A new version of the eTwinning Desktop is coming soon! Learn about the changes and new features from Santi Scimeca at the Central Support Service for eTwinning.
The re-launch of the eTwinning Portal in 2008 included some social networking features to allow teachers to more easily get in touch and communicate with colleagues. Since then, it has become clear that this was a popular direction to take in order to meet eTwinning teachers’ needs: millions of messages and wall posts have been exchanged between eTwinners. To keep up with such demands, a new phase of redesign has led to a new version of the Desktop, which will be launched in early October 2010.
To learn more about the new Desktop and its features, we interviewed Santi Scimeca, eTwinning’s Project Manager at the Central Support Service (CSS) in Brussels, Belgium.
1. First of all, a general question: what is happening to eTwinning?
In our view, eTwinning is rapidly becoming a professional development platform for teachers across Europe. Over the last year, we have enriched what’s on offer with Learning Events, which have been extremely successful, and eTwinning Groups, which will be opened to everyone in the coming weeks. At the same time, we realised that in addition to project development work, registered teachers were also using the platform for rapid and informal communication based on knowledge sharing and educational resources. What we then did was to develop a new structure which would wrap all these elements together.
2. Are you referring to the new Desktop?
Yes, we have completely redesigned the Desktop, keeping the most important features but making them more user-friendly. In addition, two brand new features are going to be implemented: a totally restructuredProfile and a new area called Teachers Rooms.
3. Let’s start from the new Profile. What is new?
In the current Desktop, the possibility for teachers to tell other colleagues what they are doing in eTwinning is limited. The new Profile is built around the ‘eTwinning Journal’ which will replace the ‘wall’ and the ‘me too’ areas. Teachers will be invited to write posts and attach files and links related to their work. Colleagues will then be able to comment on these posts. Accordingly, each eTwinner can share their ‘eTwinning life’ with other colleagues, thus initiating collaborative threads. The ‘Journal’ can also be seen as a sort of eTwinning digital portfolio, which enables eTwinners to showcase and share their most interesting and successful professional outcomes, while receiving feedback and recognition from their peers.
4. And the Teachers Rooms?
When we launched the Learning Events and the eTwinning Groups, we realised that there was a strong demand for shared platforms for discussion and collaboration, with a different degree of commitment compared to projects. In the spectrum of activities on offer throughout the Platform, what we were missing was a simple place where eTwinners could meet other eTwinners and discuss any topic for a limited amount of time. Something lighter than a group but more structured than one-to-one communication. We have designed the Teachers Room to fulfil this need and it is composed of a forum and a chatroom that can be created by any eTwinner to discuss and share ideas. By default, each room remains open for two months, but can easily be extended for another period of time. Ideally, the most successful rooms could be transformed into eTwinning Groups, but this is not a prerequisite. A Teachers Room is simply a place to informally discuss topics of interest, without committing too much time and effort.
5. And the other sections of the Desktop?
As already mentioned, the other sections have been restructured. The Partner Finding area has a more efficient search engine and more forums than before. The homepage is richer with various announcements also coming from National Support Services (NSS). The Projects section also allows users to search for existing projects in eTwinning. The Resources area will also features external material and websites as well as material produced by eTwinners. In general, we have considered hundreds of suggestions coming from end-users, improved usability and strengthened the areas we felt more strategic and interesting.
6. What do you expect from the new Desktop?
Our vision is that eTwinning become the place where all teachers across Europe can go, meet their colleagues and share thoughts and ideas. It is already becoming a social network, but, in comparison to other existing platforms, eTwinning remains free of SPAM or advertising, with a strong focus on education. When you login to the Desktop, you know that you will find thousands of colleagues from all around Europe who share your enthusiasm and will widen your horizon. Our dream is that, by using eTwinning, teachers will become better teachers. This will benefit their pupils and society in general.