Brid Ui Uait, MFL teacher at St. Brigid’s College, Derry shares her eTwinning experiences and thoughts...
I have been teaching in St. Brigid’s College since graduating with a B.Ed (Hons with French (II, i) in 1994 from Queen’s University, Belfast. I am currently a form tutor to a year 11 class. With the exception of two years leave of absence, during which I taught English as a Second Language in a bilingual school outside Seville in Spain, English Language and English Literature, as well as a French in a school in Mombasa in Kenya. I have primarily been teaching Modern Languages, namely French, Irish and Spanish as well as Religious, Personal and Social Education and Learning for Life and Work.
St. Brigid’s College is situated in an area of high social deprivation in Derry. 65% of the pupils attending St. Brigid’s College receive free school meals. There are 750 pupils in our school and 50 teaching staff. 118 of our pupils are on our SEN register and 37 of our pupils are statemented.
My eTwinning Journey
I have been involved in eTwinning for the past few years. I heard about eTwinning purely by chance when a teacher from another school mentioned it during a training day. After investigating the website, my appetite was well and truly whetted. I decided to use eTwinning to complement my teaching of Modern Languages and the Citizenship strand of Learning for Life and Work.
To date, I have twinned and worked with schools and colleagues in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, the Czech Republic, France, Germany and Romania. My initial plan was to make languages more appealing to my less able classes, to show that language learning had a purpose i.e. that by learning a second language, they could use it to communicate with their peers in a different country. With languages becoming less and less popular each year and
regularly receiving complaints such as “Miss, why do we have to learn French? I’m never going to France so I’ll not need to know how to speak it.” I am pleased to say motivation low ability pupils has really increased.
More recently in N Ireland, the curriculum has experienced a massive overhaul and teachers have been encouraged to adapt their teaching. I encouraged the other members of the modern languages department in my school to look on eTwinning as being an asset to their teaching and to view it as an integral part of the schemes of work for years 8, 9 and 10.
As a result of our involvement in several different projects, we could easily see how its use in our teaching could encompass the following areas of the “Big Picture” of the Curriculum at Key Stage 3:
Curriculum Objective: To develop the young person as an individual and to develop the young person as a contributor to society;
Key Elements: personal understanding; mutual understanding; spiritual awareness; citizenship; cultural understanding; economic awareness;
Cross-curricular skills: Communication; Using Mathematics; Using ICT
Thinking Skills & Personal Capabilities: Managing Information; Working with others; Thinking, problem solving, decision making; Self Management; Being Creative;
Learning Experiences: investigating & problem solving; linked to other curriculum areas; relevant and enjoyable; media rich; skills integrated; active and hands on; challenging and engaging; supportive environment; culturally diverse; positive reinforcement; varied to suit learning style;
Assessment for Learning: building a more open relationship between learner and teacher; taking risks for learning
Attitudes & Dispositions: personal responsibility; concern for others; commitment-determination-resourcefulness; openness to new ideas; self-belief-optimism-pragmatism; curiosity; community spirit; flexibility; tolerance; integrity-moral courage and respect.
I sincerely believe that not only has eTwinning contributed to increased self-esteem in my pupils. It has also given them a heightened feeling of pride not just in our school but in the city of Derry and indeed, the country of Ireland.
eTwinning has made a substantial difference in my professional life as a teacher. I can honestly say that my involvement has given me tremendous enthusiasm in my vocation and has given me tremendous confidence in myself. It has made me realise that I have much more skills, creativity, perseverance and innovation for which I would have never given myself credit. I have actually begun to enjoy teaching again after previously feeling quite jaded about my work.
I have gained extra confidence in my language skills. I am no longer reluctant to use them in a public setting, other than in my classroom with my pupils. My ICT skills, while admittedly still rusty in parts, have improved beyond my greatest expectations, as has my ability to network. I no longer dread workshop and training days as I now see them as great opportunities to disseminate best practice with colleagues.