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Meet our ASEF Family and Friends: Adam STEPINSKI

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Published:
1 Sep 2022

Meet our ASEF Family and Friends

Mr. Adam STEPINSKI has been teaching English and History for over 25 years. Starting as a Primary School teacher, he moved to the Copernicus Upper-Secondary School in Tarnobrzeg, in 2000. He believes that projects are an effective way of teaching and developing students’ skills. Therefore, every year he initiates international undertakings for his students. So far, his students have taken part in over forty international projects. In 2018, Adam was awarded the title of the Best English Teacher in Poland. He is interested in new technologies and their potential and usage in education. Being also a teacher trainer, he conducts workshops in Poland and abroad during national and international events for educators. These training focus on the creative use of online applications in daily teaching and project work. Adam is an eTwinning Ambassador and carries out online learning labs for Polish and European teachers.

Thank   you, Adam, for agreeing to this interview and congratulation on receiving the European Language Label Award this year! Please share   with us how you first got involved with the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF).

My adventure with ASEF began almost a decade ago. In 2013, I took part in an educational event organized for teachers in Bali, Indonesia. It was then that I learned about the enormous opportunities that ASEF offers to educators from Asia and Europe, and most importantly about the possibility of conducting projects with students in cooperation with schools from these two continents. I had carried out similar projects before, but these had been only European initiatives. Starting from 2014, I have regularly published methodological articles on the ASEF Classroom Network website. In this way, I try to share my educational experiences and expertise with other teachers.

Tell us more about your life and career – in particular, before and after joining the ASEFClassNet projects (ClassNet11, ClassNet13, ClassNet15, V4IoT) with ASEF?

I have always argued that international educational projects are an excellent way to improve students’ language skills. Every year my students have the opportunity to cooperate with their peers from other countries. In addition to the educational value, such activities are, in my opinion, extremely motivating and broaden the mental horizons of young people, opening them to cultural diversity and stimulating their creativity.

At the beginning, my students and I joined five great projects led by my friends from India, the Netherlands and Italy (iMagz – Making Myself Heard, International Village – Thumbs Up for SketchUp !, World History in Family Photos, Witnesses of World War 2, Grandma’s Kitchen). Thanks to our participation in the project tasks, I learned how to effectively plan and carry out similar undertakings with culturally and ethnically diverse youth groups.

All this encouraged me to propose my own project, in which six schools from Asia and six from Europe participated. What matters in your life allowed us to compare the values that are important for the young generation in the modern world. In addition to interviews, films, and materials created together, the participants also had the opportunity to take part in discussions on the forum, and the students themselves met face-to-face via social media. Our project won the Gold Award at the 2017 conference in Zug, Switzerland. Being also a teacher trainer, I had the pleasure,  at the same conference, to conduct a workshop for teachers entitled Upgrading teacher professional skills. In 2018, the second edition of our project What matters in your life? won the Merit Award at the ClassNet conference in Helsinki. In the same year, over a dozen schools from Asia and Europe took part in the Asia-Europe Cultural Heritage Games project. It used the pedagogical method of gamification to broaden students’ cultural horizons and to enrich their knowledge in the areas of joint interest. Most activities were game-based tasks. Participants created games covering various topics (e.g. geography, history, literature, art, music, sport, traditions, etc.) and shared them with their peers from other countries. Through this collaboration, students learnt new things and had fun at the same time. At the end of the project, all participants took part in the online Asia-Europe Cultural Heritage Games. At the Tokyo conference in 2019, our project won the Gold Award.

Soon after the conference, another large undertaking began to crystallize. This time it was a project in which schools from the Visegrad countries took part. The Director of the ASEF Education Department, Mrs Leonie Nagarajan, asked me to become the coordinator of this project and to apply for a grant to the Visegrad Foundation. The project IoT, Big Data and AI: Innovating STEM Teaching through Strengthening Teacher Professionalisation was a hands-on training programme for teachers on IoT, Big Data & AI-related teaching in secondary schools: on a pedagogical, curriculum and technical level. The schools in V4 countries were provided with cutting-edge technological equipment that focused on environmental and climate change monitoring. All participating schools were connected through one common technical platform. Joint data collection and analysis enabled an interactive teaching and learning environment that transcends borders and allows the teachers to discuss, jointly explore and identify areas for collaboration on experimental lessons for STEM classes. The project not only offered teaching and learning opportunities for STEM subjects; it also allowed cross-fertilisation across other subjects (e.g., English, ethics, geography, social sciences, etc.). As a final product, we published a Handbook for teachers, which was officially launched online at the 7th Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (STI Forum) on 4th May this year.

https://asef.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/V4IoT_Teachers_Handbook.pdf

We are all so happy and proud  that our project IoT, Big Data and AI: Innovating STEM Teaching through Strengthening Teacher Professionalisation has been just awarded the European Language Label. It is an award encouraging the development of new techniques and initiatives in the field of language learning and teaching, as well as the enhancement of intercultural awareness across countries.

How do you see the relevance of organizations like ASEF to help teachers in ASEM countries enhance their teaching practices?    

ASEF’s contribution to students and teachers cannot be overestimated. Firstly, every year students have the opportunity to take part in interesting international projects. During their implementation, participants work together on project tasks, learn from each other, develop their creativity and entrepreneurship, make decisions together, and most importantly have the opportunity to meet their peers from distant countries. All this supports the intercultural understanding and openness of the young generation. Secondly, teachers who cooperate with each other within the ASEF Classroom Network exchange interesting methodological solutions, also learn from each other and use the best educational teaching strategies currently available in the world. Also, the conferences that are alternately organized for teachers in Asia and Europe serve the same purpose. Many ASEF Classroom Network projects have been completed with the publication of interesting and inspirational materials, which can be used both during lessons and in other educational projects.

The world only slowly emerged from the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic in early/mid-2022, and many global challenges remain for both Asia and Europe. What is your reflection on these challenges in regard to your teaching practices?

The COVID-19 pandemic has locked us up at home for a long time. This has contributed to tremendous psychological changes, especially among young people. Many of them suffer from depression, do not show willingness to meet their peers, prefer to stay within the four walls of their bedroom. As teachers, we must tackle this isolationism of our students. We have to open them to other people and convince them that true happiness lies in a relationship with another person.

Please share with us a memorable experience involving Asia and Europe during your project with ASEF.

Apart from all the educational aspects, one thing that stuck in my memory was the reactions and emotions of my students who took part in the ASEF projects. Many times I could see a lot of joy, smile and satisfaction from informal contacts that my students had with their peers from Asia. On one occasion, when I asked them why they were so tired that day, a few students replied that they were talking on social media with friends from the Philippines until late. During our last undertaking entitled IoT, Big Data and AI: Innovating STEM Teaching through Strengthening Teacher Professionalisation, in turn, one of my students confessed that the presentation of the group work she gave during the online meeting was her first public speech in a foreign language. Thanks to it, she started to believe in her foreign language competence and overcame the fear of public speaking. Such moments always confirm the purposefulness of this type of action.

What are some of your accomplishments with ASEF that you are most proud of?

I mentioned above that I am extremely proud of all the projects and awards we have received. Every time it was a group distinction for all the participating teachers and students. Without their commitment, curiosity, willingness to cooperate and willingness to share with others, our successes would not be possible. But I am particularly proud of our latest project IoT, Big Data and AI: Innovating STEM Teaching through Strengthening Teacher Professionalization, whose complexity and quality were really high. I am convinced that the Handbook for teachers that we developed together will be used in many schools for the benefit and development of students.

Do you have any closing comments or reflections on how ASEF can be more relevant in bringing Asia and Europe closer together?

I am sure that I will express the opinion of all the teachers and students participating in ASEF projects or annual conferences, saying that ASEF should continue all the activities undertaken so far. On the one hand, they serve the development of the young generation and the improvement of teachers’ work, give everyone a huge boost of motivation, satisfaction and fun, and on the other hand, which is equally important in terms of the human dimension, they bring students and teachers from Asia and Europe closer.

‘Meet our ASEF Family and Friends’  is an initiative where we want to introduce our ASEF Governors, staff, as well as resource experts, participants and friends who have or had some connections to ASEF – to our growing audiences. We hope to show the human side of our networks as we at ASEF strive to remain a core facilitator of people-to-people connectivity within the ASEM region.

About ASEF:

The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) is an intergovernmental, not-for-profit organisation which brings together the people of Asia and Europe to address common challenges. Founded in 1997, it is the only permanent institution of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) political dialogue Process and is publicly funded by voluntary contributions from 53 ASEM Partners.

ASEF promotes understanding, strengthens relationships and facilitates cooperation among the people, institutions and organisations of Asia and Europe. ASEF encourages collaboration across the thematic areas of culture, economy, education, governance, media, sustainable development, and public health. Over the past 25 years, ASEF has brought together more than 40,000 people from Asia and Europe, through seminars, workshops, conferences, publications, web portals, grants, and public talks.

For more information, please visit www.ASEF.org

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