The year 2020 began and with it the creation of the Portuguese National VET Network of the ENNE project. There was a great enthusiasm about the potential of this new project and a lot of work to do. The associated partner schools shared this enthusiasm and aspired to participate in the transformation of Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Portugal.
The schools were working normally and the project activities were already outlined. To the National Network, the focus was “only” on students and on the contribution to the improvement of the quality and attractiveness of VET.
And then, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Everything changed. Our schools were forced to create strategies and solutions to adapt to the confinement and try to protect the learning process of the students. The mobility projects were suspended, students in mobilities came back home and, suddenly, the school was not the same anymore.
In order to maintain the educational activities, to provide the students a chance to complete their class works and to clarify questions, the schools used many strategies, suitable to the courses, knowledge and access of the students, such as Google Classroom, Moodle, ZOOM, and simulators such as Fritzing, MultiSim, 123DCircuits, among others. However, there are many things that get lost in the way, for instance, the relationship between teacher and students, which is an essential part of the teaching/learning process.
The months went by, we all learned a little more about this pandemic and everyone tried to adjust to the new situation, while trying to avoid a new mandatory total confinement, as happened in March. In September, the classes started again in Portugal. It was important to have the lessons in the classroom, not only to guarantee the learning process of the students, but also their mental and physical health. Still, the scenario was very different from the usual: mandatory use of mask, social distance and contingency plans for each class. Schools have done everything possible and even almost the impossible to return to the classrooms safely. Today, all of the schools are trying to maintain the normal functioning of the classes, but distance learning is still very present. When there is a positive case in a class, usually, all of the students stay at home, in isolation, and the lessons proceed online.
Without a doubt, 2020 is a year of changes, of sacrifices, but also reflection and opportunities. We all face a new era in education. Technological changes, which were long overdue, were now imposed on all of us, and it might be a historic moment for pedagogical strategies, for educational policies, and for education in general.