Friday, 30 December 2011

IS THAT THINKING OR KNOWING? - teaching Vs testing

Being a teacher is one of the most thrilling and exciting risks one can choose to run. It's so rewarding, funny, amazing, never boring, yet so difficult. You are never 100% sure you're doing the right move at the right moment. The very first rule I learnt as a teacheryoungling, years ago, was this one: rest assured, you'll eventually find out if what you did was right or wrong for your students - only, you'll find out months, or even years later (when it's too late!).

I told Dr Diana Hicks my doubts about being successful in my job: how can I be sure my kind of teaching is what my class needs? her answer was another question
"is that thinking or knowing?"
And this question has been my mantra through my job ever since.

If what I do is about knowing, if there's just one right answer, then it's not teaching, it's a test.
Teaching activities have to do with thinking (how?).
Testing activities have to do with knowing (what?).

It may sound ovious, but it isn't - at least, not for me. And I think all teachers run the risk of misunderstanding this difference. Of course assessment is an important (and difficult) part of our job, but if our teaching is not successful, if we are testing our pupils all the time instead of making them think on their own, our pupils are doomed to failure.

That's another reason why I love EU projects: Comenius, eTwinning, Erasmus, and all kind of real-life educational experiences that let pupils (and teachers) meet the unexpected - school is so boring otherwise. Through these programmes, we meet new people and ideas, and we (pupils and teachers) are forced to think, as what we know is not enough. That's how we get to know something new by thinking. Together.
So, teaching first, then testing. And teaching in a way that makes pupils think, not learn by heart - and forget the very next minute after the test.

I'd like to close 2011 with these pictures of the eTwinning Camp in Budapest. A place for teaching and learning, and for sure, a place for thinking.
I'm saying bye to the adventures and experiences of this year with the images of students happily engaged in learning and having fun.

Thank you eTwinning, Comenius, Dr Hicks, and thank you friends all over Europe.
Have a great 2012, full of satisfaction, success, and fun.

After all, despite the tons of bureaucracy and boring papers, ours is still the best job in the world :)





..and now, that's thinking
(and then knowing!)

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

an eTwinning story with the little ones

time flies...it is very true. My small pupils are 8/9 years old now, and for the third year we are together in our class.

I remember how excited I was when they started school - it was the very first time I could work as a primary school teacher. I had so many questions in my mind - will they really read, count and write, will I be able to  teach them all these important things? And another question: will they enjoy school? I just hoped the answer could be yes.

One of the very first school experiences for my pupils was an eTwinning project (Celebrating International Days for a Special Reason!, founder countries: Greece and Poland). It was a challenge for me too, because I "used" the project for building our community as well. I was lucky because we had partners from more countries in Europe, and we collaborated with kindergardens and primary schools, so it was perfect from the point of view of my pupils' age.

Children enjoyed the project activities, and at the end of first year we went to Budapest to take part in an eTwinning competition, and we celebrated in the classroom our fantastic prize: a new television! together with families, cakes and fun.




What does an eTwinning project mean for my pupils? interesting activities, friendship, opportunity to learn something not included in our school-books, experiences and having fun.

Just an example: at the end of our second school year one of my pupils asked me when we could go again to Budapest to participate in an eTwinning programme. I answered: I think, we can go again if we will "work" in our project. She told me: it is not a problem, we do it gladly, we just would like to go again.
For me it was great to hear it: if children are motivated, they do the activities because of eTwinning, just because they like them.

And yes, we went again to Budapest to play eTwinning :-).Just look at the picture about eTwinning Day for Children:



Saturday, 24 December 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Dear friends,

I'd like to wish you all a very merry Christmas full of peace, happiness and joy with all of the people you love.

Monika, Agneta, Daniela, Renata, Sanjo, Elena, Marilìa, Tatjana, Christine, Irene... and all the others... I thank you so much for your lovely wishes: your video Christmas card was the sweetest present for me in these hard times.
Now I'm sure I'll recover quickly thank to the nice people who support me - here and from far.
After all, you don't need to live next door to be friends with someone.
And I know I have many friends who care.
That's why I think I'm lucky even in this difficult Christmas.

Love to you all

Laura

Friday, 23 December 2011

new learning strategies - involving experts

I would like to share with you some of our new experiences. We talked here together with you about the importance (and sometimes the difficulties) of motivation, and new kind of activities. It is a very special experience if our pupils and we, teachers enjoy together the lesson.

This time I read a book about the "flow" at school from Prof. Csíkszentmihályi. I found his book very interesting. He defines flow as "the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it"

I like try out new kind of activities. I think, international projects give us many possibilities. We partecipate in eTwinning and in Comenius programme as well. And, together with our partners had great adventures.

In one of our eTwinning projects (BE TWIN! - Twinning up the everyday lesson) we work together with our Italian friends.
The project helps me a lot as a teacher to motivate my pupils to study Italian language.
During our last Italian lessons we talked about the "restaurant", which is an important topic in every languages. This time I tried to choose a new kind of activity to motvate my pupils.

The gastronomy is a part of culture. If we have more knowledge about it, we can know more about the lifestyle in Italy, where our friends live.
The new words help us to develope the key competencies (communication in a foreign language), and help us to have new information.
If pupils can try out what we learned in a natural/practical situation it is very helpful in the learning process.
So..what we did? After we learned in the classroom the most important words, we asked experts to help us.

Our experts:
1. Dott. Alessandro Rosselli ( University of Szeged)
2. Zsolt Karda - proprietary of an Italian restaurant in our town.

We visited the restaurant, my pupils had some "role-plays" as waitress and guests, after we had a lesson in the cuisine :), and learned about the cooking of Italian "pasta", when my pupils asked our experts. After? We ate what we cooked as well :).

We enjoyed a lot the activities, and I am sure, my pupils were motivated.
You can see the results too (it's true in Italian and Hungarian languages), because one of my colleagues, Tapodiné Atlasz Marianna registered everything with a videocamera.

Hope, you like it).
Hugs, Mónika

Thursday, 22 December 2011

eTwinning Conference "Leading 21st century education" - conclusion

It's kind of funny when you think how many ideas, projects, doubts and (especially) questions can come out of a single event. The eTwinning Conference held in Genova was a gold mine for my personal reflections, not only dealing with the future of eTwinning, but with the future of the EU and the future of European education.
Which means, a huge part of my own future (and yours, if you're a teacher). Something we cannot fully decide for ourselves: and it's quite scary when you feel someone else is deciding for you.

 So, while in Genova, I just sat there all the time, staring at the policy makers, burning with questions, and hoping for some answers. Unfortunately, there actually was very little time for questions. And I must admit what was said was not exactly answering my doubts.

If you want the official covering of the event, you can have a look at the article on the eTwinning portal When eTwinning meets policy makers! You can find videos there , documents and much of what was said and done.

And if you want my very personal, very unofficial and very uncensored opinion as well, just go on reading!

I was convinced by:

Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou's speech. True, eTwinning is an EU success story, and Heaven knows if Europe needs success stories these times. And true, as a success story it deserves more attention and recognition by the political world. Now, the question could be: is the political world interested in common EU success stories? or individual (national) selfishness is bound to prevail?

- The four workshops. Of course I loved mine (Pedagogical Practices), I found I had so much in common with the experts in my panel, even if we came from very different experiences (with me being the only simple teacher...). But I liked all of the workshops I could attend, and it was pleasant to see there were teachers in all of the panels: after all, there was someone who knew what we were talking about in practice, not just delivering a lecture. What's more, the workshops were the ideal size in terms of participants, so we could exchange ideas and try to find common solutions for our (common) issues. There was a debate, not just a speech from a stage. And here, there are two questions as well: 1) did the policy makers understand the real value of this cooperation between teachers all over Europe? or 2) did they look at it as a non-expensive toy to keep their teachers entertained and professionally growing (without them having to do anything)?

- Anne Gilleran's sentence: eTwinning is a place where you're allowed to fail. Great! Even if as teachers we're usually obsessed with being perfect, in fact we can't be. And it's a relief to feel free to make mistakes once in a while - and learn from them. That's what LifeLongLearning is supposed to mean. Now, to the question: will policy makers understand this? will we still be free to fail in an "institutionalized" eTwinning?

I was NOT convinced by:

- the projection of a bright technological future for the European schools, where teachers and students communicate via twitter, regularly meet on social networks and happily exploit ICT as creative educational tools. I've visited schools in Tuscany (and we're supposed to be one of the rich parts of Italy) where the ICT equipment is zero. A high percentage of teachers can't even hold a mouse. Lots of pupils think exploiting ICT means playing Wii or Play Station games. And there are even more serious issues: more and more families, in this time of crisis, can't afford buying a pc or paying for the internet access. Lots of Municipalities have less and less money to provide their schools with ICT equipment. Not to mention the crisis of European Education we've been discussing in another post (how can we forget all of those un-met benchmarks?). My feeling was that the impact of the present crisis was underestimated. It's my personal opinion, but the efficient and creative hypertechnological school of the future is Utopia school... or (worse) it is going to be an elite school for those who can afford it.

- the policy-makers speeches: sorry, apart from very few happy situations, the distance between the politicians and the EU-minded experts (Eugenio Riviere, Santi Scimeca, Anne Gilleran, Donatella Nucci etc) was patent. The politicians just kept seeing their small slice of the educational world, while the others talked in a wider perspective. And sadly, I'm not sure they had the same goals in mind. My question: did they understand each other?
...

Ok, that's all for my experiences and thoughts about Genova. I know maybe I've been boring with all of these posts, but we are living such a difficult period for the EU and the debate in Genova got for me a wider meaning, going beyond eTwinning.

After all, in my opinion the question is not if eTwinning will or won't be recognized by the institutions of the different countries. The question is: will the different countries recognize the existence - and value - of the European dimension in education?

Saturday, 17 December 2011

CLIL lesson for Science/Geography

This lesson plan is another "present" by Dr Diana Hicks. Brilliant course and brilliant teacher indeed. So, once again, thank you Mrs Hicks and thank you Comenius :)
I was planning to try this activity in one of my History courses, as it can be adapted to suit different subjects. But in the end I never actually had the time to try it with my students since, as it often happens, we had to rush through things during this first semester.
But rest assured, it will be for the new year! And for all of you who asked me for some scientific activity, why don't you give it a try? You could have fun and, why not, find some interesting variation to this lesson. Let me know!

RIVER NILE - THE GAMBLING

about 20 students - 12/13 years old

subjects: Science/Geography/Technology/History (or better, all of them! these disciplines are connected)

Pupils drawing on their own, then working in groups of 4/5

Instructions given in English - pupils can answer and discuss, when needed, both in English and in mother tongue.

Steps:

1) Take a piece of paper and draw a river - this will be river Nile

2) Draw lots of fields close to the river (drawing squares of different sizes will be fine) - these are your fields
 
3) You're a  farmer and you wait for the water to come to the fields, so your crops can grow
 
4) Take your drawing with you and sit in groups. Each group will be given a dice.

5) Now, the members of the group roll the dice 5 times each

6) Each time, after rolling the dice, put a cross on your fields corresponding to the number you got on the dice (example: you got 5, you put a cross on 5 of your fields; you got 3, you put a cross on 3 of your fields, etc.)
 
7) When all the members of the group have rolled their dice 5 times, count your crosses. If you're under 20, you're DEAD.
 
8) Now, rolling the dice 5 times corresponds to 5 years. If you made less than 20 crosses, that means the river didn't reach enough of your fields, you didn't have enough water, and you couldn't grow your crops. You and your family were destined to die. Now you understand: living there is a gamble.
 
9) What could the people do to help the situation? Discuss with your group (English or mother tongue), then write down a short list of possible solutions: begin the sentence with "they could..."
 
10) All solutions are collected on the board
 
11) What did they really do? Let's take the book (or pc, or anything) and have a look together.
 
Well, I loved this activity when we tried it out at the training course (I always love role play, and I adore being the pupil !!! It's definitely less stressful than being the teacher... ok, points of view, I know). So I'll take advantage of this with one of my classes in the near future.

What do you think, can it be for you as well?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

my best CLIL lesson of 2011

If you've been following my summer CLIL-soap, you'll know by now I've been reflecting on (and practicing) CLIL quite a lot during these months.
All of the people who regularly come to visit me in this blog (thank you!) helped me a lot here. We've been discussing theories and different approaches together, we've shared experiences and we've tried to overcome our empasse points. I've often been asked to share some practical tips, worksheets or lesson-plans of my everyday teaching. Part of them are, as usual, uploaded in the TNG TwinSpace.
But since we are reaching the end of this 2011, I'd like to share here my favourite CLIL lesson of this year. Important: I didn't make up this lesson on my own, I worked on a structure suggested by Dr. Diana Hicks during my summer course. Anyway, it turned out to be so nice and motivating after being customized to my case, that I think anyone can take advantage of it.
So have a look at it, and see if it can work for you as well!

THE BACK-HOME PLAN

about 20 students - 12/13 years old
subjects: History/Literature/Languages
Pupils working on their own, in pairs when asked
Instructions given in English - pupils can answer and discuss, when needed, both in English and in mother tongue.

Steps:
1) Take a piece of paper and draw a country - not an existing one, just make up your own. Place a capital city. Draw a river across the capital city. Give a name to the country, the capital city and the river (that's the funny part: pupils can be quite creative at times)

2) In the capital city, draw a Cathedral and a Town Hall (this will be useful later, when we'll set the story in the Middle Ages)

3) In this country there are two political parties. You're a politician of the leading party (if you want, you can have fun here again letting them name the parties). One day, you're sent on an important mission to the Pope, in Rome. While you're away, there's a rebellion in your country. The enemy party takes power, all of your friends are imprisoned or killed and you are exiled. Now, your family is still in the capital city, you love them and your city and you miss them. You want to go back. What would you do?

4) Write under your drawing at least 5 things you would do in order to go back home. (They have to start each sentence with "I would", then they can end it in English or mother tongue). Remember, if you go back and they catch you, you'll be executed.

5) Now work in pairs. Compare your answers with those of your partner. Are there any common ideas? Can you make up anything new together?

6) Now: the story is set in 1300. Please delete all of your ideas that don't suit this age (rest assured, there will always be plenty of bombing, alien-invading, and monster-related options).

7) All of the remaining ideas will be collected on the board.

8) Ok, now I can say: this is the story of Dante Alighieri, and you were acting as Dante himself. What did he actually do? Let's take the book and find out together.

That's all. It turned out to be a very active and involving lesson, and even the always-sleeping students had for once something to say. We had fun, they managed to speak a lot without the usual fears, and to their surprise they found out they would do lots of things Dante actually did. And even if they wouldn't have written the "Divina Commedia", believe me: they won't forget Dante and his story from now on !!!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

eTwinning Conference "Leading 21st century education" - part two

The Eminent - eTwinning Conference in Genova has actually been a great series of events and a brilliant first step towards giving an institutional role to eTwinning.

Do you remember the key questions the conference was supposed to address? I do, but if you don't, just have a look here. I believe thousands of eTwinners are now anxious to know which role they'll be playing in the near future in their schools, in the European educational system and in their national educational systems.


Before I start with my own, very personal reflection, let me say I tried to keep track of all speeches and info I could put my hands on. Sometimes I wonder if eTwinning is actually disseminating itself well enough, as it was very difficult for me to find materials, presentations and speeches delivered during the conference. Anyway, you can find something here, through Eminent. And, as usual, I uploaded all that I could find in the TNG twinspace - first folder under "Useful materials". So, if you're curious and you'd like to know something of what was said and done, just have a look there.

Now, back to the key questions. I can't deal with all of them in this post, so, this "conference soap opera" will have a third chapter as well (maybe more). As for now, I'm just starting with the first question.

- How can professional development policies benefit from eTwinning practice?

Not sure of the answer - but believe me, all of the important people, policy makers and stakeholders were just as puzzled as I (the "normal" teacher) was. Of course eTwinning is a great place for professional development. Of course it's a place where we meet, share ideas, develop projects and thus we grow as better teachers (that's what a social network based on educational shared interest is supposed to do for us). And of course again, professional development policies already benefit from eTwinning (at almost zero cost: teachers choose eTwinning for no other reason that their passion - no funding involved for us).
So, eTwinning practice has already done a lot for professional development policies.
Now, in my opinion, the question should be different: what can professional developmet policies do for eTwinners? can our work and our passion be recognized someway?
The good news: in some countries, it is already. The bad news: most of the others think what we already have (?) is more than enough.

Now, let's talk for us in Italy. You can be a brilliant eTwinner, develop the best projects ever, have a collection of QLs and a fantastic net of reliable partners all around Europe. Great! You grow up to be an almostdigitalnative teacher, you have lots of competences, you're happy in your job and your pupils are enjoying their learning process. Now, say, one day you decide (or you have) to move to a different school. And ops! nothing of this beautiful world of experiences and competences is kept in your professional record. That is to say, your curriculum vitae is just as good as that of any "chalk & talk" teacher.
All of your eTwinning experience (which is precious, and I do believe it is), in fact does not exist for your Ministry of Education. Better, it is of no interest to them.
Well, I don't think that's much to encourage any teacher to enter the eTwinning world (or the EU projects world).
Lots of us are "old" eTwinners, we were pioneers first, then we developed in time the belief that the eTwinning  methodology can be both an incredible tool and an incredible meeting point for our teaching. We are here because we are sure that's the right pathway. But if we want to involve more teachers, if we want to have a bigger impact on education, if we want to go beyond the pioneer-stage... if we want more, we have to give more.

I believe the last 6 years in my life as a teacher cannot be kept apart from my life as an eTwinner. I learnt, shared and taught a lot in the eTwinning community. Is it so difficult for policy makers to understand this? Would have been better for me to pay for a traditional University course, and just sit there and listen to a lecturer for some 20 hours? In terms of my professional record, yes. In terms of my professional development, it would have meant learning, by listening, 1% of what I learnt through eTwinning, by doing.

Now, I get scared when I read things like these (quoting the Eminent blog)

" By the end of the session a common agreement had been reached: eTwinning should stay flexible and free and shouldn’t be overly controlled, as it is a safe environment. The general feeling was, “Do we really need to embed eTwinning in education policies? Don’t we risk diluting the essence of eTwinning?” "

Which general feeling? Not that of the teachers, be sure.
Of course we do need to embed eTwinning in educational policies! (still my very personal opinion) Otherwise it's like having a perfect educational world that doesn't exist for the real world. And I don't want to live in educational Utopia, I want real life. National and European policies should be able to speak the same language.
By the way, what was this conference for, if we don't think eTwinning should be embedded in education policies?
But I was there, and it was a good event: and I believe it was the beginning of something. I still believe utopia and reality can meet somewere.

Or am I just Alice in Wonderland?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

WHY? - facing the crisis of European education

You may be just like me. You may be the biggest fan of quality education, public school, innovation and ICT, cohoperative learning and European actions (read: LLP).
And you may think you're doing your best and you're a brave, curious and engaged teacher. Maybe not the best ever, we're not so self-confident, yet working hard. You see lots of fellow teachers in different countries striving through tons of red tape, stressing day-to-day routine, economical crisis, dysfunctional schools, lack of ICT equipment: yet we set our projects, we run them, we motivate our pupils and we try to promote culture and a sense of belonging to something bigger than just "my" country.

Then you happen to read the 2010 Joint Report of the European Commission about the 5 benchmarks we were supposed to reach for 2010.

"There has been a general improvement in education and training performance in the EU. However, the majority of the benchmarks set for 2010 will not be reached in time, while in the case of the vital benchmark on literacy performance is in fact deteriorating. Attaining these benchmarks will require more effective national initiatives."

So, the situation is actually getting worse. You can find the complete document here and in the TNG twinspace as well. Rest assured, not a funny reading.

Just look at the picture, it says more than tons of words.


Now, where is the mistake?

Obviously we (them?) did something wrong. It's interesting that the document goes on explaining how we need more effective national measures. Is the EU giving up?

What do you think?

Were the European measures not good enough?

How much - in terms of energy, money, people - did the EU spend on education? Was it too little an effort? Was it in a wrong direction?

Were the benchmarks simply too difficult to reach?

In a time of crisis, is Europe - just as all of the individual countries - trying to save on education? (not a smart move, as we all can guess).

I've no answers for all of these questions. Yet I can't help wondering WHY those goals were not met. And HOW we are supposed to meet the new ones, if we don't know the reason why we failed. I would have loved to stop all of the very important people, all of the researchers and all of the policy makers I met in Genova and ask them these questions. So, if any of them is reading me, please give me your point of view.

Otherwise, I think we can go on exchanging ideas among us "normal" teachers. I know this is not an amusing post. But as my favourite blogger says "Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but sometimes a girl has gotta vent"!

Monday, 21 November 2011

the X factor

"Remember: upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.”

This sentence by Alexander the Great (someone who definitely knew what "SUCCESS" means) inspired me in my presentation for the eTwinning Conference "Leading 21st century education" in Genova.
If you think about it, this sentence could apply to soldiers in an army, to pupils at school, to ourselves as teachers, or as members of our cummunities... and even to European Countries.
I was a teenager in the 90es. I celebrated the "break in the wall" in 1989, I danced and cried and dreamt of a better, happier Europe. Now everything is so sad to me. We need hope. Someone at the conference told me "they're stealing our pupils their hopes". It's true. Except that this "they" is in fact "us". All of us adults.
I think our hope is in learning to feel and to act as a team, not as individuals trying to prevail one over the other. We have to learn how to work together to build our future. That's still my dream and my hope.

So, that's my presentation for the conference, and you're free to re-read it in this light. The eTwinning X factor, can be Europe's X factor: feeling part of a team.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

What actions are needed in order to improve the status of teachers?

Hello everybody,
this time I'd like to share with you my concern about a core issue concerning all of us: the status of teacher in our society and in our countries.
Recent studies have shown that the teaching profession is not attractive for young people. It is perceived as a not so profitable option, with a very low social status and few career opportunities.
We have time until November 30 to take part in the European Commission research on policy measures to improve the attractiveness of the teaching profession in Europe.

The situation is in fact so serius (appearently, nobody would want to be a teacher!) that the European Commission has launched a consultation on how to improve the status of teachers.

The study aims to identify factors that can make the teaching profession more attractive and to determine which policy interventions can influence these factors. The final report will then contain a series of recommendations to that effect, addressed to policy makers and stakeholders.

In order to achieve these goals, a questionnaire was developed for students, teachers and school officials from 32 countries. The answers to the questionnaire will provide valuable information, especially about what teachers think about their profession.

The questionnaire is available online and the Commission requested the help of all professionals involved in education, and in particular:
 
• University students of mathematics, physical and natural sciences, humanities and languages​​;

• Students involved in initial teacher training courses;

• Teachers of all disciplines;

• School leaders;

• Teachers' trainers.
 
The European Commission ensures that the answers will remain anonymous and all information provided will be treated in compliance with current legislation on data protection. The questionnaire will remain online until November 30, 2011.
 
So, do take part! This is the link to the questionnaire the first page is in Italian, but if you click "avanti" (bottom of page), you'll be able to choose your language in the next page.
 
We're all enthusiastic, experimental and motivated teachers, and we LOVE our job despite all of its problems. So, it's our duty to let the EU - and young people all over Europe - know what we need to improve our wonderful profession :)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

eTwinning Conference "Leading 21st century education"


ABCD is  the leading event devoted to school and education  in Italy, whose aim is to cover the whole school world in one exhibition. It is held at Genoa Fair & Exhibition Centre, featuring exhibition areas, workshops and conferences. It represents both the perfect meeting point for students, teachers, and exhibitors (leading players in this ever-changing and evolving sector) and a tool aiming to meet their needs.

This year, ABCD is for the first time hosting eTwinning, with an international conference for stakeholders and policy-makers.

The EMINENT - eTwinning Conference "Leading 21st century education" (Genova, 16-17 November 2011) is organized by the eTwinning National Support Service Italy and European Support Service - European Schoolnet, in close collaboration with the European Commission, and it involves joint sessions with the 2011 Eminent conference.

The conference, taking place on November the16th and 17th, will face issues related to the changes of the 21st century school: teachers' professional development, pupils' and teachers' motivation for learning and teaching, key competencies for the training of European citizens.

The main goal of eTwinning is actually to encourage the creation of networks between schools and teachers, to provide opportunities for professional development through training of teachers on-line and on-site, with a focus on collaborative learning and teaching aspects related to the use of ICT.

For the first time, the eTwinning conference will bring together policy makers, educational authorities at various levels and educational actors in a mutual effort to identify and develop actions and strategies to get a better 21st century education.

The conference will provide an opportunity to learn, to address and help answer some key questions:

- How can professional development policies benefit from eTwinning practice?


- Which ones can be considered to be the best examples of promotion and dissemination of pedagogical practice?

- What competencies are needed for individuals to participate fully exploit the opportunities offered by eTwinning? and how can eTwinning help in developing these competencies?

- What synergies, within the use of eTwinning, could be created between European and National educational policies?
 
That's much to talk about, isn't it? I find it to be one of the greatest eTwinning challenges so far. And I hope you'll be as thrilled as I am to get to know more. So, keep tuned for more:)
 
 
                                                                                               [to be continued]

Friday, 11 November 2011

International Drawing Contest


Dear LLT Friends,
I would like to share with you some news about an international drawing contest for schools partecipating in the eTwinning programme.

I know the deadline - 17th of November -  is very close, but probably some of you or your colleagues could work on it.

Maybe just like me, you didn't hear about this opportunity before. I think it is a nice initiative, and children like drawing, my small class for sure. :-)

So, an activity you could do with the youngest ones too.

I uploaded the info about this competition in the TNG TwinSpace in the "Activities for children" folder , and I also uploaded there the application form.

Let's draw together! :-)
Hugs, Mónika

Sunday, 6 November 2011

eTwinning Learning Events

I think you've already heard of eTwinning Learning Events (LE). If you haven't yet, well, you definitely should.

That's a great opportunity eTwinning offers for free to us teachers: an expert introducing you to different subjects, while interacting with other eTwinners. So you get the whole lot of benefits: expert's guidance + fellow eTwinners' experience and opinions.
During the last couple of year, I've had the opportunity to attend different LE on various subjects, sometimes dealing with my everyday teaching, sometimes just out of curiousity  (my bravest attempt being that at nanotechnology). All of them enriched my teaching and my feeling of being part of a larger community.
Of course, since LEs usually cover a short period of time, it's difficult to experience there a real feeling of the eTwinning community: yet, you feel part of a group who share your same eagerness - get to know more, improve your teaching, move to the next level your competences in team working... or just get to know more about a specific subject (ICT, languages, proget-planning, etc).

In October, I attended the "Children’s Rights" LE, presented by Miriam Schembri. That's how Miriam introduced it to us:

"During this event we will be looking at children’s rights from an educator’s perspective and see how we can use these rights as guidelines in our daily school life to give dignity to children. We will explore how they will affect classroom practice and how to make children conscious of their rights and responsibilities."

At the moment, I'm dealing with a difficult situation in my school, having to face lots of behaviuor issues (sometimes even rage issues) in my pupils. I believe this is connected with a larger-scale social unrest in our communities, yet teachers have to deal with it. That's why this LE provided me with the right kind of reflection, at the right moment. And the opportunity to rely on the opinions of fellow teachers from all over Europe, often sharing my same problems and concerns, was more than welcome.

The LE was structured in 5 steps, with a reflection at the end of each one:
1 - The relationship between needs and rights.
2 - Rights and Responsibilities
3 - Teaching in a rights respecting class
4 - Participation rights for children
5 - Giving children a voice

It ended up being a journey in my beliefs, doubts and fears. But also a first step towards a possible solution (at the very least, an attempt to one).

As well as her experience and know-how, Miriam shared with us some useful documents. I believe they can be of interest for a larger number of teachers, so I'm sharing them with you, as usual, in the public section of THE NEXT GENERATION Twinspace (under "useful materials"). I hope you'll find them as useful as I did. (so thank you Miriam!)

By the way, there are lots of new documents in the TNG TwinSpace, so do have a look and see if there's anything for you.

Looking forward to reading your impressions... and to seeing you at the next LE !

Laura

Friday, 21 October 2011

eTwinning, CLIL... and me :)

Hello everybody,
as an eTwinning Mentor I've been asked lots of questions: of course, I couldn't answer 100% of them, since in some fields I'm more experienced than in others (ok, I do have doubts concerning some ICT tools and their applications in the TwinSpace!). Anyway, for those questions whose answer was not sure, I always managed to find another eTwinner (Mentor or not) who could help. So I learnt a lot myself.

One of the most interesting questions was raised by Gracia and it deals with CLIL. I answer here because I think it can be of interest for many teachers. I believe we all share the same experience: we start with teaching at our best whit what we learnt at University, then we find an opportunity of training (Comenius, National Agencies, Ministries of Education...), and eventually we want to try out these new things in our classes. And we discover eTwinning projects, Comenius/Grundtvig and so on. All of them mean meeting new people and learning more.

Now, how to start a CLIL project for the first time?

I can give my experience. Please note, there's no rule, it's just how things worked for me.
So, these are the guidelines I would suggest:

1) involve your colleagues: of course, you can manage your
CLIL project on your own, but it won't be as effective as with two or more teachers working together. So, if you're the Language teacher, I would advise involving one/two subject teachers (it depends on the topic you're willing to deal with: History? Geography? Science? it's up to you). And if you are the subject teacher, of course you'll have to  involve the Language teacher: otherwise you will offend him/her, by apparentky teaching something they are supposed to teach (language).

2) talk about your project idea: don't keep things just for you and your involved colleague(s). Do speak with others during the official meetings: Principal, other colleagues and families need to know what's going on. They will support you in case of need, give you useful advice, or be interested in developing a similar pathway. Or - this is for parents - they will need to be reassured and to understand what's going on (let them know it won't be too difficult for their children and it won't ruin their marks).

3) choose a limited number of classes and set a reasonable timetable: for my first attempt at a CLIL project, I started with two classes, two colleagues (I teach History and Geography and I asked the English teacher and Science teacher to join me) and a series of 10 lessons. A small project, in terms of involved people and time, is easier to manage. Plus, you won't have to squeeze your brain to make up hundreds of new activities!

4) decide if the activity will be curricular or not: this depends on your school system. In my Institute, at the moment, CLIL projects need extra time, in the afternoon (which means extra money to be found, making everything more difficult). In the past, we could use our normal lesson time for our projects.

5) find a partner if you feel like: ok, it can work perfectly well with your classes alone, but I personally think eTwinning can help a lot in any CLIL project. If you have a partner class, your pupils will feel the actual need to use a foreign language. They'll be more curios and motivated. And you'll find extra help in your partner.

6) enjoy! It's an experiment, so just enjoy the activities with your pupils and colleagues. And laugh off the unexpected problems. There always are and you can't be prepared. So take them with sense of humour.

I can say these extra-ordinary activities have been among the funniest and most rewarding of my life as a teacher.

[and that's why I keep going :) ]

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

BACK TO SCHOOL CAMPAIGN: involve your colleagues!

The eTwinning BACK TO SCHOOL campaign focuses this year on mentoring: eTwinning is growing as a strong teachers' community, where eTwinner helps eTwinner. And the "let's help each other" motto is the basis of our projects as well - LLT first and The Next Generation now.

So, let's involve more and more colleagues in this rewarding and exciting world. We already know by experience eTwinning can be addictive... now let's see if it can be contagious as well!

This BACK TO SCHOOL campaign is just asking us to go on doing what we are already doing: help new eTwinners, if we're experienced, or ask for help, if we are new.

Now, go to http://www.etwinning.net/ and have a look: there could be someone asking for help - or someone ready to answer your questions.

Most likely, there will be both. As all of us have lots of questions and answers. And that's why we come together :)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Greetings from Korinth!

Hello to all!!!
Nice to meet you again here!!!
I have just seen it in facebook
by Monica...Thanks!!!
I wish a creative new school year!!!
I believe to our forces !!!
"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass,
it's about learning how to dance in the rain"
Warm regards from Korinth
Marika

Friday, 7 October 2011

Project management

I would like to share with you a ppt presentation. I prepared it for an eTwinning conference in Egerszalók, Hungary. I took part in this event last week. I was happy, because I met many kindergarten teachers and primary school teachers from Poland, Finland, France, Portugal, Germany and Hungary. I enjoyed to share our ideas, and talking about them.
Hope, you will find useful the presentation.


http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

https://www.yousendit.com/sharedFolder?phi_action=app/orchestrateSharedFolder&id=A4Y6wi9CEaUcHSVZD-Mk2Tta06gWGHYKc7CJ-_BQe3M
Hugs,Mónika

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Blog Action Day 2011

I'm happy to spread the news. Do join in !!!



Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. The aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all.


Since 2007, Blog Action Day has focused bloggers around the world to blog about one important global topic on the same day. Past topics have included water, climate change and poverty.


This year, Blog Action Day will be held on October 16, which coincides with World Food Day, so naturally our 2011 theme is FOOD

To take part in Blog Action Day all you need to do is register your blog and then on October 16, 2011 post your blog about food with the #BAD11 tag.


Learn more http://blogactionday.org/why-food/

Saturday, 24 September 2011

how do you fight boredom in the classroom?


As a teacher, my worst enemy in the classroom is boredom. If my students don’t understand what I’m saying, they’ll ask – or I’ll notice and try to fix things. If they’re shy, angry, tired, or just puzzled, I’ll help. But if they’re bored, there’s no way out. They won’t listen to me, they’re actually not with me. And if it’s me being bored – it happens to teachers as well – I’m not with them and no matter how experienced I am, a barely-there teacher is the worst possible teacher.


Now, you cannot possibly come up with something new, engaging, challenging, every single time. But European projects (eTwinning, Comenius, self-financed) can. That’s what they do for me: they actually bring people in my classroom – new pupils, new teachers, plenty of new ideas. Interest comes from novelty, learning comes from sharing.

It’s funny to see how the partners, thousands of kms away, are actually with us all the time. I can remember the warm feeling experienced during a History lesson, when one of my pupils suddenly came up with a bunch of questions “What are they doing now? Are they studying this as well? Our same History?”. A reflection started from there and has never stopped since.

Conferences, meetings - and awards as well - came through the years. We met other teachers and students, experienced different teaching styles, different ideas and realities. My teaching developed and widened, as I met and shared ideas with lots of teachers, experts and especially with pupils.

You can’t enter a community and keep unchanged, and this applies to the pupils as well. A bored student/teacher is isolated, while in a community you’re never alone. Via Comenius and eTwinning, the whole school system (including parents) could experience the power of team working and the importance of building bridges between individuals. Now we don’t just have lessons, we make experiences. And “experience” and “boring” just won’t go together. “Experience” means actually being there – together.

Now, here's the funny way Dr. Diana Hicks represented the student's school day:


What about you? Do you agree with her? And how do you fight boredom and keep your pupils involved?
Looking forward to reading your comments!

Laura



[more about this in my articles in Voices of eTwinning - European Schoolnet 2011]

Sunday, 4 September 2011

materials for children

Dear LLT Friends,

I uploaded in the TNG TwinSpace some new materials which could be useful if you teach in a primary school.

As I teach Italian languague too, I put some materials that I was given in Florence during a Comenius teacher refreshing course.
I met there Francesca Lo Re, who taught Italian languague in France, and she had a workshop with us with many good ideas. These exercises are connected to "i vestiti di Marianna", a fairytale. The writer is Roberto Piumini. You can easily find the text on the web too. (I didn't upload it because of the copyright).
I also uploaded some materials that you can use in the classroom. For example in a languague lesson, but not only... (I think the structure of a lesson doesn't depend on the languague). They could be useful when you teach the colours, or parts of body, animals. I like them, because children can colour them,we can make some activities together,and in the case of animals they can use their creativity to find new animals too. Here maybe it could be funny to work together with your Art colleague.

I don't know how you organise your timetable; in our school the primary school teachers are free to organize it (except the Physical Education lessons and foreign languagues because they depend on other colleagues). Now I have every Fridays two Arts&crafts lessons, and a Reading activity.
I would like to have some "project days" to motivate my pupils. It is the first time I can try to set a project with them, this way, because they are now 8 years old, and in the third class. Hope, we will have a lots of new adventures and fun.

Have fun with your pupils too :-)

Hugs, Mónika

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Planning for Excellent Learning

At the beginning of any new school year, all of us teachers come up with new ideas, hopes and projects to improve our teaching. We want to be better teachers, we want to give more, we want to achieve new goals together with our pupils. We want to make up new strategies and activities to keep our pupils - and ourselves - from getting bored.
I'm no exception.

And after this engaging CLIL summer, I have even more to think of. That's why I want to share with you an interesting document: it's a lesson planning form I was given in one of the English schools I visited. I met this brilliant young Geography teacher who told me he had been working there for just a year; since he was very young and he just left University, he had been trained to perform a new kind of teaching, which he believed was not perfect, but still good. Then, he was so kind as to give me one of his lesson planning forms.

Now, if I've learnt anything in the UK, is that being a teacher there is very stressful. They're very strict as far as the teaching is concerned - and then, do you remember? there's that hard part "the pupils should be speaking 90% of the time".

So, have a look at the form and let me know what you think of it. I'm uploading it here and in the TwinSpace of The Next Generation as well. By the way, you'll find lots of new materials there, so do have a look.


Have a successful new school year you all. Enjoy your job, and have fun with your pupils!

Monday, 22 August 2011

more on CLIL? visit TNG TwinSpace !!!

Hello everybody! Here are some of the references Dr Diana Hicks gave us during the course, as well as some links and info I got on my own, or during different CLIL courses (so, please note: you may find not all of the links are updated!).

Important: together with Monika, we're trying to upload all of our materials (including activities, links to websites & so on) in the TwinSpace of  The Next Generation - the link is here, and a permanent link is just under the blog title. You may want to go there from time to time and check if there's anything useful to you.

As for me, I'm very interested in the EU files - that's why I put so many. In this difficult period for Italy (and for Europe as well) I find it very important not to forget the direction we are taking together as European teachers, in order to build a coherent educative system. Ok, have a look and let me know!
Note: we use The Next Generation Twinspace as a teachers' playground for newbies in eTwinning. That's why only two folders are public (we suppose you won't be interested in how to use a forum/blog, how to open a folder & so on).

Ok, so here are some of the CLIL references I found:

http://www.onestopenglish.com/clil/   (not my favourite, since it's mainly just English Language exercises; still, it can be useful)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctwo/  and  http://www.channel4.com/  (of course Language teachers will already know these. Well, they can be of use for CLIL lessons as well. Give them a try it if you need materials and videos for your lessons - you've got to pay but it's not expensive)

http://www.collaborativelearning.org/  (looots of useful stuff, games and ideas from teachers to teachers! I loved this. And there's a special section with all materials from the Cheltenham course as well)

http://www.aquila.co.uk/  (it's a children's - 8/13 years old - magazine with lots of materials for subject teachers... and lots of fun for students)

http://grahamworkmanbili.wikispaces.com/ (Graham Workman wiki for Bilingual teaching: plenty of links and ideas... I'm still exploring it)

http://clil.wordpress.com/ (great teachers' blog... if you know Spanish !!! I found some interesting info here, but I leave the rest to my Spanish friends!)

http://historiola.info/wordpress/  (for History teachers who want to steal some ideas... the History Website of Hounslow Homeschool Group)

and eventualy, in case you decide to take the Teaching Knowledge Test ...

Have fun you all, and enjoy the rest of the summer! And do come back from time to time :)

Monday, 8 August 2011

TEDGLOBAL 2011: The Stuff of Life

Let's take a break from CLIL for a while, and concentrate on "the stuff of life". Sounds funny? On the contrary, that's something very serious indeed.

You may remember Sugata Mitra's speech - the one Elena found for us. That's one of the speeches recorded during one of the TED conferences (I think 2007). And the TED motto is "ideas worth spreading".
So, who is TED? TED is a number of people who, since 1984, are sharing their ideas for a better future, and a better life, for all of us. There are two conferences a year: one in Spring, in the US, and one in Summer, in Europe. This year's TEDGLOBAL took place in Edinburgh , July 11-15. And its subject was "the stuff of life".

I was in the UK at the time and dreamt of attending. I say "dreamt" because I soon realized that 1) couldn't afford it; and 2) every single place had already been booked looong before.
So I had to wait for the videos to be uploaded on the conference website.

The idea of TEDGLOBAL has been defined "the speed dating of ideas": short speeches about different issues/opportunities/perspectives on a subject (in this case, the stuff of life) one after the other. That means scientists, writers, philosophers, economists, actors, politicians... all of them sharing their point of view, their ideas, their discoveries.
A shower of ideas.

So have a look and be sure - you'll find something for you as well:


An important note: many of the speeches have subtitles in different languages. After all, they're ideas worth spreading...

Friday, 5 August 2011

some materials..and experience

In July I went to Florence, to participate in a teacher refreshing course with Comenius. It was great - good lessons with good teachers, so I liked it very much. And..Italy is a special place for me for many reasons :-).

In the morning we normally had two kinds of lessons. Paolo Pettinari was talking about using ICT in teaching, preparing materials for our lessons, about some web 2.0 applications and about the method of webquests during the lessons.
Costanza Cabras taught us Italian Grammar. It was very useful, because in the Italian language there are some structures, what we don't have for example in Hungarian, and for this reason sometimes it's difficult to explain or use them in the classroom, . (Just an example: we have only one tense of verbs for present, one for past and one for future). Now I have some new materials, and I think, I will use them.

It was very nice - besides morning activities, the school organised some other ones. I really enjoyed visiting the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or The Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore Museum with a History Art teacher.
And...it was the first time during a course that I had the chance to spend an afternoonabout how to teach Italian languague for young learners. Francesca Lo Re teached Italian languague in France, and prepared many activities. She proposed websites, where we can find exercises, games, poems or colouring pages.

I read through my notes during the course, and tried to pick the most useful sites proposed by our teachers.
I hope, there are some, which could be useful for you too, so I would like to share them.)

First of all, I didn't know http://www.keepvid.com/. It is a free software. We used it to download audio or video files from youtube. It is very simple to use (yuppiiiiee:). You just copy the link of video on keepvid, and choose, if you would like to have an audio or video file, and you can download it even to your computer.

There are many other useful sources for teaching Italian. If you wish more of them, feel free to tell me. I don't know, if you teach Italian..?

I took a look the websites proposed from Francesca Lo Re. I found a webside, where there are materials for English too. If you teach or study English, it could be useful, I suppose.
The link is: http://www.dienneti.it/lingue_straniere/inglese.htm

I also would like to share one more link with you... during the school year I often need drawings. I find them good for example to help children's vocabulary, and practise the words. In every language we have lessons about family, sports, school....so I would like to propose the link:
http://http//www.midisegni.it/disegni/la_famiglia.shtml
you can find a lot of drawings there.)

I hope you'll find them useful. When I find new ones, I will share them as well.

Hugs, Mónika