eTwinning and me
4th Newsletter of the Visibility of eTwinning Projects Group“ (page 81 – 83)
5 years ago, when starting with the work on our first Comenius-project, I heard the first time about eTwinning. At that time I didn’t know how much this would change my work and life as at first I didn’t realize how big and powerful eTwinning is. In the beginning I saw eTwinning only as a place where some webspace and some workspace with some tools for a project would be provided.
Although projects as the main goal of eTwinning are very, very important for our pupils, but as well I recognized the eTwinning community as an extremely valuable help in day-to-day school work.
But let’s start at the beginning: For many years I have been working as a freelancer in small primary schools in North Rhine Westphalia / Germany. As a certified Internet-Media-Coach, I enjoyed and still enjoy the opportunity to join and assist pupils, teachers and parents in an exciting journey through the uncharted territory of the Internet and use of new media. In 2008 my colleague and friend Birgit came up with the idea to jointly apply for a Comenius Project. In 2009 we started with eight other partners the project LET ME GROW. The main coordinator knew about eTwinning and it was agreed to establish an eTwinning project to share and discuss, besides building a website. In the beginning we all had quite a few problems when working with the twinspace as it was just the time a new twinspace was launched. Meanwhile we have the next generation (and I know a new one will come soon), and with growing experience we evolved to satisfied users.
After a while I saw the big opportunities and decided to start “my own” small project. THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR showed me how both children and teachers can learn from partners in other countries. The kids were so happy to get new friends around Europe, they were willing to do things they wouldn’t have done in normal lessons. We teachers shared ideas, working material … and of course we got friends.
Since then I started many more projects, I took part in an eTwinning workshop in Hungary, was allowed to go to the annual eTwinning conference 2013 in Lisbon (and I am happy to say that I got for most of the projects a National or even a European label and Birgit and me won twice the German eTwinning prize age category 4 – 11 years). There are some European teachers with whom I have kind of an “ongoing partnership”, but I always like building up new relationships, in particular with new countries.
If somebody asked me what my favourite project was up to now, I couldn’t tell. There is one project I enjoy every year anew: many partners come together to fill an advent calendar (CHRISTMAS IS COMING). Meanwhile, we produced three such calendars with different countries, and every year new countries with new Christmas traditions make it exciting again. I loved the project “VISITING FRIENDS”, where three soft toys related to the nations participating (an eagle from Germany, a rooster from France and two little lions from Léon in Spain) made a round trip around Europe and showed our children both the preparations for such a trip (passport, money, …) and the exciting experiences made with our friends in other countries. I am not sure who learned more and had more fun: teachers or pupils. But indeed nearly all other the projects were great in their own way. Normally the project I am involved in a moment is the most interesting.
There are different aims to start a project, such as increasing knowledge, self confidence, or competences of pupils and teachers, but always there is a European impact – national borders are opened in our minds and we all are feeling more as Europeans than as national persons.
Step by step I made my personal agenda what is really important to build a good project:
- Feel and act as a team both in your school (thanks to Birgit) and with your project partners.
- Share ideas and be flexible,
- Evaluate and adapt to the different needs partners have.
- Holidays, free days, dates of National examines need to be known when planning the project (somebody in Europe is always off …).
- Agree early about milestones and the aim of the project.
- Nevertheless always there are some reasons to change the direction while running. In particular in these moments, stay relaxed and try to listen to your partners.
- Try to work with minimum of three partners – especially when you haven’t worked with them before. It can always happen, that one partner gets lost or fades away during the project (illness, other ideas of working, lost interest …). Otherwise your kids can get very sad (and you have a hell of a time finding a plan B), when your only partner is lost somewhere in space.
- In case you venture to work bilaterally, you should know each other very well (many thanks to Anna in Spain and Turhan in Turkey).
- It always may happen that one project doesn’t work, don’t give up – the next one will be better.
Often potential partners are afraid to start a project because of the ICT skills that might be demanded from them. Don’t push her or him out, as we eTwinners can help each other to overcome this barrier. Often those teachers have such good ideas and are very creative. It is always a team fulfilling the project tasks, a team of pupils, teachers and the whole school community which different competences in various items needed – probably somebody will fill the gap and take over the role as a project ICT trainer.
As I wrote before – for me, projects are only one part of the eTwinning experience. It is equally important to get in touch with other eTwinners, exchange ideas, learn together – for me it is some kind of social teacher network. You can discuss with teachers in Teacher rooms, you can develop your ICT skills, you have the opportunity to take part in learning events and much more. In the beginning I was the one who was only reading and learning from others. Meanwhile I changed the side, I try to help others to solve their problems and get a good way in eTwinning and European networking. I learned so much the last 5 years, you can’t imagine.
By this I got to know many other teachers from various school types. And I am sure we all can help each other and learn from each other. All of us are winning in case we share our ideas and thoughts. It is a very inspiring community.
Finally I want to thank for the opportunity to write an article for this newsletter (although I am in a formal way not a teacher, which makes things a little complicated in Germany …). I always felt welcome in the European eTwinning community and enjoyed seeing my contributions become part of this great European networking. I hope I can go on with eTwinning for many years and excite many others to have a try with European networking.