Maja Pivec: "Games can be applied as a tool to foster various aspects of the life-long learning process"
Dear Maja Pivec, I am concerned about the matter of the structural design of educational games and very pleased to have the chance to ask an expert: how should the game be designed to make sure that the learner does not avoid some important educational contents by cheating?
How to avoid cheating? The game should, in the first place, be fun to play – and the interaction in the game should be more rewarding than the completion of the game itself.
Where is the guarantee that students won’t cheat? There is no guarantee. Also, in commercial games, cheat codes are available and popular. Cheat codes are included in the game to allow the developers to test and debug their code without having to play for hours to test enhancement. For example, a driving game may have a cheat code to repair damage, or a shooter may have a cheat code for unlimited ammunition. This allows the developer to test without having to be an expert at the game. These codes always find themselves posted on the Internet and are usually found by players wanting to experience the game in an easier mode.
When designing your own game, it is always a challenge to ensure that the game is linear enough to cover all aspects for learning, yet not so linear that it would restrict players’ further gameplay if they got stuck.
I can see that a video game is of great advantage to help integrate schools in the new digital era. But, for students, can you tell us in which way video games improve children's potential?
finateca (United Kingdom)
Many publications include research that details potential aspects of player computer games. For example, hand-eye coordination, spatial orientation, mental rotation, spatial visualisation (Tetris achieves these), spatial integration and mental mapping (3d maze games), strategies for dividing attention and multitasking (fps games), brain capacity improvement, problem solving, etc.
The games to train site is one of many sites where learning or training games for different topics are listed.
Dear Maja Pivec, I believe that games contribute to the creativity of learners. Do you think that creativity is important for the learning process? Could you give us some examples of these game-based learning projects? Thanks in advance.
Marta Casares (Spain)
Creativity is a basis for learning and forms many of the constructivist learning theories. Gardner, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, suggested that individuals are “creative” in specific domains. He suggested that providing students with ways to be creative allows them to find and solve problems and communicate ideas in various forms. Game-based learning is ideal for this. Some examples are described in Piloting New Ways of Learning and Education Arcade zooms in on games in the classroom.
There is a recent EU-funded project on the application of mobile phones and games for learning called mGBL – mobile Game-Based Learning.
Malcolm Gladwell, a writer at the New Yorker, said about the programme Sesame Street: “If you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them.” Do you agree? Do you believe that this could also be applied to adults?
Pedro González (Spain)
I also believe that attention and focus on the topic are necessary for successful learning. However, there are other factors that influence and contribute to the learning process, e.g. arousing interest in the topic, interaction with the topic, etc., where games can be applied as a tool to foster various aspects of the life-long learning process. There are also many publications on immersive environments. Research shows that 3d games can create such an environment and that, when immersed, the player’s cognitive learning abilities are increased.
Games, play and playful interaction can successfully be introduced in all areas of (adult) learning, i.e. formal, non-formal and informal learning.
Dear Maja, thanks for answering our questions. Do you think that game-based learning helps the learning process to take place out of the classrooms as well, for example, at home? And do you believe that collaborative learning is possible in this type of learning? For instance, three children playing together with a videogame.
Octavio Giacomo (Italy)
Many multiplayer games achieve exactly this. Dungeon Siege One is a good example. Each player controls a different character and, in multiplayer mode, they must work together to complete tasks and advance levels. This promotes teamwork and fosters collaboration between children. Multiplayer online games also foster collaboration with many players participating solely for the social interaction.
Are there any examples of this kind of learning in Europe or in other countries in the world?
There are many examples of the application of games for learning in different areas.
One can decide to use “educational games” for learning e.g. Chemicus (by Heureka-Klett publisher; or TIVOLA for the US market), a puzzle-adventure game for the self-directed learning of chemistry. One can find an entire series of titles similar to Chemicus, e.g. Physicus, Hystorion, Informaticus, etc., by the same publishers.
One can also apply off-the-shelf games that cover various aspects of the learning issue, e.g.: Age of Empires for the introduction of ancient history, Jurassic Park covers the topic of dinosaurs, SimEarth or SimCity can be applied for ecology and resource management, The Sims is for social and behavioural sciences, etc., as outlined in the Edge Magazine Oct. 2004, issue 141.
There are also online games available. Several online games and case studies can be seen at the UniGame site.
I am the founder of the Kindersite project. Please could you evaluate the Kindersite within the format of game-based learning?
joelhjosephson (United Kingdom)
The SIG-GLUE quality stamp service is aimed at assessing the quality of learning games. The service started in May 2006. Individuals and companies can submit their learning games for an evaluation process. The term “learning games” is used for games that have an explicit learning purpose and can be used, adapted and adopted for supporting, improving and fostering learning processes within formal, non-formal and informal learning scenarios.
Access the web site to see more details about criteria, submission, the evaluation process and benefits of the quality stamp.
Dear Maja, I'm very interested in games for learning, in order to support constructivist learning. Do you know an interesting software tool for making games? Thank you very much.
“Gamemaker” is a good example. It has a free version and a registered version with many tutorials included.
For the more experienced, there is “torque” from garagegames. This is a commercial engine with 2d and 3d versions, as well as an educational pricing structure.
Both products are very good and produce good quality output; however, you still need to foster the idea and develop the gameplay design before you start.
I read an article that stated that game-based learning is negative because children get used to working in unreal situations (fun, games) that will not be the case when children grow up and work in a company. What do you think?
Lucie Smith (Ireland)
Despite having fun and playful interaction in games (though I personally don’t see why fun and play should exclude learning) games can cover different learning objectives and contribute to various learning outcomes that can also be applied in the professional world.
For example, when playing multiplayer games, the social aspects of these can contribute to the acquisition of numerous skills relevant to professional life, e.g. team work, communication skills, digital literacy, etc. Also, today, many digital games do provide a real-life situation. Simcity is a classic and often used to teach economics. Microsoft’s Flight Simulator is also true to life. Achieving a balance between fun, gameplay and learning is a goal that many developers have yet to achieve.
Online Educa Berlin 2006 organises a round table discussion about the purpose of games in learning, quality issues and theoretical foundations of games design and development on Friday, December 1. To read more please click here.
Call for Papers: SIG-GLUE Special Issue on Game-Based Learning - British Journal of Educational Technology. The SIG-GLUE editorial board would like to invite researchers, practitioners and game-developers interested in the use, or potential use, of games in adult educational settings to contribute to this special issue with articles reporting original research and current developments in the area of game-based learning. To read more please see the PDF on the right-hand side resource area.
Markku Markkula: "Europeans have learned to network, and the working culture is increasingly changing towards working and learning together"
The desired future cannot be invented in the traditional way. We need more innovativeness and more innovations. We, Europeans, have learned to network, and our working culture is increasingly changing towards working and learning together. In this very much needed cultural development, progress in technology is a crucial precondition. In working communities in general, and in education in particular, ICT enables totally new dimensions and new levels of quality in creating joint innovative solutions to meet the challenges we are facing. The changes needed in work culture at all levels of modern knowledge societies are still huge. Both the decision makers and e-learning practitioners need to be more open minded and committed to hard work in order to generate technological and social innovations.
Finland is one of the top countries in education and information society development. What could be done to enable other countries to benefit from Finland’s experience and example?
Too often the wheel is reinvented through countless projects. On the one hand, this is positive, as people learn. But if the decision-makers want to reach the targets of the Lisbon strategy, they have to invest much more in really large and in-depth multidisciplinary development projects. We have plenty of good experiences regarding systemic development processes. Conceptualising the results and disseminating them through effective learning and implementation processes should be emphasised, by using substantially more money on this than has so far been used.
What are the main activities of the Lifelong Learning Institute Dipoli in the area of e-learning?
TKK Dipoli has indeed been and perhaps still is a forerunner in lifelong learning and professional development. Our uniqueness still lies in linking quite successfully the latest industrial and scientific developments in the areas of foresight, innovation and productivity with the latest e-learning developments. Our special expertise is in organising knowledge creation processes with concepts, models or roadmaps, if you like, as the outcomes. We have participated in a number of quite successful European projects working on these kinds of tools for knowledge creation and learning; for example, in the Value-Scout project a powerful tool was developed to foresee emerging learning needs through a specific model designed to detect needs by analysing both strong and weak signals through a specific methodology.
In your organisation, what do you consider to be the impact of e-learning on students' networking and lifelong learning?
The learning habits of youngsters, who have used computer games and networks since their early childhood, are very different compared to those who have not had much experience in using ICT. The huge impact will be seen when the development of using ICT, which we see in the entertainment industry, is implemented in education with the same enthusiasm. This is really creating new value networks globally, which is also big business. Education is expensive, and this radical change to use ICT effectively is even more expensive. But it is most expensive to continue with the traditional teacher and lecture-centric educational model. The new mode is characterised by phrases describing learning throughout your life: “learning is fun”, “learning is based on curiosity and inquiry”, “learning is knowledge creation through collaboration and communication”, “learning means happiness”, and “learning means challenging job opportunities based on your own interest”.
The “My favourite e-learning resource” contest received 443 participants in total. The jury had a difficult decision to make because many of the resources were of high quality. A number of different aspects were taken into account during the evaluation: contents and information, technical solutions, usability and interactivity.
The winning resource is a language training community called Shared Talk (http://www.sharedtalk.com), which was sent in by Bernard Vanderydt. He describes the resource in the following way:
This is my preferred way of brushing up my language knowledge. The concept is quite simple; it's a community of people who are willing to help each other learn a language. Members come from many countries worldwide.
According to the contest jury, Shared Talk is a resource with very extensive contents, and it is based on communication and community building. These aspects have been achieved successfully. The user interface is delightful in that it motivates users to participate and stay on the site even just to surf.
A considerable part of the resources were aimed at language learning. Apart from language learning resources, information technology and Internet courses were also well presented. Also, among the posted resources, a general interest in websites that emphasise global and European awareness, respect and awareness of diversity and citizenship could be observed.
The suggested resources showed that users tend to prefer sites that allow them to interact, for example through forums and/or chats, sharing practices and questions among themselves. For example, the Wikis and learning environments allow users to create communities. Moreover, resources that involved games or animation were favoured among the participants, also when concerning resources for adults.
Many teachers sent in their favourite pages that they use for teaching, which shows that these kinds of resources are used frequently in classrooms.
The majority of the participants showed a real interest in the contest and were very enthusiastic about it.
The best resources
Besides the winning resource, the contest received a considerable amount of valuable and useful resources. The best resources can be found here:
Notenmax – virtual music school (Germany)
Simple and fun resource that combines good technical elements, and the result is original and fun.
An excellent tool to learn mathematics, arithmetic formulas and graphical representation. Available in various languages, this is a technical and specific resource.
ENO - Environment Online (Finland)
A global virtual school for sustainable development and internationality, this currently has participants from 75 countries. Learners collect up-to-date information from their local environment to post on the website and share it globally. Material is public and free for everybody.
The resource offers several tools to learn economics. It is fun and useful, containing a lot of information (marketing, stock market, financing, etc.) in the form of innovative presentations, games, courses, puzzles, crosswords, etc.
A versatile online training portal that is well presented. It also displays news and other information.
PEGASUS Campus (France)
An online course to enter the university. Specific and interesting.
An interactive physics course for teachers, students and anyone interested in physics. It is both practical and theoretical, amusing but at the same time professional, making use of scientific terminology.
E-VHF GMDSS (Slovenia)
Content suitable for all sailors to obtain the SRC licence and to practice before going to sea. The unique on-line VHF GMDSS simulator is available free on the Internet.
Dossiers of elearningeuropa.info - Higher education: Virtual universities and ICT in higher education in Europe
As the UNESCO Virtual University states, “By using ICT the university can provide increased flexibility to students while reaching students beyond the usual catchment area. However, institutions need to develop and apply appropriate policies, and plan and manage effectively for a new mode of teaching and learning”.
The editorial board of Elearningeuropa.info has compiled some articles related to this subject and published earlier on the portal. Here you can find articles about the implementation of e-learning in higher education in different European countries.
Superior education / models of education
The study entitled “Virtual Models of European Universities”, carried out in 2002-2003 by the Danish consultancy firm Rambøll Management for the European Commission and the DG of Education and Culture, analyses the current and potential future use of ICT by European universities for educational and organisational purposes. The study points out, for example, different clusters according to the use of ICT in the organisational and education setting: front-runner universities, cooperating universities, self-sufficient universities, and sceptical universities. To read an abstract of the study, please click here: en de es fr it
Medical sociology / Cambridge (UK)
Tom Davies, from the Public Health and Primary Care Department at Cambridge University, writes on how he got started with e-learning and how it has turned out in his organisation. Turning lectures on medical sociology into online courses raised questions among teachers and students. Read the whole article, “Some Personal Thoughts from a 'Traditional' Academic Moving Towards e-Learning” (en). Original publication date: 10 March 2003.
Needs and competences / Ireland
Jim Devine writes about the challenges the higher education system faces when adapting to the information society. He uses Ireland’s higher education system as an example, showing its trends and the state of play. Read the whole article, “Major Challenges Facing the Higher Education System in the ICT Era” (en). Original publication date: 30 April 2005.
Government initiatives/ Germany
Bernd Kleimann and Klaus Wannemacher describe how e-learning has been implemented in German universities. The article summarises the main funding strategies, national and regional support programmes, and detected barriers regarding implementation. Read the whole article, “e-Learning at German Universities: from Project Development to Sustainable Implementation” (en). Original publication date: 5 September 2005.
Government initiatives / Finland
21 universities in Finland, promoted by the Finnish Ministry of Education strategic plan on information for education and research (2000-2004), created the Finnish Virtual University (FVU). This entity coordinates the operations, but most of the activities of the FVU either take place in the universities or are their joint projects. Read the whole article, “Finnish Virtual University: An Example of the Use of ICT to the Full in Education” en es. Original publication date: 28 June 2005.
Independent initiatives / Poland
Wojciech Zielinski, from the Polish Virtual University, describes how Poland has started to implement e-learning in higher education with determination. Introducing e-learning services in Poland has so far been done almost without state support, and it started with the definition of the e-learning concept itself. Read the whole article, “e-Learning in Poland: experiences from higher education” (en). Original publication date: 6 June 2005.
The implementation of a rich Open and Flexible Learning Environment (OFLE) strongly support the Dalton concept. Examples of an OFLE are Blackboard, Fronter, N@tschool and Profiler. Dekeos and Moodle are examples of Open Source OFLE's. An OFLE manage the process of education by pupils themselves.
An OFLE is a rich digital environment, where the pupil is able to study based on the basic assumptions of constructivism (Vrielink, 2003). The name rich is not incidentally chosen. It should encompass more than a traditional environment within which the teacher and/or the curriculum are the distinctive factor. The use of ICT should contribute to the design of teaching, to authentic teaching, integrative teaching, active-reflective teaching and to social or collaborative learning (Kral, 2005).
The Dalton principles
The three Dalton principles are freedom (responsibility), cooperation and assignment (self-reliance). These principles lead to the formulation of three questions:
- How can we increase the self-reliance of pupils through an OFLE?
- How can we stimulate cooperation among pupils through an OFLE?
- How can we increase the responsibility of the pupil for his own learning process through e-learning?
Ad 1. Teachers are obligated to put study planners on the OFLE. Pupils can study any were ant any place if there are ready for it.
Ad 2. The products should be delivered electronic in a drop box or on the discussion board. Peers and teachers can give feedback. The quality of the products will rise
Ad 3. Put the answers on assignments on line. The pupil is responsible for his digital portfolio. This portfolio will be assessed.
Implementation of an OFLE
When a school starts to implement an OFLE there should be a strategic action plan, which includes:
- A shared vision on the use of an OFLE
- Participation of the management
- An exchange - celebrate successes!
- School arrangement on structure
- The OFLE must be on the agenda of the job evaluation
To make online courses more attractive for pupils the enjoyment could increase by:
- Improve the usefulness
- Same simple structure
- Attractive announcements
A number of critical factors distinguish the use of Web based tools and OFLE's, like Blackboard.
The study of Selim (2003) revealed four major critical factors for the perceived usefulness of course web sites. The first of these factors is course work interactivity. Several Web-based tools improve course work interactivity. For example, asynchronously offered course material allows pupils to retain control as to when and where they wish to engage in the instructions. Electronic discussion forums are a qualitative improvement tool, which enhances communication and interaction among pupils. Deinum (2003) investigated the implementation of Blackboard on 35 schools in the north of the Netherlands. This research pointed out that the use of the discussion board in courses is low (4%).
Another critical course web site usefulness factor is, to enable pupils to complete their course work quickly by providing them with on-line components such as animations and multimedia modules. The third factor is to make studying course material easier by promoting its availability of: anytime and anywhere, by facilitating pupil-pupil and pupil-instructor communication lines, and by using interactive tools to explain the course contents. The last critical factor is to increase the pupil’s productivity and effectiveness.
Although a Blackboard supported lesson will enhance the quality of education, teachers do not tend to see the benefits of a Blackboard supported lesson.
Working with Blackboard more or less forces the teacher to look more critically at the structure of his or her lesson. Therefore the quality of the lesson will rise. The lessons get a clearer didactics (Helder, 2004). Another point is that it will become easier for pupils to start the lesson themselves. A certain degree of independency allows pupils to take responsibility for their own learning process and this will increase when Blackboard supports the lesson (Oudshoorn, 2004). This electronic form of communication combined with a proper use (good assignments and tasks) makes it possible to engage oneself in intensive exchange, more time-on-task, and effective discussions than is the case with many face-to-face groups in education (Deinum, 2003; Kanselaar, 2004). The quality of the pupil’s products will increase because pupils will become more motivated when the assignments are supplied in a digital form (Helder, 2004). For instance, Power Point promotes linear-hierarchical thinking (Laanpere, 2005).
The Seven Principles of good practice in undergraduate education
If a school introduces an OFLE without sufficiently formulating the different goals and without a teacher’s experience how to actually use the OFLE, there is a great change that the use will be under utilized (Vrielink, 2004) or sometimes abandoned because of the lack of user acceptance (Yi, et. al., 2003). The critical factors as mentioned above prove, that the assumptions, which have been used to analyse courses in Blackboard, were good. Investigated were the present and use of the following functionality's: the use of announcements, study planners, the possibilities of answers, tests, the discussion board, the use off group work and e-mail (communication) and the drop box . Analysing courses at a secondary school in the Netherlands in this way, Vrielink (2004) found that only 20% of the teachers use Blackboard; the barrier is considered (too) high and working with Blackboard implies extra time investment. The facilitation present is poor.
Therefore, it is important that managers and teachers are aware of the critical factors and conditions e-learning is based upon. The critical factors as mentioned before flow in the Seven Principles of good practice in undergraduate education (Chickering et. al., 1986). Understanding and awareness of these principles are essential for a successful implementation of a rich OFLE.
Those principles are:
1. Encourage contact between pupils and school: frequent pupil-school contact, both inside and outside class, is an important factor in pupil motivation and involvement. (Baars, et. al., 2003). The pupil’s intellectual capacities will increase. Current communication technologies such as e-mail, chat and discussion boards make it more accessible for pupils and teachers to ask questions and to give feedback. Shy pupils, for instance, will more easily start asking questions than when they are confronted with an actual face-to-face situation.
2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among pupils: School should create and encourage opportunities for collaborative learning among pupils. Collaborative learning stimulates the involvement of learning. Exchanging ideas and giving and receiving feedback improves the thinking en engrosses the understanding (Weiland, 2002).
3. Encourage active learning: School should require that pupils apply their learning process in oral as well as in written form. Pupils should actively work with their knowledge and skills. Interaction is an important feature of an active on-line way of working. Interaction is essential in order to receive feedback on the learning process. Feedback is a relevant factor in the interaction between the pupil and the teacher as well as between peers. Next, it is important that an assignment is geared to the pupil’s perception of his or her environment. This can be made possible, for instance, when data is used coming from the pupils themselves. Pupils tend to become more motivated developing their own product. If this product is really actually used in a factory or at school than it works extra motivating (Andernach, 2005).
4. Give prompt/immediate feedback: School should provide appropriate and prompt feedback on performance. Pupils need assistance in assessing their actual competence and performance, and they need frequent opportunities to perform and receive suggestion for improvement. Such feedback should be an ongoing process in collegiate settings; it is essential to the pupil’s learning process. Periodically, pupils should also be given the opportunity to reflect critically on what they have learned so far. An OFLE offers the possibility to give pupils feedback in different ways. A digital portfolio makes it possible to assess on the learning process, to see if their is prove that the learning goals are reached.
5. Emphasize time on task: School should create opportunities for pupils in order to enable them to practice good time management. This includes setting a realistic deadline for pupils to complete assignments and to use class time for learning opportunities. A teacher’s support is made effective when clarity on the overall aim, time investment and choice of literature is provided. As a result, pupils are able to learn more efficiently. Furthermore, pupils tend to lose time by searching for resources on the Internet. However, on-line communication can be efficient if you organise it well.
6. Communicate high expectations: School should set and communicate high expectations of pupils. Such will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy and pupils will often endeavour to meet the challenge. When a pupil has a clear awareness of his/her own expectations, he/she will work harder.
7. Respect different talents and ways of learning: School should create learning opportunities that appeal to the different ways pupils will process and attend to information. A variation of presentation styles and assignment requirements will allow pupils to highlight their own personal and unique talents and it offers them different ways about how to learn on an individual level. Pupils differ in talent and style of learning and they should be offered the possibility to show their talents in a way that suits them. This can be made possible by taking account on the different styles of learning by supplying a variation in ways of working (Winkel, et. al., 2004). We have to be aware of another dimension; does the OFLE consider different learning styles?
Pupils possess their own way of learning; our “traditional” education does not respond to the differences in the individual learning process of pupils. The study of Sandra Seagal and David Horn “Human Dynamics” (1997) supports this idea. In general, Human Dynamics divide people into three categories namely mentally centred, emotionally centred or physically centred. To avoid any misunderstanding: no discrimination whatsoever is implied by drawing this distinction! The mentally centred pupil proceeds in a linear way and does so mostly alone. He gathers information and he asks himself what the use of this information is, next he comes to a product. The emotionally centred pupil starts immediately. The process looks chaotic. He proceeds by trial and error. His product gradually improves but is never finished. He has an eye for detail. The physically centred pupil gathers a great amount of information, many details and after a (long) time he completes his product. That is the end; they do not chance it any more.
A rich OFLE has the intention to be in account of these different learning styles, to be in account of independent working of pupils and their own responsibility of their learning process. A rich OFLE fits with social constructivism. Nevertheless, if there is no master plan and without a pedagogical or didactical component introduction of Blackboard has no extra value to education; “Moore’s gap; Mind the gap.” (Siekkinen, 2000).
Significant effects of factors which influence the use of a OFLE
Recent research (Vrielink, 2005) pointed out that by the arrangement of courses in an OFLE there should paid attention to its Usefulness. Usefulness is the key factor. It predicts most powerful the use of an OFLE.
Picture: Significant effects of factors, which influence the use of an OFLE
Usefulness is influenced in two ways. First, learning goal orientation influences usefulness through enjoyment. This is an intrinsic factor. If a pupil or a teacher is able to sufficiently clarify the goal, and render it obtainable, then there is enjoyment. It has a direct and positive effect on usefulness and on the ease of use. Second, a goal within one’s reach, affects application specific self-efficacy. This deals with competency. If a pupil thinks he/she is competent enough to work with Blackboard, there is an experience of ease of use, which effects usefulness. Again, enjoyment has a positive effect on application specific self-efficacy. The relation between learning goal orientation and application specific self-efficacy indicates that users who orientate themselves on learning and mastery of content are more likely to develop a higher sense of confidence in using the specific target system (Yi, et. al., 2003).
Understanding the factors that promote effective utilization of OFLE’s continues to remain an important issue for researchers and practitioners.
By the arrangement of courses in Dalton education, the recommendation is to pay attention to its usefulness. This can be done by putting the study planners on line as well as the answers on assignments. The use of the discussion board and the drop box should be promoted too.
Reinder Vrielink is headmaster VMBO Stedelijk Daltoncollege Zutphen, the Netherlands and manager/owner of Revédi Consultancy Deventer, the Netherlands. He is holder of the Diplome Masters in eLearning, Multimedia and Consultancy of the Sheffield Hallam University (UK).
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Helder, Anke.(2004) Brainbox vervangt het boek. Van 12 tot 18 februari 2004
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Yi, Mun Y., Yujong Hwang. (2003) Predicting the use of web-bases information systems: self-efficacy, enjoyment, learning goal orientation, and technology acceptance model. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. 59, 431-449.
eTwinning winner: Europe, Education, Ecole - Club de Philosophie - Lycée de Sèvres, France, Liceo Classico L.A.Muratori, Italy & Co.
What was your motivation in participating in the projet of eTwinning?
The eTwinning project was launched in 2005, but since 2001 the Philosophy Club of the lycée of Sevres had an idea of the need for a kind of "twinning", initially inside the lycée, with other disciplines, and then outside the lycée, with other European establishments, becoming its partners eTwinning from 2005. Perhaps that requires an explanation.
In France, philosophy is taught in all the final classes of the lycée, with the idea of having the pupils reflect on a certain number of questions which they raise, or which they will be posed later in their life of adult and citizen, so that they develop a concern for the freedom of their judgement and the responsibility for their control. It is in this context of initiation to philosophy that our Club of philosophy was born, with its Internet site: http://lyc-sevres.ac-versailles.fr/ and, and, a little later its project Europe, Education and School: http://lyc-sevres.ac-versailles.fr/projet-eee.php
Proposing conferences and debates to the pupils, it invites them to be confronted in their reflexion with all that can enable them to look further into their analysis, and to thus facilitate the development of their personal thinking.
The first step, taken in the direction of this opening, thus started with the recognition of multidisciplinarity in the centre of our lycée : together, with colleagues from Literature, history, languages, or the International Sections, the Club of philosophy could make a success of its first steps with discussions often filmed and even broadcast on the Internet. The second step came in parallel, with the active appropriation of communication technologies, strongly stimulated by the close cooperation with the Regional Center of Teaching Documentation (CDRP) of the Academy of Versailles. Their integration in the reflexive stages of the Club made it possible to open up our lycée to a really external partnership and to set up the basis of a networking project nourished by the preparation, with our partners, of the conference-debates diffused on the Internet : http://melies.ac-versailles.fr/projet-europe/direct/
The enrolment of the project Europe, Education, École within the framework of the eTwinning action was a decisive stage for the entire partnership, initially because it thus obtained not only recognition of its "electronic twinnings" (which was already in existence), but also a remarkable visibility on the eTwinning portal. It was also important because this European label guaranteed our partnership a stability permanence which counts much for its future development. Lastly, since the spirit of the action eTwinning consists in developing experiments with communication technologies, our project, which proposes combining the experiment of the reflexion and the experiment of these technologies, fully took its place there. The honour which we have received today for Pedagogical Innovation by the European Commission confirms us still more in the idea that our project needed a framework like that of eTwinning, to be able to affirm its true nature and, perhaps, to obtain additional means for its realization.
What was the most satisfying aspect and and what the most difficult in the realization of your project?
What was undoubtedly the most difficult to assume in our project, was to make a success of its setting up and to face a quasi total absence of means of realization, both in ICT back up as well as financial. I believe that the only true remedy for the frequently encountered difficulties, lies in the motivation, will and devotion of all the partners, some of whom remain anonymous: pupils, alumni, colleagues, former colleagues, volunteers etc, all inspired by this simple idea, according to which the promotion of a culture of quality to the service of the school institution constitutes the true justification of our teaching engagements. And it is this conviction which made it possible to continue the development of the project until its enrolment within the framework of the action eTwinning at the time of the launching conference in January 2005.
The second difficulty is due to the resistances generated by our fears of communication technologies and by our isolation in our teaching and with our pupils. It is sometimes amplified by difficulties of a structural origin: rudimentary data-processing equipment, timetables unsuited to the innovating initiatives, administrative slowness, etc. Moreover, the constant acceleration of the technological developments, which one awaits until they become finally, one day, completely accessible, makes it so that one is tempted indefinitely to defer their integration in our teaching practices.
As for the Club of Philosophy, it took the risk of launching itself a spirit of experimentation both technological and pedagogical, and to beginning its adventure with the means at its disposal. Fortunately in that, it was supported with competence and benevolence, by the Regional Center of Teaching Documentation of Versailles (CRDP), its first true partner, who allowed the project to test its feasibility and thus check whether it was worth all the effort. But what is really interesting in a project like ours, is that it makes it possible to discover completely remarkable resources of creativity, at the same time very close to us and also far from us. Federated within a true educational project, they generate an unsuspected synergy, which makes the achievement of the objectives at the same time more effective and easier. The "differences", the "diversities" and even the "oppositions", worked in the long run from a properly cultural point of view, far from being an obstacle, create a feeling of shared success, and significantly change our way of working.
According to you, what does the eTwinning project add to your usual school work?
This kind of project upsets a little the teaching practices of the establishments concerned. To organize a video conference, in which several lycée take part at a distance, or simply to timetable common work sessions in partnership, all that necessarily brings an additional batch of material problems to solve. But beyond the disturbance and the concerns of the organization, which it involves, it seems to me undeniable that the experiment of such a multilateral co-operation not only brings a rather exceptional broadmindedness, but also stimulates within each establishment the emergence of competences which sometimes one did not even suspect to be there.
To want to work in partnership is to give the opportunity to all the talents and all competences to appear. Pooling all these energies, essential for the success even of only one video conference, develops the contribution of each participant and renews the idea of what one can achieve pedagogically. In this kind of demonstration, the contribution brought by pupils is perhaps quite as significant and relevant as that of their teacher. For my part, it is always with a feeling of humility that I refer to the debt I owe to some of my pupils, or alumni, who were able to give an impulse to our project and to realise the technological possibilities effectively.
As a teacher, this project perhaps has given me the opportunity to check the saying of Plato, in connection with education, that it must "produce with the most possible facility and effectiveness a change of orientation". Indeed, it is significant to be able to change one’s manner of seeing, including the manner of working and of teaching! To assume the risk of innovation, to open oneself without prejudices to the differences which can meet there, that does not resemble much the choice of Plato’s "facility”. But a partnership which works, sometimes gives the impression that gradually everything will become easier. The implementation of this project, centered mainly on the idea of education, is likely indeed to have also an educational effect on those undertaking it.
And what kind of impact has your project had on other classes, or other establishments? How could they benefit from your experiment?
Our project has perhaps had initially more of a local impact. Indeed, our lycée, encouraged by the successful initiative of the project Europe, Education, School, is currently seeking to launch projects similar to ours, on topics like sustainable development, or co-operation with the countries of Africa. For them, distance networking and ICT video conferences obviously constitute a very important element. But our experiments in this line interest perhaps especially our colleagues who teach in the international sections of the lycée of Sevres and who are completely ready to establish networking partnerships with English or German establishments.
They will be probably among the first to be quickly investing in this type of experiment. For this reason, we have proposed the establishment, in Sevres, of an introductory course in ICT and digital imaging, which should lead to the training of a video team able to operate broadcasts on the Interne autonomously. In addition to this extra teaching dynamism that a project of the eTwinning type can cause, one can also expect the emergence in its wake of a new way of working in class. Indeed, to agree to teach under the eyes of someone else, another colleague or other pupils, and to propose to them joint working sessions, carried out simultaneously in several towns of Europe, from Lithuania to Greece, t is not only to push back a little more the walls of the classroom, so that it grows rich by the diversity of knowledge and experiments, but is above all to want to find the major direction of the "culture", whose natural place should be precisely at the school, and which consists in giving oneself the means of integrating into the deepest part of oneself that which exists outside of oneself and beyond.
Lastly, if I were authorized to speak from the point of view of our partners, I would perhaps say that the project which links us, and which develops the practice of reflexion and debate, interests them because it is French-speaking, and because it brings to their pupils, bilingual and open to cultural diversity, the possibility of taking part a little in the teaching of philosophy in final classes in France. But without going so far with my assumptions, I would like especially to say that our project, which is certainly French-speaking, leads us initially to open ourselves to the diversity of our school systems and languages, and to hope sincerely that we will be able to soon find the means of an adequate expression of our debates in English as well in German. Our eTwinning partnership, also, is not exclusive, and we are always ready to accommodate amongst ourselves new and active members. It is perhaps the quickest way those who wish to do so can benefit from our experiment.
After this project, which are your plans for the future?
Currently, it is especially the development of the project, such as we imagined it, who drives us. Indeed, our objectives are far from being achieved. Most urgent would be to arrive at a point where our partners all have adequate data-processing equipment, and our work scheduling can be suitably harmonized. Then, in the medium term, it would be necessary to arrive at a real parity in teaching co-operation, so that it would make it possible for each one of our partners to propose, in turn, the design and the diffusion of an annual program of video conferences and debates. Lastly, since our permanent objective consists in offering our pupils a reflexion on the importance of culture for the school and Europe, I must say that "the after-project" is not on the agenda. Our pupils all change every two or three years. We, too, under the effect of our collaboratives teaching practices, are also changing our views on how teaching should be carried out.
More concretely thus, our action today can be summarized in three points:
- We have initially to prepare the diffusion on the Internet, next 20th March, of our video conference-debate with Bernard Bourgeois, Professor of philosophy and Member of the French Academy, on the topic : To educate in Europe. We should also prepare, in this same dynamic, the delegations of our six partners who, preceded by eTwinning, will go from 27th-30th April to the European campus of Lanzerote, to form a sufficiently homogeneous group in order to establish and spread on the spot the spirit of our project, and to broadcast a video conference allowing us, in our respective lycées, to take part on line in their work over there.
- Then, it is necessary for us to manage to coordinate the timetables of our partners, so that we can, as of September and the return of classes, lay out a weekly common schedule , reserved to our working sessions in network, so that the new pupils can get to know each other and prepare together their participation in the annual video conferences of January, March and May. This practice of communication technologies and these exchanges of ideas, repeated each week, transform our remote co-operation into a true teaching relationship likely to make our pupils really reflect on the questions treated in annual conferences.
- Lastly, we have also to reflect on our relationship to communication technologies, for even though they are for us a powerful means of cultural development, they also require wisdom, so that we can make a reasoned and reasonable use of it. The Philosophy Club of the lycée of Sevres has the privilege to be closely associated with the research undertaken by the Regional Center of Teaching Documentation of Versailles (CRDP).
This latter taught us for free how to handle the techniques of video conferencing and put at the disposal of the public, on line, our digital resources numerical, such as for example:
These are consultable even from a modem
Education et psychanalyse:
- en streaming: http://melies.ac-versailles.fr/projet-europe/diff/fontaine.htm
- en téléchargement: http://melies.ac-versailles.fr/telecharge/fontaine.wmv
Éduquer à l'Europe:
- en streaming:http://melies.ac-versailles.fr/projet-europe/diff/bourgeois.htm
- en téléchargement:http://melies.ac-versailles.fr/telecharge/bourgeois.wmv
Apprendre à vivre, philosophie et religion:
Professeur de philosophie au lycée de Sèvres,
Projet Europe, Éducation, École
E-mail : email@example.com
Présentation du projet lors de la conférence eTwinning à Linz, le 13 janvier 2006 :
VIDEO : http://melies.ac-versailles.fr/telecharge/linz.wmv
Multigrade schools in Greece – result of necessity
In Greece multigrade schools are usually found in isolated rural areas, in small islands and in villages with rather shrunk population. Multigrade schools in Greece are a result of necessity rather than a pedagogical alternative practice. In their negative qualities often educational and research community mentions pressure of teaching time, non fair learning time per student compared to conventional schools, weakened antagonistic learning environment, absence of specialized teaching stuff (on music, foreign languages, sports, ICT, arts etc).
But there is a range of positive qualities that have to be pointed out, such as more coherent relations between students and teacher, faster and more effective socialization, stronger bonds with the local community, development of self-adjustment and self-learning skills, adaptability on a more demanding environment.
The reasons why multigrade schools can not be abolished is multiple and multi-rational: social reasons demand that population will be kept on its position and further expansion of urban centres will be avoided. Pedagogical reasons demand that students will avoid the trouble of daily long routes to more central schools, losing valuable time. The current tensions in Greece regarding multigrade schools’ possible evolutions are:
- Abolishment when there is no further local population of school age.
- Merge of two multigrade schools.
- Merge of a multigrade school and the closest monograde school.
- Reduction of multigrade school into a multigrade school with less teachers appointed, due to the recession of students’ number.
- Upgrade of multigrade school (=more teachers appointed in school which results to improvement of the ratio “teacher per grades) due to students’ number augmentation
From the total of approximately 5800 primary education schools in Greece, 2558 are multigrade, meaning that they function with less than six appointed teachers per school (whereas there are six grades: from A (7 years old students) to F (12 years old students)). More than 1300 schools function with less than 20 students as a total number of all grades. In percentage 40% of primary schools in Greece are multigrade. The current valid system in Greece demands 25 students for each appointed teacher.
There is a legislated way of grades division per teacher:
|1 teacher school|| Teaches all six grades (A,B,C,D,E,F) |
|2 teacher school||1st Teacher teaches A+C+D |
2nd teacher teaches B+E+F
|3 teacher school||1st Teacher teaches A+B |
2nd teacher teaches C+D
3d teacher teaches E+F
|4 teacher school||1st Teacher teaches A |
2nd teacher teaches B
3d teacher teaches C+D
4th teacher teaches E+F
|5 teacher school||1st Teacher teaches A |
2nd teacher teaches B
3d teacher teaches C+D
4th teacher teaches E
5th teacher teaches F
Of course the above are directly correlated to the number of students per grade. For example if there are only 10 students studying in A grade and 10 in grade B, while there are only 2 students in grade C and 2 in grade D a division A+B for first teacher and C+D for second teacher would not be feasible.
Current problemtics in multigrade schools
- There are no specially designed multigrade school books.
Multigrade school’s teacher teaches the same books that are taught in conventional schools, in other words, ministry of education has not produced specially designed books to copy with the special needs and conditions of multigrade schools.
- There is no specially organized multigrade curriculum
In a multigrade school, curriculum follows the conventional school curriculum with changes as far as teaching time available for each subject is concerned. That means that multigrade teachers teach the same objects as in a monograde school with the differentiation of the parameter of week time per subject.
- The factor of synchronous teaching of more than one grade
What gives the quintessence of a multigrade class is the coexistence of more than one grade (of both age and level) in the same class. So, a multigrade teacher is expected to address his/her teaching to more than one grade at the same time. In that way, there are two viable conditions that may be produced: one is the synchronous teaching of more than one grade. In that way, a teacher treats all grades that he co-teaches as one homogeneous grade.
- The factor of time pressure
Time is the most crucial factor of difficulty during multigrade teaching. Teacher has to address teaching procedure to more than one student’s target group. He/she also has to make edges meet as far as teaching time that analogically is referred to each group. Most importantly, he/she is expected to find a method to exploit student’s time when he/she is not directly addressing to them. Than can be achieved with a range of theoretically established methods, such as self-learning activities, peer-learning etc.
- The factor of dead time
One of the greatest challenges of multigrade teaching is dealing with what pedagogical theory studying multigrade schools is referring to as “dead time”. That term is eloquently mentioned to the situation emerging when multigrade teacher excludes some present student’s level from his teaching, specially addressing it to a specified target group. The excluded group then faces the parameter of “dead teaching and learning time”, unless teacher is adequately prepared to guide them into alternative learning procedures.
ICT and multigrade teaching
ICT is essential for education in general. But in case of multigrade school can be the absolutely irreplaceable solution. ICT have a multiple role in multigrade schooling: a) ICT and teaching, b) ICT and teacher’s training, c) ICT and administration. ICT use demands and pre-requires special tools and methodology:
a) ICT and teaching. For student’s training there is a wide range of educational software, of educational internet portals and also of original digital material developed by a specially trained teacher.
b) ICT and teacher’s training. For teacher’s training there are special on distance seminars training them how to achieve best use and implementation of ICT as a teaching tool or as a learning object. Distance training can only use ICT to train teachers on a very different aspect, e.g teaching methodology for multigrade schools. Distance education is of great importance for multigrade schools, since it allows in situ training and school can remain open and functioning.
c) For teacher’s administrative duties ICT can again be of capital importance. Archives, student’s files, grades, statistics, annual curriculum, scheduling holidays can all be easily handled with the help of specially developed software.
EE official expected ratio for 2006 is one PC for every 20 students. That can cause severe problems for Greek multigrade schools, since many of them function with less than 20 students. It would be a safer measurement to create a second alternative ratio of PC per teachers. ICT enrollment requires a range of necessary factors. In this point, it is worthy to mention the Greek project “Society of Information” which aims to train all Greek teachers of primary and secondary education in ict educational use. Factors that obstruct ICT enrollment could be summoned up to the following points: cost of equipment, cost of equipment’s maintenance, cost of teacher’s training, ICT lab (existence of an adequate extra available classroom), helpdesk to solve technical difficulties, pedagogical methodologies of ICT best practices as far as educational implementation is concerned. One of the major problems that hinders ICT enrollment maybe is retrogressive mentality according to which technology impedes teacher’s work adding difficulties to an already demanding task. So, one of the essential things to be done for ICT best possible educational implementations is to try and persuade this portion of reluctant teachers that ICT can be there best ally.
ICT can be implemented in a variety of methods in classroom routine:
- A simple way would be to transform books into e-books.
- Another suggestion would be to create a functional, palpable data basis with titles of tested and suggested educational software.
- An other viable suggestion would be Distance teaching and training exploiting all ICT’s available tools and introducing them into teaching routine
- Asynchronous teaching is also feasible via specially designed internet educational portals
- ICT can be a powerful tool for multimedia teaching
All the above, combined according teacher’s, students’ and schools’ needs can develop a harmonic cooperation of ict-centered teaching and traditional teaching.
ICT and multigrade implementations
ICT can be the best method:
- To train teachers how to develop their own educational interactive material,
- For teachers to develop this educational material
There are dozens of software that support web design and simple java programming. With no great or time consuming training, a teacher with accented initiative and improvisation skills can create his/her own original educational material. This material can be available in
- School’s intranet lab
- School’s server and accessed via internet
- Classroom’s PC and accessed via cd rom
This material can be uploaded into a specially designed internet portal in an environment that supports remote exchange of digital material. If teachers are sufficiently motivated this portal can be soon a gigantic source of original and perpetually refreshed educational material
Teachers can also train their students to develop educational material, as a well guided and organized team (or personal) project. Specially designed sites host these students’s material, allowing download and free educational use, counting visitors and “downloaders”, announcing popular and mostly praised material. That way, school is constructively advertised and students who create digital educational material are constructively motivated and spurred for extra similar action.
Results from a multigrade case study in Greece
University of Aegean has carried out an investigation about the situation of multigrade schools in Greece. The questionnaire was sent out to the total number (835) of 1 teacher multigrade schools of Greece. 220 replied, while it is important to mention that almost 15% the initial 835 were abolished and the questionnaire was returned. The whole article will be later available in NEMED project’s website (COMENIUS 3 project): http://www.nemed-network.org/
Curriculum and time. Teacher of a Multigrade classroom faces intense time problems, since he/she owes to address his/her teaching. Teacher can not deal with the curriculum of all grades synchronously. So he/she has to use auxiliary teaching techniques. One of the most popular techniques for copying with the problem of shrunk time is assigning homework to the students to replenish time. But since home work can not solve the problem of time spherically, there are several other parallel measures to deal with shrunk time, such as shrinking breaks’ time, shrinking the chapters that should be taught for each subject, shrinking the exercises per chapter etc.
It is important for the ministry to create and provide:
- Special guides for best practices in Multigrade teaching
- Best practice guides for ICT implementation in Multigrade teaching
- Methodological approaches for Multigrade learning
- Educational material or a data basis of relevant titles.
- Tools (software) for production of original educational material
Cooperation with local organizations. Cooperation with local institutions, bureaus and organizations is essential for the best possible function of a Multigrade school. Municipality can support Multigrade school with funding for maintenance, extra personnel occupation, ict infrastructure etc According teachers’ opinions regarding this issue, funding from the central qualified offices of the ministry is not sufficient.
Training issues. What is worth while mentioned in this paragraph is that during tertiary education there is no special Multigrade training. When teachers are firstly appointed in a Multigrade teaching environment, there is not even a previous seminar training them in special Multigrade teaching conditions. Teachers’ advisors, that visit schools in regular interspaces, are not regularly specialized in Multigrade teaching. So Multigrade teachers most of the time needs to solve their teaching problems on their own or by being advised by other experienced Multigrade teaching.
Cultural and social issues. Since Multigrade schools are most of the times located in isolated areas, a Multigrade teacher is also expected to function as a socializing factor for the local inhabitants. Most often, Multigrade teachers in Greece, organize competitions, training seminars for adults in ICT, theatrical plays with the contribution and participation of locals, sports organization and more, trying to offer the community a variety of chances to keep in touch with civilization and education.
Teachers’ distance training. There are several training projects that aim to train Multigrade teachers in situ, that is without their needing to leave school and attend training away from school. University of Aegean has participated and completed a number of distance Multigrade teachers (MUSE COMENIUS, DIAS, NEMED, RURAL WINGS). In that way Multigrade teachers can gain the train necessary to teach using best practices in methodology and ICT implementations. Great role in Greek Multigrade teachers’ needs analysis plays the training on using software which allows them to develop their own digital educational material. That is easily explained if we remind the reader that there are no specially designed books for Multigrade schools in Greece.
Multigrade teacher’s opinions about the institution of multigrade schooling. The majority of primary education teachers are women. On the contrary, the majority of multigrade schools’ teachers are men. Multigrade schools’ teachers often need to cover great distances to reach their school unit. They all tend to believe that a multigrade school position is not sufficiently motivating.
Some of the motivations that multigrade Greek teachers themselves suggest are the following:
- Increase of multigrade teacher’s wage
- Improvement of multigrade schooling working conditions
- Expenses coverage
- Extra bonuses
In spite of the Multigrade teachers also state that Multigrade schools offers certain positive qualities:
- Environment where Multigrade schools lies are more natural, with less traffic and pollution. So it is more healthy and less tiring
- Relations between students are warmer and more essential
- Relations between students and teacher are warmer and more essential
- Relations of the total school community and the local community are stronger and more effective when a problem rises.
Main disadvantages are reminded to be the following, as mentioned again in this archive.
- Teaching time that corresponds to each student is less
- Often changes of personnel
- Lack of competition between students
The authors work in NEMED project. NEMED (Network of Multigrade Education) is a transnational network supported by the Comenius 3 Action of the Socrates Programme of EU. NEMED brings together educationalists and researchers from ten European countries, who share an interest in researching, enhancing and supporting multigrade education, in their countries and at the European level.
eTwinning winner: Talking Through Time - Cauldeen Primary School, UK and Dun Salv Portelli Primary School, Malta
I was keen to see a real European dimension taken into the heart of our curriculum. Although we do study other European countries, the idea was that eTwinning partnerships would enrich and enliven our pupils’ studies and create a real audience and knowledgeable information source. Although we do trips to the continent every second year, eTwinning would enable all our pupils to learn about Europe first-hand through the use of ICT. eTwinning also provided an opportunity to contextualise our ICT skills progression into the broad primary curriculum.
What was the most enjoyable aspect and the most difficult one during the project?
The fantastic interaction between the senior members of our community and our pupils and making new friends in Europe was very rewarding for the children; these were the most rewarding aspects of our project.
Initially, matching up the needs of our partners to the project objectives we had was quite difficult. The loss of some partners did diminish the overall project but by persevering and supporting each other we achieved an excellent result for those schools involved.
How do you think that the eTwinning project added extra value to the “routine” school work?
eTwinning significantly enriched and enhanced our cross-curricular project. It provided motivation and an external audience for our pupils’ work. eTwinning uniquely gave information and resources unavailable in any other form and allowed children to experience first-hand the voices of those who participated in this period of history. The children had the opportunity to compare and contrast the experiences, thoughts and feelings from the home (UK) view and from a European (Malta) perspective. The eTwinning project provided a very strong element of motivation to our pupils.
What kind of impact has your participation had on other classes and/or schools and how they can benefit from your experience?
More classes and teachers in our school are now involved this season and a broad spread of curricular areas is involved. We also held a training event for eTwinning in our school for our staff and those in surrounding schools. A number have subsequently developed partnerships themselves.
After this project, what are your plans for the future (more similar kinds of projects, new approaches in teaching, etc.)?
Our prize-winning project is now complete. We have continued this season with our eTwinning partnership in Malta on a new local study project. New partnerships have been formed with three other schools in Poland and Malta. We are now looking closely at Podcasting, instant communication technology using multi-media mobile phones and digital video exchanges.George Glass - Cauldeen Primary School, UK
What was your motivation to join eTwinning?
For some time, I had been looking for ways to integrate ICT studies and global education into language teaching in a meaningful way. We have hardware and software, but the pedagogical insight has been missing from their use. eTwinning turned out to be a perfect solution to that. The students practise English communication in a virtual environment using its different interactive tools and learn to know students from another country. The given assignments are connected with the students’ everyday life and, at the same time, with the communication and vocabulary aims and contents included in the curriculum of English studies in Finland.
eTwinning was also an opportunity for me to try and implement my own pedagogical ideas and a new way of learning English in a virtual environment, which enabled authentic communication. From the beginning, I felt it was important that everything in the environment would be shared.
Tiina Sarisalmi, Oriveden Keskuskoulu, FInland
What was the most enjoyable aspect and the most difficult one during the project?
Firstly, it has been wonderful to see how students really feel motivated to communicate in English. To be in contact with real people makes a big difference. It is real life communicating, interesting, exciting and inspiring.
Secondly, what still keeps amazing me is the way the students very quickly took the eTwinning platform and started to consider it as their own place. For many of the students it is a “virtual street corner”, where they can hang out with their friends, have a chat, do exercises and read and write messages at the same time. From an educator’s point of view, it’s really fantastic. I have managed to lure my students to willingly spend time in a completely English environment studying and learning English in their free time.
Thirdly, the students’ English communication and ICT skills have developed hugely in a relatively short time. For some, it was almost impossible to create a sensible sentence in English without help, and now they write long sentences, spontaneously and almost without any effort.
I can’t say we have had any real difficulties. It has been and still is a learning process for both the students and the teachers involved. In that respect, difficulties are there to be overcome and I feel both my partner and I get new ideas and try new activities all the time as the project moves on.
How do you think that the eTwinning project added extra value to the “routine” school work?
Right from the beginning, the students have been really excited about eTwinning. They love to spend English lessons in the ICT lab. In a way, they don’t consider it studying at all. It is all fun in between English grammar and exercises.
The communication between the students is authentic and creative. It’s not about applying rules or following strict patterns. It’s about the students’ own life, feelings and experiences. How could that ever become routine?
What kind of impact has your participation had on other classes and/or schools and how they can benefit from your experience?
I’ve introduced eTwinning and our project in several teachers’ municipal meetings and seminars. At the moment, there are four eTwinning projects in progress in Orivesi and many schools are planning to start one. I’ve helped the teachers to find partners and start the project. Also, what’s really nice is that the students not involved know about the projects and keep pressuring their own teachers to start one.
Up to now, it has generally been considered that projects involved in international cooperation would be suitable only for youths over 14-15 years of age, but now we have realised that it’s possible to create meaningful cooperation for the younger ones too.
After this project, what are your plans for the future (more similar kinds of projects, new approaches in teaching, etc.)?
Well, I’m a person with millions of plans all the time. There’s no way I’m going to stop eTwinning now that it has proved to be so successful. It is a bit time-consuming, but it is definitely worth it.
I also hope I can keep on developing new ways of integrating ICT and the endless resources of Internet in learning and teaching, not only foreign languages, but other subjects as well. Today it is less a question of inadequate resources than a lack of pedagogical insight. I feel it’s time for us teachers to abandon the safety of our classroom walls and let the world in. We are raising the first truly global generation, aren’t we?
Lastly, I would like to emphasise the concept of sharing. In order not to get lost in the global world, we need to have a feeling of belonging, of being part of something. Sharing is a great way of learning, but it also creates social connection and a sense of shared responsibility, of the whole world, hopefully.