How can a virtual learning environment fill the gap of knowledge on the European Union? UACES member Fabio Masini and Francesco Pigozzo introduce their free online educational platform arising from the AwarEU project.
The Virtual Learning Environment on the EU is the most important output of the Erasmus+ K3 project “European Awareness – AwarEU”, a follow up of an initiative taken by the Strategic Partnership among the Italian Government, the Italian Ministry for Education, the European Commission and the European Parliament to foster European civic education in all schools. Although no implementation of the project was ever made, the experts called to design the courses decided to create a European academic network, with different targets, to fill the gap of knowledge on the European Union.
AwarEU was coordinated by the International Centre for European and Global Governance (CesUE), in partnership with the Jacques Delors Institute in Paris, the Instituto Universitario de Estudios Europeos at CEU-San Pablo Madrid, the Law Faculty at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, and the Aston and Stirling Universities in the UK.
The common idea was to challenge methodological nationalism in European studies and to put Europe at the core of a renovated citizenship education. The work was grounded on two basic observations: in most EU member States, public schools and public broadcasting companies have been one of the crucial instruments to build contemporary nation-States; dealing effectively with EU issues in the communication and educational systems is not just a matter of specialization, since it also entails a paradigm shift toward what we may call ‘methodological pluralism’. We thought there was a need to open teachers’ and students’, journalists’ and citizens’ minds to the plurality of reference systems we need if we are to grasp and actively contribute to shape the world we live in. This is key to explain and understand to what extent the European integration process is particularly relevant to us today.
AwarEU addresses these objectives by offering a new and carefully designed Virtual Learning Environment on the EU that can enable different targets to face the challenges and concretely transform them into productive stimuli. The VLEU is a free online platform accessible at https://vleu.awareu.eu by simply registering. Materials are organized in four areas, each available in five languages (by now: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese), but new proposals for partners and projects (in order to develop it further) are warmly welcome. All areas allow for uses in both formal and informal (or non-formal) educational approaches:
- “The European Union for all” conveys meaningful information on today European Union as a key, yet unstable and still contradictory stage of European integration, in eight short lessons featuring original whiteboard animations;
- “European integration: an incredible story!” provides a detailed narrative of the whole European integration history from World War II up until today challenges in twelve stages. For each, a three-folded view is offered: – 1. highlighting its overall historical meaning with respect to the original goal of European unity, by way of a video clip from a music recital called “Europe: what a Passion! The tale of a stormy love affair”; 2. Making reference to specific events, achievements and dynamics in the construction of supranational institutions by way of animated text and music; 3. Developing the discourse about the key historical facts of the period through a short video lecture by a scholar.
- “Multilevel Perspectives on Communicating the Present” points to the very recent European history (2008-2018) in order to provide conceptual tools, concrete analyses and methodological tips to discuss or communicate about the current historical situation in a multi-level and pluralist perspective (with different experts and different languages, all subtitled) that can effectively give meaning and foster active participation to the complex world we live in.
- A fourth area, “European Multilevel Education for Citizens”, targets teachers and education practitioners themselves: it’s a space for self-training, peer-to-peer discussion and exchange of good practices not just about the European Union (there are already many online resources for that) but about the specific meaning of European integration for civic education at all levels.