THE HISTORY OF eTWINNING PRIZES (2006-2011)
While I was waiting for the announcement of eTwinning Prizes 2011, I thought of researching the history of this event. Especially, I would like to answer novice eTwinners’ querries about this competition so that they would feel prepared to initiate their own future virtual school partnerships. In what follows, I summarise my research findings in a question-and-answer format.
What have been the eTwinning prizes’ entry requirements?
First of all, the school partners’ projects must have won a European Quality Label by the Central Support Service (CSS). This distinction of excellence allows them to enter the competition, because it recognises that their joint works have got previously qualified with National Quality Labels (for two project partners, at least) by their respective National Support Services (NSS). In other words, their national accreditation has been carried out before the annual European assessment takes place. For example, the shortlist 2006 included projects from the 2004-2005 school year.
What have been the categories of the eTwinning prizes’ competition?
In 2006, the prizes were awarded to two broad age groups (5-12 and 13-19 year-olds) each of which was divided in three subcategories: school collaboration, pedagogical innovation and digital resources. However, in 2007, three age groups were formed (4-11, 12-15, 16-19 year-olds). In 2008, the boundaries of the age groups slightly changed (4-10, 11-14, 15-19 year-olds) and one special prize category was launched, that is the Science and Maths. In 2009, the age groups’ boundaries were the same as those in 2007, while one more special prize category was added, that of the French Language. Last year’s age categories did not change, neither have this year’s. Morever, in 2010’s competition two new special prize categories were introduced: the Spanish Language and the Creative Use of Digital Media. In 2011, there was no separate category for the creative use of ICT, while two all-new special prize categories, the Italian Language and the Language of a Neighbouring Country have been launched.
When and where did the prize-giving ceremonies take place?
From its very beginning, the prize-giving ceremony has been held during the annual eTwinning Conference. In this way, on 13 January 2006, the winners of the first eTwinning prizes were announced in Linz, Austria. Next, on 23 February 2007 the eTwinning prize winners were revealed in Brussels, Belgium, whereas on 16 March 2008 the ceremony took place in Bucharest, Romania. On 13 February 2009, the eTwinning finalists and winners’ announcement was celebrated in Prague, the Czech Republic and on 5 February 2010 in Seville, Spain. This year, on 31 March 2011, we are going to enjoy the awarding ceremony in Budapest, Hungary.
What has been the nationality of the winners?
Within the five-year’s celebration of eTwinning prizes, more and more European countries are embracing this initiative. So far, 33 NSSs have joined in which means that a multicultural and multilingual scenery has been created. Leaving aside any countries’ differences in terms of population, registered schools in eTwinning or their NSS’s entry year, I am giving a report of the winners’ nationality in overall numbers: Spain (12 times), Poland and Italy (10 times), Slovakia and Romania (7 times), France, Lithuania and the Czech Republic (5 times), Portugal (4 times), the United Kingdom, Malta, Norway, Germany, Greece, Sweden and Bulgaria (3 times), Finland, Belgium, Hungary, Latvia, Cyprus and Turkey (2 times), Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland and Slovenia (1 time).
|NSS||Countries||Winners ΄06||Winners ΄07||Winners ΄08||Winners ΄09||Winners ΄10||Winners ΄11||Total|
|1||United Kingdom (UK)||1||0||1||0||1||3|
|13||Czech Republic (CZ)||1||1||0||2||1||5|
What have been the subjects and topics of the awarded projects?
First and foremost, projects are crosscurricular while at the same time based on the national syllabus of each school subject. So far, school partnerships have chosen to work on various subjects, such as History, Literature, Art, Drama, Music, Citizenship, Social Studies/ Sociology, Religious Education, Geography, Maths/ Geometry, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Natural Sciences, Environmental Education, Health Studies, European Studies, Media Education, Classical Languages (Latin & Greek) and Modern Languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian). In addition, some vocational schools have selected more specialised subjects to deal with (Design and Technology, Economics). Also, sometimes, projects come as a follow-up of or as a starter for a Comenius partnership project. However, communication in one or more official European languages along with the use of ICT skills have been an integral part of their work process, but also sometimes among the main learning objectives to be achieved.
The topics tend to be practical, relevant to students’ everyday lives and interests, while aiming at their physical, psychological-emotional, cognitive and social development. Age categories differentiate with respect to the emphasis put on each of them, yet successful projects have greatly involved students (teachers and, sometimes, the entire community), encouraged them to be more active learners and citizens, increased their motivation, self-expression and creativity, whereas they have fostered friendships. Some of the projects have dealt with international themes (Cyberbullying, social networking tools, migration, European identity, variety of religions), whereas others with intercultural ones (food habits, lifestyles, attitudes, costumes, traditions, folklore, monuments, famous places, myths and legends, fairy tales, significant dates in the year).
What are the tools preferred by the winners?
The winning projects have used the eTwinning Desktop Tools, the TwinSpace Tools, virtual learning environments (communities, virtual classes), audio/video conferencing, forums, chats, blogs and podcasts, galleries of ecards and photos, multimedia material, tools of social networking, wikis, software for presentations, pictures and drawings, math software, videos, digital resources, Google maps and emails, of course.
What are the skills developed and the winning products?
First of all, students have worked in teams to carry out their various tasks. They have done some library and/or WWW research, exchanged cultural information, discussed, commented and evaluated partners’ works, searched for differences and similarities in their cultural and linguistic heritage. Moreover, they have shared experiences and opinions, given feedback on media material and developed their understanding, appreciation and respect for other cultures.
Catering for the skills above means that the students have also improved their language and ICT skills. Apart from traditional reading and writing on-paper skills, they have practised online reading, blogging, recording audio-visual digital formats, producing films, making online journals, uploading digital material, creating mind-maps, taking interviews and reporting on school events. Among other things, school partners have collaborated on articles, poems, short stories, critical essays, guide tips for film making, film reviews and active ways of learning languages for more autonomous learning.
What is the evaluation process?
Firstly, the applications are judged by a national panel and secondly by a European one. In this way, various shortlists are proposed till the last stage whereby an independent panel of experts from the European Commission, the Pedagogical Advisory Group for eTwinning, the Central Support Service, and national Ministries of Education make the final decision.
From the outset of the competition, projects have been ranked with respect to achieving outstanding school collaboration and interaction, pedagogically appropriate innovation (e.g. to the age of pupils) and lots of creative, purposeful digital resources. Besides, the projects’ sustainability and transferability characteristics as well as their benefits and tangible outcomes are highly praised. Finally, legal and ethical issues have to be properly addressed.
What were the awards for pupils and their teachers respectively?
Students and teachers alike gain learning experiences in an enjoyable way. They share opinions and ideas, open up their schools to other European cultures and develop themselves as individuals and professionals. Yet, eTwinning awards aim to enhance these advantages by granting prizes to winners and runners-up.
In particular, the first prizes were educational trips for teachers and students to eTwinning Camps in Lanzarote (April 2006), in Sicily (April 2007), in Vimeiro (May 2008), in Thessaloniki (April 2009) and in Malaga (September/October 2010). The special categories have been sponsored by various stakeholders (European Schoolnet, eSkills Week, the Spanish Ministry of Education, the eTwinning National Support Service in France, the eTwinning National Support Service in Italy and Accademia della Crusca, the European Commission’s Multilingualism unit, the eTwinning National Support Service in Hungary), with prizes such as study grants, school equipment or participation to conferences. The runners-up (teachers) have participated in professional development European workshops and teacher training events.
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