THE INITIATIVE PROMOTER’S PERSPECTIVE
The Project was implemented in a class of tenth graders in order to respond to the following problems:
-The low motivation to learn and use foreign languages.
-The geographical isolation of the town where the school is located and consequent lack of intercultural contact and motivation to learn foreign languages as well as lack of experience of using Foreign Languages they learn in school in authentic communicative situations for authentic tasks. It was designed to foster contact with outer world and develop their intercultural sensitivity and social skills.
A review of studies conducted by the European Commission (Balanskat et al.., 2006) and the Portuguese Ministry of Education (Costa et al., 2008) reveals that despite the fact that teachers regularly use ICT to prepare their classes and for personal research, there is a widespread resistance against the ‘normal’ use of ICT in regular lessons which is explained by a lack of confidence and trust in the pedagogical benefits that ICT can bring to the teaching-learning process (Idem). Ultimately, this situation may result in the reinforcement of the digital divide that keeps those who live in more isolated and socio-culturally disadvantaged regions even more isolated.
It was based upon a multicultural partnership which involved schools from four different European countries: Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, and Portugal in a telecollaboration sustained through computer-mediated communication (email and chat sessions) and through the project’s Twinspace. The aims of LOA project were the following:
-To foster the development of intercultural communicative competence;
- to raise students’ awareness towards the European dimension of citizenship;
-to enhance attitudes of curiosity, interest and respect towards linguistic and cultural diversity;
- to stimulate the development of communication skills, personal and social competences for lifelong learning;
-to increase students’ autonomy to use foreign languages to learn and communicate with European partners grounded on Intercultural Education principles and educational integration of ICT.
Socio-constructivism, intercultural education, critical theory, multiculturalism and multilingualism…motivation theories, learner-centred approach, cooperative learning theory.
We designed a project over three cycles of experiential learning (Kolb, 1984) proposed to stimulate students’ motivation for language learning to promote the acquisition of techniques of cooperative and collaborative work and to foster the improvement of personal and social skills such as autonomy, self-determination, the ability to learn and the ability to interact with people from other cultures without prejudices and minimal anxiety.
Each school term, corresponding to the project cycles, a curriculum-based theme was presented and eTwinning groups were invited to propose sub-topics for their projects. Learners lead micro ethnographic studies and gathered information for their final products by interacting with their partners in chat sessions, by exchanging emails or posting messages on the project’s discussions forum. Through these means of communication, they exchanged information about their cultures and points of view on different topics and issues.
At the end of the cycle, Portuguese eTwinning groups were expected to develop a final product as a result of their groups’ eTwinning collaborative work and research on the topic chosen.
In cycle I, which corresponds to the stage of constructing an eTwinning collective identity, the two Portuguese classes organized into cooperative groups 4/5 students with different levels of proficiency in English. Each group was invited to choose a nickname for the project. This organization of the classes resulted in 9 eTwinning group: 4 in one class and 5 in the other. Each group created a logo, the interaction started with an introduction letter to introduce the group and each individual student in the group and explain their logo. These letterswere sent by email to the teachers of the partner schools to be matched with their groups of students. This is the phase in which students’ curiosity is fostered by the wish to meet their partners.
While waiting for the replies, students explored the Twinspace of the project and started doing research on the partner countries. After the first replies came, the objective of their project work was to exchange emails in order to find out as much as possible about each other and prepare a PowerPoint presentation to introduce their eTwinning partners to the class and present to the class and present the results of the collaborative work and project work developed in class.
After this first approach to intercultural interaction, in the second cycle of the experience, pupils were ready to decide on which topics of the curriculum (media or inventions) and which final products they would develop with their partners. Students chose to create a variety of original products: a song and a video clip to be presented in the local radio and TV channel; a PowerPoint presentation about the four partner countries TV channels and favourite programmes; a video recorded quiz show on different cultural aspects of the countries, among others that are published on LOA project’s Twinspace. Students had to interact with each other in order to collect information about their perspectives on the topics. This was the stage for building and feeding the partnership. The most important at this stage was to guarantee that students would keep in touch and interact as regularly as possible and respect netiquette rules to avoid any cultural misunderstanding.
Last cycle was dedicated to reinforcing the partnership and strengthening relationships. Pupils were expected to transcend their role as learners and become intercultural speakers and to develop attitudes of empathy and openness toward difference.
During school holidays students exchanged greeting postcards, for Christmas, Carnival and Easter. They exchanged information about the holidays and started discussing about prospective project works for last school term with their partners.
The final products of the final cycle covered the theme “Young people in a Global Era”. Two groups proposed to make a “Chain story” reporting a case of “dating violence”. The other groups decided to prepare a PowerPoint presentation about a famous poet from each partner country and about young people’s reading habits in partners countries; to make a chart dedicated to the topic Young people’s favourite places with photos selected and sent by partners, among others. In this cycle, students took the initiative to initiate conversation topics on the Twinspace’s discussion forum in order to collect as much information as they could.
In order to analyze the frequency of intercultural interaction and the evolution of social initiative and autonomy, we collected Portuguese students’ emails messages, contributions to the Twinspace discussion forums and chats. We determined the frequency of intercultural contact by counting all the messages sent or published on the forum Twinspace. So as to evaluate the pedagogical impact of the project, we asked the participants, teachers and students, to fill in a questionnaire about the project. Two questionnaires were created one for the students and another for the teachers aiming to identify their perceptions about the benefits and learning outcomes for having participated in LOA project: changes in initial stereotyped images about the partner’s countries and their people and the difficulties encountered.
The summary of the results we present in this section were collected from students’ portfolios and from the project’s Twinspace, namely the replies to the students and teachers’ questionnaires to assess the impact of the project and students contributions to the discussion forum.
The data collected show evidence that LOA eTwinning project:
• led to change in the teaching process and to the design of a learner-oriented curriculum;
• increased learners’ motivation to learn foreign languages and interact with people from other cultures;
• raised students’ linguistic self-esteem;
• promoted intercultural interaction and social initiative;
• engaged learners in using the foreign language to learn, communicate and accomplish a set of collaborative tasks with students from other cultures;
• enhanced the development of the intercultural communicative competence.
The study of the frequency of intercultural contacts established shows a substantial increase in social initiative during cycle 2 and cycle 3 for almost all groups.
Other deliverables produced:
-booklet with teaching material was produced
-PHD thesis was approved and defended publicly on 6th September 2012
-Articles on the project were published and presented in National and International Conferences
-Chapter 16 about the project will be published in 2013 in the Handbook of Research on Didactic Strategies and Tecnhnologies for Education: Incorporating Advancements, edited by Dr. Paolo M. Pumilia, Dr. Elena Favaron, Dr. Jonathan Bishop, & Dr. Luigi Guerra.
-An in-service training module was developed and implemented in school year 2011-2011.
The main objective in applying for the label was to submit the project to the evaluation of experts in the field of language teaching and in being awarded the Label to disseminate the project locally, nationally, and internationally.
I filled in the application and sent material produced to the NA.
The expectations of being able to disseminate the project after the attribution of the award were fulfilled and invitations to present the project in conferences came.
Presentation of the project in national and international conferences.
Publication of articles presenting results of the project.
Publication of a chapter in 2013 in the Handbook of Research on Didactic Strategies and Technologies for Education: Incorporating Advancements for IGI GLOBAL.
PHD thesis was approved and defended publicly on 6th September 2012.
An in-service training module was developed and implemented in school year 2011-2011 and preparation of new modules.
We received 2 invitations to present the project in Lisbon in 2009 after which followed invitation to participate in international conferences National and international projection of the school and the work developed in the institution.
In my personal level it is a recognition I am very proud of and it motivates me every year to be better.
We highly recommend awarded promoters to disseminate their projects in their schools and in conferences.
THE NELLIP NETWORK’S PERSPECTIVE
This project reflects European policies in a number of areas - the encouragement of language learning for developing language competence together with intercultural skills, and project also motivates and stimulates the pupils to improve their knowledge of language.
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