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August 17, 2011

The 10 Best Countries to Be a Teacher written by Jasmine Hall

While teachers may be educating the future leaders of the world and molding young minds, they often don’t get the respect they deserve for doing a hard, time-consuming and sometimes frustrating job. Education may not be a glamorous profession in the strictest sense, but it does garner more respect — and often more benefits — in certain parts of the world than others. Though this list by no means discusses every country where it’s good to be a teacher, it does point out some of the places where they receive the most respect, professional treatment, benefits, pay and opportunities for advancement. If you’re a college student who’s planning an education career, it could make you suddenly start feeling a whole lot more worldly in your professional ambitions.

1. Luxembourg

Want to make the big bucks as a teacher? Travel to Luxembourg. The average teacher salary after 15 years is almost $70,000 annually — that’s more than anywhere else in the world. Of course, high taxes and costs of living in the tiny nation may make that number shrink a bit, but you still won’t be bad off. In addition to beautiful pastoral scenery, teachers in Luxembourg can expect to spend a great deal of time collaborating on lesson plans with coworkers and less interference from government bodies in how the school is run day-to-day. Oh…and add to that a substantial benefits package that can (and usually does) include paid professional development and a hefty pension plan.

2. Finland

Finland has seen a lot of media coverage for its educational system in recent months — and for good reason. It is both effective and highly beneficial for teachers. The Scandinavian nation’s schools consistently perform at the top of international tests, often taking first place, and a lot of it has to do with the way they treat their instructors. Education is one of the most highly esteemed professions, and teachers have to be highly trained, with most holding a Master’s degree or higher. While salaries aren’t out of this world (comparable to the U.S., but with better benefits), teachers get complete control over their classroom, choosing the texts and lesson plans students will use (which rarely, if ever, involve homework or standardized tests). Professional development is required, but almost always subsidized by the government. If that doesn’t get you raring to sign up for a Finnish class, nothing will.

3. Japan

Starting a teaching job in Japan? Unlike many places around the world, you won’t simply be thrown to the wolves. Japan mandates introductory programs that give teachers a more regulated introduction to full-time positions and hooks them up with a mentor they can work with during their formative years. This idea of working together is something that helps make the country one of the best places for teachers to work. Educators spend a large portion of their time each week collaborating on lesson plans that will achieve their goals, often providing valuable feedback and insights for their coworkers. Compensation is above average, benefits are substantial and teachers are a highly respected bunch, both socially and politically.

4. Sweden

Like its neighbor Finland, Sweden has a highly respected educational system that offers a wide range of benefits to teachers of all experience levels. Its schools are consistently high-performing in international tests and, again, it might have a thing or two to do with their teachers. They are encouraged to collaborate, have time built into their work weeks for professional development (beneficial, since they have to complete 100 hours of it every year). In fact, professional development is so important to Sweden’s educational system, the government created a large grant program called "Lifting the Teachers" to help them go back to school — even paying for university courses and 80% of participants’ salaries while they only work in the classroom 20% of the time. While pay is less than the average in the U.S., the benefits and respect afforded to Swedish teachers make it one of the world’s best places to work in education. With a large number of vacancies in teaching positions (due to retirement and spiking birth rates), learning a bit of Swedish could help you do a lot more than navigate an IKEA.

5. England

England has an incredibly high-achieving educational system, and part of what makes it so successful is how they treat teachers. They are given time and support to study and evaluate their own educational strategies and asked to share their findings with colleagues. This is intended to help improve the approaches and effectiveness of all teachers working in a school or school system. Additionally, the government has established a national training program to help teachers learn best-practice training techniques and provide them with resources to implement national curriculum frameworks. Often, educators are placed in groups to learn these skills from one another, and the results have been incredibly effective. Like many of the other nations on this list, teachers in England are asked to take on leadership positions and play a pivotal role in education system developments. Pay for English teachers is some of the best in the world, and the benefits and respect from the administration can’t be beat.

6. Australia

Australia has a lot of respect for its teachers, and it shows. Teachers are compensated quite well for their work, and the government has established a number of programs to help them continually improve and grow on the job. One of the best is the Quality Teacher Programme, which provides instructors with funding to take courses, continue professional development or take part in educational conferences. Like other countries that made this list, teachers often work collaboratively, and interaction with contemporaries and continual feedback is an essential component. Teachers who choose to work in Australia’s remote Outback will enjoy even more benefits, including free laptops, airfare and personal allowances.

7. South Korea

South Korea knows how to treat its teachers well. With respect to costs of living, educators here are some of the best paid in the world, and teaching is by and large a highly respected profession. That respect comes from the level of training and expertise they must attain to work here. After their fourth year of teaching, South Korean teachers are required to take 90 hours of professional development courses every three years. After three years on the job, they are also eligible to enroll in a five-week professional development program to obtain an advanced certificate, which provides an increased salary and eligibility for promotion. Unlike the U.S., only about 35% of teachers’ working time is spent interacting with pupils. Instead, they mostly work in a shared office space collaborating on lesson plans and formulating effective educational solutions. Something must be working right, as high school is not compulsory in the country, but 97% of young adults still finish it — higher than any other country in the world.

8. Denmark

Teachers working in Denmark can expect good pay and benefits, aside from living amidst charming cities and countryside. The educational culture at Danish schools encourages collaborative work between teachers, and many have informal sit-downs to get feedback throughout the school year. Instructors are also encouraged to do their own research on education and curriculum effectiveness, and share their results with colleagues and other professionals. Classrooms have very low teacher-pupil ratios, so educators can focus more on individuals and are not overwhelmed by management. Overall, Denmark is one of the best places for a teacher, whether starting or coming to the end of a career, to work.

9. Singapore

Singapore has one of the most talked-about educational systems in the world, and how they treat and support teachers could be a model for other nations. Being an instructor here takes a lot of training, not only up front, but every year. Teachers are required to complete 100 hours of professional development annually. They aren’t without support, though, and the nation’s Teacher’s Network serves as a place for professionals to share, collaborate and reflect on what works and what doesn’t. This organization also provides access to learning circles, teacher-led workshops, conferences and a well-being program, as well as a website and publications series. Newbies are especially given on-the-job support, as a master is appointed to lead the coaching and development of the teachers in each school. Even better? The government offers incentives for heading back to grad school, pay is fair (and teachers can get bonuses) and retirement plans are impressive.

10. Switzerland

In the Swiss educational system, teachers are very well paid for their work and receive a great deal of respect and encouragement — which starts from the very first year of their careers. Novice educators are required to meet in reflective practice groups twice a month, accompanied by an experienced teacher who helps them discuss common problems and refine their strategies. Additionally, the Swiss government has decentralized much of its educational decision-making, allowing teachers and their schools to play a much greater role in deciding what is best for students. Like the other nations on this list, Switzerland places a premium on professional development and helps instructors get additional training throughout their careers

Find the article here

August 08, 2011

10 Reasons Schools Should Teach Text-Speak by Selena Routh

Texting in school is a very popular topic with people able to argue both sides. Some schools in Australia are teaching text speak or SMS in school. The students put together glossaries and compare their versions to the formal written language. Many might argue but listed below iare ten reasons schools should teach text speak.
1. Translation. Teaching students how to translate one version of the English language into another version of the English language exposes them to critical thinking skills.
2. It is useful. Students tend to wonder when they will ever use what they are learning. Not long ago students were required to take Latin, and a very small percentage ever applied it in real life. Texting, on the other hand, is quite useful to just about everyone who owns a cell phone.
3. Teaches creativity. There are plenty of words or terms that have not been condensed down into SMS text language. By engaging the students to create their own versions they are not only teaching creativity, but instilling self-esteem and confidence when they come up with something useful for others.
4. Quicker note taking. By teaching SMS text speak in schools the students can apply it to other classes as well by using it as a short hand note taking skill. Unlike formal note taking which can take too long and lead to missed notes, SMS can help students effectively take notes at a speed close to the verbal communication of their teachers.
5. Can wrap ethics in. Classes can have an ethical or moral tone to them by discouraging students from using texting in inappropriate ways. Many kids today are using texting to bully or send lewd messages to one another. This topic can be brought in to dissuade that kind of behavior.
6. Can prepare them for the future. Technology is improving at a rate that some of us cannot keep up with. By bringing this into the classroom you can prepare students for the ever evolving technological advances.
7. Engages students. Since you never see a teenager very far from their phone and in some cases it seems like it is permanently attached to their fingers, it makes sense to utilize them in the classrooms as well. Using cell phones in school is a great way to engage students with something they are already familiar with and then use texting to draw them into other subjects as well.
8. Can save future embarrassment. If texting is taught in school, then students have the opportunity to learn the different acronyms and what they may or may not mean. This can save face in the future when texting a client or other professional. Some SMS texts have different meanings and some, like in verbal communication, can be said in a variety of ways.
9. It CAN be used to teach spelling. Most people think of texting as eliminating the bulk of a word in order to condense it. This is true but it can be used in reverse in a school setting. Teachers can use SMS text language to give the students their spelling words and then have the students send back a message with the correct spelling of the word or words.
10. Increases participation. By integrating texting into the classroom, teachers have been using it to get students to participate that otherwise wouldn’t. Some students may be afraid to answer a question out loud in class for fear of being wrong, but by texting answers to the teacher more students can participate at once.

Some people believe that texting in school is a distraction and can lead to cheating, but by bringing it into a classroom session and properly teaching them how to use texting, it can be beneficial to both the student and the teacher.

Original article

August 02, 2011

Involving Students in Maths eTwinning Projects

Due to the specific features of Maths projects and to the “arid” nature of the subject, they should have an incentive aspect, that can be achieved through the types of activities that are planned, the degree of collaboration and the tools that are used. Mathematics can thus become a “vehicle” for learning about the partners and for the mutual understanding of our cultural environment.
How many times have we heard from our students the question: “Why do we have to study this?
As opposite to the common perception of Maths as being an abstract, mechanic, repetitive and boring subject, by means of creative and imaginative projects, it can become interesting, helpful, surprising, flexible, intriguing, and fun. Students can become aware of Mathematics role in our physical and cultural environment as well as in our cultural heritage.
ETwinning can help teachers to significantly enhance the students’ motivation due to its features: it empowers collaborative and peer-to-peer learning, as well as learning communities, benefits the students’ different skills by a multiple intelligence approach and promotes a natural use of ICT.
This presentation is focused on a few ways to enhance the degree of students’ involvement in projects, as well as on specific examples of activities from several eTwinning Maths projects.

The teachers’ role is not the same for the entire duration of the project. Once the main preconditions are entailed (a good plan, based on clear aims and targeted competences, as well as on common syllabus content, and a safe and efficient environment provided by the eTwinning tools), the focus is on the participating students. From this moment on, the teachers' task is mainly to facilitate and stimulate the students’ involvement, while encouraging their independence and their responsibility for their own learning process. Students will be the main progress source of the project, because they are going to be achieving the transformation of effort into learning. New skills, experiences, knowledge will be developed as a result of their involvement throughout the project, starting from its earliest stages. Furthermore, it is important that this involvement continues even after the project is concluded.

Irina Vasilescu, School no. 195, Bucharest, Romania

eTwinning Visibility Group - a new newsletter

The editing team of the 1st Newsletter of the eTwinning Visibility Group are proud to present their work! Take a seat in the boat that is making the right waves on the eTwinning sea and read interesting and up-to-date pieces of writing that will provide you with information about the work in the Group, recent achievements, important new Web 2.0 tools and various thoughts on what eTwinning is all about.

Since October 2010 the enthusiastic members of the Visibility of eTwinning Projects Group have been working together with the main purpose of eventually devising and evaluating guidelines for boosting the visibility of eTwinning projects. We have been doing this by promoting the eTwinning action as part of Comenius - the EU programme for schools -, sharing experience and knowledge, promoting imaginative ideas, giving constructive feedback, giving inspiration about how to make the most of eTwinning projects, strengthening the feeling of belonging to a truly European network!

Here is the Newsletter: http://www.myebook.com/index.php?option=ebook&id=89096. Enjoy!

We have been having many irons in the fire this past school year, and warmest thanks are in order to everybody in the Group for their involvement and dedication – it has been an exciting year, and we look forward to the years to come and to the contributions old (by now) and new members can offer! Do join the Group if you are not already in!