Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki co-ordinates a HEI ICI project called “Olive Teacher Education without Walls – New models for STEM and Teacher Education in the Digital age”. Partner Institutions are Al Azhar Univerity in Gaza; Birzeit University in West Bank and School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education, University of Eastern Finland and its LUMA centre in Joensuu. Associate partner is Finn Church Aid (FCA) and its Teachers without Borders network.
Olive project develops teacher education in Palestinia universities. The far-reaching impact is an improved quality of compulsory basic education in Palestine that is achieved through narrowing down the digital divide gap and by enhancing access to knowledge for all. Educational challenges are tackled by outputs focusing on creating new on-line learning environments, developing pedagogical approaches, renewing bachelor’s programmes and teacher education diploma, supporting educational leadership and acting in dialogue with educational governance in Palestine. The specific outcome of this project is the comprehensive transformation of teacher education that equips teacher students with skills to exploit modern technologies and online learning tools.
Concrete development work focuses on creating new learning environments, built on new technical infrastructure and especially using cloud services. Project develops Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. For this purpose, laboratories will be build: stable build-in laboratories and so-called Backpack laboratories. Upgrading subject specific courses in Bachelor’s programme make use of the new learning environments and STEM laboratories. Teacher Education Diploma is updated towards virtual teacher education diploma with a new way to deliver the courses. Emphasis on the virtual teacher education diploma is on collaborative approaches like peer mentoring and peer learning. An on-line practicum will enable an active interaction between local schools and universities. During teaching practice (practicum), the pedagogical developments done in universities are tested, used and redeveloped in local schools. Bridging the university level developments into compulsory and secondary schools is crucial and requires special attention paid to the educational leadership in Palestinian schools. An adequate quality assurance process will be set up. Thus, Olive project can be viewed as a case study and the experiences and results of it can be used in renewing the Palestinian Teacher Education in near future.
Flexible learning opportunities in terms of time, place and pace give better possibilities for pre- and in-service teachers to participate. As an impact of Olive project, the quality and availability of Teacher Education in Palestine is improved. Palestinian teacher educators, pre-service teachers, in-service teachers and school leaders will be able to implement novel pedagogical practices in order to enhance quality learning.