The Image of the Other  

 

Interview -  Emanuela Atz & Juan Jose about The Image of the Other project


I have decided to interview the two teachers who used The Image of the Other project in a very efficient way.

Short presentation of the two interviewed persons

1. Emanuela Atz (from Italy) - E.A.
39 years old, married -  two children ( Mattia and Virginia); part-time job as EFL teacher  “ Scuola Media  G. Mameli ( IC Bassa Atesina) “ – lower secondary school –  in SALORNO  (Bolzano), Northern Italy. 1992 – 1999 taught German and Italian as second language in lower and upper secondary schools Since 1999 have been teaching English as foreign language

2. Juan José Ortega (from Spain) - J.J.O.
45 years old, married – two children (Joan and Laia), headteacher in “Centre Educatiu Fax” primary and secondary school in L’Hospitalet (Barcelona) – Catalunya – Spain, Science and Technology teacher since 1981. Sometimes collaborates with English teachers

1.      Where did you learn about the project The Image of the other?

EMANUELA.: I found the website in a German magazine for EFL teachers.

JUAN JOSÉ : I found the ESP webpage writing “school projects” in Google. “The Image of the Other” was their most successful project

2.      Why did you decide to do the project?

EMANUELA.: My colleague (Isabella) and I were looking for motivating our students  writing letters or e-mails in English. We had two small classes (about 13 students  – 2nd year of English) and the lab could be a good place to work  with something unusual for the students.  I tried with snail mail some years ago, but I had problems in collecting the letters, getting the answers and so on. It took so much time and I thought that E-mail was more practical,  quicker, besides the fact that  students love working with computers.

JUAN JOSÉ : We had tried pen-pal activities using snail-mail too and we also had problems. I thought that it would be very interesting to use ICT to contact other students using EFL. 

3.      How did you find your partner school?

EMANUELA.: It was not an easy job! We sent the request to the database of The Image ( January 2002) and waited for answers. After a month I decided to have a look at the website again and try to find the partner in the database. I sent different e-mails to those teachers interested in the e-mail project (about 6). Two schools – from Spain and Belgium – answered: the headmasters were very kind and we kept in touch for about two weeks in order to find out if collaboration could take place. Finally the Spanish school agreed on starting the project in March 2002.

JUAN JOSÉ : I sent my request in September 2001. In few days I got a positive answer from a Dutch school. My students wrote the first, the second and the third letters but we didn’t get any answer, only the picture of the students in the classroom. My students were very disheartened. We were been waiting for six months and suddenly we got Emanuela’s request. Then I had a problem: I didn’t have any lesson in the third term to work on the project. Finally we changed my timetable and I found one hour per week to work with 31 students with the English teacher’s help. 

4.      What was your first activity before starting the project?

EMANUELA.: Well, I informed students, their parents and my colleagues about the Image and asked for their collaboration. We had find out when the lab could be used by our classes, fix the timetable (1 lesson a week per class- on Sat from March to the beginning of June) and so on. The Spanish partner asked if we agreed on building a common website : we found it a very good idea, but unfortunately  we didn’t have any experience with it. So the Spanish colleague did all the job: I must say we learnt a lot from this experience and I’m still learning….!

Welcome to
the international teleproject for English as a second language

 


JUAN JOSÉ
: We agreed the criteria to match the students. There were 26 Italian students and 31 Spanish: Five good students with good level of English had two pen-friends. The first idea of the website was to check the in/out flow of e-mails. We found soon ideas to improve it: schools, towns, teachers, students, your opinion, break, the project… Students and teachers worked together in a collaborative way.

5.      How did you plan things during the project?

EMANUELA.: We planned on-line: we sent e-mails more than once a week with all the necessary attachments (pictures, texts and so on). We didn’t have ADSL connection, our phone lines were (and are) sometimes “slow”:  sometimes it was frustrating to wait on-line... but we managed to have our final chat at the end of the project.

6.      What tools did you use for realising collaborative learning during the project?

EMANUELA.: Hardware: each student had a computer with Internet Connection; scanner, digital camera. Software:  - Word  -  Microsoft Internet.   -     Paint Shop Pro 5  -  Photodraw  - Cool Edit 96  -  Hot Potatoes 5  -  Front Page 2000  - Excel

JUAN JOSÉ : Building a common webpage was the most important task  to involve the students in a common work. We didn’t use any special tool like Fle3 but chat, e-mail and standard programs. Perhaps Hot Potatoes is a very useful, easy and free program to build attractive interactive activities. 

7.      What were the advantages of the project?

EMANUELA.:  The advantages were as follows: students were more motivated in working at school; they learned new vocabulary – new grammar structures – new types of texts in the foreign language; they felt more responsible for their own work because if they didn’t complete their own task, they couldn’t go on; they improved their way of communication; they knew a new culture with differences and similarities and they improved  their abilities in using ICT.

JUAN JOSÉ : I can add that the students with low level in English were excited with the project and did all the activities.

8.      What about the disadvantages?

EMANUELA.: As I mentioned before, the slow connections sometimes didn’t help us in concluding a task. Students were somehow disappointed, but soon understood that it wasn’t neither their fault nor the teacher’s fault. We were lucky because we could be two teachers with a small group of students, whereas the Spanish had not so much time at their disposal to complete the task.

JUAN JOSÉ : In this project the main difficulty was to control the sending of the e-mails. They used a web mail address, so there were a lot of spelling mistakes.

9.      How long did the project last?

EMANUELA.: The project started in year 2002 and lasted for about three months (5 letters from March to June) with two classes.  We continued the following school year from October to May (10 letters) with different classes and it is still going on in German with a Danish school (we hope to be able to prepare a website of this exchange as well).

10.  What did the students find the most interesting, attractive?

EMANUELA.: The most interesting activities for the students were writing e-mails and getting to know new people. They appreciated the fact of working together with people they didn’t know at the beginning of the project and who became friends at the end of it. Some of the students are still writing to each other or have chat sessions. Being English their third language, they understood how important  it is to know more than one language.

They had good ideas for the different topics too: it was a work-in progress project.

 

JUAN JOSÉ :  They enjoyed reading new letters but they liked contribute to the webpage too.

11.  What did you, mentors, find the most interesting?

 EMANUELA There are many aspects that I like: students work in a really collaborative environment, waiting impatiently for the next e-mail and improve their writing skills. The project is so flexible - for teachers and students - that you really feel free to use it as you like, but at the same time you find a sort of “frame” within which you must work: this is very important, because sometimes you – as teacher - start a project with certain objectives and then you realize that you are not able to reach them, because they were either too high, too difficult for you students and so on. With The Image you can improve strategies for planning projects based on collaborative learning with ICT.

Another aspect that I really liked is that the topics and structure of the project can be easily transferred/translated into other languages.

JUAN JOSÉ : An e-mail project like “The Image of the Other” is a good way to begin working on projects. It is flexible and you achieve the objectives from the first sending.

12.  What improvements, changes did you do during the project to make it more efficient?

EMANUELA.: The most important changes were made during the second year of our collaboration. After the first three months and five letters, we understood that the motivation of the website was very high. Each student could send his/her own contribution and this was the most important task for them. We realized, for instance, that the student checklist of e-mails was a very useful tool not only for us teachers, but for the students too; we discussed each topic with the students and agreed with them on the activity that could be more useful.    

JUAN JOSÉ : We changed the content of some letters to adapt it to our students’ interests. 

13.  What do you think about the new portal of the project and a possibility that teachers can search for partners themselves, express the wish for working on the project and try to find partners in database?

EMANUELA.: I think that it is really very important to have a portal where you can have a look of what other people do, especially at the beginning of the project when you really need to understand how it works.  It is also important, from my own experience, that you can look for your partner and choose him/her.

JUAN JOSÉ : It is a perfect tool easy to use to find partners, information and share experiences.

14.  How do you find the materials for the teacher and for the student ready-to-use in this project?

EMANUELA.: They are so ready-to-use and help teachers – and students - a lot. As a teacher you spend a lot of time preparing worksheets and so on, so it is really very useful for us to have all the material ready and the suggestions are helpful too.  You really feel free to choose whatever fits for your class. On the other hand, students know exactly what is required and follow a scheme that they can easily follow.

15.  Did you publish materials of the project on the internet? – provide the URL.

EMANUELA.: You can have a look at the materials on http://usuario.tiscali.es/cefax/

16.   What advice would you give to those starting the project for the first time?

JUAN JOSÉ : It is very important to get/send the letters on time otherwise students will be disappointed. After the students work, teachers can collect all the letters they write and send them together to the other teacher to avoid missing letters. Don’t count the hours you spend on a project. It’s worth doing it. 

EMANUELA:  Yes, it is!!!

Thank you for your answers and collaboration. The interview will be published in the ECOLE newsletter and on the portal of the project.
 

Viljenka Savli

 

 


26. 02. 03
(c) Viljenka Šavli