by Bozena Kraj
Expert Educator Columnist, Poland
I have always wanted to do something exciting, something creative, something artistic. As a girl I was taught to play the old piano my grandma had; I really liked drawing and painting and I loved writing compositions because I dreamt of being a journalist. In fact, I decided to follow in the footsteps of my mum, who was a teacher. And the best of all – she was loved by her students. Since the beginning of my school career, the role of a teacher has changed, although this feeling of being liked by students cannot be compared with anything else – it is simply the most important. Nowadays, I seem to be also an instructor and a mentor, not just an English language teacher. And these changes came with ICT.
About 9 years ago I got the first Smartboard at my school, and for me and my students – it was the proper start for a “bright future”. To sum up those moments I would say: “Every beginning was difficult but how exciting”. I understood that everything would change. And it happened so. The world of education opened new gates and let fresh ideas and new possibilities in.
I got interested in project-based learning and eTwinning. In 2008, I registered my school on the international educational platform and our first project was approved. During the process of coordinating the projects and adapting them into our Polish curriculum, the International Language Club of ICT came into being. At the same time, I began learning myself and doing a number of online courses supported by the eTwinning program. The Club is my own proposition of extra activities for students of different interests, needs and career plans. The main purpose of the Club is to teach practical interdisciplinary knowledge in English with the use of ICT, so learning together, looking up at the stars and enjoying the time seem to be a priority, making the Club quite popular.
Its learning schedule consists of three modules. Module One is called We are friends with English and ICT and these are regular meetings of the club during which language and ICT problems are explained in a creative way with the use of various technological tools, including presentations, videos, audio files, online crosswords, collages, panoramas, and interactive exercises. Students are encouraged to use blended learning. Module Two consists of working on international project blogs and constructing interdisciplinary knowledge with international partner schools. These are eTwinning projects which are a part of the Lifelong Learning Programme. Some of the activities were entitled Epostcards from Europe, Our creative world of inspiration, My town in the old times, Eureka, My country through painting, Eurodance, Music awards, Our colourful world. Module Three is connected with promotional activities, completing applications, writing articles, organizing project galleries, preparing and uploading promotional materials, which teaches important entrepreneurial skills and must be a significant part of a modern education.
Some years passed and I was ready to share recognized, best practices, rewarded with National and European Quality Labels to the world. A great opportunity came in 2011 when I was invited to take part in the National Microsoft Forum of Innovative Teachers and Schools in Warsaw. I loved the event; it was an occasion for me to learn a lot about latest Microsoft ICT tools as well. Our International Language Club of ICT and I became finalists of the next year’s Forum. Then, joining the Partners in Learning platform gave a boost to my personal development; I am ready to adapt new ways of teaching, and I understand the role of ICT tools and students’ expectations. Learning from creative and innovative educators from all over the world, all experts in their subject and ICT areas, is something exceptional. There is nothing better that making friends and sharing good teaching experiences, while being supported by professionals from the Microsoft in Education team. It is so creative and inspiring to discover good sources of ICT tools and gain knowledge on technology with Microsoft, to get professional support and find promising opportunities for my students’ learning.
Do you think I have fulfilled my childhood dreams connected with my interests in music, art, design or writing? The only good answer is “yes”. I can write blog posts on PiL; I blog on the WordPress and I seem to be a young journalist. My favourite activity is designing slides with PowerPoint Clip Art and texts to use on my learning blog and on the class board to make my students’ learning more colourful. I take photos to make wonderful AutoCollages, panoramas and ebooks. And classical music by my students is an important part of our school presentations. To quote Albert Einstein, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” And the knowledge of ICT gives us another effective dimension of creativity to our educational efforts. But it is another story to tell, and that’s what I’m setting out to do in my column.