Monday, October 15, 2012

ONLINE PROJECTS AMONG GREEK AND FRENCH EFL STUDENTS

This article will also be included in the next issue of the ETAS Journal (the official publication for the English Teachers' Association of Switzerland) due to the kind suggestion of Vicky Loras.


Photo of our amazing French friends!



Description:
When the linked posts above are visited, a series of online projects will make their appearance, including student writing samples (emails), a wiki exhibiting various reading projects, glogs (online posters), quizzes, interviews and information on reading competitions. All these ventures were organized and realized to create novel learning experiences for the young learners in Maria Markaki Private Language School (Heraklion, Crete, Greece) and those in College Louis de Broglie (Ancemont, France) in the school year 2011- 2012. 

Achievement of pedagogical aims:
Due to the implementation of such web activities, students in both countries were able to practise the English language effectively, using it in an authentic context which entailed real-life communication. What is more, students have increasingly become aware of the phenomenon of multiculturalism, the existence of a plurality of identities and, most importantly, the importance of accepting difference. Consequently, this string of activities provided a wealth of new information to the learners and added an unprecedented variety to traditional classroom teaching. 

Target students and programme study:
All the aforementioned material was created for learners of English as a foreign language, aged 9 to 14 years old. The Greek learners were students of a private school, whereas the French students belonged to a public school, both groups aiming to enhance their competency in English.
  
Use in time:
Reading competitions are scheduled to take place on a regular basis within the following school year (2012- 2013). The wiki and the blogs are also going to be equally used to exhibit students’ work and host further reading and writing activities. Emails are to be exchanged in a regular fashion, as well. The only aspect that will change is the material of the reading competitions, since a different book is chosen each time, according to the language level, age and interests of the participating students. 

Evaluation and awards:
The entry has been orally evaluated by the learners, most of whom enthusiastically express their approval of the scheme and the desire to participate in it for as long as it lasts. It is to be noted that the Greek learners’ performance in these online activities was assessed in the reports they received every two months during the winter courses for the school year 2011- 2012. The assessment involved the characterization of their willingness of participation, preparation and resulting products as ‘excellent’, ‘satisfactory‘ or ‘non-satisfactory’.  

An award of good digital teaching has already been received by the Greek language school for the integration of book reading in its lessons through the use of modern technology, including the reading competitions conducted with the French e-pals, a significant part of the prize literally belonging to the latter. 

Media Type:
All information is publicly displayed on the school blog (see initial link) and can be only seen online. If the students’ team projects on the wiki are to be examined, there is the possibility of reading them by logging in as a member of the wiki and providing this information:

Wiki username: wikimember1

Code: Memberwiki!!!



Media Choice:
Blogs, wikis and emails constituted a successful choice of web tools for the purpose of achieving communication between the students in two different countries, as they enabled them to keep in contact easily, quickly and without any charge. Had these social media not been used, the exhange though traditional mail would have been too slow, with the risk of participants totally losing interest in it. Employing some of the most popular social networking sites and emailing services and carefully monitoring their use was an excellent option, which excited the interest and the imagination of teachers and students alike.

Media Integration within a pedagogical context:
Analytical description of the online projects between the two schools and their incorporation into the lesson:

  1. Email exchange: Students sent emails, commonly structured in at least three paragraphs involving an introduction, main body and conclusion. Thus, actual writing practice was achieved with every such exchange, while the reception of an electronic message meant the activation of reading strategies, such as skimming and scanning. The benefits derived were not only language related, since the students’ horizons were broadened through the immediate contact with their foreign peers. The information contained in the electronic correspondence, apart from children’s personal news, was socially and culturally oriented, pertaining to the customs and way of life in the towns the learners came from. A case in point is the sample of the emails  C' Class sent to their French e-pals, describing Greek Easter and enquiring about the corresponding French celebrations.
  2. Reading competitions: Another activity students seemed to cherish was the organization of reading competitions based on a children’s book selected by the teachers. For example, a Greek-students team, called 'The Secret Agents', read the story of 'Matilda' in a book specially adjusted to their level, watched the film with English subtitles and, finally, created their own reading activities, which were published on the school blog. Subsequently, a selection of the students' activities in Greece and France was the material to be completed by the competing teams the following week. The teams also had to successfully complete a variety of ‘missions’, including pictionary, miming games and online quizzes. Interestingly enough, the team members were able to monitor the other teams' efforts via web cameras throughout the whole event.
  3. Wiki: One of the reading competitions inspired the Greek students to take a further step and do all the work needed for the participation in the competition solely on the Internet! They read a Sherlock Holmes' story and published their own reading activities about it on this specific wiki page. When visited, each team's name needs to be clicked upon to allow the activities its members prepared to appear. Not only were these budding wiki writers not afraid to sample what a paperless classroom is like, but they also left their comments on the story, an example which was later followed by some of their French e-pals. As a final homework assignment, they drew and described their favorite scene from the story to be seen on the school blog.
  4. Glogs:  Impressive online posters were created as part of this collaboration. The main one of them aimed to present the premises of the Greek school, containing comments by young learners. The glog was created in response to highly detailed emails the French students wrote and accompanied with a range of photographs to help their Greek friends picture public schools in France. 
  5. Quizzes: Quizzes started to be utilized in one of the stages of the final reading competition on 22nd June. The interactive quiz on Matilda needed to be filled in online, allotting only 30 seconds for each question. The genuine excitement on the students’ faces led the teachers to begin preparations for a similar quiz, this time based on the European Day of Languages on 26 September. 
  6. Interview: Greek and French students also got to practise their speaking skills, as they had to respond to three questions Patricia Johnston (children’s music producer and composer) asked them regarding their correspondence. The answers were included in the newsletter of Kids’ Factory which was sent to subscribers all over the world.
  7. Podcasts: The learners in France use iPods at school as a way to exercise the pronounciation of the language and complete different activities. One of them was to share their news with their Greek e-pals by recording their voice and sending the podcast via email. 


Collaborators:
In the creation and use of all the aforementioned educational media, the contribution of Mrs. Aniella Lebeau (englishclub.over-blog.fr), teacher of English in College Louis de Broglie (Ancemont, France) has been more than great. Not only did she devise and organize a great deal of the activities, but she also was extremely cooperative and thorough in helping her students complete their share of work promptly and responsibly. 
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