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eTwinning Annual Conference in Malta 2017: Turning Inclusion into Action

750 dedicated eTwinners and more, gathered last week in Malta for the eTwinning Annual Conference and showed beyond doubt that inclusion is a celebration!

In a world where friendship is valuable, eTwinning teachers, school leaders, and educators from all over Europe, demonstrated, discussed and analysed the importance of making friends and building alliances. 

During the first day, Rodrigo Ballester, member of the cabinet to Commissioner for Education Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics, opened the plenary welcoming the conference participants and reminding them that they are the main players of eTwinning. Mr Ballester also added: 

eTwinning needs to grow, 500,000 members already, but we can be more ambitious! 

Mark Penfold, Lead Teacher for Ethnic Minority Achievement in Babington College, Leicester, gave an inspiring and emotional keynote speech “The meaning, philosophy and practice of inclusion in a digital age”. 
Mark Penfold in simple and concise words reminded us the obvious: 

If you treat a lemon and a fig tree the same they won’t give fruit. Find the way the right way to treat each plant!

Mr. Penfold, explained that teachers need to understand that inclusion is not treating everyone the same, but it is affording everyone the same opportunities. He asked teachers and policy makers to stop confusing inclusion with integration, emphasising that inclusion entails change and in the long-term demands adaptation from everyone.

After this gripping keynote address, eTwinners attended the prize award dinner. The room was full of happy and satisfied faces. The projects brought together students from all over Europe aiming at improving students’ understanding of inclusion.

During the conference, the hashtag #eTconf trended on Twitter, and reached 3,353,620 people spreading the values of eTwinning all over Europe and beyond.

During the second day, the participants enjoyed 52 workshops from experienced teachers/trainers on different topics surrounding the theme of inclusion, such as social and emotional learning, decentralised technologies, developing intercultural competence in the classroom, and gender equality and diversity in education. You can find the PowerPoint presentations here.

The participants had the opportunity to listen to people coming from a variety of organisations like the European Commission, COFACE, Terre des Hommes, Eco-Schools, Euroclio, Peace Jam, Science in Schools, and from the National Support Services of eTwinning. 
For more information on the workshops but also the speakers, we encourage you to check our blog “eTwinning Annual Conference - Malta 2017”. 

During the third and last day of the conference, the participants gathered for the final plenary session. Evarist Bartolo, Minister of Education and Employment of Malta opened the session with resonant statements that made strong impressions to everyone in the room. Mr Bartolo talked about the necessity of finding true inclusive practices and not pretentious ones where “one size fits all” and called for the need to put the universal declaration of human rights above cultural values and religion. 

During the panel discussion, participants did not just listen to the panelists, but were actively participating, expressing their opinion through live voting. The final question on “how to turn inclusion into action once back in school” had many answers, many of which were empathy, collaboration, and understanding. Only one word had the majority of votes, and this was eTwinning, maybe because it is after all the embodiment of all the above