Collaborative learning across and beyond Europe
A public school in Gori, Georgia discovers the benefits of eTwinning, an EU platform which has enabled students to collaborate on an international basis. Ekaterine Khutsishvili and Natalia Berkatsashvili report.
Our school is the Vazha Pshavela Gori N9 Public School in Georgia. Recently we have been looking out for opportunities to establish contact with schools and teachers around the world to widen the horizons of our students and this led us to the eTwinning programme, an EU initiative which in fact goes beyond the 27 members of the EU. As a result, since 2021 our school has become involved in a very interesting process of implementing a numbber of collaborative international projects with our students.
The eTwinning platform provides an opportunity for communication, cooperation, joint project work and sharing experiences that can help develop the skills necessary for the 21st century. It is also a great resource for teachers to advance their professional development.
eTwinning Project 1
As teachers of natural sciences annd English, we found it very interesting to work on our first international eTwinning project called “Fairy Kingdom of Animals”. This work was transdisciplinary, connecting the natural world to the legends and stories told by humans, who were inspired by nature. We know the animal kingdom is distinguished by its diversity and beauty, but we have found that the many legends, fairy-tales, stories, cartoons, documentary and feature films about animals have really engaged our students. What we wanted them to find out was how animals and humans interact with each other and to explore the kind of stories that people have told about animals. Students got involved in various activities such as composing games, writing stories and folk-tales, learning and reading poems about animals, solving riddles, drawing and modelling.
We planned and followed a sequence of activities with our international partners to stimulate the interest of all our students. During our online meetings we discussed both technical and contextual issues, helped each other to learn and use various instruments and implement the steps required for the process of creating a story.
Students designed different pieces of work both individually and in groups, discussing the steps for implementing each activity and were in turn introduced to the pieces of work written by their peers from other countries. By participating in the project my students were also given an opportunity to make friends and collaborate with other students from different schools in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
By working on the project, students came to see the interconnection and organisation of knowledge and learned skills from different perspectives, mastering different learning strategies, and working out interdisciplinary connection that integrate natural sciences, foreign languages, computer technologies, fine arts and applied arts. They crearted animations, electronic logos and dioramas, wrote a folk tale, recorded videos, had a go at activities in foreign languages and became familiar with the pieces of work made by their peers in other countries.
Working on the project widened their knowledge about animals and the environment while developing both cognitive and creative skills. It also helped them develop a sense of responsibility for completing a task, their ability to cooperate, and to take responsibility for their part in joint problem solving and decision-making. They had plenty of opportunity to be curious, positive and caring and to develop what we hope will be a life-long interest in the animal world. We also believed that the project helped them understand that each individual organism is important in nature and that all living things are connected both to each other and to human life.
When the project was finished, we were really pleased that it was awarded both national and European Quality Labels as part of the eTwinning programme.
Project 2: Dream School
We had no hesitation signing up for a second project with schools from Georgia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Armenia, which explored the idea of “Our Dream School“.
This time students undertook a survey to establish their individual interests and were then arranged in international groups working together to design a building and playground for their dream school.They alse developed clubs and school circles, lesson schedules, a school uniform and a school culture.
They had to design a school that would meet the requirements of each student, where the school culture, aesthetics and teaching spaces created an environment which helped blended learning and where education was available for all. The ethos was to reflect the ideas of inclusion, unity and equality.
Their work again crossed subject boundaries, this time of natural science, ecology, aesthetics, culture, art and computer technologies, while outcomes included materials such as placards, models, sketches, drawings, images, digital templates, dioramas, all presented in a range of different languages. The primary goal was to organise an exhibition for the students’ collaborative book and pieces of work that would demonstrate their vision about the dream school. In the process, students came to understand that every person has the right to a quality education.
This project has already earned the national quality labels of Lithuania and Latvia, and we are looking forward to getting positive assessment for the tasks and activities done by our students.
Ekaterine Khutsishvili, is Head Teacher of Natural Sciences, at Vazha Pshavela Gori N9 Public School in Georgia.
Natalia Berkatsashvili, teaches English at Vazha Pshavela Gori N9 Public School.