Reflections on Teaching from Home

Since 2013 I have tried to open my classroom more. I have applied different methods of teaching to engage my students and hopefully let them build skills which will be needed in the future. When our schools in Norway closed because of the Covid-19 virus the 12th of March, the digital classroom was front and center like never before.

First, we are very lucky to live in Norway! Our government has handled the virus well, and we are a developed country. In my county, Bærum, our students have the advantage of having an iPad each. They are digital natives. In addition, my colleagues and I had the infrastructure necessary in terms of learning systems, like itslearning and Showbie. My challenge is thus not so much reaching my students, which have been hard for a lot of teachers since the lockdown, but instead teaching online for an extended period with no fixed end in sight.

During the first weeks, my students and I settled into a sort of rhythm. We greet each other in the beginning of lessons. I learned to divide the content into smaller parts, and to adopt a step by step approach, instead of publishing a flood of information all at once. I provide booklets with material, and those who want to can listen to a recording instead. When they hand in tasks they receive a comment, and their work is registered as accepted in our learning system. So, in tandem, we managed to achieve structure and accountability quite fast.

Feedback from students and parents has been vital. Our culture of open dialogue between teachers and students, and a quite flat organisational structure is important. Teaching online can feel like walking around with a blindfold. I depend heavily on observation in my classrooms. By watching my students, I can tell what I need to repeat or change in a lesson, and if someone looks very happy or maybe sad. This is much harder when we are teaching online. One might be inclined to think something is working well, until we ask directly.

It is hard to replace face-to-face meetings!

Getting to the point of talking directly with my students proved to be a stumbling block for me. We didn’t have a reliable and safe online tool for meetings at my school. A tool surfaced, but half of my students had trouble of some kind when trying it. Hence, we were back to talking on the phone. We talk once a week or so and these are opportunities to listen to any grievance. We have tested the online meeting, and I learned that only half of them could see me, while the other half could hear me but they didn’t see anything. However, what also manifested was grief, the awareness of everything we are missing!

In Norway we are onto week six of teaching online for Grades 5-10. Grade 1-4 will start tomorrow, and if all goes well, I hope we might get back to school before soon too. I know now that I will be able to teach online if it is needed another time. I am grateful beyond words for our situation of worrying about lesson design and the quality and safety of online meetings. I know colleagues all over the world have much more pressing concerns to deal with. My hope is that we will bring what has worked in this lockdown into our work on site. By sharing our experiences we can learn from each other and improve as educators. I have learned that the digital classroom has worked beyond expectation, but it is not everything. I miss teaching at school!

My school: Ramstad Secondary School in county Bærum in Norway.

Nordic Cooperation Using CRAFT Methodology in eTwinning Projects

From the 5-7th of October 2018 eTwinning ambassadors from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Åland and Iceland were gathered at Romskog Resort in County Romskog in the South East of Norway. On our agenda was sharing ideas and learning new skills to bring back to our schools and future projects.

 

This time the skills involved CRAFT – Creating Really Advanced Future Thinkers. The Council of Nordic Ministers has stated that they want to encourage teachers in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland to run eTwinning projects using the CRAFT methodology in their schools. Island, Åland, The Faroe Islands and Greenland are observers at this point. The Council of Nordic Ministers develop policies and make declarations related to common Nordic solutions. They believe mobility and digital competencies are really important for both students and teachers.

 

The CRAFT methodology is an open and flexible concept advocating a practice-oriented approach to learning. They view children as resourceful persons. A class usually works with a real-world problem up to a week. More time is great, but not necessary. The students brainstorm ideas, research and reflect, talk with stakeholders and design an innovative prototype as their solution to the real world problem. The prototype is pitched to the stakeholders. CRAFT started out in Denmark where many counties have a local competition using this methodology. The local winners participate in the national fair called “Læringsfestivalen” near Copenhagen in March each year where a national winner is chosen in 4 categories. In Norway this methodology is well known through the work of an organization called “Ungt Entreprenørskap” (Young Entrepreneurs).

 

Country coordinators for using CRAFT in eTwinning projects are being put in place, and one of the goals is to organize a Hackathon with students from Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark in November/December to generate interesting solutions which can be presented at the Nordic@BETT conference in London. A few classes in each country will have the opportunity to participate in the Hackathon.

 

eTwinning is a great match with CRAFT because it is project-oriented and practice-based. eTwinning is the community for schools in Europe. Teachers, librarians and school leaders can connect with peers in other European countries and participate in projects or learning activities for a longer or shorter time period. There are also national websites available, like eTwinning.no.

 

If you are a teacher in Norway, Denmark, Sweden or Finland and want to participate in the Hackathon in November/December 2018, please register in eTwinning and contact your National Coordinator. You can find their contact information in the eTwinning Portal. We hope to hear from you! 

 

Lessons from the Danish Education Fair

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This week I went to the Danish Education Fair in Copenhagen to participate in a program focusing on integrating eTwinning and 21st Century Skills in projects with students. I saw great stands focusing on student projects, literacy, coding and games, among many others! There was also a program of great lectures, some of which were open to all teachers! From all these impressions there are two lessons I want to bring back to my students and colleagues:

  1. Breaking down 21st Century Skills in steps understandable for my students

I have planned and participated in eTwinning projects a few years now, in an ongoing effort to open my classroom and to go paperless. At this Education Fair, I learnt how the Danish Ministry of Education has mapped six of these 21st Century Skills, and have had students’ help to make them understandable for their peers. Look at this picture from 21Skills.dk to see what I mean:

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My goal in eTwinning projects is to let my students work in international teams, communicating and solving tasks together to make a product. This way of breaking down the skill of collaboration into levels; where 1 is no collaboration and 6 is when the students are co-creators and fully collaborate to make a product, helps me understand this skill better. A vital requirement if I am going to succeed in explaining it to my students! In my next eTwinning project “Exploring Fables Together”, our goal is to work towards reaching level 6 in student collaboration. Do you think this kind of mapping of a competency is useful too?

2) Integrative Complexity

The lecture which made an impact on me at this Education Fair was called “Integrative Complexity Thinkers are Prepared for Digital Citizenship” by Dr Eolene Boyd-MacMillan from the University of Cambridge, UK. Dr Boyd-MacMillan explained how social media can be an entry into an echo chamber, but with guidance, our students can also enter a learning galaxy of new ideas and information. How can we help them past the echo chamber and into the galaxy? A definition of integrative complexity (IC) offered by Prof Peter Suedfeld & Prof Philip Tetlock is that it is a thinking style… the how of thinking. Dr Boyd-MacMillan has worked to operationalise the IC concept and found a way to design courses to help students develop their way of thinking and solving problems. No small feat! Their goal:

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This is an important goal for most teachers: Helping our students become active participants and contributors in our civic society. Integrative Complexity can be hard to develop. Over-simple, polarised positions, and maybe fake messages, are attractive to us because they are easy for our brain to process. It is harder to develop high-level integrative complexity if we remain in an echo-chamber. Digital citizenship can accelerate learning. We can help our students increase their understanding by this acknowledgement: We can all be part of the problem. Equally, we can be part of the solution; to respect and listen to each other to learn.

These were the lessons I wanted to share the most from the Danish Education Fair. Did I manage to visualise how competencies can be mapped out, and to give you an introduction to integrative complexity? I hope so. I’d love to hear your ideas too, so please leave a comment if you want to. Inquiring minds want to know.

My first edcamp

Today I participated in my first edcamp. A great experience for me! I have been teaching quite a few years, and participated in workshops and conferences before, but this was something else! I participated in edCampAsker  which was initiated by Thor Ivar Eriksen, @pute68, and organized with Simen Spurkland @simenspurkland and Ingeborg Gude @GudeIngeborg in Asker Kommune.

First everyone got to brainstorm ideas they’d like to have as topics in this edcamp. We put our ideas on notes, and next we voted on the topics we’d like to discuss. The organizers then put together the program based on which topics belonged together, and which got the most votes. Everyone could attend any seminar, and walk out too, if it wasn’t what you thought it was. A great concept. This is why edcamps are called unconferences, they are free, and based on the ideas of the participants.

The first session I attended was about flipped classroom. Everyone shared experiences, and ideas of how to use this method in our classes. What was very interesting to me, was other teacher’s examples of what had worked for them, and how their pupils and parents have responded. Great examples came from Charlotte Lundell and Marthe Johnsen @marteswritation, both from Larvik kommune.

My next session was about deeper learning and critical thinking. This session resulted in a great discussion with teachers from both primary- and secondary level schools. The most interesting example came from Simen Spurkland. He told us about how he and his colleagues at Vøyenenga skole in Bærum kommune created a cross curricular topic which lasted about two weeks. In this period the students had goals to complete each week, and the end goal was an art exhibition where the students assessed each other’s end products, the teacher assessed the process, and a report made by each student. A great learning experience, and an inspiration for me regarding developing my own practice as a teacher!

The final session I participated in concerned design of digital tasks. Many counties and schools in Norway are going all in with digital devices for all the students in both primary- and secondary schools. My school; Ramstad skole, is a secondary school in Bærum kommune, where all our students got an ipad each this term. This requires that the teachers learn more about how- and when we should use digital devices. The discussion in this session centered around the principle of the SAMR model developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedora. The idea is to use technology not only to substitute tasks done by hand before on apps and devices, but to create new tasks and learning processes altogether. We discussed our experiences, and this is where I shared my experiences with eTwinning. eTwinning is the community of teachers and students in the EU. It promotes project based learning, where teachers can connect their classrooms and create tasks where the students need to communicate with students in other countries, learning more about cooperation, cultures, language and digital skills. The possibility to learn more with other teachers are great, and you can design digital tasks together which reach the highest levels in the SAMR model. I invite everyone to check it out, and see if it is something they’d like to try!

I was lucky to connect also with Eva Steffensen @EvaSteffensen from Oslo kommune today. She shared her experiences using Apple’s Garageband app, which allows students to create their own music when they make digital news presentations in a video, or need background sound for their book trailers. A great idea for me to explore with my students!

After this, my first edcamp experience, I have got a lot of new ideas about how I can develop my practice as a teacher! I have made new connections with teachers I learnt from and hope to collaborate with in the future, and I definitely want to come back next year! Hopefully, you want to come too?

A big shout-out goes to Thor-Ivar Eriksen, Simen Spurkland and Ingeborg Gude, who organized this edcamp, and to Asker Kommune, which lent its facilities to the edcamp and provided lunch for all the participants!

Connected Learners

Last term I brought my class in the elective subject “International cooperation” to a local high scool called “Sandvika Videregaende” to learn more about their teaching methods and to get an impression about how it is to be a student at this high school.

We met with the English teacher Ann Michaelsen. She was central in last year’s Connected Educators Month #CE14 activities in Norway. You can get an impression of her work on her blog Connected Learners.

My students participated in one of her English lessons, sitting side by side with her senior students while they were blogging about the upcoming election in Scotland at the time. Ann Michaelsen does not use textbooks in her classes, and their topics are real world events.

This visit was so inspiring for me. My class got to do an outdoors activity and visit a high school which is very innovative regarding the use of technology, and we saw what a lesson could be like with authentic learning with real world events. My students loved the trip, and that they could speak with the seniors 1-1 and ask any questions they liked.

This was a great inspiration for me too! You can find Ann S. Michaelsen on twitter if you were inspired too.Sandvika river
Sandvika videregående is situated next to the lovely Sandvika river.

eTwinning is a learning community

It was fitting that the annual workshop for eTwinning ambassadors was set in Rhodes, Greece this year. This beautiful island of roses, whose patron saint is the personification of the sun; Helios, has a truly multicultural heritage.

This year 144 enthusiastic ambassadors from 34 European countries came together to learn, share best practices and network. The eTwinning ambassadors’ main focus is to support our over 400.000 teachers, and to spread the word about eTwinning. If you think: “Why haven’t I heard about this before?” We’d love to tell you!



eTwinning is the community of teachers and students in Europe. We are connected educators promoting 21st century skills through project based learning (PBL). Since the beginning in 2005, over 50.000 projects has been carried out, and member countries are continuously expanding.


When a project is registred in eTwinning students and teachers start a journey with others. eTwinning provides a safe room to connect, collaborate in mixed nationality teams to co-create products, and to grow understanding of their topics and cultures together. Being connected leads to engagement and participation, which fosters belonging and enjoyment. These are powerful experiences.



Over time we are creating new learning paths and creating learning communities where valuable skills are not always tangible; knowledge, problem solving, teamwork and negotiations.


Project based learning is the roots of eTwinning. It is a different approach to learning than lecturing. Students encounter real world problems, phenomena and challenges in a project. By exploring learning materials to solve problems, the students are active creators and engaged in their learning with their peers, which means they can take ownership and knowledge is better internalized. These students will be constructing knowledge and experience empowerment. Not a small thing!



The best projects are integrated in the curriculum, and impacts the communities of their partner schools; through new friendships, increased cultural understanding, language skills, inclusion and digital citizenship. Their products vary from exhibitions, fairs, ebooks, bake sales, articles, stories, videos, competitions and more. The eTwinning ambassadors support teacher members in their work, and are role models. Join us in creating learning paths of the future.


A big shout out goes to Irene Pateraki, the Greek National Support Service, and all the Greek ambassadors for hosting this year’s conference, letting us connect to improve education in the multicultural wonder of Rhodes. A big thanks also to Tiina Sarisalmi, whose workshop I attended on Project Based Learning. Two of her slides on PBL are pictured in this blog post!

eTwinning and 21st Century Skills

This week I went to the conference for Nordic eTwinning ambassadors in Køge, Denmark. We are educators advocating for teachers to join the eTwinning community to connect and collaborate with other teachers and students from 42 countries in Europe to do projects together and enhance 21st century skills in our classes.

When preparing our students for the future; critical thinking, creative thinking, communication and collaboration are essential skills. eTwinning is the community for schools in Europe. The portal offers a safe environment for project based learning where students and teachers can learn new skills together. It’s easy when we do it together!

eTwinning allows for students to use a safe environment when they are learning. The teachers are verified by the member countries National Support Services (NSS). In Norway, where I come from, the NSS is The Norwegian Centre for ICT in Education.

New teachers in eTwinning can join the Vergilio group, which is dedicated to getting new teachers started with eTwinning. It’s good to know you are not the only one who’re new!

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During our Nordic conference this year, we explored using Ozobots to teach students more about coding. Ozobots can follow simple lines and dots drawn on paper and execute commands the students decide they should do, based on easy colour codes. Coding is so simple and easy to understand this way!

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We also tested micro:bits which allows students to use code blocks to create commands which will be shown in the micro:bits display of lights attached to the computer. This activity is a great follow up if your students have participated in the Hour of Code and want to learn more!

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The Ozobots and micro:bits are made for educational purposes, so they are not expensive! Letting students explore Ozobots and micro:bits engages students in both critical and creative thinking; when they are solving problems using code. If you create an eTwinning project with a fellow teacher using eTwinning, you practice communication and collaborative skills too!

At the conference we were so lucky to have David Heathfield work with us. He had a storytelling session and a workshop where we learnt more about storytelling. Stories are great to connect people across borders and to build bridges. Many eTwinning projects explore similarities and differences in our heritage; a surefire way to engage both teachers and students! eTwinning and storytelling go hand in hand!

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eTwinning projects come in all shapes and last for a few weeks and  up to a year. Since the start over 50.000 projects have been carried out, and soon teacher number 400.000 will register in eTwinning. Maybe you will be that eTwinning teacher?

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I would like to give a big shoutout to the Danish NSS and the Danish ambassadors, for facilitating a great conference! You can follow us on twitter: @eTwinningdk @eTwinningEurope @eTwinningNorge and look up #eTwinning