School partnerships in Europe are an increasingly common practice which is gaining widespread recognition. The eTwinning action, launched by the European Commission in 2005, is a core part of the eLearning programme and was created to give schools the opportunity to learn from and with each other, to share their views and to make friends.
What is eTwinning?
eTwinning can be defined as a long term partnership where at least two schools from at least two different European countries use Information and communications technologies (ICT) to carry out some form of pedagogically relevant activity together. It can occur at several levels: an exchange between two individual teachers, two teams of teachers or subject departments, two librarians or two head teachers.
The intention is that the staff of two schools interact for an extended period of time. A wide range of disciplines, curriculum topics or even staff related professional development should be involved. It correspondingly promotes the awareness of the multilingual and multicultural European model of society.
As a teacher, why should I get involved and register my school with eTwinning?
A school partnership is the ground for a multitude of potential European openings for all the staff interested in international contacts. For teachers, here are the top ten benefits that motivated us and colleagues in our long experience as teachers to get involved in similar projects:
» Motivate your students by doing something innovative, new and exciting.
» Teach and learn from different cultures and thus achieve a cultural awareness.
» Improve your knowledge of foreign languages.
» Use ICT facilities to shorten the distance and allow students and teachers to reach the farthest end of the European horizon and explore what otherwise would not be possible.
» Learn about the different educational systems in European countries. Improve your own teaching methods by comparing and applying different approaches.
Schools, teachers and pupils will find this effort to communicate and to cooperate personally interesting, enriching and rewarding. Many pedagogical studies identify personal contact with the teacher as the key success factor for learning. eTwinning is an effort to establish human contact beyond frontiers and across cultures. Twinning schools will most likely enhance their capacities for cooperation, understanding and intercultural dialogue, and of course the development of ICT skills. For the children who are now at school, who will be the real subjects of twinning, working in a digital network will be simply a normal way of working.
eTwinning is a way for schools to work towards the “school of tomorrow”, i.e. a school that evolves with time, is open to the outside world, is ruled by flexible learning processes and is computer literate. For teachers it is a good opportunity to practice more interactive methods of teaching, to compare pedagogical approaches, to get to know other countries’ school systems and to share their resources and ideas.
What about the costs for schools?
Once schools are connected to Internet, as 90% of European schools already are, the current costs and possibilities of Internet and multimedia make it possible for them to develop joint projects with other schools. The main problem now is no longer costs, but teacher time. Our experience tells us that motivated teachers can do excellent things with everyday resources, and ICT resources are already a standard part of school equipment.
What can I do as a teacher to prepare a project within an eTwinning partnership?
Once you decide to set up an eTwinning partnership there are two basic things to be done: find a topic and find a partner. Try to motivate as many colleagues as possible and also think of cross-curricular teaching. And, most of all, don’t forget your students whom this action should be an exciting and enriching experience.
How can a school register on the eTwinning portal?
In order to register a school in eTwinning there must be somebody from that school (a teacher, headmaster, librarian etc.) who is willing to eTwin with another school in Europe. This person has to go to the eTwinning portal and click on ‘register’. Some information will be asked for, including schools details and twinning preferences. This is done in order to make sure that a perfect match will be achieved.
Once one or more schools are found on the system, users can ‘break the ice’ by sending each other a message or setting up a chat session. All these tools are offered by eTwinning portal! Only when they are sure they like each other and share the same interests they may decide to set up a partnership.
Examples of successful school partnerships
The World Wide Web shows examples of how teachers have been twinning using new technologies for a few years now. Within the Project Spring Day in Europe, which aims at making the voice of young Europeans heard in Europe, numerous exchanges between schools took place. Examples of this can be seen in the Futurum website and under the Together in Europe initiative.
Examples of pupils exchanging e-mails to find out about each other are very common. The international project “The Image of the Other” offers clear guidelines for 10 to 14 year old pupils to carry out e-mail exchanges to learn foreign languages. An example of this project implemented by Spanish and an Italian School that lasted two school years can be seen here. Two other examples of the many twinning projects developed under the European Commission Netd@ys initiative can be found at the Goethe.de website and at the Time Project website.
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