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Learning Through Friendship

A couple of weeks ago I received a wonderful e-mail. It was from my Spanish colleague Arturo, who wished to go on with our eTwinning project. Last year our students worked together in a shared learning environment. They wrote forum posts telling about their everyday life in their home countries (205 letters altogether!).

One of the most exciting things was the exchange of the students' favourite recipes. In IES Escultor Juan de Villanueva they actually had a special cookery class and tried out our Finnish recipes. It really must have been an extraordinary experience. And we got a few lovely pictures of our partners cooking.

So, all through the year, it was a lot of ideas and experiences, photos and video clips passed on to each other. What I hadn't anticipated was that a true feeling of friendship would slowly grow as we worked together.

Many of my colleagues tell me that they would love to join in eTwinning, but they just don't have the time. Well, in a way understand that, but in the end, I think, it is a question of prioritizing. We teachers have to plan and prepare our classes anyway, so why not include eTwinning into the yearly curriculum.

Instead of studying books and doing exercises, the students can learn by finding and sharing information, experimenting and comparing, and, most importantly, in collaboration with their peers in another country.

At the moment, we're about to start a second year of eTwinning with our partners in Spain. Of course, the students will have a lot to "talk" about after summer holidays and all. And then, perhaps, the next topic might be flora and fauna.

Our Spanish partners are also planning to come and visit us in Finland, which is absolutely fantastic. (You should have seen my students' eyes shine, when they heard about that.)

And for the teachers, you really can't imagine how much you learn when working together with your colleagues and how wonderful friends you can get!

Comments

It is true that etwinning projects are very time-consuming. We try to squeeze in one project every term.

In Germany this is getting more difficult as even our younger students now have to enter centralised exams at the end of their 10th year at school.

The requirements do not show any trace of IT skills - instead the exam will test a lot of grammar and many many boring topics that do not seem worth being discussed in class.

So, many of my colleagues will not even consider starting an etwinning project as they think they will lose time.

There seems to be a discrepancy between the goals stated in the curriculum and the tests measuring how the goals have been achieved. The general learning goals emphasize the students' ability to manage in different social situations, their communication skills and their ability to express well-grounded thoughts and opinions. Yet, the exams concentrate on grammar and idiomatic usage of language.

However, in my experience, students learn (even the grammar) much more effectively, when they have a chance to use it in real-life situations, actually communicaing with their peers in another country.

For me, it was a true revelation. I started with the notion of squeezing eTwinning in, and ended up in directing more and more of my students' studies towards different topical communicative exercises in the eTwinning learning environment. And they really improved their writing and communication skills, as well as their grammar. eTwinning is a different way of learning, but a very effective one. And lots of fun, too.

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