The SOIL Conference in Graz
21.4.2017 - Inclusion possible – nearly 90 educators, local authorities, politicians and other stakeholders of school education in Austria took part at the first SOIL-conference in Austria organized by the lead partner atempo. They came together in the university auditorium of the Pädagogische Hochschule in Graz. How to use digital tools to strengthen inclusion in education was one of the key issues of the conference. Participation in Education means to involve learners into the learning action by considering their expectations and their individual learning needs. Walburga Fröhlich, the moderator and the CEO of atempo captured and showcased the expectations of the participants using an online questionnaire at the beginning of the day. Eveline Wiesenhofer, the project manager, introduced the objectives and the structure of SOIL to the attendees.
The participants were actively involved in the process of the conference, they worked in groups discussing their personal strengths. How can teachers help the kids to discover and unfold their potentials without knowing their own? Monia Ben Larbi, CEO of the Initiative Schule im Aufbruch (School on the move) spoke about the change, about a new school structures, about learners as partners and teachers as coaches. The participants have got inspired by the SOIL ideas, represented via the method parcours, how to implement inclusive and learner-centred approaches in education, how to face challenges of diversity and how to turn them into an advantage for all learners. Everybody could try one of the learning apps and tools, presented on 20 tablets, get to know something about Easy-to-Read-language, and barrier-free-communication and peer-based evaluation. Employees of atempo, apprentices with special needs in office communication, were explaining and guiding the participants through the tablets parcours.
The keynotes were spoken from Prof.Dr. Röll, who pointed out, how important it is to give a chance to all children, not just to few. He appalled to the teachers not to be afraid of new media and mobile devices, to see them as helpers and as a bridge to the young generation.
Johann Stadler, the second keynote speaker, showed what potentials people with learning difficulties have, why it is important to learn together with others and not to learn and live in segregated environments. He demonstrated the power of inclusion on his own story, despite getting disadvantaged as a child, learning in special schools without an alternative, he is working as a peer-educator and self-advocate nowadays.
The conference was supported by the Ministry of Education of Austria. Mr Pletersek, the representative of the European Affairs of the Ministry was speaking how to make innovation a daily business and how project as SOIL keep and develop the knowledge across Europe.
The panel debate, as a closing activity of the day, was also designed participative. The audience was giving questions to the panel quests via smartphones, voting for the favourite topics.
The results of the conference online evaluation, where the participants were asked to give a feed back, were represented to all participants transparently just in time and will be used for the design of the following SOIL conferences in Berlin, Bratislava, Bucharest, Maastricht and London.
Stana Schenck, 22.04.2017