Special attention is given to provide training opportunities to (under)graduate students in the EU (Bologna Declaration, 1999). Thus, the internship period has gained official recognition in all EU university degrees to guarantee enough duration and a place to carry out specific professional preparation. Consequently, preservice teachers’ practical experiences are also gaining momentum in the teaching education programs across Europe. In view of its importance, there is a need to find common ways to design, implement, and evaluate the practicum programs within the EU, not only to share common guidelines but also to set rigorous indicators of what might constitute the learned professional experience in schools.
Secondly, there is an urgency to foster the use of ICT and online teachers’ resources to improve the learning processes. The practicum requires to be updated according to this EU strategic plan by embedding and prioritizing ICT in the teacher education programs. To date, the teaching practicum is still highly dependent on a presence-based modality. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has recently put universities to the test to find online solutions for face-to-face teaching. Nonetheless, major challenges have been spotlighted in the practicum as it is the only subject that has been canceled -or postponed- in many teaching programs worldwide because of its supervised application nature.
PRAC3 is a pioneering initiative to test the efficacy of an online teaching practicum. Today’s operational online resources aiming at bringing in the ICT in the practicum are based on the web 2.0 (theoretical contents online, users’ interaction via forums, blogs, social websites, etc). However, the ultimate motivation for this consortium is to design integrated online teaching resources for the on-site school teaching training based on web 3.0, which its defining feature is the possibility to access more personalized information according to the user’s experience (e.g., Elaboration of mentors’ and preservice students’ profiles, and virtual personalized school practices).
The relevance and necessity of an online teacher practicum are recognized globally as key indicators of future professional performance. PRAC3 is a European initiative aimed at designing technological products and solutions for the online practicum to be used by mentors and pre-service teachers in the participant countries. Its usability is based upon two major aspects: a management resource and a professional exchange interface for practice. For the first aspect, the management resource tool (Practicum Profile Tool) helps to globally administrate the schools’ network available for the practicum in each participant country, to visualize the collective agreements between the universities-schools- educational authorities, and select the optimal mentors for the preservice teachers according to designed professional features. In relation to the second purpose, the PRAC3 allows pre-service teachers to become immersed in the practicum experience through simulated teaching (e.g., Augmented Reality) and virtual practices (e.g., face-to-face teaching or Live Remote Classroom System -LRCS-) which, in turn, allow for more capacity building and teaching accessibility as well as understanding different school contexts and environments.
PRAC3 clusters several online resources to optimize the management of tasks typically related to teacher education training and to school-based experiences. For instance, websites, Apps, Augmented Reality hardware and software, and bidirectional simultaneous communication systems through LRCS. Its technological solutions can be summarized in the following:
- Identifying and matching professional and training profiles: The practicum Profiles Tool (PPT). Users’ online registration and automatic profiling of the pairs or dyads of mentors and preservice teachers according to an agreed-upon set of evaluation standards (e.g., managerial, pedagogical, and professional criteria) is one of its most innovative features.
- Promoting virtual and online practicum experiences. The preservice teachers participating in this innovative pilot initiative is offered special online teaching training by using of: 2.1. Augmented Reality (AR) simulations and real-classroom scenarios; 2.2. A Live Remote Classroom System (LRCS); and 2.3. An online Digital Repository (DR) with recorded situations of practice to be analyzed. The student teachers can reflect upon a variety of paths and teaching actions that ultimately lead to different outcomes (e.g., e-portfolios).
- Establish a system of online indicators that facilitates the mentor teachers’ evaluation of their preservice teachers’ practice. Our aim is to create a set of common teaching standards for all participant countries in this project that could serve as seed criteria for future European Professional Standards for Teachers.