that parents could ideally easily follow, they are also aware that working parents are having to juggle between their own work commitments and family needs as well as helping their own children with school work and homework.  Not every family has access to more than one laptop or suitable device and connectivity issues are also a factor that is mentioned.  Many teachers are parents themselves who are going through very similar challenges and, thus, they are able to empathise with the difficulties faced in most households as adults and children are doing their utmost to adapt to the new reality that COVID-19 has created.  Online teaching is identified as one positive element in terms of its validity to help families set a daily routine in an otherwise fluid, at times chaotic day. 

Using asynchronous approaches where a variety of materials and resources such as presentations with voice-over recordings and recorded lessons are uploaded to accommodate family schedules seem to serve as a good alternative to real-time online sessions.  The aim is to facilitate the participation of more learners at their own time frame and pace.    For parents of young children in kindergarten and primary school, this can help ease the pressure of having to sit with their children during a scheduled slot whilst in the meantime meeting their own work deadlines.  Having said this, different approaches and types of interactions can have different effects on the kind of learning that happens.  The teacher-student relationship is a motivating factor in student learning and engagement.  Although not all teachers feel confident, competent or comfortable with using real-time face-to-face sessions, those who do seem to believe that having online face-to-face interactions on a regular basis helps strengthen the bond they had already created prior to the physical closure of the schools.  It also provides a medium for connecting with others and socializing for children during the times of COVID-19, when the only interaction is with members of their immediate family.

This leads to a focus on children’s wellbeing, which is seen to be the overarching concern for both teachers and families.  Whereas participation and access to online learning are at the top of the list of priorities for teacher respondents who also mention parents’ concerns regarding their children’s educational progress and attainment, understandably enough, there is also a certain degree of apprehension on the impact of COVID-19 situation on children’s overall development, including their physical health and socio-emotional wellbeing.  Educators comment on the lack of human contact, the impersonal ways of interacting from behind a screen without being able to read learners’ emotions through non-verbal gestures due to the switching off of cameras, the disruptive behaviour that sometimes occurs, their frustration with the absence of emotional support for children who need it most, and the repercussions on the quality of learning and the experiences lived when there is little or no social interaction amongst learners.  They also mention the fact that some children are falling through the net or disappearing from the school radar, despite numerous efforts from themselves or the school management team to contact these families.  According to the respondents, success of the online system is highly dependent on good communication between the school and the home, availability and willingness from both sides to take up the challenge of educating this generation together with a shared understanding that these are unprecedented times and thus call for flexibility, empathy, mutual respect and collaboration.  Similarly, teacher respondents highlight concerns expressed by parents about the number of hours spent learning online or doing their schoolwork and homework, sitting down in front of a screen without being able to see or interact with their peers due to privacy issues, the loss of routine and boundaries, the short attention span and lack of focus, and the refusal of some children to cooperate and participate in both real-time sessions as well as other modes of online learning.  

On a positive note, the shift to online teaching has ensured a form of continuity of experience between the home and the school, strengthened relationships between educators and families where, according to some educators, teacher effort and fast adaptation to new learning systems are being rewarded with trust, appreciation, parental involvement and student engagement.  Good relationships between schools and families have a direct impact on learners’ overall wellbeing as a sense of community is developed. Children and teens feel a sense of belonging when their parents show trust in committed and dedicated teachers and, as a result, are often more willing to actively participate in the teaching and learning processes.  

Keeping in mind that the above is only a glimpse into the richness of the data collected through the participation of a considerable number of Maltese educators and that further research involving different stakeholders is currently in progress, many more insights are still to emerge and be discovered. These aim to provide a deeper understanding of the impact of online teaching on the learning, development and wellbeing of our young generations.  In the meantime, parents are encouraged to first and foremost understand that this is a transition period for both adults and children and that the latter are experiencing their own frustrations and difficulties with coping with a more restricted and isolated kind of life.  Family health and wellbeing remain a priority, which implies a need to strike a balance between work, play and rest for themselves and their family members.  Developing a routine and supporting children to develop independent skills and take ownership of their learning whilst also taking an active role in family matters and duties are recommended by teachers of students of all ages.  Moreover, being flexible and understanding when things do not go according to plan can alleviate stress and anxiety for both adults and children.  Keeping regular contact with teachers and sharing a concern or asking for help or advice when needed is often more productive and beneficial than worrying or just venting out a concern elsewhere.  Praising children’s efforts and sharing their work by uploading it for teachers to view, assess and at times share with their peers when possible are also important.  

Finally, accepting that this situation is unique in terms of what most of us have experienced so far in our lifetime and understanding that it calls for unparalleled efforts from everyone involved including parents, children and educators will ultimately facilitate smoother transitions as we seek to work collaboratively, support each other and provide the best possible environments for our children to grow, flourish and even thrive, having lived and developed resilience to cope and survive these extraordinary times.

Collaborative Lesson Study Malta (CLeStuM)

Thu May 21 2020 22:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

For more information about CLeStuM initiatives and lesson studies:
Website: www.clestum.eu
Email: lessonstudymalta@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CLeStuM
Twitter: https://twitter.com/clestum

Collaborative Lesson Study Malta (CLeStuM), housed within the Faculty of Education, is a project that aims to support schools (at primary, secondary and post-secondary levels) to learn about, initiate and sustain collaborative lesson studies. Since its inception in 2017, CLeStuM has supported twelve lesson studies in subjects that include Mathematics, Science, English, Art, Information and Communication Technology, and Engineering Technology. 

The CLeStuM team members:
•	provide professional development for teachers and school leaders on the lesson study process;
•	facilitate lesson study meetings with teachers;
•	observe and provide constructive feedback on lesson studies;
•	conduct research on lesson studies;
•	organise events in Malta to disseminate collaborative lesson studies; and
•	participate in conferences and meetings to present their research.

The CLeStuM website (www.clestum.eu) includes numerous free and downloadable resources that educators may use. These resources include: articles, website links, videos, sample lesson plans, observation sheets and lesson study reports drawn from the initiatives taken up by a number of local schools. Recently, this work gained international recognition from the Lesson Study Group at Mills College, US, and the World Association of Lesson Studies (WALS). This development positions the CLeStuM project among the leading international initiatives that promote lesson studies.

Lesson Study Group at Mills College
https://lessonresearch.net/network/international-networks
World Association of Lesson Studies
https://www.walsnet.org/related-websites

The CLeStuM team is led by Dr James Calleja (Department of Leadership for Learning and Innovation). The other team members are Dr Michelle Attard Tonna (Deputy Dean and Head of the Department of Leadership for Learning and Innovation) and Dr Michael Buhagiar (Department of Mathematics and Science Education).

The views expressed in the webinars or blogs pertain to the individual expressing them and are not necessarily the views of the faculty.

©2020 by Faculty of Education MALTA Outreach