Voices

How technology can connect children from around the world

By Wilma Gordon

08 April 2014 - 09:39

How can ICT help children learn about people from other cultures? Teacher Wilma Gordon has this week won an eTwinning European prize for an online school project which joined together primary school pupils from around Europe. Here, she explains the benefits of using ICT in the classroom and tells us about some useful tools.

What role did ICT play in the success of the project?

The schools involved used a variety of ICT tools. eTwinning provides an easily accessible platform for sharing materials and ideas. We also used Dropbox when files were too heavy to email. Students’ ICT skills improved as a result. They said the biggest impact was learning from their peers. In addition, they gained first-hand knowledge of another country’s values. Two blogs were set up and each partner school was given permission to add information. Pupils were able to talk to other children from schools around Europe in real time using Twin Space chat and Skype.

How did pupils learn about other cultures?

Projects such as e-cultural Kaleidoscope, for which we won the award, can greatly extended pupils’ awareness of cultural differences. They can also change parents’ perceptions, especially when teachers and their students present their projects during curriculum evenings. The curriculum at Mid Calder Primary School works in an interdisciplinary fashion where global citizenship is a whole school ethos. Projects such as these therefore supplement the learning and teaching already in place.

Through effective electronic communication students can establish new friendships and tackle difficult problems from the viewpoint of students from different cultures. Pupils and staff gain first-hand knowledge of other education systems, customs and the reality of life in a country different from their own. For theTwinning project our task was to assemble and condense the educational systems of each country into a single book, with a brief overview of the plans of each educational system.

Five great tools for doing online projects with children

Many of these online tools are easy to use and they really support a child-centred approach to learning and teaching:

Dropbox for sharing files. We use Dropbox because many of the videos and PowerPoints are too large to email. Also it is a great way to store multiple documents, with easy access from PCs and mobile devices.

Tellagami, a mobile app that lets you create and share a quick animated video called a Gami. The pupils love this one. They can use it on iPad, iPhone and other mobile devices. It is a great way for them to introduce themselves and even attempt speaking in another language. They can create their own avatar and add a local background. The Tellagami can then be e-mailed or put on Dropbox.

Survey Monkey for creating questionnaires. This is a great way to evaluate a project, and get as wide an audience as possible. Once you decide on the questions and put them on Survey Monkey, you can then email a link to participants. If you keep to ten questions or fewer, it is free. There is a step-by-step guide for creating the type of questions you need to suit your project. You get all responses online with appropriate graphs and written responses. This is a really good method for mid-year evaluations, as the next steps can then be planned and a final questionnaire towards the end of a project completes the process.

Blogs for sharing information with parents. Although I have used Twin Space for eTwinning projects, a blog is a super way to share information with staff, pupils and parents. Both pupils and staff can add their own posts and all can add comments. I have used Blogger because it is easy to upload documents, photos and videos. Examples of two of the blogs I use are From Bhangra to Bagpipes and Let’s be Artists in Mathematics.

Calameo for producing fantastic online books. This is a lovely way to create and share eBooks and saves having to print out lots of coloured pages and bind them to form a book. Using Calemeo is free and you can embed it in a blog and put it on a whiteboard to share with pupils.

Find out more about registering your school with eTwinning – the digital community for schools across Europe, funded by the European Commission and managed in the UK by the British Council.

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