Spotlight: Edmodo big gift!

I started using Edmodo almost nine years ago and now I could not work without using it. It allows me to create my virtual classes and so to stay in touch with my students and share links, files and any type of material with them. Thanks to Edmodo I can create quizzes and assignments which I use for my students’ formative assessment and I can also create polls in order to check, for example, if everything is going on fine.  screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-17-55-28

During these last years anyway, Edmodo has turned into something much bigger. It has become kind of educational social network where I can meet teachers from all over the world and share my ideas, worries and opinions about topics I am involved with.

But there’s more! Edmodo has given us Spotlight!

Spotlight is the place where teachers can upload their resources and share them with their colleagues. If they decide to do so, they can even sell them, but I think that’s not the main point. What is really great is the possibility to download the resources there, analyse them and use them with our classes. You can filter your research according to students’ age, school and subject and the quantity and above all the quality of the material you will be able to see is really remarkable.    edmodo-spotlight

But there is another aspect that I like and this is the most important for me, personally. I am always afraid that what I create is not good enough, is not precise or interesting. Spotlight has been kind of challenge for me. When I uploaded my first resource, I was quite tense but when I got the first reviews and realized that other teachers would use my work because they found it interesting and helpful for their job, I felt somehow stronger and more confident.

Spotlight is a treasure for me and it is encouraging to see so many great colleagues who work hard for their students and are willing to share and improve!

If you you want to learn more and find awesome resources, you must definetely give Spotlight a try!

The ThingLink Challenge #4

The challenge this week is about Thinglink Unplugged: capture learning on the go and it is extremely stimulating. You can use the Thinglink app even without Internet connection so you can take pictures in any moment, upload them as a base for a Thinglink and then work on them. I love scavenger hunts and my students are always excited when we do them in the classroom. I usually create QR codes for them to scan and then do a series of activities. This time I thought of using Thinglink to create one for an activity which will be done next school year during a field trip to Venice.I must thank Gert Lemmens, my teacher at the FCL in Brussels, for the idea because I just adapted an activity he made us do during the course.

When we go and visit Venice, we usually give the students some free time in St. Mark’s Square for lunch, for shopping or for what they prefer to do . Next time they will also have some tasks to accomplish, which I do hope they will find fun and interesting. Here they are

Thinglink is a really flexible tool which allows you to add not only pictures and texts but also google forms and documents. It can be used for projects, research work, analysis of poems or of pictures,  but also for fun,

At the FCL again :)

Yes, I did it again! I went to the FCL again for another course about  Interactive Technologies for the Future Classroom. My first experience is described here.

This time I learnt a lot and above all I had fun! Yes, real fun! Thanks above all to our teacher, Gert Lemmens so inspiring, motivating and challenging, and also to the other participants.

We created a lot of quizzes using   Socrative   Kahoot  Mentimeter    Quizizz

We used i3leanrhub   Prowise  to create nice and engaging activities  for the IWB and we created animated videos with Stop Motion; here my first try with the app done with two colleagues, one from Greece and one from Portugal,

 

 

And we did scavenger hunts using QR codes, which I really love!

The tasks our teacher  created for us were quite different, from singing Help while making a video of ourselves as evidence, to dancing, to creating a piece of news for a TV programme, just like this.  Yes of course you can laugh  🙂

To creating a video question ok, you can laugh here too!

My point is. I have learnt how to use new apps and web tools, I have learnt how to create challenging activities, I have worked in groups and I have solved quite a number of problems and, while doing all this, I had a lot of fun. I hope this is what I will remember when I go back to school: how much you can learn, how much you can develop your skills while having fun because school is serious even if it is not all grey and dull

The Thinglink Challenge #2&3

The challenge of the second week was not that exciting, really, just using the functions of the tools: remix images, create channels, share stuff, but the task of the third week was really interesting!
We had to create a collaborative project for our students.

First of all I must confess I had never thought of Thinglink as a possible way to create and work on a project.
I have used it so many times with my classes but usually either as a presentation tool or as a way for students to do a simple research work, but now I have learnt much more.
Ok, my project is not that brilliant as the one Susan Oxnevad, our tutor, created as an example. Check it out, It is fabulous, isnt’ it?

http://thinglinkblog.com/2015/07/20/create-a-collaborative-student-project/#tl-e3ae201

Anyway I thought a lot about it and in the end I realized that the only thing to do was to choose something that can be easily done in the classroom and could be stimulating for a group of 15-year-olds.

I thought of a question which could help them be active and creative and I came up with this “What would you do to make your town more attractive for tourists?” and I went on from there.

Here is my first try with a project made with Thinglink

Verdun, World War 1 and SpeedTwinning…

From 11 to 13 April I attended the Multilateral Seminar eTwinning about History and Remembrance of the First World War.

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It took place in Verdun, a location which is also a symbol and which reminded me of the area where I come from: same connections to the Great War with the trenches, the tunnels and above all the victims. The small museum we visited in the Butte of Vauquoise is quite similar to the small museum which we can visit in San Martino del Carso and both are held by volunteers.

The Museum at San Martino del Carso and the Museum at the Butte de Vauquoise

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The aim of the seminar was to allow eTwinners to meet partners and set up a new project about the war. The method the organizers chose to make all this happen was quite peculiar: SpeedTwinning. Basically you had five minutes to contact a potential partner, illustrate your idea of a project, listen to their suggestions and then it was time to change partner and so on. I met 6 partners and came up with 6 ideas for a project. Since three of them were quite similar to what I had in mind, I decided that those three eTwinners would be my partners in a new project.

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We have planned some activities so to be ready to start next September. The title is Let’s Twin our War Memories and it has already been approved by our Agencies.

The seminar was mainly meant for new eTwinners. As a matter of fact some of the colleagues I met there had just registered on the platform so most of the meetings were about how to register, tips about how to create a successful project, how to use the TwinSpace and so on.

An interesting presentation was illustrated by Elizabeth Sauser-Monnig, from the French NSS while a French teacher, Solène Faupin very nicely explained what to do and what not to do during a project, if you want it to be successful.

 

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While I was looking at all the participants coping with all the tools of the TwinSpace and making a bit of confusion about the site and the TwinSpace, I was thinking of how eTwinning has developed in these almost ten years. I think I am lucky because I joined the platform at the very beginning, when eTwinning was “only” a site where you could contact colleagues from other European countries and there was just a forum and four chat rooms! Since I have been present throughout its whole development, it has never been difficult for me to feel confident in the site and to understand its changes. But for newbies it must not be that easy to wander among teachers’ rooms, groups, learning events and whatever eTwinning offers, all at one time.

I must say anyway that as usual when eTwinning is concerned, the enthusiasm of the participants makes it easy to overcome all difficulties.

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In the end, after visiting Verdun, tasting delicious French food, taking part in lectures about the three different moments in the writing of the war history – the political, the social and the cultural – and the way the memories of the war are dealt with in France and Germany, meeting new colleagues and starting a new project I can say that, despite some difficulties with the initial organization of the journey, I came back home once more enriched and revitalized by this new eTwinning experience.

 

 

About the Future Classroom

I am attending the Future Classroom Scenario Course at http://www.europeanschoolnetacademy.eu/
and have found it really involving and challenging so far. There are a lot of questions which are real food for thought and can help to think deeply about our role as teachers in a world that is so constantly and rapidly changing.

I have finished Module 1 in which the focus was on how the future classroom looks like. The first question however is about the way we teach. Why should we change it? Why should we use technology?
Of course it is not just fashion or interest in new tools. Actually it is because our students need to develop those skills which are essential in the world they will have to live in. Deirdre Butler says it clearly: if our students won’t be able to teach themselves and to adapt to new situations, they won’t have so many possibilities. This aspect came to my mind this morning when I did an activity with my 16-year-olds starting from this video
The main aim was practising the second conditional and I actually chose it because I was sure it would arise their curiosity. As I expected, when they heard the questions, they started laughing because they found them so absurd. So I asked them why they thought such questions were asked during a job interview. They said the video was just for fun but admitted they wouldn’t be able to answer. So I started talking about creativity and problem solving and 21st century skills and tried to make them understand that even when you are asked a strange question, you must find a proper answer, above all during a job interview. I don’t know if they got the point, but anyway they offered to answer the questions and did it quite seriously 🙂

I think it is essential to change the way we teach and learn in schools even though technology can sometimes mean distraction for some students. That’s when our job starts getting important, and difficult I daresay.

As for the future classroom, well I attended a two-day workshop in Brussel last year and I was absolutely fascinated by the way every piece of furniture and of technology is arranged to make the students feel at ease and involved in the activities. During a webinar Arjana Blazic told us how she was able to create a future classroom at her school in Zagreb. I think that, in order to get this, we need first creative and innovative teachers who can come up with the idea and who are eager to experiment and try new ways; we need also a bit of luck because of course such an arrangement is quite expensive and so we should be lucky enough to find partners who believe in the experience and are ready to help, we need magic, which in my case should be the support of our headmaster who is not supportive at all, on the contrary he tries to stop and discourage any change at school.

In the meantime I can see what I can do to change my super traditional classrooms with some beautiful posters I have got.

a classroom

Future Classroom Lab

I have been soooooo lucky to have had the possibility to attend a seminar in Brussels at the Future Classroom Lab. The Future Classroom Lab is “created by European Schoolnet, its supporting 30 ministries and industry partners to help visualise how conventional classrooms and other learning spaces can be easily reorganised to support changing styles of teaching and learning”.  http://fcl.eun.org/

The workshop I attended was about The Creative Use of Multimedia and Devices in the Classroom. It lasted two days, or better a day and a half, but  I learnt and enjoyed so much that I could have stayed there for weeks and weeks.

Our tutor, Kurt Klyvert is an Apple educator and showed us how to use some apps in the classroom.

There were 17 of us from Austria, Ireland, the UK, Spain, the Czech Rep., Switzerland  Latvia and Italy and it was simply great! Not last for all the different languages and ways to speak English.

Apart from the technology –  we were in a classroom which I would like to have in my school: four ImageIWBs, iPads, tablets and any sort of devices 🙂 – what I learnt was interesting and engaging indeed.

I am in a stage now when I don’t need so much to learn about apps. What I really need is to know how to use them in the curriculum which means in my daily routine at school.

As Kurt said “the fewer tools, the more creativity you’ll have; the better you plan, the less technology you need”.

Sometimes I use web based materials in order to motivate pupils because I know that they find such activities fun and engaging but I am not so good at linking such activities to my planning. That’s why I am not satisfied with what I do and keep looking for what I miss 🙂

I thought that the seminar could help me and to some extent it did. Planning, planning and planning, that’s the key.

The classes were great, the atmosphere friendly and stimulating and the teacher acted as a perfect tutor.

Some apps/tools were presented and illustrated – I must confess I was really happy when the ones I use everyday were mentioned – it made me think I am on the right way 🙂

Edmodo to create virtual classes and share materials – a group was created for us too just to show how it works; Glogster and Prezi for presentations; Dropbox to share as well and many others I already knew about.

What I didn’t know and really fascinated me for the range of opportunities is the use of QR codes. I have read about them and also read about the use you can do of them in the classroom, but I had never cared so much about them before.

What I appreciate in them now is the fact that they appeal to different learning styles. You write a story, you combine images and words, but what about auditive learners? You can create audio recordings and then link a code to them for the students to listen to. This is my very first 🙂

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You can differentiate codes and make students work in groups according to their learning styles or skills. Really challenging!

Here is a site where you can find a lot of ideas and information about QR codes http://www.classtools.net/QR/

What am I going to do now? Planning, of course 🙂 in order to put into practice all that I have learnt!

eTwinning Conference – Lisbon 2013

Day after day I realize that my job is continually developing and is in constant need of something new. It is not only about new technologies or looking for new tools. Every day I hear about the clash which exists between native and migrant digitals but I think the real problem lies elsewhere.
In every classroom there is the need of creating an atmosphere of collaboration and sharing so that the students’ learning process can be fostered. The students don’t go to school in order to listen to their teachers and get information or knowledge and they are not interested in lessons, if they don’t present new stimuli.
I have been one of the lucky teachers who could take part in the Lisbon Conference. As a matter of fact, I was there because I was awarded a prize, but that is not the main point here.
While there, I could choose among some workshops and the ones I picked up were

eTwinning Groups: share, connect, develop
and The role of Ambassadors as leaders of change – A model for whole school and teacher teams transforming teaching and learning through eTwinning

During the former, somebody said that teaching is the most honourable profession and I was delighted at hearing it in a period when, at least in Italy, teachers are not particularly respected for a number of reasons I am not going to discuss here.
In this context anyway I really think that eTwinning can give a big contribution in spreading the possibility of participation and change.
How can teachers make their students interested in their lessons? I know that this is not a problem which all teachers have to deal with. Some lucky ones have no need to motivate their students, because the kids themselves are interested in learning and eager on knowing new things. But this is a real problem of mine 😦
Among the chances that eTwinning offers, one is the groups. I am a member of four of them and I must admit in some I am active, in others much less. The discussion we had during the workshop has been helpful to me because I tried to apply it to what happens in my classes.
Every community must have a common goal which gives reason to the community itself. But the members of a group have to be put in the best condition possible in order to work and be efficient. Just like our students.
So, what type of activities should we present them?
Brian Jones explained what happens during a Learning Event, which is not so different from what happens in a group. While he was talking, I was trying to apply what he was saying to my classes and was trying to figure out how eTwinning could help me.

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The members of a community  are much more active when the moderators are active themselves and take part in conversations and activities.
This is true for myself, too. I need to be constantly motivated, I need deadlines in order to be efficient otherwise, since I am overwhelmed with things to do and tasks to accomplish, I end up forgetting doing things. And this happens also when doing something which I am really interested in.
I should create new activities and try to involve all types of learning styles and intelligences in order to help my students to feel more involved. eTwinning with its projects is undoubtely a strong resource.
Brian Jones added that the so-called lurkers are not necessarily passive, but they could be the active participants of the future.
In every classroom there is somebody who never raises their hands to talk or ask for something, but that doesn’t mean they are passive: they might be lurkers who are carefully listening while getting more self-confidence and are probably thinking and deciding what to believe.
The discussion during the workshop has given me a lot of hints about what to do during my classes in order to involve the most of my students.

The second workshop I took part in was
The role of Ambassadors as leaders of change – A model for whole school and teacher teams transforming teaching and learning through eTwinning.

I have been an eTwining Ambassador for three years now and was curious to know what other ambassadors are doing or what activities they had to suggest.
The discussion was about the role of Ambassadors and the key words apparently are Innovation, Change, Tranformation.

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Changing is not that easy at all! If a person pushes, the other one does the same as a reaction. Nobody lets themselves go 🙂 The main objective so should be to manage the resistence. The Ambassador’s role should be that of a leader that guides to change but always keeping in mind that, in order to be successful, we must not fight the environment we are in, but we must become part of it, understand its signals because only in this way it is possible to act efficiently.
What is really important is to make the staff understand that team-working and collaboration only lead to positive results.
The two moderators of the workshop, Lesley Atkins and John Warwick, illustrated a specific project which was carried out in a Scottish school, but what they said fits perfectly to any situation. Thanks to the project, there has been an integration of ICT into the curriculum, the staff could develop their professional profile, there was much more inter-disciplinarity and forms of learning also outside the classroom: in general a big and general improvement of the school environment.
A model of school can change only when the school leadership identifies the need to change, if teachers are willing to collaborate and share, if Ambassadors are involved in the process, if a team is created.
This is the only way we could hope to get to a change in schools and a passage from working on projects to a project-based- approach.
Once again thanks eTwinning for playing such an important role in a teacher’s professional development

eTwinning and a teacher’s professional development

I have just come back from an eTwinning PDW which was held in Vilnius and as after any eTwinning event I have a lot of thoughts and opinions I would like to share.
Vilnius is a city which I knew only virtually thanks to a project I had worked on and so it has been interesting to be able to match the images I had seen to the real places and monuments which had been illustrated and described together with their legends by the students of a school in Alitus.
The chance of admiring the tower of the ancient Gediminas castle and the statue in the midde of the largest square in town, or the chance of seeing the lake that, according to a legend, was created by the tears of a young woman in love allowed me this time not only, as it usually happens in such meetings, to match a name to a face but also pictures and images to real places.

As for the people, I always find exciting to browse through the participants’ list and find out that among others there’s also one of your contacts or, as it happened this time, a partner in a project that had just been closed. Then they introduce you to their friends and you introduce them to yours and the net becomes larger and larger and relationships closer and closer. The atmosphere gets warmer and everybody is ready to start.
The workshop was about Web 2.0 technologies in Education and was demanding but really interesting above all for one like me, so fond of new technologies.
I am sure that we teachers need to use Web 2.0 tools in our teaching activity but I am still looking for the right way to do it. I’ve got plenty of ideas and I am full of enthusiasm but how can I transmit such enthusiasm to my students without creating confusion in them and, above all, making sense of what I do? I thought the PDW might give me some answers.

As at any eTwinning event I met a mixture of languages and cultures and all the participants have something in common: we all are willing to learn more, all aware of being lifelong learners and all willing to open up to the new world, the world of Web 2.0 because all of us care for those kids who are in front of us every day and from whom we don’t want to estrange.

As Anne Gilleran reminded us in her presentation eTwinning & the professional development of teachers, thanks also but not only to its learning events and to its PDWs, eTwinning offers a wonderful opportunity for both formal and informal professional development in the field of the new technologies and their application to teaching activity. Somebody said that if technology can never replace teachers, teachers who are not good at it will be replaced by the ones who are and so if we stay in eTwinning we have a good chance of staying in teaching.

The eTwinning community is getting bigger and bigger and the data that were shown are impressive: more than 133.000 registered teachers, 12.000 teachers participating in projects, more than 300,000 students actively involved in projects, more than 20,000 log in each day to the Desktop, 2270 members of groups, more than 2,000 teachers took part in learning events in 2010.

As we well know anyway, just knowing the tools can’t be enough because “If you bring in these technologies and don’t think ahead to how they’ll be used to promote learning and the acquisition of skills, then the only thing that will change in school is the electric bill” (D. Thornburg)

and as Elena Shulman said during her workshop Web.2.0 tools: tags, ratings and comments for educational use of learning resources, educational ideas are more important than the tool itself. Consequently what is fundamental is to describe the experience and give ideas of how it can be used. She introduced us to the site lreforschool.eun.org and to some criteria which should allow us to easily reuse resources, give educational guidelines to share materials at any level, facilitate the building of communities and increase the availabilty of digital resources.

In how many ways can technology be introduced into a classroom? Stasė Riškienė, a Lithuanian eTwinning Ambassador, does it through mobiles as she showed us in her workshop Mobile Learning and Cooperation, practical work with iPods
It is amazing to see how many activities you can do and how many things you can learn using iPod apps even though I’m not so sure iPods are cheaper than netbooks.

Honestly I don’t know if I have found answers to my questions but I have surely found new ideas and above all food for thought regarding the way I teach. Too often I work and create just following my enthusiasm without thinking too much on details and so I think that the criteria Elena illustrated will be helpful.
As for mobiles, in my school we are not allowed to use them and I am one that respects rules, but after the workshop some ideas came up and after all every student has a mobile and so it is just like having a small lab in the classroom, so why not try? It might also be a way of showing the kids a different way of using it.

Was it only work and technology? Of course not! 🙂 How can I forget the kids dancing in their traditional costumes or the choir of children who sang We are the World? Or the beautiful evening on the lake of Trakai when at the dinner table we found out that English is not the only lingua franca but Russian can be and even Italian? And we found out that what unites us is much more than what divides us. We found out that eTwinning doesn’t give light only to classrooms, just like in the video below, but also to the night on the lake thanks to our yellow and blue lanterns which we let fly in the sky above Trakai.