THE INITIATIVE PROMOTER’S PERSPECTIVE
The information for the case study was collected during an interview with Ms Carmen Radulescu, the teacher who coordinated it.
The project was set up as a reading club in two countries, Romania and Greece, in which books were to be discussed using ITC, as a way to establish a bridge between the two countries and cultures, in order to enhance reading enjoyment and to develop students’ interest in literature. The coordinating teacher considers that the outcome was "a trip in self-knowledge and inter-cultural assessment, a new and exciting way to build friendship and understanding".
Teachers used some common books to establish links to the curriculum, such as literature, English language, ITC, psychology, philosophy, citizenship and culture for democracy, while maintaining a cross-curricular viewpoint.
The starting point of the project was the analysis of PISA 2006, which revealed a significant decrease in basic skills of 15 year old students (in Greece, No. 25 and in Romania, ranked 37 of 45), especially in reading, reflection and interpretation of information in writing, as well as in the evaluation of such information. This fact can be attributed to decreased motivation for reading in the two countries.
Thus, considering the fact that students today are almost addicted to the computer and the internet as the most obvious options for leisure, it was decided to address this environment and to use web tools to achieve the project objectives: improving reading skills among teenagers.
The main objective was to develop basic skills in reading - reading literacy (reading, use and interpretation of information in writing, reflection and evaluation of this information) and foreign languages (English). Also it included transferring skills and knowledge acquired in class to solve real problems, to communicate with students from different cultural environments. The project aimed at developing positive attitudes, high tolerance and cooperation with students from a different cultural environment, while stimulating students' motivation for reading.
The activities were designed in full accordance with the objectives, so the initial phase was dedicated exclusively to inter-knowledge (students' personal presentation, presentation of their school and their home town). The next stage involved reading books (chosen at the suggestion of students), Bram Stoker's Dracula (proposed by the Romanian school) and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. After reading, the students designed many text analysis activities that enabled the acquisition of new knowledge in psychology (analyzing feelings of fear and love), or moral philosophy (discussion around the ideas of good and evil or debating on the idea of the soul - mortal or immortal or re-birth). Starting from the structure of the novel Dracula, as a journal, the students decided for a similar structure of the blog, to effectively exploit the advantage of other learning opportunities - the celebration of international holidays (Human Rights Day, International Day of Philosophy, European day of languages, fight against human trafficking, etc.), supporting the project to form social and transferable skills in the living environment of students. Responsibility and social engagement were often key words in designing these activities.
Analyses were performed on the text followed by personal syntheses highlighting the influences that the two books had in other fields - filmography, dance, the science of the occult and e-games. The aim of knowledge, and especially the referral of common elements of both cultures remained active throughout the project, students discovering that between Romanian and Greek partners we can find many more similitudes than differences.
Some of the activities included video chat, which allows a real-time flow of information and practice of effective communication in a foreign language.
Many students have assimilated knowledge, both in curricular subjects(psychology, philosophy, literature, history), but also on an intercultural level. They have also achieved communication skills in a foreign language (English) and ICT skills (using Internet resources to search for information, to select relevant information and their implementation in solving concrete problems).
The project has succeeded in providing for the students with a broader vision of the world, making them able to see themselves and their culture as part of a global system, and to understand the importance of teamwork and cooperation to achieve good results.
Finally, the project was appreciated as an opportunity to make new friends, and the partners became best friends, beyond the time and space of the project.
The project was presented on numerous occasions both in the activities organized by the school authorities of Dâmboviţa county, the Department of Community Programs (Global Education Day, meeting the teachers in charge of Community programs in schools in the county teachers' meetings) and in different groups online discussions - Creative classroom, eTwinning ambasadors, eTwinnning creative media - online meetings, type network with partners in other European countries.
Local media interviews with participants in a show called "The School of Hopes" has significantly increased the school image and pride of those who contributed to it. More and more high school students wanted to join the club open readings in European projects, thus we can conclude that the project achieved its objectives and created prospects for the sustainability of results.
Also, at the annual eTwinning conference in Prague, 2009, the schools made a presentation stand and enjoyed visiting the many participants, who were interested in the project as a model of good practice for schools in their countries.
Last but not least, there is the evaluation and assessment of the project quality: it received mention rewards - European Quality Label (eTwinning) obtained by the two partner schools, second prize in national competition "Made for Europe", Oradea - 2009, and especially the second prize at the annual European eTwinning Prizes competition (Prague, 2009).
The application to the European Language Label started from the need of recognition that the project is an innovative one, which has effectively exploited ICT as one of the favorite means of entertainment for teens to build competencies that are currently seriously threatened, such as reading.
Secondly, it was a means of sharing experience with other students and teachers who can develop similar projects to address the problem of reading.
First, the project has been promoted in the school within the teachers meetings (as good practice) and some of the colleagues were motivated to start an etwinning project and some others were interested in making video scenarios to improve students' interest in reading as well as a bookstore, where students had to present Romanian books they had read by means of brochures, flyers, and newspapers.
Secondly, the project was promoted into the online community (being an open source project) as well in the conferences organized by the eTwinning Romanian office.
As a beneficiary of the European Language Label, the project received an acknowledgment that contributed to obtaining the title of the "European School" in 2010.
Also, the school has promoted its image as having experience and expertise in developing European projects, which weighed heavily in the establishment of new successful partnerships and obtaining new European grants.
Future applicants for the ELL are advised to plan activities carefully.Establishing clear objectives (to be negotiated with the partner), resources to be used, as well as a good temporal setting of activities contribute greatly to the success of such a project. Also it is imperative to continuously communicate with your partner.
Reliability in achieving activities is vital to avoid delays. You should not neglect the needs of students, give continuous feedback on the activities undertaken and on their questions on how to address all issues. Trust and stimulate students' creativity and their expression.
THE NELLIP NETWORK’S PERSPECTIVE
The NELLIP Network selected the Between the Lines project because of its consistency with the political priorities of the European Commission in the field of language learning. In particular, the Between the Lines project has been chosen because it contributes to the enhancement of quality of language teaching in informal and non-formal environments as it promotes innovative methods - ICT and the internet to develop a multilingual reading community for high school students.
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