THE INITIATIVE PROMOTER’S PERSPECTIVE
I had been teaching English in chef classes for almost 9 years (when I started the project) and I thought: "There must be more to it than learning kitchen vocabulary, translating menus and talking about recipes!" This led to the idea to found an eTwinning project in which chef trainees from all over Europe come together to get to know each other, the other countries' systems of professional education and what it is like to work as a Chef in the different European countries. Dealing with the curriculum aspects for chefs in English involves a lot of translating menus and recipes, i.e. passive language use. But chefs have to be able to use English in their professional lives actively on European labour market. I sent about 350 Emails to vocational colleges to find teachers who shared the idea and did not fear the work.
The project fosters the use of professional English language in an active and - even more important - natural way. We wanted to step back from the "boring' textbook while still sticking to the curricula that were involved. We tried to put the curricula into a "real-life" perspective. What we achieved was that European students communicated in work-related fields integrating cross-curricular aspects (Food industries, Nutrition science). Very outstanding is the fact that young people were united in their interest for their profession, face similar problems and dreams and can thus identify with 'the European idea'. Moreover, the use of ICT in the professional training of Chef students is not as typical as in other professions. With the project, we succeeded in achieving a bit more of an equality here. Good ICT knowledge is important for any profession nowadays, and no group should be excluded or disadvantaged in this sense. Another objective was to keep costs low so that as many schools as possible could participate. Of course, nowadays there are many schools that have Comenius money at hand, but that's not the standard and it would have involved a lot of bureaucracy to get access to this source. Surely, many schools would have refrained from taking part in this case. Therefore, we tried to work out tasks that are effective but do not involve the spending of enormous sums of money. Thus, the project stayed autonomous and we could concentrate on the matter itself rather than on meeting any sponsors' requirements. Moreover, the way we approached this goal reflects upon the modern way of communicating, i. e. using Web 2.0 etc. (e. g. web conferencing tools) rather than travelling around oneself.
In preparatory teacher flashmeetings (video conferences) we discussed possible project tasks and results. The tasks we finally came up with progress from 'easy' to 'more complex'. We laid a large emphasis on collaborative, interactive tasks, so that the groups would get into real contact and would use English naturally. One very impressive and effective task was the 'Cooking Carrousel' where each partner had to send a typical national or regional ingredient to a partner school. The receiving students had to do research on the products (as some ingredients were so specific that they were unknown in the other country) and create a new, unique dish with them (or more than one) which was/were then cooked the schools' kitchens.
The principles of the project have already been implemented in other new (also very successful) projects at our school that involve other professions.
Use of ICT
Use of English in professionally essential and 'natural' environment (as opposed to textbook English) with peers in a comparable situation
Creative, yet work-related tasks
The project results are very impressive in many respects. With the choice of tasks we made we achieved a progress from easy to more complex, from using English as a foreign language to practically work in the kitchen. A wide range of skills was fostered in a combination that is seldom found in normal EFL classes. Students communicated in a natural way with peers in other European countries. They loved sharing work-related photos, they were proud to display their daily routine or the responsibility that they already have at work. Even students who either did not like the English lessons much usually or who do not use PCs regularly embraced the project, and it was a pleasure to see them progress. In the Cooking Carrousel task they had the chance to show their creativity and the practical knowledge that they have already gained. This task was especially useful for those students who have a practical final exam. Usually students have to create/cook a dish from given in ingredients then as well. That was exactly the case in the Cooking Carrousel task. The project tasks concentrated on an independent and autonomous learner, i. e. students had to organise their work and to fulfil the tasks more or less autonomously and/or very often in a team of students with the teachers as their mentors. They took responsibility for their own progress which will be vital in their working lives as well. For a detailed insight into the project task, please see the "˜What's cooking' page in our Twinspace. The way ICT tools were implemented into the project is not common for this working guild, but it was definitely prepared the trainees for a modern working life in Europe. For us teachers the project experience was beneficial, too. We got to know our students better and we established a great cooperation amongst ourselves, exchanging teaching material and discussing teaching methods and textbooks (see also http://twinblog.etwinning.net/14857/ which is our teachers project diary).
There was a lot of communication and exchange that is documented there. There are all types of media that shows the process of the project (movies, presentations, photo galleries, forum etc.) Moreover, the collaboration between the schools went on in other contexts. This brought a professional exchange on a meta-level.
To be honest, the plan developed further and further during the course of the project. All in all, the outcomes were very satisfying, although some countries were more active and fulfilled the tasks more thoroughly than others.
If we say the end users were the students, I can definitely say that (although they might not have expected much from the project in the beginning, or, even worse, were quite sceptical) they were really enthused by the project in the end. During the course of the project attendance (which sometimes is a problem in chef classes) improved considerably.
We teachers were very happy with the project as well, as it enabled us to have a look at the educational system of other countries and to cooperate intensely with the engaged colleagues all over Europe.
As I am in the mailing list of eTwinning Germany I regularly receive the institution's newsletter. In one of those newsletters, the European language label and the possible application for eTwinning projects was mentioned. That was how I got to know about the label and how I decided to apply.
Of course we published an article about the award ceremony and some background information on our school's website. The Ministry of education multiplied the information through different channels and have asked me to present this and other projects on language related conferences and in workshops.
The project was chosen for a 'kit' on eTwinning.net, a description and 'tool box' for other schools that would like to set up a similar project
Pedagogical aspects, tasks and approaches of the project that won the EEL have been used in other (also very successful) eTwinning project at our school. The follow-up projects "Werbung macht den Meister" and "Hotel Europa - Internet and web 2.0 in hotel marketing" have made first place in last year's eTwinning award of Germany and were shortlisted for the European eTwinning award.
Any school likes positive publicity. A European awards such as the European language label is of course very beneficial in this respect. We are a vocational school without a set catchment area. Therefore, positive information such as the documentation about the European language label on our homepage is very beneficial as far as the attraction of potential students is concerned. The European idea of the European language label is of course very important for schools as well, especially for vocational schools, as we educate and train our students for work life all over Europe and perhaps all over the world.
The impact itself might not be measurable, but the benefits I mentioned above might have made clear that the European language label was very important for our school.
I can only recommend eTwinning (www.etwinning.net) as the platform for successful language learning initiatives that might be awarded the European language label (which would depend of course on the topic of the label of that respective year). eTwinning works without any bureaucracy and you can set up a project on whatever topic you want
THE NELLIP NETWORK’S PERSPECTIVE
It reflects the emphasis on networking and the linking of language training to vocational education. The project was supported by the Commission
The priorities for 2009 - 2011 included the importance of languages for work and this project is fully consistent with this.
THE NATIONAL AGENCY’S PERSPECTIVE
The project combined the use of English in a professional context with the application of IT skills in a very convincing manner. The trainees considered the insight in other national training systems as very valuable for possible stays abroad in the future.
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