eTwinning-powered school visits in Malta, March 2009
First of all, a big thank you to Malta eTwinning coordinator Jeannette Cardona who both helped me with school contacts and accompanied me when visiting St Paul's Bay primary, St. Ignatius secondary and Paola Primary school.
Also very warm thanks to school heads and personnel in all three schools who generously took their time to show me around. We would definitely be more than glad to return the favor further on in Sweden!
The power of networking
My school visits in Malta also manifest very clearly the effectiveness of social networking: it was natural for me to contact Jeannette, both of us being involved in eTwinning, and I also knew Daniel at St. Paul's a bit already from our virtual conversations.
Thursday, March 5: St. Paul's Bay Primary
The weather gods were not in a very good mood when I arrived in Malta but most of Thursday turned out really beautiful. It was hard to believe that the ferocious wind and pouring rain the previous night very seriously tested the glass doors leading to the terrace from my hotel room.
Beautiful St. Paul's Bay
Jeannette picked me up at the Valletta bus terminal and off we went, heading north, until we arrived in the beautiful St. Paul's Bay area. What an incredible location for a school, right by the sea! The view to the Mediterranean from the classroom almost took my breath away.
In the classrooms
After meeting the head teacher, Ms Lina Deguara, we had the pleasure to join Nadine, Isabel and their students. The students at St. Paul's Bay Primary come from many different countries - a situation that is both a great resource pool and a challenge, as we know so well also in Sweden. The high level of the children's English surprised me but, of course, English is used extensively in everyday life in Malta. The native Maltese language is related to Arabic and, in fact, most people speaking Arabic understand Maltese - but not necessarily the other way round, sometimes to the frustration of the Maltese themselves!
Daniel is the ICT guru at St Paul's and his technical knowledge definitely goes pretty deep into matters I just barely recognize. Luckily, we had time to exchange some ideas before he had to dash away.
There are several ongoing eTwinning initiatives at St. Paul's and the teachers are very positive to future collaboration ideas. This is definitely an opportunity not to be missed in our Nordic location in Sweden. As exotic as Malta seems from our Nordic horizon, should the
Nordic countries seem to the Maltese - possibly even more so!
Friday, March 6: St. Ignatius Girls' Junior Lyceum
Friday morning was grey and, once again, rain was pouring down by the bucket. However, when it was time to meet Jeannette again the skies cleared up a bit and I did not need my jacket during the brief walk in central Valletta.
Close to everything
In Malta, everything is conveniently close and we arrived at St. Ignatius (former Maria Regina) after a couple of minutes' drive only. The school is quite big - some 900 students all in all, girls only (there are no mixed secondary schools in Malta). We were first greeted by a language teacher colleague, Alice, whom we also joined in class a bit later. Alice has a learner autonomy approach to her teaching and is now
trying out wiki tools together with her enthusiastic students. This would no doubt also be a great start for an eTwinning project.
In the ICT frontline
After the language class Joseph, the ICT coordinator at Maria Regina, took over as our guide. We checked out one of the computer labs - also equipped with a digital whiteboard - and had a very interesting conversation about pedagogical ICT use. Joseph has, among other things, created some really neat flash applications that automatically summarize the students' results. Talking about updating web pages, I mentioned my testing of the Posterous blog service that enables easy updates through email only - complete with photos and video clips, if you like. There are definitely many additional ideas to be shared in the future as well.
Looking around - and looking good!
Joseph also showed us other parts of the school, among these the classrooms for wood and metal work, textile and art. Beautiful results of skillful student work were to be seen everywhere!
Friday, March 6: Paola Primary A
We also had time for a second visit on Friday, to Paola Primary where Friday was a parents' day for the early classes. Paola Primary invests lots of effort and energy in working with environmental issues; really great to underline the importance of these matters from the very beginning. There are probably very few school subjects that can result in such a vital awareness - both locally in Malta and also in global terms - as those connected to the environment.
Learning is fun
It was a pleasure to get the chance to meet the children and personnel at Paola Primary A, a school where everyone very obviously has lots of fun. Having fun, in turn, is of course a very good start both in teaching and learning!
The school visits in Malta were definitely some of the highlights of my stay on these beautiful islands. Meeting colleagues, students and school leaders in other countries automatically gives new ideas and a most valuable bird eye view to the daily work back at home. It can be very difficult to see how things could be done differently - and perhaps, indeed, better! - without external references. Now I'll have quite a few thoughts to sort out during the spring!