This year, the end of October is a busy and exciting period at Daugavpils University - it is the week of the 7th annual Science Fair. As always, Institute of Sustainable Education (ISE) takes active participation in the various Science Fair events which, this time, run under the umbrella topic of Energy. Most notably, on November 29 ISE hosted an interactive presentation session "The energy of sustainable values in international projects: Green spiritual energy and collaborative energy efficiency". During the session, all those in attendance could learn about the experience of ISE staff in the management of and participation in a number of international projects that seek to bring together inspiration, innovation and initiative from both near and far to search for sustainable solutions to issues of immediate concern for individuals, communities and ecosystems.
ISE professor Anita Pipere and her doctoral students Liene Kvedere and Aļesja Šapkova shared their experience of involvement in international research projects. First, professor Anita Pipere gave an intriguing and illuminating account of the National Institute of Education (Singapore) project "Non-cognitive skills and Singaporean students - international comparisons". Within this project, a comparative study in a number of countries from the South Pacific (such as Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong) and from Europe (such as Finland, Latvia, Serbia, Denmark and the Netherlands) is conducted to appraise the correlation between students' performance in mathematics tests and their scores in a number of non-cognitive variables such as anxiety, self-concept and self-efficacy. This research project is unique for its extensive sample in the participant countries and the opportunity it affords to make comparisons in mathematics education across geographically distant and culturally different regions of the world.
Secondly, professor Pipere shared some fascinating findings from the research undertaken within NorBa project "Nordic-Baltic comparative research in mathematics: Comparative study on mathematics teachers' beliefs". Pre-service and in-service teachers in the audience were particularly interested in the research findings that highlighted a discrepancy between mathematics teachers' espoused constructivist assumptions about teaching the subject and their actual teaching practices which tend to follow the traditional approach. A lively discussion ensued about the benefits and practical applicability of the two approaches, which confirmed the topicality of the project and its relevance to Latvian teachers' professional concerns.
Third on the agenda was the experience from Erasmus Lifelong Learning Programme project "ICT-enabled education for sustainable development". Project assistant in Daugavpils University Ginta Gedžūne gave a brief account of the project, notably, informed about its partners (universities from Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, Sweden, Austria and Latvia) as well as highlighted the project idea and its main output - elaboration of a joint master's programme which would prepare specialists competent in the areas of ICT and ESD. The bachelor students in attendance were particularly interested to hear about this newly created international programme as they contemplated opportunities to continue pursuing their education on a higher level in the near future.
The next project experience was shared by Inga Gedžūne who recounted the story of the project "Synergetic approach with eLearning, TV and mobile technologies to promote new business developments". This project is implemented within Latvian-Lithuanian cross border cooperation programme 2007-2013 and essentially brings together initiatives from the neighbouring countries of Latvia and Lithuania. It is jointly implemented by Riga Technical University, Kaunas Technological University, Liepāja University, Siauliai University, Daugavpils University, Latvia University of Agriculture and Utena Labour Market Training Centre. The project aims to create a cross border research and collaboration network to promote technologically supported learning and thereby contribute to the development of entrepreneurship in the region. The exceptional idea of the project is to bring together three innovative modes of learning - e-learning, TV- and mobile-assisted learning. Upon completion of the project in 2013, its key output will be a set of ten innovative courses in Latvian and Lithuanian languages as well as support material for usage in television, on the Internet and in mobile devices. All those in attendance had a unique opportunity to experience one such support material designed by the team from Riga Technical University - a short video film about African fishermen struggling to maintain the generations-old sustainable fishing practices which were developed by their forefathers and are now undermined by predatory fishing policies of corporate companies. This way, the attendees of the Science Fair were provided with a glimpse into the materials created within the project and intended to facilitate sustainable business practices in the Latvian-Lithuanian borderland.
The session continued with bachelor students Ilze Apīne and Ilze Baleiša telling of their experience of participation in Erasmus Lifelong Learning Intensive Programme "Education for sustainable development: Exploring hopeful pathways to preferable local and global futures". This programme brings together 40 university students from such countries as Latvia, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, UK, Portugal, Cyprus and Finland for 15 days to exchange their local experiences concerning sustainable and unsustainable practices, debate the meaning of sustainable living as well as gain inspiration for and develop a commitment to advancing sustainability in their communities. The girls were enthusiastic in their praise of this learning opportunity, highlighting its intercultural nature as one of the greatest assets which helps develop open-mindedness and an appreciation of diversity, construct bridges across cultures and establish new social ties around Europe.
The day concluded with an account of a public campaign "Daugavpils fortress without oil depot" which is chaired by ISE senior researcher Eridiana Oļehnoviča in cooperation with master's students of the programme "Pedagogy". The audience were informed about the impending construction of an oil depot at Daugavpils fortress. The construction is believed to have grave cultural, ecological and social repercussions - not only it would damage a national historical landmark vying for the status of UNESCO world heritage site, but also destroy the habitat of a rare species of bats and undermine the local residents' health. All those in attendance were encouraged to pledge their support to the campaign that aims to stop this stark example of unsustainable management in the local community.
The event was an opportunity for ISE staff to look back on their latest achievements in project work, disseminate the accumulated project experience to the wider public and gain valuable feedback from the audience that will serve to inspire quest for further project activities which would both be topical with regards to global developments in education and address local concerns.