Are you interested in meeting peers from across Europe, sharing best practice, creating sustainable school partnerships and taking new ideas back into the classroom? There are still places available to attend an eTwinning professional development workshop in Europe this April and May. Register your interest now, as the deadline is 12 noon on 10 March 2014. Please see our sign-up page for the full details.
Julia Preston, eTwinning Ambassador at Doon Academy (Scotland), reveals how attendance at a European Professional Workshop not only allowed her to meet her partner face-to-face and share experiences, but triggered the development of a strong well developed project and partnership.
As a result of a successful project last year, I was asked by the British Council to become a UK Ambassador for eTwinning; I was delighted to take up the post, and my first task - to present my last project at the bilateral workshop in Izmir, Turkey. I was there with 23 teachers from the UK and 24 from Turkey. My eight month project, ‘Arrugas’ (which involved 100 pupils across Spain, Italy and UK) focused on elderly societies across Europe. The benefit to the local community was immense as it helped forge new relationships with the care home across from the school.
The presentation was well received by the Turkish delegates and almost immediately I was delighted to be asked to collaborate in a project, which “would have something to do with kites” according to Mr. Bugra Inal, International eTwinning Ambassador (Turkey). Within a short space of time, he had chosen one of my suggested titles “Great heights with e-Kites”. This project would give pupils the opportunity to delve back into the history of kites as well as enjoy a fully cross-curricular project which would take in many other subject areas, including Maths, Science, Geography, Music, English and History.
As both countries worked on various tasks, things just seemed to ‘develop’ and before we knew it – we had exchanged postcards and gifts and chosen our theme song for the project –from Mary Poppins ‘Let’s go fly a kite’. Internet research showed us that kites were invented in China and originally made from bamboo which constitutes 99% of a panda’s diet. The links became obvious and before long, I had suggested that Turkey might consider adopting the giant pandas at the zoo. In Turkey one of the pupils designed a panda money box which triggered a campaign to adopt Tian Tian and Yang Guang, currently in Edinburgh. When the Zoo learned of our plans, they kindly offered to come to Doon Academy to teach us a little bit more about endangered giant pandas – their programme is especially adapted for schools Beyond the Panda). The Senior Education Officer, Ms. Sandie Robb, brought all kinds of exciting, interactive paraphernalia! Not wanting Turkey to miss out, I suggested that we Skype the event. We appeared locally in print, as well as online and you can read our coverage here.
Chinese New Year would coincide with the adoption of the bears – yet another opportunity not to be missed! I sent a package across to Turkey for the pupils – chopsticks, games, lantern and hat templates, home-made quizzes, word-searches, typical decorations and even some fortune cookies. Both schools celebrated “The Year of the Horse”. Over 20 different web tools have been used up to now to share experiences in our project on the eTwinning portal.
Both partners are aware of the benefits of attending workshops. Firstly, you are able to meet your new partner and share ideas and experiences first hand. Secondly, I believe that the bond that we are able to secure – personally and professionally – helps to create a vibrant ‘virtual’ working environment, highly charged with positive mental attitude which for me, is the secret of success. I can honestly say that ‘collaboration’ is key!
To see pupils slowly gain more confidence, become more aware of other nations, other cultures and the differences and similarities between us, is truly an occasion for any classroom teacher to experience. Seeing them develop their reading skills, communication skills and generally getting to grips with file sharing and web tools 2.0 is a delight.
On a very personal (and selfish?) note; I can honestly say that I am invariably brought closer to my pupils with eTwinning. It has happened before, so I know that it is not a “one-off”. We have a great rapport where trust has been earned and as far as we are concerned, we have, in many respects, reached ‘Great Heights with e-Kites’.
Pictured below left to right: eTwinners Fraser Buchanan (Head Boy) Robert McGinley, Mrs. Julia Preston (Teacher) and Annabel McTaggart. holding up various skins of different species: reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
To learn more about the Turkish perspective read Bugra’s blog about his experience.
There are still places available to attend an eTwinning professional development workshop in Europe. These workshops are an amazing opportunity for you to join us and meet like-minded teachers from across Europe. You will participate in practical sessions that will guide you through the eTwinning process, help you create new school partnerships and develop new and exciting 'virtual' projects for your pupils. Sign-up today! Please note the deadline is 12 noon on 10 March 2014.