Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Stockholm iPad project

I work at Årstakolan in Stockholm where we have an ongoing project using iPads as an ICT resource. My school sent an application to the city applying for iPads specificlly for elementary school students to be used as a tool for reading comprehension learning. Our idea came from a Norwegian idea where studies had shown that levels of reading comprehension increased when students used the iPad to type their texts instead of focusing on their writing by hand. The idea was that they will learn to read at a faster pace by first and foremost developing their fonteical knowledge of letters.
The brilliance of the iPad is the immediate response. Students can create words, letters and sounds without holding a pen. The result is that first grade students have the ability to read earlier with the help of the iPad that can also read the text back to them.  By using the iPad as the writing tool, we have seen the results that the comprehension over text increases and their knowledge of letters is cemented. The students also worked with illustrations to their text which motivated the students to challenge themselves in reading and also producing a greater amount of written production.
However, I am a secondary school teacher working only with grades 7-9.  I searched the internet to find how working with iPads would be helpful for me to have the similar idea and effect with my students. I found that iPads were rarely used for this age group and that not much has been attempted in this direction. My idea was to help them with their artistic interpretation of literary writing. My goal was to develop their skills to focus on the potential reader of their productions, aiming to motivate them into finding their own voice.
We started out by reading a book, aimed for this age group, with the theme of life and all its difficulties. After reading and analyzing the book, they were asked to write short stories on themes such as fear, childhood memories, bullying and love. To present their work they made a short film with voiceover, reading their own text. The results were brilliant. Students worked hard connecting imagery to the message of their story. I have never seen students this engaged in presenting their work to an actual reader.
When finished, the films were published on the school’s own website www.bibblis.se and they are now open for public viewing.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

ICT & LITERACY

Some days ago I heard my 5 year old son talking mumbo jumbo english by his computer; he was imitating a Lego Star Wars-video conversation he just had been watching (and evidently listening too, 10 times or so...). His pronunciation was english but what he said didn't make any sense, well, once a while he dropped the phrase "Star Wars..."

A couple of hours ago he showed my a small Lego poster of HERO FACTORY and asked me (in swedish) "Dad, does it say here (reading in english - a skill he often says he isn't able too in swedish... - with his index finger pointing out the reading direction) 'HERO FACTORY'?"*

Learning how to read is globalized today, thanks to the ICT possibilities; foreign languages support the native language in children's reading comprehension - a prospect that just 10 years ago was limited to kids with bilingual parents or kids attending bilingual education.

* I don't remember if I answered his question, maybe I just nodded (or maybe my Vygotskian presence was enough) during my process in thinking of the history of the development of reading and writing. I think anyway he announced "YES" (he often does...) and went back to his computer keyboard knowing what to type (a skill he often says he isn't able too...) in the adress bar of Google Chrome...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

BrainPOP ESL

BrainPOP ESL

I got introduced to BrainPOP ESL by a new colleague, she has used it with different groups and has succeeded in capturing the interest of even the students that sometimes can be hard to capture. I´ve started introducing it with my students that need extra assignments. We started at level on and then clicked our way onwards to find the level suited for the student. The layout of the site is welcoming and attention grabbing, the reason for that could be that it is very colorful and have lots of different choices to click on. It’s filled with different animated activities. BrainPOP ESL is the creation of Naomi Prawer Kadar, Ph.D. (1949-2010), she was a language teacher teaching both ESL students and students studying to become teachers.  


BrainPOP ESL is divided into level 1-3 and each level is divided into 6 unites. Each unit consists of 5 lessons and every lesson starts off with watching a short animated movie. With every lesson there are exercises for listening, reading, speaking and writing. There are different ways to work with words on the website like flashcards and visual words where words are shown animated to clarify their meaning.  For extra activities or games the students ‘can find exercises by clicking on Play it. Under Warm Up! you´ll find exercises to prepare for the quiz that you find by clicking on You Can Do It!   When using the quizzes that you access by clicking on You Can Do It! the students gets their result right a way and find out what they need to work more on. There is also a section called Teaching Tools, here teachers can find things like lesson plans and extra activities.
To find out more by watching a short animated introduction, please follow the link below.

One side to BrainPOP that could be could be a negative is that it is not free. There is some free stuff on the site that you can use and there is also the opportunity off trying the website out for free before signing up. The free stuff you can find by clicking on Free lesson and Free game.
The cost of subscribing to BrainPOP ESL depends on how many computers you want to be able to use it on at the same time. The subscription usually runs for a year at a time, for classroom use the fee is $115 and then you will be able to use  BrainPOP ESL on your Smartboard or be able to be logged in on three different computers at the same time. One of the other options to subscribe is to do it so that your entire school including parents can use it, which would cost $495.
You´ll find BrainPOP ESL by following the link below.
There are other types of BrainPOP that you can find online that are created for native speaking students. They can also be an interesting way of teaching English and working cross curricular.



Monday, 29 October 2012

Answergarden.ch

Why Answergarden? This utility is not tied to English, but can be used in all subjects. The reason is simple: it's free, easy for students to understand / use, and I think that the tool gives the shy pupils a chance to make their voice heard in the classroom. You can also publish your material / class website / blog if you want, where both students and parents can take advantage of what you have done. Answergarden is suitable for many tasks. How can you work with Answergarden? In English, I have used it to write words / statement / phrases homework without putting any weight who wrote what, but understanding what the pupils know/think. I have also used different English words such as "my room" - where they can write things they have in their room (furniture, colours, windows, doors) - after it can be discussed in groups based on different aspects. We also talked about who had what words from the list, and after that they had to put words into sentences and verbally tell each other. In other subjects such as history, I started a new area such as the Vasa dynasty. I posted this in the Answergarden and the pupils wrote their anwers to: What they know about the Vasa dynasty? What do they think is interesting? What should we immerse ourselves in? What we have to work with as curriculum says? I can even make my own answer in Answergarden and compare this with their and see the similarities / differences. What I have noticed is that discussions around a topic could be increased significantly by this tool. How can the pupils work with Answergarden? The pupils can also do their own research and see what their classmates thinks. The pupils can post their own course evaluations by Answer Garden. Disadvantages of Answergarden? It is difficult to judge by their words / sentences they write, because you do not who wrote it (if you do not know it, or find out of course). What do you need? In my class, we are 1-1, so a personal computer with Internet connection is required. How do you get started? No registration is required and the website can be used as many times as you want. So, you "create" an account, type your question, select if you want the answers to be limited number of responses / unlimited, if you want to, you can give out a password that they need to answer your question, and finally, you can send it as an email. When the question is set, a URL comes up with a numerical code at the end. Write this link in the address bar of the Internet browser and the students can write a response. Please test it, it`s an easy and fast ICT tool. See a demo on http://answergarden.ch/demonstration/ See a movie at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iqPae5-Lls Regards Martin

Would you mind if I asked you a few questions...


I teach at an international summer school for 5 weeks every July/August and they kindly let me loose in their computer room provided I have booked it in advance for my class of 14 – 17 year olds.

Due to the international nature of the student demographics, the class members find it interesting to learn about the home countries of their classmates. To this end, I have in the past made use of the Survey Monkey website where the students could make a 10 question survey to find out commonalities and differences between their homelands.

Here's a free lesson plan for you...
The students are paired up, usually with someone with a different L1 to promote the use of English in negotiating the design and questions, and each pair is assigned a different area of daily life to write their survey on. I have used a ‘pull a topic out of the bag’ approach in order to avoid arguments. The topics include: education (always very popular), transportation, free time activities (socialising), film, TV and music, traditions and national holidays, and tourism. Survey Monkey offers the possibility of different question types which cover both closed and open responses and the students are instructed to use a mix of these.
A demonstration survey can be created on the IWB to show the students how to use the site. Seeing as the Olympics were being held during summer school this year, I used this as a topic for the demo survey. The students supplied the questions and were able to see how the survey was built on the Survey Monkey website. A discussion of the different types of responses was also included in this stage.

Here is a very basic example of a survey on education with 5 questions http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8NQQ2F7

After creating their surveys, I collected the web links from the students and shared them with the class in the form of a word document with links which I had opened on each computer before their next computer room lesson. Each student then completed the all of the surveys. Just to add an element of anonymity to the whole proceedings, the students did not know which survey had been written by which students. There is no originating identifier on the surveys.

Finally, the original pairs regrouped and returned to the Survey Monkey website where they clicked on the ‘Analyze Results’ tab to discover the responses. The default view seen by the students when clicking on this button gives them the responses in percentages for all but the open ended questions where they can choose to ‘View responses’ to read each comment. It is possible to view the results in other ways but only if you upgrade to a payable account.

Following the analysis, the pairs prepared a short presentation to report their findings to the class.
My students enjoyed this activity so much that they asked if they could send the surveys to other classes to get a broader range of responses. The Survey Monkey free account allows for 100 responses so with only 70-odd students in the summer school, this was easily doable.

The description above shows how Survey Monkey can be used among students who wish to find out more about each others’ countries but there is no limit on what the surveys can be set on. Both students and teachers alike can quickly and easily devise surveys on any topic. These could range from a self-evaluation to reflect on a student’s own participation and performance in a task, to gathering students’ views on nuclear disarmament as a springboard towards a discussion.  

The Survey Monkey website is available in 15 languages (at the time of writing) so it is also easy to use with lower level students who may feel a little overwhelmed by having to create not only the questions and answers for the survey, but also navigate the site in a different language. The biggest hurdle I found as a teacher was understanding what all the different response types actually meant and how to choose which was the most appropriate for the type of question. I found that it was only really by experimenting and trying different options out that I could end up with a functional, user friendly, and aesthetically pleasing result. However, once mastered, it was simply a matter of showing my students how to use a selection of the response types and advising them not to use the others for the specific task.

Admittedly, Survey Monkey does provide a fairly limited type of activity and it isn’t really something that could be used on a weekly basis but as a student-centred interactive tool, it is worth a look.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The video camera



Something that really revolutionized my English teaching was when I got a new BFF called ”JVC GZ-E15”.  It’s a small and very handy digital video camera. I use it to record my pupils when they read, talk, act and present stuff in English. We watch the films together in small groups or just me and one pupil and give response to the performance. This has really helped my pupils to discover their learning and their development. 

Picture from the JVC website
The camera
The camera is called “JVC GZ-E15” and you can read more about it on the JVC website
I really like that I don’t need any tapes to transfer the recordings from the camera to the computer. It really makes it easy.

The program
To view the films you only need Windows media player, VLC media player or something similar. This part is not difficult at all. You simply connect the camera to the computer with a cord or insert the memory card in the computer – and voila! There are the films!
      I use the program called “Windows moviemaker” to edit the films. For now we do not edit the films much. A few times I have cut clips and put together many short clips to a longer film. This is something that I want the pupils to learn and do on their own films.

The teacher
I use the films to give my pupils feedback on their presentations and “feedforward” on their language development.  The films are also a great basis for grades and other assessments. In development dialogues between teacher, pupil and parents the films make a good starting point for discussions about goals in the pupil’s personal development plan.

The pupils
At first about half of my pupils didn’t like the camera at all. They felt uncomfortable and nervous. I let the pupils play with the camera a few times before we started to record their learning. They did music videos and talk shows and stand-up comedy and so on. This actually gave me some really good ideas for future lessons. This was approximately six months ago and now most of them feel so comfortable with the camera that they seem to forget about it. Sometimes the pupils even ask me if they can borrow the camera!
      The pupils use the camera to record themselves when they rehearse their presentations or speeches or other things like that. A few times the pupils have used the camera to record a discussion about a book that they have read, in order to compare their thoughts from one time to another.
      Some pupils have started to record themselves at home when they do their homework. I didn’t think about that to begin with but it’s of course a really great win!

The parents
I wrote a letter where I told the parents about the filming in advanced, but I guess everyone doesn’t read everything we send home from school. Some parents got angry (and scared I think) and wondered why on earth I wanted to record their children. But as it usually is with parents they calmed down when I explained the reasons.

The considerations
Before you start recording your pupils write a letter (or e-mail) to the parents and explain what you are going to do, how you are going to use it and mainly why you are going to do this!
      You need to be prepared for the time issue. Video making takes a lot of time and sometimes a lot of patience. I do – however – promise you that it will get better. When you and the pupils get more comfortable with the technology and the idea of being recorded it will take almost no time at all.
      Sometimes the pupils want to publish their films on YouTube. I like the idea; they are proud of what they have accomplished and want to tell the world about it. And if we lived in the best of worlds it would be natural. Unfortunately we live in a world when it’s not safe to publish videos of kids in the open on the Internet. In the area where I work we are not allowed to publish any pupil featured videos in the public parts of the Internet. I heard about YouTube for schools, maybe that’s an option? Anyone who knows anything about it?

The wish
I wish that I had at least four more cameras so that many pupils could be recorded at the same time. They do handle the camera quite well, digital natives as they are, and it would really be more effective if we could do five recordings at the time.
      I also wish that we had a CMS that worked and where we could publish our films, for our (teacher, pupils, parents) eyes only. We have a CMS today that is more wrong than right for my purposes. I want the pupils to be able to upload and download stuff on their own instead of waiting for the teacher to do it for them.

To Become an Avatar!

When I have been working with students at summer school, that haven’t been approved in English, I find that the hardest part of the syllabus, is to make them feel confident speaking the language, both in conversation and in front of a group of people. My experience has taught me that when a student is able to orally communicate, their self- esteem and image of themselves as a language student, improves a lot. With my ordinary classes, the ones I teach during the school yea,r I try a lot of different things in order to encourage their speaking skills. We work quite a lot with drama in English and perform musicals, always in English and when they act they are so much less inhibited speaking the language. When they are playing a role of somebody else they tend to be more extrovert even language wise.
 

 

I have chosen to write about voki in my blog post since I have had so much positive response from students, both younger and older, when using this site. Voki you can access on www.voki.com and use as a free material to a certain extent. There is a cost connected to it of about $30 per year in order to be able to create accounts for every student in the class, but you can easily have one account that the whole group is able to use.

Voki is a site where you can create your own Avatar to represent you when you are speaking English. You can design you Avatar how you like with the help of a selection of different hairstyles, glasses, clothes and other accessories. When you feel your Avatar is ready to start speakin,g you can work with it in a couple of different ways. You can choose to record directly from your computer or your headset ( of course equipped with a microphone ) which is very easy to do. The students can prepare e.g  their speech at home , record what they intend to say and have the possibility to change the recording because they might want to correct their pronunciation. They can also write down their speech and let the Avatar do the speaking and in that way get their pronunciation right. What they usually think is great fun is to change the English accent into Irish English or American English. This function also comes in handy when we are comparing different accents in class.

As a teacher, I find this site very inspiring to work with since it is very easy to maneuver,  for me as well as the students and you can actually use it  with students of various ages. Mainly I use it with the slightly younger students but it also works very well with older pupils who need the extra oral practice. The best thing about this, in my opinion, is that it is an immense help for those students who find it very difficult when they are presented with the task of making an oral presentation in front of a class or a group of students. They can sit at home or at school and make as many recordings as it takes to get it right and practice over and over again until they feel safe in what they are doing. If they feel uncomfortable by hearing their own voice recorded, as a lot of people do, they can change e.g the pitch so they will sound as somebody else.

You can have a lot of fun creating Avatars, both by yourself and together with the class or your group of students. I as a teacher can put forward new assignmen on the class blog “ disguised “ as an Avatar and they can respond the same way. The students think it is great fun and so does the teacher.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

ICT & SMARTPHONES

BROADCASTING LIVE VIDEO USING SMARTPHONE

A common cell phone is all that is needed for streaming live video over the Internet which can be observed on any other computer (or regular TV channels, but that would require intermediaries, and cumbersome agreements …).

It requires of course a smartphone with a complete mobile operating system, and using the phone's webcam mode, it's WIFI and a mobile network, as well as a web account service which provides interactive live video broadcasting service, such as e.g. BAMBUSER.COM

The broadcast goes to a Internet server and within some seconds delay, the video shows up on the BAMBUSER website and perhaps embedded into a social media such as Facebook or another, if the user has that setting or selects that option during the transmission.

ICT & SMARTPHONES

The benefits of live broadcasts from a mobile phone are many. It allows communication in everyday school life to become an exotic adventure, both for those who are geographically close, but especially for those who are distant, in a completely different place in the world: in a well developed e/Twinning network* live streaming feeds from a smartphone can be a relativly easy way to maintain a friendship.

* “A twinning is the coming together of two communities seeking, in this way, to take action with a European perspective and with the aim of facing their problems and developing between themselves closer and closer ties of friendship” http://www.twinning.org/

* “eTwinning is the community for schools in Europe // to collaborate using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by providing the necessary infrastructure.” http://www.etwinning.net/

If the teacher is assigned a smartphone, which he always wears in his pocket, and at any time is able to pick it up, and hand over to a student, an interesting spontaneous event may, in seconds, be broadcasted live. In this way teachers and students always are carrying, no matter where they are, not just the learning tool, but also the very idea of a developing and caring relationship. Why don't use the "eTwinning Modules"-kit to kick off a project or developing an already established one.

Apart from the actual webcam function, it is possible for the e/Twin school, from their computers, to add comments on what they see and hear on the screen; when the message is sent, it just pops up in the mobile phone's camera display. The reporter can read out the chat and use it in the story; answer it; or just let it speak for itself, or use it retrospectively for upcoming events.

Teachers and students may wish to share a local school event or something as simple as children playing in a schoolyard, or just a video stroll along their neighbourhood blocks:

You can easily broadcast an occurrence and the e/Twins, as well as parents and others can follow the adventure on their computers or smartphones, and add written comments or questions. By clicking the speech bubble button in the video screen above, you reach the messaging option; a complete stranger can add a comment to the broadcast - if the owner of the video has that settings at his web account - even years after it was shot. Give it a try! The owner will get a message that you've done so and can of course himself give a response in the same chat room. 

As Youtube, but live, with an intErTWINed instant messaging option. When the transmission is completed the video is stored in a file at the web account, and can be viewed at any time (see below).

It is also possible to make the clips private or public, in ex ante or in ex post or altering over time, or just shared with the ones you want on a social medium. On Facebook teachers and students may also have announced or agreed with the e/Twin school upon a targeted broadcast live. They may have ordered a video reportage about something culturally specific that their e-friends have accepted carry out, either exclusively live or/and on demand viewing. Viewers are using the chat, which both operate in real time (it could just be a simple hint to focus the camera at a detail in the panorama that's being viewed) or replay (the chat then turns into a sort of feedback of the recording, or an interactive polemical chat room where everyone's ideas evolve in a serious matter, and could imply that you decide to provide additional broadcasts which deepens the question at issue, not just the facts but also the cooperation.

”It is important to have an international perspective, to be able to understand one’s own reality in a glo-bal context and to create international solidarity, as well as prepare for a society with close contacts across cultural and national borders. Having an international perspective also involves developing an understanding of cultural diversity within the country.” Curriculum for the compulsory school system // Skolverket (2011:12).

THE SERVICE 

The base service from Bambuser is free to consumers and non profit organizations; at the website http://bambuser.com/ the adventure starts with an advertising slogan:

“Share live moments from your mobile or webcam. Broadcast what's happening around you and chat with your viewers live.”And on the right there is a button that announces GET STARTED. The mini-mum age is 13 years.

You can sign up for free or subscribe. With the free version the account is visible to the public, but you can still transmit videos private, just doing the correct settings prior to transmission or after the broadcasting. If you want a hidden account the minimum services cost at least 100 dollars a month.

That unplugged web broadcasting services have explosive power shows the "Arab Spring" (2010 -), whose demonstrators and activists are sending videos from manifestations or other similar events, which means that the outside world rapidly can take part of what happens.

To get started with live coverages from a smartphone, you need first to download and install THE APPLICATION to the phone, which takes less than a minute. The web account you need can be agreed through the app or in advance from Bambusers website.

Then, of course, you immediately want to start broadcasting:

Just launch the Bambuser app, and the recording mode, with camera images and dashboard with three buttons, UPPLOAD; BROADCAST & SETTINGS, appears on the mobile phone's camera display

In this mode, you can start a live broadcast directly by tapping the red button BROADCAST, and during the transmission adjust some settings through an additional menu; such as focus and zoom; using the button SHARING (the icon pops up on the screen as soon as you start the recording) you can share your broadcast to external sites, on a private transmission there's only the Facebook option; public transmissions provide more opportunities. On the application's share menu it is even possible to add custom or predefined tags.

The transmission starts at the presets you have done prior to the SETTINGS. There you can set the title of the broadcast (a hash tag # before the title makes it searchable from the proper website), appropriate video and audio qualities; chose to broadcast in private or public. The UPPLOAD button covers a feature that can be used afterwards, i.e. uploading videos; if you don't have an Internet connection or lose it while recording or you simply want to record offline.

At your web account you can preset the possibility for viewers to chat unrestrictedly (or choose the private chat option or disable comments entirely), during the live broadcast messages appear at the bottom of your smartphone's camera screen

”The school is responsible for ensuring that each pupil on completing compulsory school: can use modern technology as a tool in the search for knowledge, communication, creativity and learning” Curriculum for the compulsory school system // Skolverket (2011:16).


THE WEBSITE OPTIONS

From Bambuser viewers can follow transmissions (or in the social media where it's shared) in real time or retrospectively. Visitors can communicate through the chat feature, and even set their own tags. Next to the video screen a geo tagged map is displayed that points out where it's broadcasted or was broadcasted (the owner of the consignment has in the settings ticked the box which communicates the geographical context of his broadcasts).

On Bambusers homepage you will also find an overview list of all other ongoing public live broadcasts and latest uploaded videos, which you immediately can enjoy by clicking them.

At your private web account you find all your own videos where you can read the statistics about the number of your total broadcasts, times they've being viewed, and for each specific clip, the running time and the number of written messages, whether the video is private or public (which here can be adjusted) and the date of the recording. You can also edit other details such as title and tags, as well as up-date with which social media you want to share it.

Another tab lists the broadcasts you follow yourself; there is also a list where you take part of who follows your own broadcasts. There is also a calendar that shows upcoming general video event which you or other members have uploaded.

You can also use the webcam, DV camera or a standalone desktop app directly from the computer for live broadcasting. Using your PC or Mac allows more opportunities to make detailed settings at the web account.

Along with an applied sociocultural approach to learning, multilingualism and multimodality opens the door to a progression of knowledge in an increasingly globalized and technological world. What happens on the other side of the earth, we nowadays are not just having direct contact through computers, we can even influence the event, in real time making our voices and desires to be heard. A video reporter can fulfil the call and allow the viewer to participate interactively. It is a perfect eTwinning contact of God's grace. BAMBUSER.COM is a small step towards the Web 3.0!

”Focusing on the computer elements, Conrad Wolfram has argued that Web 3.0 is where 'the computer is generating new information', rather than humans.” http://en.wikipedia.org/

“In 2010, Finnish broadcasting channel YLE adopted Bambuser as an alternative platform for their online and news broadcasts. This allowed YLE to get more live coverage on their webpage, and allowed the viewers to interact with the reporters on the scene. http://en.wikipedia.org/ (http://www.dagensmedia.se/nyheter/dig/article116028.ece)




REFERENCES

Bambuser Ab, Sweden (2012), viewed 23 October 2012, <http://bambuser.com/>

Curriculum for the compulsory school system, the pre-school class and the leisure-time centre 2011. (2011). Stockholm: Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket)

Estling Vannestål, Maria (2009). Lära engelska på Internet. 1. uppl. Lund: Studentlitteratur

StreamingMedia.com, an Information Today, Inc. (ITI) company, USA (2012), viewed 23 October 2012, <http://www.streamingmedia.com/>

Talentum Media AB, Sweden (2012, viewed 23 October, <http://www.dagensmedia.se>

The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., USA (2012),viewed 23 October 2012, <http://en.wikipedia.org/>

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Project - "European Studies"


Some years ago my class  took part in a project called “European Studies”. The program is supposed to link schools across Europe furthermore to encourage students/pupils to develop tolerance between different kinds of cultures. The students in our group were between 16-19 years old and we cooperated with five different schools, in Belfast, in Dublin, in Cork, in Berlin and our school in Kristianstad. The project was to last for one year from September till March.

The project started with teachers taking part in a conference in Dublin, where we planned what topics to focus on. The first one was “getting to know one another”, the second one was “Christmas Traditions” and the last one was “Pastime activities”.

The first project began with every student getting an e-mail pal. By sending e-mails the students got to know one another quite well; some even used Skype in their spare time.

Every project was group work (4 students/group), which lasted about two weeks. The students in the group decided what to focus on. When working, with for example “Christmas Traditions”, the following areas were searched, “food and recipes”, “the Lucia tradition”, “how a typical Christmas looked like”, “Advent”, "traditions in other cultures" etc.

During the lessons the students searched for information on the Internet, made interviews, brochures and PowerPoint presentations. The brochures were sent to the other schools and the PowerPoint presentation was presented in class. The students’ evaluations were good. In general they found the teaching stimulating and challenging; above all they had to take responsibility.

During this period every student kept a log book, in which they evaluated the work every lesson. In the log book the students were supposed to write down the goals of that specific lesson, evaluate it and the plan what to do the next lesson. They were also supposed to evaluate the group work as well.  It was a challenging for me as a teacher, because I had the students working in all places, the library, the computer room and our classroom. I had to be in the computer room myself, since we, at my school, any way are not allowed to leave the students alone. I felt that I could not “control” my students and the questions, “what are they doing now?”, “where are they?” were constantly in my mind, even if we always started and ended our lessons in class. For me it was really a challenge.

Here is the link if you are interested in knowing more about European Studies:
http://www.european-studies.org

Saturday, 20 October 2012

eTwinning

eTwinning is an initiative by the European Commision and their eLearning program. I am well familiar with the eTwinning platform, where you for free may communicate, cooperate and develop projects together with one or more schools, within the EU, once your project is accepted by your and their National Support Service, NSS. Today, there are approximately 170 000 members speaking 25 different languages working with more than 5 000 projetcs. I would also like to promote their Proffessional Development Workshops and Teacher forums where you for example may discuss ICT issues and teaching practise.

I have used eTwinning in a couple of projects, among others one with a school in Netherlands. I teach English and Swedish to upper secondary students. However, eTwinning could be used for other age groups in subjects as diverse as music and religion. Below, I will share my experience and give some advice.

To begin with, you become a member, then the most challenging part is to find a partner, a teacher in another school with common and similar goals. An on-line partnerfinding database is available where you may narrow down your search to a specific age group or language. It could take a few months to find a partner and outline a project. There are readymade kits of projects that you could use if you do not have and idea of your own. The last project I participated in, the Dutch teacher and I both agreed that we wanted to encourage our students to use more English and become aware of the fact that even though their level of English was not too advanced, they could still manage to communicate and solve the assignments successfully using ICT tools. The assignment consisted of a few separate activities using different functions within the eTwinning so called "Twinspace" allotted for you project.
eTwinning Twinspace
The space is userfriendly and easy to administer. It needs to be pointed out that the other teacher's knowledge of ICT tools was very basic, but she was enthusiastic and when we encountered technical challenges we chatted, Skyped and exchanged messages to sort things out. I introduced her to Skype and she was indeed a fast learner, considering her age, she only had a year to retirement. Obviously, the driving force could encourage you to learn how to use the tools even though you are not a technical digital native. We discovered the versatile platform which among other things offers a staff room and a pupils corner, possibilities to store files, to run a blog and to file photos. We created slide shows and presented each other’s schools, wrote, shared and uploaded protocols. Again, very userfriendly. There is also a calendar function, where you might enter deadlines, school holidays and birthdays for example. Within the platform, you could create wikis and all students as well as teachers have their own account where you create a profile and have a wall where entries could be posted and commented. 

Another synergy effect, is that the work is assembled in one space. It is all there to read, reflect upon, evaluate as well as learn from. When it comes to ICT, as this is a beginning of an era, it is indeed valuable, to exchange ideas, evaluate and spread knowledge. Furthermore, cross curricular work may be encouraged when your own work becomes visible to colleagues. Moreover, head masters get an insight into the international and intercultural exchange. This might lead to a focus in your career if your school will invest more time in future projects. Your work may also be evaluated by the NSS and quality labels could be granted. This is of course something that adds to the proffessionalism of your teaching and the school's image if posted on the school's website. You could also participate in different competitions and win prizes. I have for example won a very advanced webcamera which I have used a lot when I Skype.

The different parts of our project were:

1. Introduce yourself.
a. To create a profile.
b. To address a few other students by writing an entry on their walls. Develop this first contact with yet a few posts.

Chat session
Comment: A little hesitant at first, but once the student got started, after a while, a few students exchanged email addresses, Skype and Facebook accounts and got to know each other even better using different social media and ways of communicating, This I find excellent, because then they really use English which was a goal itself. The communication became not only asynchronous, but also synchronous as they chatted via Facebook or Skyped. We also tried to chat via the platform. Both in a common chat room, but also in private ones. However, it was difficult to coordinate time and computer availability as the other school did not have a 1-1 solution and we did. Eventually, the students paired up or "twinned up" and the project was running. If I ever do this again, I would suggest groups of four in order for the pairing up being less vulnerable in case somebody quits or is less active. The major advantage was that everybody got the same amount of time during the lessons to express themselves and communicate. This is sometimes a challenge in a group of 30 students, where there are usually a few who talk more. Using this method, the initiatives and exchanges are more evenly distributed and as a teacher you are able to participate by reading their walls. Another advantage was that the "twins" agreed on a topic for their Wikis and they soon found out that they had some interests in common, see below 2.

2. Create a wiki together with a partner in the other school. The pair could then choose a topic to look into and then get started.



Wiki - Rosa parks by a Dutch and Swedish student
 
Comment: Here the "twins" chose a topic, found facts, posed questions, answered and discussed. Then, the students were requested to read the other Wikis and post yet a few questions or comments using the comment function. We had some technical problems with uploading images, because the site had a limit and if a student started html coding a wiki, it was not possible for the "twin" to switch to another mode. We tried to sort it out with the support, but it was probably a bug in the system. However, it was solved during a Skype session by simply restarting the wiki that had this particular problem. It is advisable that the students write their entries in a separate document and then copy and paste their entries. An advantage considering interculture was that they chose topics and issues they took an interest in and exchanged thoughts and found out more step-by-step. The Wikis were very diverse, because the group I taught were from different programs such as Business and administration; Hair dressers; Stylists, Social Science and Child and recreation. Again, a major advantage with this method is that each and every one may work in depth within their field of interest at the same time. A Wiki covered Rosa Park and the Civil Rights Movement while another covered manga, and yet another teenagers' alcohol intake and alcohol culture.

3. News item. Discuss current issues in a Forum. Starting threads and commenting upon other entries.

Comment: This was the most advanced part of the assignment, in relation to their level of English, where they used English that was more advanced than the Wikis. It was very interesting to follow the threads, read their entries and participate in the development of for example the discussion on death penalty. We used articles in English published on Stockholm news in English, for example:

100 years since the last Swedish execution
Culture | 2010-11-24 Today it is exactly 100 years ago since the last execution was conducted in Sweden. It was the first, and last, time a guillotine was used as a form of execution. Johan Alfred Andersson Ander was executed after being convicted of murder. He had stolen more than 5000 Swedish kronor (a lot of money in these days) from a woman who he killed during the robbery. Previous executions had been performed by manual beheading but now the imported guillotine from France was to be used for the first time. Bizarrely but true, it is easy to imagine the excitement among the audience. Mr Andersson Anders was denied saying some last words and the whole spectacle is reported to have been over very quickly. Eleven years later, in 1921, the death penalty was abolished in Sweden, so the imported guillotine was only used once, and can now be seen at the Nordic museum in Stockholm. You can see it here."


Tommie Ullman tommie.ullman@stockholmnews.com 
Forum - discussing current news

First, I started a new thread where I uploaded the article and then a few questions were added in order to begin the discussion like for example: “Bangladesh, Botswana, Egypten, Iran, Irak, Japan, Jemen, Kina, Libyen, Malaysia, Nordkorea, Saudiarabien, Singapore, Sudan, Syrien, Thailand, USA och Vietnam, these countries still have the death penalty and executed people last year. What are your opinions on death penalty? Is there a crime that "deserves" it? Discuss and argue for and against. Give examples to support what you claim, please.”

The software allowed several categories, subcategories, threads and posts. You could reply with or without quotes. I found it very easy to use and easy to survey, because the layout is very userfriendly. I am however looking for similar well functioning forum sites outside eTwinning in case you do not have a partner school and prefer to do this within the class you are teaching or within the school or in between two Swedish Schools. That is why I am currently looking into Schoolsoft’s possibilities. Again, using a tool like this gives each student the same amount of time and space to express themselves and as a teacher you have a lot of material  as a basis for your grading. I had four students with Asperger Syndrom and they really bloomed in this working environment.

4. Evaluation in a shared Google survey.

Comment: Very easy to administer and get an overview in order to reflect on what might be improved another time. For example being four instead of two when creating the Wiki. Apart from that, the students were very pleased with their work and the design of the assignment. Where I used to work while I did this project, the school had a 1-1 solution and the partner school did not. Therefore, it was difficult for example to have a live chat session because they did not have access to computers and Internet and it was difficult to coordinate times as well. Some students used Skype in their spare time and I find it very rewarding that some students used English outside school hours. It was furthermore, very rewarding to learn a lot about the different tools as the project developed and to encourage one another. We learnt a lot about running a longterm project and unfortunately the Dutch teacher retired the year after the project so therefore we never got the chance to further develop our project, but we still Skype now and then.

Hopefully, you have been encouraged to give eTwinning a try, if this source is new to you. If you have any questions, get in touch and we may exchange some ideas.

Meet European Teenagers


I couple of years ago I was constantly thinking about how to teach English in a meaningful context, to make pupils understand that English is not just a subject in school but also an international language used world wide. Of course my pupils know that English is useful when they travel to other countries, but English teaching did not make sense to them. Furthermore, I have these computer boys who learn and use English when they play World of Warcraft, Leagues of Legends and so on and these pupils who listen to lots of music and learn English. But it was hard to make especially the computer boys to see the meaning of English in school. When our school started this one-to-one-project we saw the opportunity of reaching the world outside the school building. Finally we discovered eTwinning!

eTwinning

 eTwinning is a platform that gives opportunities for teachers and students in Europe to meet and cooperate in various projects by using ICT and services that eTwinning offers. There is more information about eTwinning in our course book and on www.etwinning.se  but in short this is how it works:
  • You register on eTwinning homepage as a teacher, but your headmaster will have to be included and informed.
  • You write a presentation about who you are and what kind of project you are interested in.
  • There are various possibilities to search for specific projects, schools or persons (eTwinners) or you will be found by someone who finds your project idea interesting.
  • When you find a partner you plan and register you project. The administrators will then send you an approval/confirmation that you can start your project. There is among other things an email-function for you to use.
  • You will be informed how Twin Space works and then it is only for you to get started.
  • When you have accomplished your project you can apply for a Quality Label.

Our projects

This year my classes are involved in three different project: European Teenagers, Getting to know each other and Newsbox. A fourth is soon starting, Young Europeans Speak – YES!
     These projects have the same aim in common: The purpose is to let the students to get to know each other and each other's culture, meet teens from another European country and see similarities and differences. We also want students to be able to use English in meaningful contexts in order to develop their linguistic ability. Furthermore, the aim is to use ICT as natural means. There is also an English syllabus and the curriculum to have in mind, but that comes naturally: speak, listen, write, read, find strategies of learning, cultural exchange, the international perspective… .
     In these projects we cooperate with students and teachers from Poland, The Netherlands, Spain and Germany. We meet in group projects, Skype-sessions, exchange information on Twin Space (texts, Power Point-presentations, pictures, videos), we use blogs (news magazine), recordings (Voki), co-writing (google.docs) to mention some. When we read and listen to other European teenagers’ work the teaching and learning of English comes naturally and it is for real. All these persons exist and all the texts, pictures and voices that we read and listen to are for real.

Thanks to ICT and our one-to-one-project this is possible.
 
/Emma