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East speaks west, west speaks east: Two continents, one classroom

By Edith Flores Wolff, Global German Youth Connect, Overath, Germany                                                      

Launched in 2010 at the Asia-Europe Classroom (AEC) Net Conference, East Speaks West, West Speaks East (ESWWSE) is an ICT- based collaborative project aiming to promote and explore online language learning among high school students from public or private schools from Europe and Asia through the application of open source ICT web tools.  Gone are the days when language learning was very much limited, costly, and a matter of privilege. Language learning has evolved through the years through ICT web tools. It has become more innovative, inventive, alive, collaborative and fun, too.

Thirteen member schools of the AEC Network have successfully joined this project for two years.  Following the philosophy of "I teach mine, I learn yours; I learn yours, you learn mine", it is an ICT-supported collaborative project which provides European and Asian 1st year to 3rd year secondary school students a chance to share, interact, teach, and learn the languages of their foreign counterparts by using the wheel of language learning: assimilation - listening, repetition, and immersion. This process of exchange takes place normally in a span of seven to nine months that cover two phases: 1st phase - Language Material Production (mother language) and 2nd phase - Language Learning (foreign language). The project is concluded after the production and staging of a play in the foreign language chosen by the students. Further, the participants work hand in hand in continuously discovering ICT web tools to effectively learn the language and transport knowledge. Language learning websites, language portals, and even virtual based language schools are defying distance and time between learners and teachers.

European and Asian students are teaching and learning from each other. They are being encouraged not just to consume from the Net but also to contribute their knowledge for the benefit of others.  Students are actively bringing their contribution forward by creating a collaborative platform in the Net by utilizing or applying the ICT web tools.

Faster, more efficient and affordable internet access made the idea of “Two Continents, One Classroom” possible which could be considered as a major breakthrough in language education. Language learning has gone a long way and has become more active. The availability of Open Source ICT web tools for free or for a very low cost - from books to LP records, to audio cassettes, to CDs, to MP3, and the Text -to-Speech Software - helps students and teachers carry out the tasks expected from them.  This project utilizes Audio and Video recording programs/ tools, Basic open software and Video Publishing Sites. To name a few: audio and video recording programs/ tools (Audacity, DVD maker, Slide maker, Movie Maker, Green Screen),  basic open software ( Audacity, Text to Speech Translator, Tagxedo, Wordle, Quizlet, Audio Converter, Video Converter, Google Docs),  video publishing sites ( www.youtube.com , voicethread.com), etc.

Present Development of the Project

From January 2012 to the present, two schools from the Philippines (Hope Academy of Rizal and Olongapo City National High School) and one school from India (Apeejay Pitampura) are participating in a long term language project under ESWWSE, extending beyond the 7- to 9-month project period to learn German. At the moment, the students are woking on the theme "Goethe meets Tagore." In comparing these two brillant minds, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe of Germany and Rabindranath Tagore of India, the students would be discovering similarities and differences between these countries through literature.

To increase the benefits of the project on the students, they are further encouraged to take at least one of the German Language Proficiency Exams at Goethe Institute and acquire at least one German Language Certificate before completing their secondary schools. They will be guided by the project proponents during the preparation for the proficiency exams.

Evaluation

The project has encountered a number of difficulties in its implementation including dealing with different time zones for the participating schools, lack of time among students and teachers in some schools to engage in project activities, and lack of creativity of some teachers and students.  ICT-related challenges included lack of Internet access / poor Internet connection, low technical support in schools, lack of knowledge among some participants in the application of web tools, very low exposure of teachers and students to free software available on the internet which could serve as alternative solutions when technical problems occur (e.g. managing and transferring files, files conversion), and restrictive Internet security settings at schools that prevented a number of interactive activities from being accessed.

Despite these challenges, the students positively welcomed the pedagogical approach of this project. The prospect of getting a chance of learning a foreign language which are not normally available or not a part of their school curriculum excites them and serves as a motivating factor. Students and teachers alike have the chance in gaining and applying their knowledge and skills in using ICT web tools as well as networking with other members through the project’s networking sites. 

Furthermore, they get to learn and examine cultural differences and similarities among themselves through online interaction. It must also be added that this project could serve as a medium in motivating students who have learning difficulties in schools like those who are suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. One of the participating schools observed that students with this condition have actively engaged in the project and learned languages through role-playing activities.

In its two years of existence, ESWWSE has been nominated for several awards and was presented in several international conferences. This project was presented in the 4th edition of the International Conference "ICT for Language Learning" in Florence on 20-21 October 2011. Moreover, ESWWSE belonged to the Top 50 entries out of 575 projects submitted at the eLearning Awards 2010 run by the European Schoolnet where it was nominated for the "Special Category for the Outstanding Teachers Award". AEC also conferred this project an Excellence Award Certificate in 2010 in India and a Merit Award in Ireland in 2011.

For more information, please visit: eswwse.webs.com

Contact:
Edith Flores Wolff,
Global German Youth Connect,
Overath, Germany

eswwse.webs.com;
efw2010@googlemail.com



10.07.2012