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Nijolė Vaičekauskė, a Community Story from Lithuania

"The Coronavirus situation also had a profound impact on us as adult educators. Naturally, a need arose to find out more about IT opportunities, to acquire new knowledge and skills needed in adult education and in communicating with each other. Distance learning and work experience, which helped to implement the Erasmus + KA1 adult education mobility project “Improving General Skills of Adult Educators Based on German Experience” was useful in working remotely."

Nijolė Vaičekauskė

I am Nijolė Vaičekauskė, an adult education practitioner and a German teacher. I started working in the field of adult education in 1999, when I started working as a German instructor at Klaipeda College of Social Sciences and the College of Samogitia. At the Telšiai Education Centre, I taught the German language courses for adults. I was a long-term member of the Lithuanian Association of German Language Teachers, and for several years I was a member of the Lithuanian Adult Education Association. In 2014, I established the association “Club of Friends of the German Language and Culture” in Telšiai which I continue to run. I actively support the concept of lifelong learning: during the last 4 years I have attended piano classes at Telšiai Music School, and I have been part of a folk dance ensemble for seniors “Džiugas” at the Cultural Centre of Telšiai District Municipality for the last 5 years.

Since 2016, I have worked as a teacher at the Telšiai Education Centre, and am responsible for coordinating the implementing the Action Plan for Non-formal Adult Education and Lifelong Learning of the Telšiai District Municipality. I contribute to the development and implementation of this plan. I disseminate information on adult education in the Telšiai District on the Telšiai Education Centre website and its Facebook page, as well as in the regional press. Since 2016, I have been coordinating events for the Adult Education Week in the Telšiai District Municipality. I regularly participate in qualification improvement workshops to improve my adult education competencies (under the project “Digital Tools for Effective and High-Quality Adult Education” of the Qualifications and Vocational Education and Training Development Centre, etc.) The Telšiai Education Centre actively participates in international projects. In 2019, the Telšiai Education Centre initiated the establishment of an adult educator consortium. Together with Raseiniai District Education Assistance Authority, the consortium members, institutions and organisations providing non-formal adult education in the Telšiai District Municipality, implemented the Erasmus + project “Improving General Skills of Adult Educators Based on German Experience” (KARTU 2019), No. 2019-1-LT01-KA-104-060360). The Telšiai Education Centre was the project coordinator, and I coordinated the project activities and developed and presented a virtual exhibition.

In 2019, the implementation of the Erasmus + Strategic Partnership project KA2 “Education + digital?!” ("Bildung + digital?!") No. 2019-1-DE02-KA204-006227 started (the association HeurekaNet - Free Institute for Education, Research and Innovation (V.HeurekaNet - Freies Institut für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation“, e.V ), Germany).

For the next two years and seven months, together with 7 institutions and organisations providing adult education in other European countries, the Telšiai Education Centre will use the international network to exchange ideas, methods and best practices in digital education, promote innovative methods of educator teaching, learning and assessment, and cooperate with adult teachers and learners on the subject “Creative and Effective Use of Digital Technologies". I am the coordinator of the project activities at the Telšiai Education Centre. I attended two partner meetings and posted reflections on these meetings on the Telšiai Education Centre website.

The Director of the Telšiai Education Centre Rita Vargalytė is an EPALE expert in the Telšiai and Tauragė districts, therefore adult educators in these districts are constantly kept up-to-date with the benefits of the European Adult Learning Platform both when looking for new ideas and when sharing their experience. She encouraged me to register on the platform in 2015, I subsequently wrote an article in German about conversations during evening meetings conducted in German “Der deutschsprachige Stammtisch oder wie man mit einer Klappe zwei Fliegen schlagen kann”.

In 2019, I became an EPALE adult educator.

This platform is an excellent opportunity to share best practices with the international educator community and feel a part of this broad and competent community.

It gives me more self-confidence in my ability as an adult educator. On this platform I found a lot of interesting and useful material, valuable experience, new content, and innovative thoughts on adult education related issues.

HOW ADULT EDUCATORS OVERCOME COVID-19 CHALLENGES

The Coronavirus situation also had a profound impact on us as adult educators. Naturally, a need arose to find out more about IT opportunities, to acquire new knowledge and skills needed in adult education and in communicating with each other. Distance learning and work experience, which helped to implement the Erasmus + KA1 adult education mobility project “Improving General Skills of Adult Educators Based on German Experience” was useful in working remotely.

Effective communication between project partners

Our project was unique because of its high number of participants: 11 consortium members from Telšiai and Raseiniai municipalities participated in the project, and 15 people participated in qualification improvement training in Germany. Thus we realised early on that as project coordinators, we would have to use various online tools to help internal communication. Thus. we coordinated meeting times using the online calendar Doodle (https://doodle.com/en_GB/), and created a private Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1532153140253621/), where we posted material on the training organiser’s country – Germany, Steinfurt County. There we posted information for mobility participants about the the training location and the project partner, Ibbenbiuren Folk Education High School, which hosted qualification improvement training for adult educators in October 2019. We created a folder for storing online data with Google Drive for German-speaking mobility participants. Information and educational material saved in this folder and the Facebook group helped the participants to familiarise themselves with the cultural and social environment of the training location, to learn German at their convenience. Before leaving for the training, the participants completed their assignments using the online tool Kahoot (https://kahoot.com/), and checked how successful their independent studies were. During the mobility part, we used a private Facebook Messenger group to communicate, and we reflected on each training day using the online survey tools Mentimeter (https://www.mentimeter.com/) and Slido (https://www.sli.do/).

Throughout the project’s implementation, its activities and results were posted on the Telšiai Education Centre website. The consortium members contributed to the project dissemination by publicising the project activities on their websites (e.g., Telšiai District Municipality, Raseiniai District Education Assistance Authority) and Facebook (e.g., the association “Telšių bičiulių ratas” Telšiai Friends’ Circle). The project logo was developed by Vaida Šepikaitė, a teacher at the Telšiai Art School and participant of the project mobility program. The logo helped to identify information related to the project activities more quickly, especially when publishing it online.

I also used the Zoom platform to organise the annual audio reading campaign in Telšiai entitled “An Hour with a Book,” and invited the project participants to join in. Due to Coronavirus, we could not arrange audio readings at the municipal amphitheater or the public library, as had been the case for the previous four years. However, the Zoom platform enabled the project participants from Raseiniai to join the campaign. Videoconferencing on a previously unused online communication platform Zoom was especially useful for conducting online meetings and conversations with the project participants during lockdown. My colleagues and I tested this globally popular, online video and chat platform, and used it to organise an online meeting of the Erasmus + Adult Education Mobility project “Improving General Skills of Adult Educators Based on German Experience” (KA1). During the meeting, I presented an information stand reflecting the project’s mobility activities to the project participants, as well as a virtual photo exhibition dedicated to publicising the project’s mobility training in Germany. Together with colleagues, we discussed strategies for the publishing of the exhibition online. The exhibition is available on the Telšiai Education Centre website.

Adult educators encourage learners by leading the way

Able to respond to present challenges and looking for innovative and effective learning forms, adult educators set an example to their students. On the other hand, having tried various online tools, adult educators better understand learners and their fears related to mastering new teaching/learning tools, and so can encourage and motivate them. However, in terms of IT use in adult education, we must remember ethics first, i.e., assess the learner’s level of digital literacy, the wish to employ blended learning, their sense of security and confidence, and remember that digital technology is just a tool and may not become a goal. Thus, when creating an environment where we want to teach and learn, we need to consider multiple aspects that help the organisation, the adult educator, and the learner to grow. Telšiai Education Centre is the project coordinator, and the consortium members are: Telšiai District Municipality Administration, Raseiniai District Education Assistance Authority, Karolina Praniauskaitė Public Library of Telšiai District Municipality, Samogitian Museum “Alka”, Telšiai Adult School, Public Health Bureau of Telšiai District Municipality, Telšiai Social Services Centre, Telšiai Art School, association “Club of Friends of the German Language and Culture,” association “Telšių bičiulių ratas” (Telšiai Friends’ Circle).

The project “Improving General Skills of Adult Educators Based on German Experience” is funded under the Erasmus + Programme (adult education sector), Key Action 1, Project No. 2019-1-LT01-KA-104-060360.

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