The two stories below were submitted to the online Educational Technology Journal From Now On at the end of July as possible entries for the October99 edition featuring 'Stories of Overcoming Obstacles'. Due to limited responses, the Editor, Jamie McKenzie, "decided not to proceed with the article describing how teachers have been overcoming obstacles as they have sought to implement new technologies" (personal email, 21Sep).
Ferdi Serim taught me that the little we may know can be of help to others who know less than we do. On the other hand, for several months now I've been reading that teachers seldom write about their experiences in this area, and they should, because it may help colleagues 'take a step forward into this brave new world'. Bearing these ideas in mind, I decided to enter Jamie McKenzie's contest, knowing at the start that I haven't done anything different or extraordinary. However, I did it my way (that rings a bell!) and the best I knew at the time.
Since Jamie McKenzie's project did not go ahead, I decided to share these two stories with readers of my page, having informed him in advance. He immediately answered: "Thanks, Teresa! Good idea." (personal email, 4Oct).
I am publishing these two stories in the exact format and length that I submitted them (according to the rules laid out). I hope to publish a more detailed description of the two email projects I have developed with second-year English classes in a near future. You can browse through these projects at http://www.digibridge.net/teresadeca/culturalexchange.htm and http://www.digibridge.net/teresadeca/spiritofxmas.htm .
Feel free to email me if you'd like further information.
Overcoming obstacles, or Theory becomes practice
My first-ever Net-based project (and the first at my school) was an extracurricular cultural exchange between seven Portuguese sixth graders (in their second year of English) and six American fifth graders. My students had both language and technology obstacles (learning Word and email) to overcome. However, I felt it was important that they understand the growing relevance of English and of the new communication technologies in today's world. The project lasted eight weeks with two weekly two-hour sessions - one for writing the messages, the other for learning computer skills, keyboarding the messages and sending them.
On our first email session at school the connection broke down and wasn't recovered. How frustrating! What to do? I had to act quickly to overcome a technological obstacle. Improvise! I suggested we save the messages on a disk and send them from my home computer. They loved the idea and suggested we adopt it. It definitely avoided unintentional message deletions, which we couldn't afford, because we wanted to display the project. So every week either a couple of students would come to my house to email the messages they'd worked on at school, or I would do it.
The project went quite well. It was on display at school and is published at: http://www.malhatlantica.pt/eb23santonio/e_mail/culturalexchange.htm (the school page) and http://www.digibridge.net/teresadeca/culturalexchange.htm (my page).
It would be my first venture into the world of ed. tech.! Fear of change was the main obstacle, but there were others : what to teach, how to plan the course (number of sessions and content), 'time slots' for each content, how to demonstrate the theory, training exercises, number of trainees per group, how to recruit them and, 'was I able'?
I decided on word processing, surfing the Net-Web and email in two-hour weekly sessions of 10 students (2 per computer) for 7 weeks. My husband helped with the planning. I submitted a project to give basic computer training to 6th and 7th grade 'have-nots', who I felt deserved the chance to learn to use a computer. Volunteers filled in a simple application form that allowed me to do the screening for each group.
Step-by-step demonstrations with everyone watching and repeating at their computers, followed by hands-on practice on their own, with me as 'the guide on the side', was the strategy. At times I was summoned so often, that it was difficult to manage. . . and exhausting. But totally worth it!
The first session went so well that it boosted my confidence. They were always very enthusiastic, engaged, collaborative, and understanding of any omissions on my part. Above all, they felt it was very useful.
Link updated on 26Apr2012