…there is a gentle breeze coming up from the sea and the sun is shining brilliantly. From the windows I can see the roof tops and harbour cranes of Valetta in the distance and – if I hang out a bit, and risk the drop – the city walls of Mdina in the other direction. Birds call and chit-chat among the palm trees. The school is buzzing. One hundred head teachers from all over Europe are here at the Margaret Mortimer Junior Lyceum on Triq il Kaħwiela, Santa Luċija, Malta. So, all in all, not your average Belfield Sunday.
Some people say it can be difficult working with headteachers. I have to disagree if only on the evidence of the workshops that have been taking place here over these past two days.
The secret is, I think, to offer challenge and a bit of fun involving the change to work together to get something done. I’ve just come from one on stop motion animation. Twenty headteachers, a handful of laptops and webcameras and a small mountain of coloured clay. They are having a ball and learning too. Multicoloured clay models are shuffling and smiling, winking, swinging swords and clubs, showing incredulity just before their heads are lopped off, and so on… and we think kids have violent tendencies when they play! But it’s all good fun and Winston and Conrad – the workshop leaders – are busy advising, guiding and making suggestions, helped out by those of the participants who have a little more experience that others. Next the avi files will be imported into MovieMaker and sound, titles and so on will be added. Upstairs similar scenes are taking place at blogging, telling stories with photos, and simple digital video sessions. Joe and Jacqeline ( a formidable Ireland/ Malta alliance) have led the blogwork. Franco – another colleague of Emile’s from the Malta NSS – has led the video sessions and James and Dennis have amazed everyone with their suggestion for using digital photos in the classroom and the potential of Photostory in particular. Franco’s crew may not win any Oscars but they are having a lot of fun and the bloggers are now juts that – each workshop participant is going away with a blog frame in place and ideas about how they might use it in their schools. The energy is palpable. And the interest in mastering one or two new ICT skills that they can bring back to their schools – and use tomorrow! – is blindingly obvious among this very mixed ability crew of headteachers. As is the enjoyment. I’m here as a guest of Emile Vassallo, coordinator of the Malta eTwinning NSS. Along with Brenda Bigland of Lentrise School in the UK, and Anne Gilleran and Slyvia Binger of the Brussels based eTwinning CSS, I’ve been asked to add my thoughts to the mix. It’s been a really good experience. The conference has alternated between our St Julian’s hotel base and here at the Lyceum. It’s been a very effective arrangement. We have the luxury of a decent evening base and the (surprisingly) common culture of a working school setting to keep things moving along during the day. The fact that there are no pupils around is proving an extra benefit for some of the principals!
eTwinning is once again capturing imaginations and opening minds. The fact that this is all happening in one of the loveliest settings in the EU is simple a bonus. (Even allowing for the rain and thunderstorms!)