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

 

 

 

Reflections on going paperless in class

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Teaching without textbooks or notebooks

This term my students and I continued our digital journey together. We had our notebooks in Google Docs, and most of the content and learning resources were found online. At the end of the term, they have all their notes from class and homework, inserted with images from the blackboard, the projector screen and pictures of their brainstorming maps. All kept for as long as they want them, without demanding physical space. This will be very useful next school year!

However, some of my students expressed that they missed the textbook. They felt they lost control, and didn’t get the big picture without it. This became apparent before tests. The tests were designed to capture concepts and ideas we had discussed in class, not pages or tasks from a textbook, but I understood their concern. We brought the textbook back for our last topic, and the relief was apparent among these students, and quite a few parents too, who felt it was hard to help their students without a textbook! This is something to keep in mind when going paperless. We have both the students and their parents who need to find and understand the content we teach.

Most students kept the same Google document for all notes and images in one subject. This document became quite long by the end of the year! We found that using the outline function in Google Docs helped us navigate long documents. Whenever a student make a headline, it will pop up as an entry in the outline in the left margin of the document. Very handy! Nevertheless, not all my students chose to keep only one document for the notes in a subject. Some made a new document every time they had a lesson, or did a homework. If they used titles wisely, this was not a big problem. On the other hand, those who forgot to use titles, had endless documents to search through to find the right one, when prompted to share their homework in pairs or small groups in class. I learned from this that I will have to include digital structure, using folders, titles and outlines in documents in the beginning of each class I teach next school year.

Sketchnoting

Going paperless hasn’t meant we have not used paper at all. We have! This year I introduced my students to Sketchnoting. My inspiration is Sylvia Duckworth. (You can follow @sylviaduckworth on twitter, and maybe you will be inspired by her work too.) We made sketchnotes mostly when summing up the work we had done on a topic, and used a presentation to prompt ideas. The students loved making sketchnotes, and I was glad to set aside time to ensure everyone could make a good one.The actual paper with the sketchnote might soon be lost, but when the image is inserted in the Google Docs, the students keep their work, forever? You can see an example here. It is in Norwegian, but I think it illustrates the concept well:20160523_130753

International collaboration and co-creating content

Some of the materials we used this year, we created along with fellow students in other countries. My students in the elective subject “International Cooperation” wrote letters with their Italian and Lithuanian partners in our eTwinning project “Hostel Europe”. We used the eTwinning platform to establish teams, and they co-wrote letters in Google Docs. We wrote suggestions to our local administrations with suggestions to help integrate people who have had to migrate from their own country because of war. We printed the papers, signed them, and sent them to the Mayor in our towns. You can see our letters below. We also received a letter back from our Mayor, thanking the students for their concern and good ideas about integration!

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In one of my classes, we also created an ebook using Calameo, with all the stories we made in our eTwinning project “The Old Man and His Fiat600”. This was a lovely project where my students collaborated with partners in Italy, France, Finland and Portugal in creating stories about a fictional figure “The Old Man” who we made a paper copy of, and sent from country to country. While he visited each country, we wrote stories, and made presentations about his visit, and shared in the eTwinning portal with all our partner students. We also used Padlet to let the students collaborate in international groups to create padlets about their free time, favourite dishes and summer greetings. Padlet is super easy to use, and a gift to all educators. It is free to use, and has endless possibilities! Go try it, if you haven’t checked it out yourself yet. Here is a picture of “The Old Man” when he visited us at Ramstad skole this term:

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Each class added a small bag with small pictures of typical items from their countries. My students went on excursions outside of school in order to take better and more interesting photoes of him, from our neighboring city Oslo, and some took him along to their cabin in the mountains, to show our project partners more of our country’s nature. It was touching! Everyone was a bit sad too, when we sent him along to Portugal!

Next term, let’s make the textbook ourselves!

Going paperless has been a process for me. It started gradually, with using eTwinning and Google Docs, Evernote, Skype, and making videos in class. This year I went all in, and left the textbooks and notebooks behind. My students never questioned why we did this. It seemed natural to embrace technology which they use all the time anyway. After a while, some students missed the safety of the textbook, and some parents thought it was easier to help their teenagers when they had a textbook too. So, I keep this in mind going forward. Most students benefit from having book or a booklet when working with a topic. What I am thinking now, is that we are going to make that booklet ourselves next term!

I’d love to hear your ideas, and learn about your experiences when going paperless too. Inquiring minds want to know!

 

 

New School Year – New Plans

Ramstad, August

It’s that time of the year again; time to start a new school year. We have a few days of planning before I meet my new students on Monday the 17th of August. This year I am teaching Grade 8. My students are 12-13 year olds, and I am excited to get to know them!

The last few years I have had a goal to open my classroom to connect with pupils and teachers in other countries using eTwinning and Skype Classroom. I plan to continue with these projects, and I also hope to connect with a friend’s class in the Southern part of Norway. I am certain we can learn a lot from each other, both similarities and differences within our country.

I also hope to go more paperless this year. I will explore using Google tools even more, and maybe it is time to let the books go too? I have a feeling I will need to use them to some extent, but this is something I want to try out. I would like to use real world events and more authentic problems and cases in my classes. One of the first topics in English and social science is The American Revolutionary War, and I plan to use the Storyline methodology, a method students often get really excited about!

In this spirit I will try out Kaizena when receiving texts and giving students feedback in my English (ESL) classes. It looks great, and I hope my students will like it too. I also want to put more emphasis on reading in class, and I hope to be able to use Curriculet for this. I had planned to use it with my Grade 10 classes last year, but time ran out when the last exams loomed in the horizon. This year, I’ll definitely give it a go!

Have you set any specific goals for the next school year? Have you used Kaizena or Curriculet before? I’d love to hear about it! I wish everyone a great new school year!

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder, by R J Palacio

I have had R.J. Palacio’s novel on my ipad a while. I just never found the time to start reading it. Other books on my short list kept seeming more interesting, until a student of mine said she had chosen it to read this term! I know we like the same type of books, so I decided I should read it too, and blog about it as the reading progressed.

Maybe this is a book I can read, and put away a bit, to digest, and continue reading – and blogging about? We’ll see. 🙂

I found an article from the Times, in which the journalist wondered whether “Wonder” was the best novel from 2012. I know that “Code Name Verity” was my favourite novel in 2012, so I’m interested to see if this one can live up to Elizabeth Wein‘s great novel.

After reading the first 15% of the novel, (funny this; how reading e-books has changed how we talk about reading) I find that the author describes really well how the main character, August, perceives other people’s reaction to him, and the ways they try to hide it too.

The main character’s name immediately brings to mind another massive favourite novel of mine from this year: John Green’s “The Fault In Our Stars“! Sigh! I think this is my favourite novel so far this year! 

Well, “August” has found a place in my heart. Even though it is a week since I read the first part of the novel, I still think about him!

 

Sources:

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/education/schoolgate/article3344668.ece

http://www.amazon.com/Code-Name-Verity-Elizabeth-Wein/dp/1423152883

http://www.elizabethwein.com/

http://johngreenbooks.com/the-fault-in-our-stars/