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From 26 till 29 June, the consortium of the Erasmus+ project SLIDE organized the learning, teaching and training activity ‘Service-Learning & Digital Empowerment – How can we make it work?’ at the University of Zagreb in Croatia. The aim of the training program was to increase the capacity and readiness of teachers in higher education institutions to manage an effective shift towards digital education and to encourage their purposeful and inclusive use of digital technologies for teaching, learning, assessment, and engagement. 43 higher education teachers and staff from nine different countries joined the four-day training program. In total, 20 different higher education institutions were represented.

During the training week, participants got the opportunity toengage in discussions with European colleagues on service-learning and digital education. Training inputs were given by service-learning and digital education experts via lectures and workshops. The participants further developed their expertise in digital pedagogy, the use of digital tools, and the creation and innovative use of digital education content in combination with service-learning practices.

After a welcome by Domagoj Toncinic, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Zagreb, and Kaat Somers (UCSIA), coordinator of the SLIDE project, the first day of the training kick-started with a keynote presentation by Milena Ivanova of the Johannes Gutenberg University from Mainz, Germany. Topic of this keynote was Intergenerational Digital Service-Learning: Challenges and Opportunities in Post-Pandemic Times, in which Milena introduced us to the IDOL-project, an Erasmus+ project that aims to design and develop a new teaching approach to empower higher education staff and lecturers to implement intergenerational digital service-learning. The keynote was followed (after a well-deserved coffee break) by an interactive workshop organized by Jörg Miller (HBdV). Participants used the Service-learning in Higher Education Card Deckto create their own Service-Learning & Digital Empowerment Patterns for Success. It was also a great opportunity for us to get to know each other. The creativity demonstrated during the session was truly astonishing and inspiring! A great set-off for the rest of the week 😊.

The first day ended with a workshop lead by Nives Mikelic Preradovic (UniZg), during which participants got acquainted with the SLIDE MOOC for teachers. Participants used the tools in the MOOC to analyze their own level of learning design skills and learned about key elements of Learning Experience Design (LXD), and identified different delivery formats, instructional methods and evaluation methods for inclusive design in digital education ecosystems.

During the second and third day of the training program, participants followed different interactive sessions in smaller workshop groups. Under the lead of Lucas Meijs (RSM) and Kaat Somers (UCSIA), we discussed the ethical implications of digital service-learning. The results of the collaborative work done in this workshop, will be included in the Service-Learning, Inclusion, Diversity and Digital Empowerment Manifesto of the SLIDE project. Loredana Manasia (UPB), Irene Culcasi (LUMSA) and Claudia Russo (LUMSA) introduced us, based on four real-life service-learning cases, to different tools to create engaging e-service-learning experiences during their workshop ‘Designing Service-Learning with Technology and Storytelling’. In a follow-up workshop, Alzbeta Brozmanová Gregorová (MBU) demonstrated different creative methods to be used for service-learning reflection and evaluation in online settings. In a fourth interactive session, Florentine Paudel, Rolf Laven and Ursula Medicus of PHWien presented the Online World Café method. The Online World Café method and its potential for e-service-learning course design were investigated and piloted together with the participants.

In order to bring in different perspectives in the training program, two local service-learning partners of the University of Zagreb were invited to present their organizations’ work. On Wednesday 28 June, Paolo Zenzerovic from IRIM gave a presentation about the organizations’ activities to encourage children to become more engaged with new technologies.

In the afternoon, we paid a visit to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, where local service-learning partner Stemalica organizes regular workshops to introduce children and youngsters to the basics of electrical engineering and programming. To get a taste of what these workshops look like, we participated in introductory workshop to programming under the lead of Josip Kir Hromatko. To make this Wednesday even better, we had the opportunity to go to the Zagreb Classic festival in the evening, where we were treated with a free performance of the Ballet of the Croatian National Theatre. Our timing couldn’t be more perfect!

On the last day of the training program, a second keynote presentation was held by Mike Derycke of the Erasmus University of Applied Sciences in Brussels, Belgium. In his presentation The Digital Teacher’s Checklist – Navigating the world of audio, video and interactive media, Mike introduced us to the opportunities of interactive media to enhance digital teaching. Nives Mikelic Preradovic (UniZg) organized a second workshop about the content of the SLIDE MOOC for teachers, focused on opportunities to improve digital skills of the local community through service-learning programs and to generate digitally empowered service-learning design concepts. The program finished with a presentation by Berta Paz Lourido (ApSU) with a call for ethical values and academic integrity when making use of digital environments in service-learning practices. With the rapid advances in digital technology, we should visualize possible future scenario’s for service-learning, empowerment and inclusion.

To capture all inputs from the training, a reflection workshop was organized by Kaat Somers (UCSIA) in which participants were asked to create their own ‘service-learning and digital empowerment journey’. Participants created journey road maps and exchanged on how they could bring the input of the training into their own practices. The results of the session were beautiful: seven SL&DE journey road maps were created, showing different pathways to combine service-learning and digitalization.

In the evening, all participants joined in a lovely (and tasty!) conference dinner to raise a glass on the outcome of the training and to celebrate newly forged networks. The evening even ended with some dancing at a local bar! The program definitely ended with a bang!

It has no doubt that many relevant inputs were given during the Service-Learning and Digital Empowerment training program. The presentations and interactive workshops helped participants to develop their expertise in digital pedagogy in combination with service-learning practices, but the four days also provided many opportunities for exchange and social interactions with European colleagues. The established contacts are invaluable and can fuel new collaborations between European higher institutions.

The SLIDE project consortium is looking forward to continue the SLIDE project, fueled by the inputs given during the training week. The gathered ideas will guide the next steps in the project and feedback of participants will be included in the execution of the project outputs. To be continued!

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