April 22, 2024

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It has taken time, but the Ministry of Education has begun to publish on the Internet the new teaching materials that concentrate the spirit of the educational reform. The result is not that it resembles what many teachers have been doing for years, it is that the materials have been created by more than 200 teachers who have already used them in their infant, primary, ESO and high school classes. In the process they have been polished, they have been given a common format (the Exe Learning open source program) and they are now made available to all teachers so that they can apply them, adapting them as they see fit in their classrooms, or for them to use of reference when creating their own materials, says Octavio Moreno, deputy director of Academic Planning at the Ministry of Education. (You can see all the materials in this link).

Each material constitutes what in Lomloe’s terminology is called “a learning situation”, which comes to be like scenarios or scripts. Units of activities and tasks that revolve around the same theme and are designed so that students apply their knowledge in contexts inspired by reality. The situations have variable durations: from a couple of weeks of class to about a term. The ministry has published about 70 (more appear every day) and expects to reach 150 in a few weeks, covering almost all subjects. Two of them are summarized below, one for primary school and the other for secondary school.

Why do the stars disappear? Subject of General Sciences, second year of high school

This learning situation is part of Citizen Science, a movement that encourages non-specialists to collaborate with professional researchers to advance in a specific field, normally using everyday technology. Here, the kids must measure the light pollution of the town or neighborhood where they live in an organized way, observing the night sky for a week with the help of an application that must be installed on a phone or mobile device. The data (which is incorporated anonymously into the international Globe at night project) will serve as raw material for the work that they will develop in class during at least five sessions.

The teacher begins by explaining the basic concepts and the students then cover the phases of a scientific project in teams. They collect data, formulate hypotheses, test them, and collect the conclusions in a report. “It is important to explain to them that the hypotheses do not have to be correct. Those who do science are not fortune tellers, but rather answer the questions with tangible and contrasting results”, says the didactic guide of the situation. Students must prepare an oral version of the report, as if they were going to present it at a conference or work meeting, creating a poster or interactive presentation for this, and rehearsing to try to “speak clearly, making visual contact with the public, showing confident (even if they don’t feel that way) and looking at the notes as little as possible. They should also take the findings outside of the classroom, for example, to the educational community at their school, at a school science fair, or to municipal policy makers.

The latter was what the students of the David Buján public institute in Cambres (A Coruña) did, accompanied by proposals to reduce light pollution in the population so that the stars could be seen better. The project thus incorporated the so-called service-learning approach, which aims to educate while improving the environment.

“This work will allow them to understand how science works in such a way that it stays with them for a lifetime”, believes José Manuel Calahorra, a Physics professor, who has participated in the preparation of the materials. “My experience after 18 years of teaching is that the kids have a much better time this way, because they are constantly doing things, which is the best way to learn. When the bell rings they tell you: ‘Teacher, have you finished class yet? It’s gone too fast!’

Around the world with one of the first explorers. Subject of Artistic Education, first cycle of primary school

The Austrian Ida Pfeiffer is a little-known woman in Spain who, however, had an unusual biography. She was born in Vienna in 1797, her parents married her to a man much older than her and at 45, when her children were independent, she left her husband and dedicated herself to what she had wanted to do all her life: travel and tell what she saw. . She circumnavigated the world twice, and became a renowned explorer, ethnographer, and writer. The learning situation, designed for students in the first cycle of primary school (from six to eight years), embarks the children on a journey led by Pfeiffer with stops in places such as Brazil, Indonesia, China, Russia and Persia, in the who listen, see, play instruments, dance, paint and do handicrafts with elements from different cultures.

At the beginning of each chapter, the kids hear an adapted excerpt from Pfeiffer’s diary. And then they spend one or two sessions learning about the culture of each of the areas where they stop. “The learning situation is very fluid because it immediately moves between music ―from Mozart to traditional Chinese melodies―, dance ―among others, the Maori one―, plastic arts ―making matryoshka―, and also the language, the concept of what the world is… They are still very small and there are concepts that are much easier to acquire through these channels, ”says primary school teacher Ana Bellvis, who has supervised the material.

The children create a passport at the beginning of the situation, which they stamp as they pass each stage. “In addition to motivating them, those moments give us the opportunity to stop and reflect on what we have learned. About the differences and similarities with our country, and about what catches their attention. Depending on the number of students we have, these types of questions can also serve to connect with the cultural diversity that we have in class. And that these children feel identified seeing that we work in class, part of the culture they have at home”, says Bellvis.

First pages of Ida Pfeiffer's diary.
First pages of Ida Pfeiffer’s diary.

A novelty that comes late

The learning situations, which will be accompanied in the coming weeks and months by support guides on how to explain each subject with a competence approach, have cost one million euros and have been financed with funds from the European recovery mechanism. The main criticism that can be made of them is that they are late for the teachers and students who have inaugurated this course the new educational law, the Lomloe (those of odd levels).

Many teachers claimed at the beginning of the course that they felt lost before the new curricula and their terminology. And the logical thing would have been that the materials would have been available before putting them into operation. Just like when asked about teacher training in the Lomloe changes (which is also late), those responsible for Education argue that the ministry has been advancing step by step since the approval of the law at the beginning of 2021. This department adds that educational reforms always take time, especially if they pursue fundamental changes. And that the generalization in the classrooms of the competency approach will require many years, so that a few months up or down have a relative importance.

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