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Top 100 eLearning Awards 2006
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EVALUATION - part 2


Ewa Kurzak 2007-04-19


Short Description:

In the Little Explorers project children supervised by teachers perform a series of unusual activities such as research games and experiments. Children and teachers analyze the results of the activities, describe, exchange and publish them on the project’s website. Some multimedia is also published in blogs. The reports, descriptions of results of the children’s researches make the basis of educational resources which develop different strategies of thinking and listening to others. While doing the tasks children hypothesize, deduce and think empirically. They also ask open-ended questions: Why…?, How…?, What would happen if…? and try to find the answers to the questions.
Children supervised by their teachers carry out a series of subprojects:

1) Little Explorers of Big Space
2) Human – a part of nature
3) Play on-line

The projects team consists of 8 schools. All participants of the project motivate each other to work and at the same time have a lot of fun. We are a little European net of schools and projects for children. That is why our web site is called "Net of Children projects". It is divided into sections and categories which include descriptions of tasks and the results of work with children. We have also published over 100 articles. Besides on our web site there is a place where information about important European events and descriptions of traditions of our countries are published. On the project’s site there are also ICT guides and e-mail addresses of the project team members. One can also find a electronic form which can be used to send comments, letters or pictures. The project is gaining more and more supporters. It is supported by local authorities of our city and by Textalk company from Sweden – the sponsor of Webnews software.

General aims:

- Development of creative thinking by solving problems, unconventional use of different objects, using different sources of information.
- Development of abilities to communicate by discussing negotiating, reasoning and making decisions in a team.
- Development of abilities of teachers who will teach each other using advanced communication and information processing tools but also publishing the effects of work with children.
- Expansion of the number of teaching resources of schools taking part in the project.
- Tolerance for cultural diversity and national language of partners.

Detailed aims:

- Introducing the world of scientific inquiries and imagination to a child through a series of research games and simulations, problems solving which are an inspiration in several themes from the range of astronomy and science fiction.
- Understanding the climate differences between different parts of our continent, observing cause and effect connections in behaviours between humans, plants, animals and nature.
- The construction by children of screenplays of mathematical games. The playing of the game checkers with partner kindergartens. The creation of digital puzzles based on the e-mail exchange of thematic photographs /eg. ′my toys′, ′my city′, ′plants in my city′, ′vehicles′, etc./

Pedagogical Value:

All the games are integral parts of the nursery schools’ pedagogical practices.
The project teaches understanding of the conditions of life, the ways of play In other country.
New technologies allow children to play the games in real circumstances and to exchange all taken decisions virtually.
The resources published on the Internet make up a set of examples and educational inspirations which can be used by many partnerships. Suggested games can be played in any place and the presentation of the effects (done with the use of the Internet, over the borders of the countries) prepares children to responsible work in virtual classes.
We hope that these early experiences with the computer will later influence the development of computer skills and interests, abilities to use the Internet as the source of information. When working with the computer we also make children aware of the threats and teach them safe and cultural behaviours. We also campaign parents in a similar way so that they could support our activities.
The subjects and the ways of accomplishing them cover all areas of a child’s activities but also the level of a child’s perception. Teachers choose tasks so that a child’s knowledge and skills could be developed in all areas. As it was mentioned before it is an interdisciplinary project. All the tasks are aimed at harmonious development of a child. They develop the following areas of children’s education:
• speech and thinking skills, preparation for reading and writing;
• mathematical concepts;
• aesthetics (art and music);
• social and emotional;
• healthy lifestyle and care for the environment.
All the activities are strongly supported by parents who observe the development of the project on the Internet.

Pedagogical Use of ICT Tools:

Implementation of the project is supported by many different sources of information, like: e-books, multimedia programmes, the Internet (links on web pages), direct observations during trips to a museum, a science festival or at science exhibitions. What is more children also learn how to use the computer, a digital camera, a printer and finding multimedia files on a desktop and in folders. Children know that the folder called CHILDREN which can be found in Favourites is theirs and that they can use it to surf the Internet. – the sites intended especially for them. They are aware that the Internet helps people but can also be dangerous so they get to know how to handle with the dangers.
Our tools of cooperation:
- computer
- scaner,
- digital camera
- Microsoft Office 2003 & 2007 (PowerPoint; Word; Excel)
- E-mail, You Send It
- IrfanView
- Corel Draw
- PhotoStory3
- Macromedia Flash
- Video Studio 9
- Windows Movie Maker
- Flash Spring for Power Point
- Slide.com; RockYou
- PrintKey
- TwinSpace,
- Web News for Textalk.se,
- Mediablog, Blogger, Multiply
- Coppermine Photo Gallery

Work Process:

The project is divided into several subprojects. The aim of dividing the project is to test several methods of cooperating online:
1) Partners accomplish chosen tasks at time they find convenient, the total of all accomplished tasks forms the project (Little Explorers of Big Space) – a puzzle method.
2) Partners accomplish the same tasks in the way they themselves choose, at a fixed time (October, January, March, June). Although the subprojects: Human- a part of nature/Climate and Digital Puzzle have the same aim they show great variety of pedagogical solutions (chosen materials, organization, methods of work with children).
3) When playing draughts and puzzles partners make consultations in their classes later they make group decision, send it via e-mail and publish on the project’s page. Elements of consultations, cooperation and exchange of made decisions can be found on this stage of the project.

Outcome:

Little Explorers is a project created for the youngest nursery school students. Children will be the authors of board games, puzzles made of digital pictures, films, interviews, e-cards. They will make some measuring tools and models individually (e.g. sundial, compass, thermometer, planetarium, scales, a block, inclined plane, telephone, etc). Children will print signs and name cards. They will discuss, negotiate, reason, decide on the content of the notes, create mind maps, organise and arrange room for plays and make records of their actions. Supported by their teachers children will use wide range of ICT tools and multimedia software chosen to suit their perceptive abilities.
The project teaches understanding the conditions of life, the ways of play in other country.
They will also get in touch with their friends in other countries.
Benefits for children:
- children will have a lot of fun,
- children will develop teamwork abilities
- children will develop technical skills, increase motivation to acquire
knowledge
- children will learn English and will get to know the languages of their
partners
Benefits for teachers:
a) teachers apply various methods to carry out the project,
b) teachers will take part in all-year pedagogical work on the project
c) teachers will use examples of good pedagogical practices of the teachers
from partner kindergartens – they will exchange experiences and
resources.
Benefits for parents:
a) parents will be informed about all the stages of international cooperation
during meetings and via the Internet
b) parents will support the completion of all the tasks by discussions with
children, observations and delivering materials,
c) parents will have a chance to influence the education of their children and
to have a regular contact with the kindergarten.
Benefits for our kindergartens:
a) we will enrich the educational value of our kindergartens,
b) we will enrich the traditionally used ways of cooperating with others,
c) we will use computers and the Internet more effectively,
d) we will employ new ways of promoting our nursery kindergarten.

Evaluation:

We have been connected with eTwinning since its inauguration and working on the projects convinced me that the use of ICT in the education of the youngest children is possible and what’s more necessary. Besides that it also develops the skills of both the children and the teacher working with them. By accomplishing common projects eTwinning joins all the educational systems of the European Union and promotes equalizing educational opportunities of all children.
We achieved all assumed aims, we also reached high level of satisfaction
Thanks to eTwinning Project we have developed our job qualifications which was the result of independent work and mutual help of all partners. Every member of the team made use of their strengths: knowledge of the subject matter, ICT or English.
We can use the solutions suggested by our partners. We are open to suggestions of teachers from other countries which results in various publications form Malta, Czech Republic, Spain, Scotland, England, Romania and Poland (more than a hundred articles). Since the time the site was set up it was visited 27 thousand times.
I think that results of our cooperation are example of good pedagogical practice.

Impact:

The projects team consists of 8 schools. The main participants of the project are the youngest children (3-6 year old children) and their teachers. The earliest experiences of children are the most certain way of developing their communication skills in a foreign language and getting to know new technologies. Although our children cannot cooperate as their older friends can however observing how children in other European kindergartens play allows them to learn. Children notice similarities and use positive and friendly models to learn. On the project’s site apart from the planned tasks one can also find information about every country’s national holidays and reports about celebrations in our kindergartens so that everybody – children, teachers and parents – could get acquainted with the culture and traditions of our partnership consisting of kindergartens from the southern, northern, western and central part of Europe.

CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION
- Our project is in the 100 Top eLearning Awards 2006.
http://elearningawards.eun.org  
- That project has been included in the iEARN Project Book 2006/2007
http://www.iearn.org/projects/littleexplorers.html  

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