Project Advice - International Work

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This page was created on 12 May 2004 at the end of our first Comenius Project.

The Edward Richardson Primary School in Tetford was the coordinating school in a Comenius School Development Project from 2001 to 2004.  Our focus was ICT and, during the three years of our project, we aimed to:

1 Study the management of ICT in the UK, Belgium, Italy and Germany
2 Share best practice as we develop our use of ICT
3 Investigate the advantages and disadvantages of the approaches taken by each school and nation
4 Look at classroom and curriculum management strategies to boost the use of ICT as a curriculum tool
5 Investigate the use of distribution lists as a tool to promote communication between children
6 Share our experiences in a supportive and non judgemental way
7 Explore ways of using the major application types in cooperative international projects and consider the implications    for the management of these activities
8 Search for ways of managing the interaction between schools in such a way that linguistic barriers are minimised

For each activity (referred to as a 'Focused Task') undertaken we, as an international team, produced an outline of our aims.  The activity was then piloted and recommendations written.  These recommendations were based upon what was successful and also the ways in which experience indicated that it could be improved.

These findings are available here to other schools attempting a similar project.  They are intended to be used as an ideas base and a set of management strategies to ensure that they will be successful.  All partners in the project would like to wish any school using this material an enjoyable and fruitful experience.  We would be pleased to hear from you!

 

FOCUSED TASK 1: USING GRAPHIC MEDIA TO DEVELOP INTERNATIONAL WORK

ACTIVITY AIMS

Activity

Graphic Media using original Kandinsky art work

Date

October – December 2002

Activity Aims

To use a graphic media theme to develop non verbal communication between pupils across international and linguistic divides

Year Groups

Year 6

Overview

The task began with the selection of a piece of abstract art by a well known artist.  This was then shown to the children who were introduced to a graphic media package which could be used to modify an image.
A list was made of the many things that the children felt that they could 'see' in the picture.
After working with the package to discover its effects and how they could be used the original art work was imported and the children worked to modify it.
The children then produced a short story to describe what was represented by their picture.
The pictures were featured on our website together with their stories (translated into our partner school languages).
All schools went through the same process and links were created on each website to go straight to the work undertaken by our partners (see our Kandinsky Project pages).  This made it possible to browse across the whole project in four countries with ease.

International Coordinator’s evaluation

This project worked very well.  The children were motivated by the art work and enjoyed using the graphic media package in its own right.  They were fascinated to see their work on the school website and many showed their parents, either at home or (for those without home access) in the school ICT room.
The project was enhanced when the pupils were able to use the links to the websites of our partner schools and could see the work undertaken there.  As staff we were fascinated to observe one of the concluding lessons of the project in Belgium.

 

ACTIVITY RECOMMENDATIONS

At the conclusion of this activity our recommendations to schools considering using this as a cooperative project are as follows:

  • Tell parents, staff and other interested parties about the activity before you start – this will give it a high profile

  • Set deadlines

  • Communicate with staff in partner schools on a regular basis

  • Choose your original art work with care

  • Choose an abstract piece of art which does not contain ‘leading’ images

  • A strong piece of abstract art can lead to cross curricular work in art

  • Ensure that you have access to a graphic media package which will allow art to be imported and modified

  • Allow the children to try out the package before working on the piece of art so that they know the effects

  • Allow plenty of time to modify the original art work

  • Maintain some part of the original art work in their own work – this may be a shape or a colour

  • Ensure that you can publish the work on  your website to achieve an international audience

  • Write stories based on the work produced by the children, not the original

  • Limit the length of the stories

  • Ensure that you will be able to translate the stories into other languages

  • Ask parents to help with translation – this involves the wider community

  • Ensure that children will be able to see and read the work of their compatriots in other countries

  • Be prepared to give the activity a lot of time

 

FOCUSED TASK 2: USING SPREADSHEETS TO DEVELOP INTERNATIONAL WORK

ACTIVITY AIMS

Activity

Using spreadsheets to compare price data between countries

Date

January – May 2003

Activity Aims

To use a common data capture sheet to collect data on the prices of agreed products in different countries.  This data was then transposed into a spreadsheet prepared in advance.  This allowed instant comparison of the prices.  It also converted sterling prices into euros and vice versa.

Year Groups

Year 6

Overview

Twenty products were chosen and the children in each country were given a data capture sheet to find the cheapest and most expensive of the product within their own country.  The data was then entered onto a main spreadsheet which was used for comparisons.
The UK data was in sterling whilst that of our partner schools was in Euros.  This necessitated two versions of the spreadsheet, the UK version which converted Euro prices as input into a sterling equivalent and the Euro version which converted sterling prices into Euros.
The graphing facilities of Microsoft  Excel were also used to good effect.

International Coordinator’s evaluation

This worked well although the spreadsheet was very complex for the children to understand.  It worked best by inputting the data one column at a time.  Thus the initial column was the cheapest price in the UK.  We then added (with the children) the prices from the other countries.  The spreadsheet automatically converted these prices into sterling allowing an instant comparison.  The children then learnt how to input a formula to make a comparison of the prices.

 

ACTIVITY RECOMMENDATIONS

At the conclusion of this activity our recommendations to schools considering using this as a cooperative project are as follows:

  • Tell parents about the activity – you will need their help in finding the prices

  • Choose the items that you search for with care and try to choose items with which the children can immediately identify

  • Avoid using items with volatile prices

  • Try to group products (eg five foodstuffs, five electrical etc)

  • Allow subtotals for each group – one country may be cheaper for food but expensive for electrical goods

  • Try to ensure that the range of prices is not too broad or the total for each country may be dominated by one item

  • Use a data capture sheet which identifies shops so that data may be checked by staff if necessary

  • Give children plenty of time to find prices

  • Do not give the children all of the data on one spreadsheet – it is too complex

  • Produce smaller spreadsheets into which the children can input one set of data and see how it influences other data – this is especially useful with currency conversion where children may input a price in Euros and see it immediately converted to sterling

  • Allow the children to input one formula at a time – ideally a simple one eg to find the difference between items in two countries

  • Ask children to fill in formulae individually – do not use ‘copy’

  • Ask the children to suggest conclusions from the data but do not judge them

  • Ask children if there are any results that they doubt and then discuss these

  • Ask children to suggest reasons why the data and their conclusions may not be reliable

  • Add pictures to the spreadsheet to make it more child friendly – these can be found on Google

  • Display the work using the graphing options within Excel

  

FOCUSED TASK 3: CREATING AN INTERNATIONAL 'INFANT DICTIONARY'

ACTIVITY AIMS

Activity

International Dictionary

Date

January 2003 onwards

Activity Aims

To promote an awareness amongst the younger children in the school of other languages.

Year Groups

Key Stage 1

Overview

In this area of work we used a proforma which contained a space for a picture together with a Belgian, Italian and British flag and a space for the word relating to the picture to be input in Flemish, Italian and English.  A further space allowed ONE of the three to have its letters muddled so that the children had to work out which one it was – this would make them look at the words with increased care.
Our German partners did not participate in this section of our project as they did not have children of a suitable age in school.
The pictures were selected by Key Stage 1 teachers at the three schools and then emailed to each other to add words, eventually ending up with the originator.

International Coordinator’s overview & evaluation

This work was successful though we did find a number of ways to improve it (see recommendations). It engendered considerable discussion in the classrooms, particularly our Year 1 and Year 2 class whose teacher is a linguist.

 

ACTIVITY RECOMMENDATIONS

At the conclusion of this activity our recommendations to schools considering using this as a cooperative project are as follows:

  • Agree a timetable and deadlines

  • Agree how many sheets will be originated by each partner – this should be the same number from each partner

  • Maintain regular email contact between participating staff

  • Ensure a quick response to emails in order to retain interest – words should be back to their originator within one week

  • Decide on a place to display the sheets produced on the wall in your classroom (this gives purpose) and discuss this with the children

  • Restrict the words to simple nouns (the space for the picture helps here)

  • Do not choose words randomly

  • Choose nouns relating to what each class is doing – if you are studying farming choose farm words

  • Allow partner schools to choose nouns relating to what they are studying – this in itself will engender discussion (it does not matter if the schools are not studying the same thing)

  • Use differences in the themes to discuss groupings, sets etc

  • Take turns to originate the words

  • Set up a rota for sending email copy eg person A only emails B, B emails C and C emails A – this allows all to initiate sheets and to know they are completed when they return to their originator

  • The anagram need not spell a real word in any of the languages – it is purely a ‘muddled’ word

  • Allow time to discuss the sheets with your children – the similarities and differences between the words can stimulate considerable discussion

  • Consider adding sounds

  • Develop the idea by agreeing a simple sentence into which all of the nouns will fit (eg ‘this is a …’ or ‘it lives in a …’ and add these in each language

 

FOCUSED TASK 4: MASCOT EXCHANGES

ACTIVITY AIMS

Activity

Email correspondence with European Schools using our school bear as a stimulus.

Date

January 2003 onwards

Activity Aims

To allow the pupils, focusing on Edward Bear (our school mascot), to communicate with and receive communication from schools in Europe.

Year Groups

All

Overview

Edward Bear, the school mascot, was sent to partner schools in Belgium and Italy.  There was no preset agenda for his visit but the teachers and pupils in the receiving schools were asked to look after Edward and let us know by email what he was doing.
Messages were received directly to staff inboxes but these were then forwarded to children who sent replies.  In addition the messages from ‘Edward’ were printed off and laminated so that they could be read by the whole school and then displayed in the relevant section of our international display.
Pages relating to Edward's adventures were added to our website.

International Coordinator’s overview & evaluation

This section of our work went well. 
All of our partners enjoyed this activity and we received some excellent (and entertaining) messages.  One of the schools used ICT to enhance and modify the pictures which they sent so that Edward really appeared to be getting involved in the activities.  Some schools sent us regular email reports whilst others put all of the information onto a PowerPoint presentation which was then sent to us on a CD.

 

FOCUSED TASK 5: INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE CHALLENGE

ACTIVITY AIMS

Activity

A scientific 'egg race' undertaken by all schools at exactly the same time with live e-mail reports.

Date

July 2003

Activity Aims

To use a competitive stimulus with a definite time scale to act as a stimulus for live interactive email

Year Groups

Years 5 and 6

Overview

This activity worked fantastically well.  The chosen 'egg race' was to build the tallest tower possible from a set amount of card which would stand alone (without assistance) for at least one minute and would support a table tennis ball at its peak.  The children were put into groups of two or three and given the challenge and equipment.  They had one hour to complete the task.  Throughout the hour one member of staff in each school used a digital camera to take shots of what was going on.  These were e-mailed, using a prepared distribution list, to all partner schools.  Meanwhile a second member of staff in each school had a computer linked to the internet and to a projector.  As the e-mails arrived they were projected onto the screen.  The children were, by this method, able to see exactly how their 'competitors' in partner schools were doing and the international competition became quite intense!

International Coordinator’s overview & evaluation

This was an outstandingly successful activity.  It was rated highly in evaluation by all of the children (which has never happened before).  They particularly liked being able to see the other classrooms and felt that all of the classes were brought together by the experience.  It also raised a great deal of curiosity amongst other staff who expressed a desire to have a go themselves.

 

ACTIVITY RECOMMENDATIONS

At the conclusion of this activity our recommendations to schools considering using this as a cooperative project are as follows:

  • Tell the children in advance - build the activity up

  • Send some trial emails before you start

  • Check that all of the hardware works correctly

  • Choose your challenge with care

  • Remember that language can lead to unexpected differences eg do we all think of card as exactly the same thing?

  • Encourage the competitive aspect

  • Send e-mails to congratulate the winners

  • Send pictures which show your projector beaming images from other schools - this really emphasises the 'real time' aspect of this work

 

FOCUSED TASK 6: POWERPOINT COMMUNICATION

ACTIVITY AIMS

Activity

Using PowerPoint as a means of international communication

Date

October 2003

Activity Aims

To produce a presentation in each country on the theme of Christmas (in the school and the nation)
To copy the presentation to CD
To make a CD for each partner school
To share the presentations with the children

Year Groups

Years 5 and 6

Overview

This activity went well although it did come at a time when the schools were very busy with other activities.  A little more time would have been advantageous!  The children enjoyed the work and this meant that the presentations all developed well.

International Coordinator’s overview & evaluation

This was a good international activity.  It resulted in a topical presentation from each of the four countries which could be viewed by all of the children (and staff) in the schools.  It was especially helpful in the January project meeting that the representatives of each school were able to show their presentations to our children.  This added an extra dimension to both the focused task and the project as a whole.

 

ACTIVITY RECOMMENDATIONS

At the conclusion of this activity our recommendations to schools considering using this as a cooperative project are as follows:

  • Allow plenty of time

  • Show and teach the basic steps of PowerPoint first

  • Allow the children to experiment with effects before designing your presentation

  • Use the enthusiasm of the children (most enjoy PowerPoint)

  • Stress the importance of pictures rather than text to allow appeal to an international audience

  • Allow time for a teacher to collate the pages

 

FOCUSED TASK 7: JOINT WEB PAGES

ACTIVITY AIMS

Activity

Using web pages to create a shared area into which the children in all partner schools can input

Date

January 2004

Activity Aims

To link our websites in order to create an area which appears to be a 'new' website but actually has four sections, each managed by its own school.  This area was known as 'Kids in Europe' and the content was to be child centred.

Year Groups

All, though mainly over 10

Overview

This work went very well.  It had a logo of its own which was included on the home page of each school giving a direct and visual entry point.  Each school then had an identical page on their own sites which featured the four flags of the countries involved.  This in turn gave a visual entry into the pages themselves.  The pages were sky blue (a colour not previously featured on the school websites) which then gave an impression of uniformity as children moved from one school site to another.  Children were involved in writing the content.

International Coordinator’s overview & evaluation

This activity was very successful.  The ways of entering the 'site' worked well and the impression of a separate site was very successful.

 

ACTIVITY RECOMMENDATIONS

At the conclusion of this activity our recommendations to schools considering using this as a cooperative project are as follows:

  • Agree a regular colour scheme across the sites which differs from the original websites

  • Content should change regularly

  • When content is changed partner schools should be notified so that they may alert their children

  • Keep as much as possible picture based to avoid linguistic problems

  • Don't thumbnail pictures - they need to be instant (relatively small images are a good compromise)

  • E-mail schools with feedback when children have viewed pages - this can be in any language or may be pictorial (a happy face, thumbs up etc)

  • Ask children for ideas for content

 

FOCUSED TASK 8: FOOD TECHNOLOGY: THE USE OF E-MAIL

ACTIVITY AIMS

Activity

A food technology exercise was undertaken by all schools at exactly the same time with live e-mail reports

Date

May 2004

Activity Aims

To use a creative stimulus with a definite time scale to act as a stimulus for live interactive e-mail and include visual representation in 'real time' in the classroom

Year Groups

Various throughout the primary age range

Overview

This activity was designed to utilise the ability of the schools and their staff to use e-mail as a stimulus in the classroom.  The work aimed to examine the management of a non ICT stimulus in order to enhance communication between partner institutions.  This began with each country, at the same time, embarking upon a short activity (of two hours duration) to create a menu typical of the country and then prepare the food.  The menu was created using ICT and then e-mailed to all partner schools.
Through the period of cooking each school took digital photographs of their preparation.  These photographs were e-mailed immediately to all partner schools and then they were displayed to the children, using a digital projector, as they worked.  This allowed the children in each school to see how their compatriots in the other schools were working and how their menus developed.  The activity culminated in a 'picnic' in each school and, once again, photographs were exchanged.

International Coordinator’s overview & evaluation

This activity was successful although their were definite implications with regard to the time scale.  These, primarily, related to time differences between countries and they mean that it would be hard to attempt such work with schools that are not located in adjacent time zones.

 

ACTIVITY RECOMMENDATIONS

At the conclusion of this activity our recommendations to schools considering using this as a cooperative project are as follows:

  • Ask children for ideas for the menu

  • E-mail your menu the day before the activity so that the children know what is to be prepared

  • Choose your date with care and send each other memos in the week before the activity

  • Tell the children in advance - build the activity up

  • Send some trial e-mails before you start

  • Check that all of the hardware works correctly

  • Send e-mails to congratulate everyone

  • Send pictures which show your projector beaming images from other schools - this really emphasises the 'real time' aspect of this work

  • A possible extension of this activity would be for all schools to work with the same ingredients and then prepare their own menu

 

FOCUSED TASK 9: SHARED WEB SPACE SHOWING CHILDREN'S ACTIVITIES

ACTIVITY RECOMMENDATIONS

At the conclusion of this activity our recommendations to schools considering using this as a cooperative project are as follows:

  • Ask children for ideas for the menu

  • E-mail your menu the day before the activity so that the children know what is to be prepared

  • Choose your date with care and send each other memos in the week before the activity

  • Tell the children in advance - build the activity up

  • Send some trial e-mails before you start

  • Check that all of the hardware works correctly

  • Send e-mails to congratulate everyone

  • Send pictures which show your projector beaming images from other schools - this really emphasises the 'real time' aspect of this work

  • A possible extension of this activity would be for all schools to work with the same ingredients and then prepare their own menu