My eTwinning Experiences - Josephine Ebejer Grech (Malta)
I joined eTwinning in 2005 after that my school organised an evening seminar by the NSS Mr Emile Vassallo. The way he described eTwinning made me very curious to explore this new world, and when I got home I registered. I placed my ideas for a new project about how Avian Influenza was affecting different countries in Europe since that year it was a very hot issue. Another teacher soon replied that he was interested to start off a project with me, and I was too enthusiastic. My form 5 students , did research about this microbe, and were monitoring all newspapers and news regarding how this Influenza was being dealt with in Malta and in other countries etc. We did a lot of work, but our parnter ended up doing nothing, and that was a big blow for us. We were very disappointed, but our headmaster appreciated our work and that was an intrinsic reward for my students and me.
Later on, I talked to Mr Emile Vassallo about what happened to us and he showed us better how to use the Twin Finder to find another partner to start off another project. He gave us hints to understand if the partner we find is a hardworking or not. And that was when I found a fantastic Italian teacher with whom I started a project "Comparing and Contrasting a Maltese Ecosystem with an Italian Ecosystem". My problem this time was that I didn't have enough time to take my students to study the chosen ecosystem during school hours. I surely didn't want to miss my lessons (because I don't teach only one class - like all teachers), and I didn't want my students to miss their lessons either. So I deceided that to do good work, we must go on fieldworks on Saturday mornings. I wrote a letter to all parents to explain to them that we were going to embark on a new project with an Italian school and every Saturday we were going to meet at Buskett to do our work. It made no sense studing the ecosystem from books. First hand experience was necessary here. I got the replies from the parents and some agreed and some didn't agree for several good reasons. So I deceided to start off the project with the students who wanted to work. I invited the parents and siblings to join us if they wanted, and infact there were many families working with us. It was a wonderful experience. Not only the students worked, but even the parents and siblings. The parents used to help us in the quadrat methods to make a list of the species. They went to libraries to borrow ecology books to help us identify all the species that we were encountering etc. I was so happy to see the parents taking so much interest that that was my greatest gift, more than money could pay. Everyone learnt - from the youngest silblings, to my students, to my self and even the parents. We all used to look forward to go out on fieldworks every Saturday. The respect between the parents, the students and myself flourished a lot. Students used to get motivated not only for this project but also during my normal Biology lessons, and that was fantastic.
The enthusiasm increased even more when we used to go on the internet and communicate with Pia and her students in Italy. We were very proud that we were doing good work to share with them, but we were very interested in the work that they were doing, and when comparing and contrasting the species found in Malta and those found in ITaly we used to learn a lot about how the different temperatures, humidity levels, soil type etc effect the ecosystems. Pia and her students were great. We used to send video clips and photos of each other working in the woodland. My students prepared cards about themselves and sent them to the Italian students and the Italian students did the same. Some of them continued corresponding through their own emails even after that the project ended.
We won the first prize in Malta and Pia won a prize in Italy about this project. http://www.malteseecosystem.blogspot.com
After that I started another project with an Italian teacher and a Danish teacher. It was about "Wild Orchids Around Europe", and I adopted the same methods as before. The students communicated with the other students, built a relationship, and then, we started working every Saturday morning by going to different areas around Malta to look for Wild Orchids. We used to film them, or take photographs and then do Photostories, send them to each other etc. Riccardo, the teacher from Italy had a very good idea of organising an online photo competition of the nicest Orchid, and this was a huge success. All the students were bringing cameras with them and they all took photos, even parents, to try to take the best photo. I used to notice how much students were entering on the web-site that Riccardo created to upload their photos. There was a great number of very good photos showing fantastic wild Orchids. Again, we learnt a lot from each other, and the experience of introducing ICT in Biology was an incredible one. Otherwise, I wouldn't have ever used ICT in Biology with my students apart from a power point presentation about research they do. Etwinning opened up a new world for me that is very interacting and motivating for the students. Some parents told me that while their children used to spend many hours on playstation, at least now they are spending time on the internet while they learn, socialise, learn about Biology and different countries and cultures. This is because students write about everything when they communicate with each other e.g. how they spend Saturday evenings, where they go, what clubs they frequent, what hobbies they practice, discuss football (especially with the Italians), about how they spend their free time, music, singers, artists, if they visit their grandparents very frequently etc . . .and then they used to come and tell me "Miss, you know that the Danish and Italians are not like us . . . they don't go to their nanna "grandma" every day or every week . . . or you know they don't have a place like us, full of pubs (Paceville in Malta) . . . or you know that they don't go to the band club because they don't have them . . . etc. . .
This project was shortlisted in the first 4 awards of the "Scienc and Maths" category of the European awards this year, and that was a great satisfaction for us.
This year we are working on another 4 projects. One is a very nice project that involves filmings, editing, and producing videoclips to share on the internet and a DVD. It is called "Film for Secondary School Students". This time we took a further step and we deceided to visit our sister island i.e. we had to take the ferry and go to Gozo to do our filmings. It was a great experience. Students showed a lot of interest in learning how to write a script, using the tripod, leveling the camera, using white balance, filming, logging tapes, chosing the right shots, editing, inserting music, titles, video filters, transitions, credits and animations. While filming differnet interesting things, they did interviews to learn about the thing they were filming and then write about it to send the information to the Italian and Hungarian students. The Italians filmed about wine making, pomangranades, olives and oil making, and the Hungarian students used stopmotion to create their film. My students filmed lace making, pottery work, glass blowing, the old capital city of Gozo - Cittadella, Marsalforn, Ninu's cave that is full of stalachtites and stalagmites etc. Now we applied for the Quality Label and the European Awards.
Another project is about Biotopes in Europe, and again we went for fieldworks on Saturdays. During this project I got pregnant and due to morning sickness I couldn't go anymore for fieldtrips every Saturday and both parents and students felt very dissapointed about that. I did appreciate this as they have a lot of enthusiasm for eTwinning projects. Some students went with their parents to places I told them to study and they did all the work themselves i.e. power point presentation with the results and photos and information. The Denmark students worked a lot as well so this is a good project once again.
One thing that is very very disappointing in eTwinninig is when you start off a good project with many countries involved, and then it all ends because no one works anymore. This year this happened to me with the project "Following Our Ecological Footpath" when my students did a lot of work, and I did a lot of work because I did and analysed 200 questionnaires, and the other countries stopped when we have all the work ready. It is very dissapointing for the students as well as me, and parents come to ask me why the project stopped, and I cannot give them any concrete answers as if it is my fault that the students did all that work and the others did no work! !! ! The same happened with the project "Protected Species" where my students worked a lot and the partner school did no work at all. . .
I will end up here. My conclusions are that eTwinning is a fantastic experience once both parties collaborate equally. Try to find partners that work. I got addicted to eTwinning, and now that I am on maternal leave I would love to do a project where I don't need to engage the students, to keep on working, cause it seems as if I cannot stop and I miss it a lot. Although you don't get paid for this extra work you do, and you don't go for "holidays" like Comenius, I still love it, because the intrinsic rewards you get from the enthusiastic parents and students pays more than any money can ever pay. I wish best of luck to everyone.
Josephine Ebejer Grech email@example.com
“Dun Guzepp Zammit Brighella” Boys’ Junior Lyceum Hamrun