QR Codes

I’ve done it! I have created my first scavenger hunt using QR codes. Honestly it was just a try, I mean I didn’t focus so much on objectives or content because I just wanted to see the potentialities of such an activity. I can say I’m satisfied with the way it went.
The activities was anyway focused on vocabulary and it was meant for 15 year-old students with an A2 level of English.

 

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What was it about? I wanted to make the kids practise prepositions and some vocabulary we had studied during the school year. Consequently I hid the codes in different places inside the classroom, i.e. under the dustbin, on the cupboard, inside the cupboard, under the teacher’s chair, on a window pane, and so on.
Each code included a riddle and the clue to find out the next one. Each riddle was about a letter of the alphabet: i.e. it’s the serpent you find in the place where young people meet, have fun, socialize and ….learn. They had first to think of what place it is ( = school ) and then of the letter which is a serpent (letter S) and so on. We created four groups, each group had to find out two letters. In the end, they had to put all the letters together and find out the mysterious word, which was suncream 🙂

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Other riddles were: in the sport that looks so violent (rugby) it comes in the silver place (letter u);
you can find two of this in what is delicious in summer and … why not? in winter too (icecream); but be careful, it is not what you can find in cars (E and not C) and so on.

What I noticed was the attention they paid while reading the clues; the way they exchanged opinions trying to find out the solutions (no, it can’t be that because …), the correct way they all respected the rules and finally their concentration when they had to find out the mysterious word 🙂

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I think this is an activity that can be used in plenty of different ways. I created the codes using the site http://www.classtools.net/QR/ because you don’t need Internet connection while using them and I only used written texts. With Internet connection, you can however also use audio files or videos and so the activity can be stimulating for different types of intelligence or for students with problems. It could be a different way to practise listening skills, for example, and this will probably be my next hunt.

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eTwinning Camp

It has been just great! The eTwinning Camp in Croatia will be an unforgettable experience for myself and I think also for the four students of mine who had the chance of taking part in it. Interesting and involving workshops, adventurous treasure hunts and challenging sports activities, amazing talent shows and disco parties in a gorgeous location on five sunny and warm days! So many young people speaking different languages but sharing the same enthusiasm and the same awareness of being part of a big community. The shyness and reluctance of the beginning which soon turns into the smiles and laughters and the happiness of being together of the rest of the stay. Young people so proud to show their partners their countries and their traditions in songs and dances; so proud to show what their talents are; so eager to understand and help each other. An experience to be definetely treasured The Pekkies all together!

eTwinning Spring Campaign

After the success of the tiny flea, some colleagues at school have started asking me questions about eTwinning. I have been in my present school for only two years and so I have not had so much time to talk about projects and eTwinning. This of course is for me a great chance of promoting this wonderful community of schools and also share my enthusiasm with the people I meet and work with every day.
I thought so to take part in the eTwinning Spring Campaign and organize an event where teachers who are interested can come to learn about European projects but not only. eTwinning is indeed much much more 🙂

Here is the poster we have prepared.

eTwinning poster

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 once more!

I have already written somewhere that I am kind of eTwinning addict. In my daily job, it represents a new approach and a way to motivate my students. I can’t imagine my classes as just composed of the 20-something students who are there but I see them as bigger groups of students who share their experiences with us.
Another aspect which I really appreciate is that eTwinning always invites you to show and explain what you are doing which is quite helpful for one like me who is always a bit messy.
Anyway, the strongest point of eTwinning is the chance you have to collaborate with colleagues you might never meet personally but with whom you can establish a really profitable and friendly relationship.
And now to the point.
prize winners
Well, yes, one of the projects I worked on last year has just been awarded the European prize!
Pek, the Traveller Flea – Evolution has been considered the best eTwinning project in the category Pupils 16-19”

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Pek is a tiny flea who has been travelling around Europe, and not only, for three years now and whose stories and adventures have been narrated by students from Spain, Portugal, France, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Turkey and of course Italy!
The students have worked together in teams: scriptwriters, cartoonists, illustrators, translators, designers, painters belonged each to a different country so they had to do a great job of communication in order to agree on any stage of each story. They used blogs, forum, chat sessions and mails in order to exchange ideas and opinions and the final outcome is not only a book with all the illustrated stories but also some T-shirts, mugs and bookmarks.
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Working with this wonderful team of colleagues has been really great and seeing how the students enjoyed themselves while learning has been deeply rewarding. Below you can see a video which illustrates some steps of the project. Hope you’ll enjoy it

A Virtual Trip to London

One of the lessons my students loved most was the “Virtual Trip to London”.
I had been to London on a school trip with a group of older students and when I came back the young ones started asking loads of questions so I decided to prepare some lessons about it.
While there I had collected some maps of the city which were quite colourful and with drawings of monuments and sites – actually they were produced by some sightseeing tour organization – and so I used them to show what the city looks like. There was plenty to do on them: locate main attractions, find out more information about attractions, prepare a guided tour, ask and give information about prices, length of tour, and so on. It was a good chance for them to practise the language concerning travelling. When I thought they had got enough details about the city we went to the lab, we got on a bus and started our tour 🙂
We did it this way: we jumped on a bus here, and then, whenever the kids decided they wanted to jump off and visit a site, they just googled its name plus “virtual tour” and that’s it. They visited Madame Tussaud’s, then they decided to have a look at the Statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, some girls hopped off in front of Harrods and went for some shopping and so on 🙂
It was great fun for everybody. While exploring London they took notes of what they saw in order to be ready to tell their mates and so the following lesson we had a nice discussion about what was really worth visiting.
The activity proved useful because it gave lots of chances of reading, speaking and improving vocabulary while letting the kids free to choose where to go and what to do. Here is a comic a girl created after the experience.

we visit London :D

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.

My weather forecast

I have been working on a pilot project for some time now with one of my classes. The project is called Acer-European Schoolnet Educational Netbook Pilot and it ” is interested in exploring how the introduction of netbooks and one-to-one pedagogy in schools could change the processes involved in teaching and learning.” http://www.netbooks.eun.org
Students and some teachers have been provided with a netbook each and have been asked to prepare scenarios about topics they are free to choose. I have prepared two scenarios and both have been chosen as examples of good practice 🙂 I must admit I am very happy and proud of it! The scenarios have been translated in the six languages of the countries that are taking part in the project: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The first is about weather forecasts and you can see it below.

 

A challenge

I love my job, I really do and I think I’m very lucky to live in a period when teachers have so many possibilities to be creative using so many tools. Every day I find out a new one and each seems extraordinary and I want to have a try at once. I had never dreamt of creating comics in order to illustrate literay devices or crosswords as a means to revise Shakespeare’s sonnets. I enjoy trying new ways to reach a goal and I feel quite confident now with the use of Web2.0 technology. I have anyway a long journey ahead of me. The problem now is to make my students really creative. I always hear people talking about these “digital natives”, but what does it exactly mean? As far as I see, young people are confident with their computers only when they want to change their desktop background or to edit their profile and upload photos on sites, but when I ask them to create a presentation, the only thing they can think of is a power point. They don’t know about prezi, glogster or other tools. Of course they are fascinated when I then show them some examples or when they watch my presentations about Hamlet of Geoffrey Chaucer and always ask me “but did you really do this???” Then I create tutorials in order to show them how to do even better stuff, but if I’m lucky one or two try to do something similar, the rest is satisfied with what they have seen and that’s all. I know motivation is the spring for all this: mine comes from my need to be interesting and not boring during my lessons, from the awareness that young people need new products and new ways in which topics are to be introduced. And last but not least, from the fun I have while using such tools. But what about their motivation? What shall we do in order to make them really want to do something different? Because it takes time to learn how to use a new tool and they are often lazy, but if I can make it, of course they should make it much better and faster. This is the challenge for me now: make them really want to use Voicethread to show their school to their partners in a project. It won’t be easy.