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The originators and creators of the "Digital School Wielkopolska @ 2020" project never thought that they would have to battle test it during a pandemic.

- It was a project designed for extracurricular activities. Today we are convinced that it works in completely different conditions. And it is useful for conducting everyday education. After few days we can say that it passing the test - says Piotr Waśko, deputy director of the Teacher Training Center in Poznań and director of the project "Digital School Wielkopolska @ 2020", implemented under the Wielkopolska Regional Operational Program 2014-2020 by the local authorities of the Wielkopolska region.

Something besides the e-school diary

 Lessons in Poznan were suspended last Tuesday. The capital of Greater Poland was the first city in the country that decided to take such a step. A day later, the government decided that all educational establishments would be closed for at least two weeks. Today we can be almost sure that this state will last longer.

Everyone says this should not be an extra vacation. And they appeal to teachers to teach children and young people remotely. In most cases, schools connected to the Poland-wide e-school diary Librus IT system receive a portion of tasks to do every day. Some teachers also use various applications that facilitate students' practical learning. But these are activities that require a lot of effort on both sides.

However, around 600 schools in the region participating in the "Digital School of Greater Poland @ 2020" project had an unlikely opportunity. Thanks to the project, teachers can teach lessons, or at least connect to students through the TrueConf video conferencing system. I used the platform to talk to people involved in this project on Friday morning.

- Teachers can conduct classes remotely from anywhere and on any device. It can be a computer, tablet or even cell phone. The same applies to students - explains Piotr Waśko.

Each of the schools participating in the project has an account enabling remote classes. Technicians with the expertise to launch and operate the system have also been trained.

- Thanks to online classes, teachers have a better chance of implementing the core curriculum. But it's also a chance for parents to get involved in their children's education. We have many signals that this is happening - notes Dorota Kinal, director of the education and science department of the marshal's office.

Technically, it is a very simple undertaking. It requires no application, just a link sent by the administrator with an invitation to join a video conference.

- This system is currently being implemented on a trial basis. But we have found out that our infrastructure is good enough to succeed in a situation that nobody expected - says Adam Ziminiak, responsible for the technical side of the project.

Now anyone can apply

The most important thing is that during this extraordinary pandemic, schools that do not belong to "CSW @ 2020" may also be connected to the system.

- At this difficult time, we encourage schools throughout Wielkopolska to join us. Our people are ready to help. We also work at home to protect ourselves from illness and make sure everything is technically sound. This is a great opportunity for our schools - says Piotr Waśko.

The Teachers' Improvement Center in Poznań also suggests using teaching guides with ready-made scenarios of classes prepared by researchers from the Adam Mickiewicz University. They can be downloaded for didactic purposes and the class suggestions for primary and secondary school students can be expanded. Academic lectures that broaden knowledge of the core curriculum are also available for use. Lectures and textbooks are published at CSW websitse.

This project has been running for several years

The four-year project "Digital School of Greater Poland @ 2020" includes a total of 600 both primary and secondary schools from across Wielkopolska. It is implemented as part of WRPO 2014+ by the local authorities of the Wielkopolska region - Teacher Training Center in Poznań.

Due to coronavirus and suspended lessons, the project unexpectedly expanded. But in its assumptions, it was about extracurricular activities. Thanks to them, children and young people are to learn new techniques using tablets, laptops, as well as cameras, camcorders, and other specialized IT equipment. They use modern internet programs and applications. All devices are provided to schools for free as part of an EU project.

At the beginning of the year, schools choose one of six educational sub-projects to implement. You can choose from: Digital Map of the Warta River Basin, Digital Children's Encyclopedia of Greater Poland, Student IT Laboratories, Academy of Advanced Education, University-level Classes and Subject-Specific Student Competitions. The project invites them to work in teams.

The "Digital School Wielkopolska @ 2020" project started during the 2018/19 school year. Three and a half thousand students working in almost 300 teams and supervised by around 450 teachers took part in the first edition. Each team carried out their chosen tasks during 64 hours of additional classes. The second edition of the project is currently underway.

Thanks to this undertaking, a unique new network infrastructure, the Wielkopolska Educational Network, was created to connect every school participating in the project. The development of the network at school is therefore also the construction or expansion of wi-fi networks in 600 buildings. Professional recording studios have been created in Teachers Centers in Kalisz, Piła, Konin, Leszno, and Poznań to record lectures and lessons by teachers.

The next edition of the project covers the 2019/2020 school year. Over 300 teachers and 174 technology implementation specialists have been involved.

They look to the future

The creators of the project, which is expected to be operational by the end of 2022, are already looking into the future. An educational platform is currently being tested that will enable teachers to post their materials or multimedia presentations, and even to take tests.

If the suspension of regular classes lasts much longer, this form of help will be indispensable. For now, let us hope that students and teachers are able to return to school as soon as possible.

***
Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronovirus pandemic for you.

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