Dr. Angela Panzarella, Corsico, SW Milan, Italy.
I am promoting eSafety, STEM, STEAM and BYOD ad further languages to support bilingual education in primary school.
This comes from my direct experience in the field of bilingual education in primary years.
After years of expertise in this field together with CLIL teacher training, I decided to promote the use of different languages to support Bilingual Education in primary school.
The importance of eSafety, STEM and STEAM is growing in the field of education as an active way of living school experience, given the assumption that students learn better when they actually do.
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths are different specific languages of the school curriculum which may be lived through the foreign language experience, in this specific case English (CLIL).
BYOD and bilingual education in primary school: a 100% technoCLIL approach
The field of Internationalism is focusing more and more on the importance of second language acquisition and bilingual education since primary years. That is because social and cultural demands, together with the issue of a multicultural society and mobility, are among the main objects of discussion within EU. It is furthermore clear that Europe is investing in supporting bilingualism/second language acquisition through different actions. The widespread of CLIL is giving a new appeal to language teaching and so is the impact of new technologies for teaching together with a raise of webtools used for didactic aims. In such a context, the importance of digital devices, which are daily explored by our students, is reaching a new level of discussion. It is here that the philosophy of BYOD is becoming more and more relevant, even in primary schools. Children are digital natives and they feel more motivated if they can experiment through tools which appear to them more appealing and at hand. And, of course, using digital devices as further means of education, allows our students to be more responsible and have more knowledge about eSafety and the risks surrounding the net. I speak by experience, too. After years of teaching in upper secondary schools, I moved to primary school because of a project of bilingual education sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Education, together with the regional school office of Lombardy and British Council. Six national schools started the IBI-BEI project (7 hours/week in English per class, since year 1 of primary school, with three subjects taught entirely in English language). The project now came to an end by it was proposed to include the experience within school curriculum. Each school chose its new educational offer: no less than 5 hours per week in English, since year one, switching to a CLIL approach more than just one or two subjects in English language. At the same time, new schools appeared to the horizon, looking for a similar experience and they were given the chance of starting new experimental projects of bilingual education with CLIL modules. I am completing the cycle of primary school with my students (I call them “my dwarfs”, because I have had them since year 1 and it is a “cute and funny” way of addressing to them) who are now finishing primary school (they are in grade 5) and I was asked to start a new project in another school, with a technoCLIL approach. Two years ago, thanks to eTwinning and TechnoCLIL courses (I am a CLIL teacher trainer, too), I invited my students to the use of Padlet and Tagul, therefore collecting an eTwinning experience (we were awarded the Quality Label and the eTwinning School Label thanks to this project) in a whole Padlet where we cooperated with schools from different parts of Europe (this one was reopened this year for the “Democratic participation” spring campaign of eTwining). Last year I started proposing webtools in my classes, opening different “padlets” for the different modules in the bilingual education curriculum (Walk Like an Egyptian, The VIPs of the UK, William Shakespeare Rocks), plus some other ones connected to the Research (I am working to the COMPANION Action-Research) and to Cambridge Young Learners Examinations. The modules for this school year are: A Wonderful World, Englishman in New York, The Beautiful People and The Final Countdown. During this last year, I experimented BYOD classes. After asking my Principal for permission and after having the OK-go! by my students’ parents, I explained what is BYOD to my students – who reacted excitedly ad the opportunity. For one hour a week they had the chance of using their own devices (they brought their devices to me in the first hour, I kept them locked and gave them only in the BYOD hour, I then collected the devices again and gave them to the pupils at the end of the daily lessons) to study and revise in English. They could use the different tools I showed them (may they be Tagul or Popplet, Learning Apps or Kahoot!, Animoto or Canva etc.), according to the activities I had arranged for them. They could live the experience of the flipped classroom, too. Digital devices were also used to be in touch with other schools, working in partnership, e.g. in eTwinning platform and to take part in special events, as CodeWeek, The Hour of Code, World Water Day, STEM Discovery Week, eSafety Day, Europe Day, eTwinning Day, etc. A striking result from this experience was represented by the percentage of students participating from home in online cooperative works and the percentage of students’ awareness in the responsible use of mobiles and other digital devices. Parents also confirmed that even at home, students preferred to use mobiles to create maps or digital works or game-based learning apps rather than to simply playing video games or mobile games. As a final result we can confirm that the linguistic competence was reinforced also due to the online interaction (which is, furthermore, one of the new CEFR descriptors) and the constant use of English.
Apart from their visible works on the Padlet, extremely high feedbacks were confirmed by the results of COMPANION Action-Research (they also created fake whatsapp messages showing high level of English, if you consider that we started last year when they were only 9 years old), YLE-Cambridge Examinations (Starters-PreA1 in year 3, Movers-A1 in year 4 and Flyers-A2 in year 5) apart from scoring higher than the standard Italian students in INVALSI test. They speak English as a vehicle of using the language for multiple purposes: for studying different subjects (CLIL), for applying technology to study (technoCLIL) and everyday life. And they use ICT and technology as a tool to reinforce their language. So far, we can also say that BYOD experience proved to be a 100% technoCLIL experience in our classes and we hope other schools can start such an experience.