Eurostar in overdrive
This story started with a very casual remark on whether we would be interested in setting up an exchange with Sardinia. Our positive answer led us into an experience from which heads of school, teachers as well as pupils have benefited greatly. We discovered how different and yet how similar inhabitants of the various European nations are. We learned to appreciate each others' customs and we questioned our own values. All this led us to mutual respect.
E-mail correspondence, which was originally intended to communicate quickly with our ex change partners only, put us in contact with adolescents all over the world, thanks to the Chatback programme.
In this way we discovered that basic human feelings do not differ, wherever you live.
Being in all this together has created a bond between the various participants. We have worked as a team in which everybody has contributed to his/her own capacity. We have enjoyed every bit of it, even though it also required a great deal of effort and perseverance. But isn't one of our goals to teach our pupils a kind of tenacity that leads to accomplishment?
Starting from this positive experience, we are looking forward to the future and we hope that the projects we intend to set up will add to the general education we want to offer our pupils. Not only from the academical point of view , but certainly also in the relational field.
6th April 1995
Discipline, subject : telematics
Public : postobligatoire
upper high school
H.-Familie-institut, Hulstplein 32
Tel : 00 32 51 40 14 1
Fax : 00 32 51 40 77 45
Pédagogie, pedagogy : We want to guide our pupils in the use of a new medium. Though the E-mail network may seem to be a maze without laws and moral etiquette you have to behave according to certain standards and rules, just like in any other social organisation.
By giving the pupils free access to the computerroom on Thursdays and Fridays at noon, we also want to teach them responsibility for valuable equipment.
By giving one of our sixth formers guidance over the younger pupils, we intend to teach the older ones to take full responsibility and we also want to show the younger ones how more experienced pupils can be their guides in a new field of knowledge. To our surprise and pleasu re, the pupils present in the computer room fell into a kind of harmony, sharing mutual respect.
The pupils of the fourth year used E-mail in order to introduce themselves to the Danish families that would host them when exchanging with the folkeskoles in Roskilde and Sonder Vissing. Afterwards we used E-mail to thank the families for their hospitality. In this way our pupils were taugth some relational skills.
We also want to show our pupils how you can go against a generally spread opinion. A medium which was much discussed on tv, radio, newspapers and magazines could also be introduced at school.
This in spite of criticism in the media about educationary institutes running behind and not preparing their pupils in an adequate way for their later professional careers. We wanted to make sure that our pupils could get acquainted with electronic mail within our school walls.
We want to point out to our pupils that they can also play an important role in educating their teachers. Thanks to their open mind to new technology they can try to convince their teachers into developing a new interest. Their youthful enthusiasm succeeded in dragging their older and
probably therefore more reluctant teachers into an adventure which they are now enjoying together.
Apprentissage, learning : 1. How to operate a computer
2. How to use a word processor
3. How does electronic mail work and what can you do with it
4. How do you write letters
5. How do you write letters in English
Though communication was the first aim of the writing, we also think it worthwhile investing some effort in writing in good English as well from the grammatical as the vocabulary point of view. That's why we provide dictionaries in the computerroom and most of the time an English teacher serves as walking dictionary.
6. We attended the ESP (European School Project) conference at Cambridge in March and we came home with the idea of setting up a joint project with a number of schools of the European community. The schools are situated in Denmark (Sonder Vissing), Slowakia (Zvolen), Scot land (Gairloch), Holland (Terneuzen). In this way we hope to increase the European dimension in our lessons.
This schoolyear, during third term, we are going to look for subjects that can be discussed in the coming schoolyear. E-mail is going to be the medium which we'll use to come to some decisions. Immediately after the easter holiday, the project is going to be introduced to our staff and a group of teachers is going to find a number of subjects which can be connected with the existing curricula. The idea is to find a number of interdisciplinary ideas which can be worked out in each of the partnerschools. As the new grantsystem of the European community "Socra tes" intends to back up partnerships between European schools, we intend to apply for a grant in order to support the project financially.
It's needless to say that E-mail is going to play a crucial role in the exchange of data, informati on and results of lessons and homework on the chosen subjects.
Enseignement, teaching : The introduction of E-mail as a teaching aid was a challenge for our teachers. They had to think of new teaching techniques. The pupils' enthusiasm forced them not to postpone things too long. The pupils asked the teachers for explanation they initially could not give. In that way they were obliged to spend time and energy on finding out for themselves.
Thanks to the various accessible K12 discussion areas available, teachers of all disciplines can benefit from the services offered by E-mail. This very moment quite a number of teachers are trying to find out with colleagues within their subject, in what way they have used/are using E-mail information in their lessons.
The use of E-mail is a way to promote interdisciplinary projects. This way of teaching is in our Belgian secondary schools still in its infancy, if not to say unexisting.
Technique : Our informatics teacher racked her brain over the technical aspect of E-mail. Still, she benefited greatly from the experience. She set up a demo for the colleagues on E-mail. In this way, she played a very important role in promoting the medium.
We have subscribed to FIDO-net. Our sysop is Dirk Veulemans in Ekeren (Antwerp) . In the meantime, I myself have obtained a pointnumber on Fidonet in order to be able to do some organisational work from my homebasis. We get quite a lot of back up from our sysop and also from our national coordinator Hubert Christiaen of ESP.
In fact we are working with a very small number of computers at school. We are about a 1,000 pupils (secondary school) and students (of the teacher training college which is in the same building as our secondary school) and we have no more than 12 computers available for use for our pupils and students. that's why we work with our pupils on a voluntary basis on Thursdays and Fridays during the lunch break.
Because of our future plans on setting up a partnership with a number of other European schools , we are trying to get support from our schoolboard to invest in another computerroom which would then be reserved for the communication side of the lessons.
Société, society : As stated above, the introduction of E-mail has created a special kind of tie between the pupils and teachers involved. The fact that the correspondence by E-mail is also connected with our exchange projects with Sonder Vissing and Roskilde, contributes to that feeling of togetherness. We have embarked on a journey none of us is really experienced in or at home with. Together we are looking for ways to benefit as much as possible from our adventure.Teaching in a class you have had an exchange with, cannot be compared to teaching in any other ordinary class. The exchange itself, the confrontation with the host families, the preparation of a programme for the return visit of the partnerschool, going through that pro gramme with the guests; all these things have helped to create a team spirit in the class which will probably not be broken in the course of their further career in the school.
Developing respect for nationalies different from the exchange partner is something which has also been added to the multiple number of positive elements of the project. Our Roskilde school has three foreign pupils. Those pupils did not host any of our pupils, but we have to host them. We are proud to say that we had no difficulty in finding a family that was willing to take those pupils. This in spite of the fact that we live in a rather small provincial town which is not used to foreigners.
E-mail has also made us cooperate with neighbouring schools. The secondary school in my home town has decided to introduce E-mail at their school after an introductory visit at our school. The teacher training college which is housed in the same building as our secondary school has also shown interest in E-mail. One of the teachers has already asked for his personal point number.We have also discovered that teachers in the vocational school of our town are working with E-mail. We took our Danish guests to the technical school, the vocational school and the commercial school in our town. We could use the kitchens of the technical school to try out our gastronomical abilities. Some were more successful than others, but we all enjoyed the experiment greatly (See copy of enclosed newspaperarticle).
We have also been to Ekeren to visit our sysop who gave a demo for his colleagues at school. One of our pupils has started corresponding with one of the pupils of the school of our sysop.
We have made contact with two primary schools in our neighbourhood. We asked them if they would be willing to cooperate in a Danish project on the remembrance of Liberation Day. One of the schools has accepted to participate.
We have had contacts with the provincial pedagogical service to report on the findings of the Cambridge conference. We are trying to get more people involved in E-mail projects and we rely on the pedagogical service to promote the idea.
The national computer promoting organisiation of Flemish catholic education has also contacted us in order to report on our schemes and experience. This is a job for the easter holiday.
In order to draw the Flemish educators' attention to the possibilities of the medium in education we have sent an article to two magazine (to KLASSE, a typical educational magazine and to KNACK, a general magazine). This has been done in consultation with the national coordinator of ESP.
In the article (enclosed) we state that Belgian, and in particular Flemish schools have to go a long way in introducing E-mail in the ordinary curriculum. We point out how the eastern European countries are provided with free subscriptions to Internet because those countries are very eager to get onto this communication train as soon as possible. The fact that our school was the only Belgian school present at the ESP conference in Cambridge proves how far we still have to go. Denmark and Germany were respectively represented by 21 and 12 people.
We also draw the educators' attention to the new grant system of the European community (SOCRATES) and the way in which partnerships between various European schools will be backed up financially. Here too, the use of modern communication systems is a positive point in order to get a subsidy.
The most important element which is stressed in the article is the motivational role the use of E- mail can play in the teaching process. Just like the use of video, tv -programmes or overheads or whatever other teaching aid, the use of E-mail is not threatening the crucial role of the teacher in the process. What it does is awaken interest in the learning process because it is new and because people all over the world are drawn into the activity. In this way we hope to increase motivation. Motivation which is in our opinion the very start of a successful learning process.
The high number of pupils turning up at noon to write messages, forces us to let them work in pairs. In this way they can help each other draw up their letters.
For me, deputy head of the school, being present in the computer room, helping the pupils with their English, is a good way to get to know the pupils. It certainly gives me the satisfaction of personal contact with them.
The use of E-mail and the exchanges set up with Sardinia and Denmark have already drawn quite a lot of attention to our school in the local press. Several articles have been published on those activities. They have become a kind of advertisement. I have enclosed some of these articles as an illustration.
Culture : Correspondence with our Danish exchange partners, combined with visits from and to Den mark, has opened a complete new world to us. A number of values that we took for granted have been questioned, which does not necessarily mean that we have discarded them. Discus sing these values with our pupils has also brought us closer together.
Having to explain our schoolsystem and political system to other nationalities has given us a better view on our own culture. Foreigners make you wonder about things which you yourself have taken for granted for several years. Answering their questions also demands going
through things systematically.
Having to show our own cultural heritage to foreign visitors has made us discover things which we hadn't seen properly ourselves. Guiding them through Bruges for example made us feel proud about our national history. Though we are trying to educate our pupils into the European spirit, we also benefit from it from a national point of view.
Our subscription to the Chatback projects 'View from my window' and 'Kid intro' has also brought us into contact with other nationalities. Up to now, we have had chats from Canada, USA, Estonia, New Zealand and we are looking forward to some of Germany and South Africa. We have discovered differences between the various subscribers, but we also found out that deep down, we are much like them.
Pat Davidson, the coordinator of the 'Views' encourages our pupils to write, by answering their views herself. She makes teachers give their opinion on the project and she asks for suggestions.
All this has only just started and we are looking forward to whatever further intitiatives will bring. We have already written a letter with suggestions to Pat.
Institution : We feel very grateful towards our national coordinator Hubert Christiaen (HUBERT.CHRIS TIAEN@KC.KULEUVEN.AC.BE) and to our Sysop Dirk Veulemans (2:292/872.100 on FIDONET) for giving us the necessary back up. Also Pat Davidson and Tom Holloway of the Chatback programme have supported us from the very beginning of our subscription. We're looking forward to our future cooperation.
Our attendance of the ESP conference in Cambridge provided us with a number of new ideas for the coming schoolyear.
There is the partnership with the other European schools mentinoned above. Actually the representatives of the Slowakian school in Zvolen were present at the conference. We discussed our mutual contact with the Danish folkeskole in Sonder Vissing and the dream of Kent Fabrin there, to set up a partnership. We promised eachother to put some energy into this idea and contacts have already been made with the possible partnerschools. They have agreed to work with us.
We hope to work with several languages. As well Dutch as English, German and French. .
We have also brought home some other; smaller projects.
We are going to exchange letters with a Dutch school (Marjob@esp.educ.uva.nl) . Our first years (12 to 13-year-olds) are going to discuss the adaptation they have to go through when changing from primary school into secondary school. The language of communication will be Dutch. We hope that this might be the start of further cooperation.
This term, we are going to work with the same Dutch school on the way our respective tv channels report on German news. This time we are going to work with sixth formers (17 to 18-year-olds), who have had three periods of German per week.
A certain topic in the German news bulletin is going to be selected. Both schools are going to watch this information on the German tv stations. The same topic will have to be watched on the own national tv channels. Our school is going to follow the topic as well on the Flemish as the Walloon tv stations in our country. The Dutch school is going to watch the Dutch channels. The language of communication will be German. The aim is to find out in what way this German topic is reported on in each of the countries.
This will be a first attempt to work interdisciplinary. That is because we want to draw in the Walloon news bulletin. So French lessons will have to take part in the project.
For next year, we have brought a project on Ireland. This is a topic which has been worked with for several years . Fictional and non-fictional texts are read on the topic. Next year, we are going to make up a questionnaire together with a German school (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we are going to send this queastionnaire to Irish schools in Ulster and Eire. In this way we hope to get first hand information on the situation there and this from people who are the same age as our own pupils. The language of communication will be English. The age group we aim at is our fifth year (16 to 17-year-olds)
Financially we were supported by :
1. The King Boudewijn Fund : for the exchange with Sonder Vissing in Denmark.
2. Euro-classes of the Flemish Community for the exchange with Roskilde in Denmark.
3. Lingua for the exchange with Sardinia
Logistique : - An open mind to new technology and to the European Unity is essential to embark on the projects we have set up.
- You have to give yourself some time to try things out for yourself before sharing them with colleagues. We needed a year to find out where we really wanted to go with our E-mail
connection. Contacts with people who are working on similar projects can help a lot. That's also why attending the Cambridge conference gave a boost to our initiatives.
- You also have to realize that when you try to promote something new in the school, you will be confronted with people who are not as devoted to the idea as you are yourself. You have to realize that some people are not interested at all, don't see the point of all the efforts that are put in a certain project. You will also be confronted with parents who are not willing to cooperate.
In this respect too, contacts with people who share your conviction can help to give you the necessary buoyancy to cope with the pitfalls that are mentioned above.
- You need a class of pupils who are willing to put some effort in the project and for the exchanges you certainly need to be backed up by the parents. They will have to take the respon sibility of hosting the foreign pupils. Up to now, our Flemish host families have had good experiences with their guests.
Remarques, remarks : I would like to thank the organisers of Success Stories for letting our school take part in the competition. Before laying out this text, we were already convinced that the projects we are working at are really worthwhile. Going through the various points suggested in the information sheet, we were obliged to think carefully about our goals, intentions, results etc... We were surprised that we had got that much out of our one-year-old experience with E-mail and exchanges. The outcome of this thought process is that we feel even more convin ced and we feel very grateful to all the people who have guided us onto the path and we hope that in our turn, we will be able to make other people enthusiastic so that they can also benefit from their own adventure.