Dec 27, 2013

Looking back at 2013, I can say that never before has there been a year with so many ups and downs as this one.  There are both good and bad moments every year, but in 2013 the oscillations between the ups and downs were really huge. But now, at the end of the year, I'm going to leave behind all those disturbing, terrifying and utterly devastating moments, along with all those failures and disappointments and take stock of the good moments only, of achievements, of successes which will hopefully continue in 2014 as well.

1) Academically, it's been a terrific year - my husband got his Masters, my older son is just about to get his Bachelor's and will continue to pursue his Masters and my younger son enrolled at college. And I got a grant for a year-long ELA - eLearning Academy by CARNet, so this year I'm a student again - studying about e-learning and pedagogy, writing papers about it and getting grades for my work!

2) We travelled a lot - on stand by, of course. We stepped on a new continent - South America. We visited Rio de Janeiro and were impressed with the beauty of this unique city. The second long-haul flight of 2013 was to Chicago, a city that made a really huge impression on me, with its stunning skyline, the Millenium Park, the Navy Pier, the Mag Mile, the Willis Tower and the outstanding  Indians on Horseback by Ivan Mestrovic, a famous Croatian sculptor.

3) I also travelled to Valencia for a Comenius visit, which marked the end of a successful Comenius project that I was coordinating at my school and that connected teachers and students from 8 countries.

4) At my school we opened the Croatian Future Classroom (CFC) - we're not the only Croatian school that is piloting the use of tablets in learning and we are definitely not among those schools where all the teachers have tablets, (but have been trying hard to get one for each teacher - to no avail yet!), but we certainly are the only Croatian school with such a beautiful flexible learning space.

5) Learning in such an environment inspired Samsung Corporation to shoot a promotional video at my school - starring Sonja and me along with the headteacher, students, some parents and the director of CARNet. The making of the video was totally out of our world - the film crew arrived from Chicago, all those vans, our own stylist and make-up artist and so much fun. Of course, with so many enthusiastic actors, the promo video is a warm account of 21st century teaching and learning and of  forward thinking.

6) This has been  the third year in a row that Sonja and I led a series of webinars for matura exam candidates from across the country.

7) My collaboration with Bart was even more intensive than last year. We led two learning events on the eTwinning platform during which we trained 350 teachers. The first event was about the pedagogy in eTwinning projects, the second about education 3.0. We immensely enjoyed preparing the events and we led them with lots of enthusiasm and passion and the feedback by the participants was amazing. Bart and I gave two workshops on The Pedagogical Value of eTwinning projects at the Annual eTwinning Conference in Lisbon. The workshops evaluation was beyond my wildest dreams - out of 77 participants, 51 said that the workshops were excellent, 18 opted for very good and 8 said it was good. We also did the opening plenary  at the Dubrovnik contact seminar - it was a plenary workshop, with lots of interaction from the participants, because we both believe that involving the audience is what matters.Bart and I also led the first eTwinning Twitterathon - Twitter marathon, which was highly successful. Earlier in the year we hosted a TeachMeet event and a Partners in Learning Alumni Reunion.

8) I also led the first Croatian Learning Event, along with Suzana, during which we trained 200 teachers on how to use web 2.0 technologies to develop the key competences.

9) I've done a lot of work for eTwinning Croatia as well. I gave a webinar on Online Testing Tools, a blended module entitled "The Classroom without Walls",  two workshops entitled "A Little Bit of Magic with Collaboration Tools" and a plenary at the national etwinning conference entitled "Lifelong Learning just a Click away".

10) I also continued my work as edtech consultant and workshop leader (or as they may call it: Teacher Champion) for CARNet's award-winning project Schools 2.0 and Inspiring Science Education. I gave a webinar for Schoolnet South Africa about gamification, for the Living Schools lab by the European Schoolnet about flexible learning spaces, for RSCON about lifelong learning, for BaW about online testing,  for AMPEU about Comenius multilateral partnerships.  I gave a number of workshops about the 21st century teaching and learning for different associations of teachers and headteachers in Croatia. I hosted a TeachMeet for a European project Green Future.

11) I shook hands with the President of Croatia.
and talked to the Senior Vice President of Samsung.

12) And last, but really endearing because this had been my wish for years, I made my first lip dub and, as a matter of fact, my second one, as well -  in my workshops at the Dubrovnik seminar I inspired two groups of teachers to create two lip dubs - they sang Don't stop me now!


Dec 24, 2013

I've been tagged in a blogging meme by my dear friends Eva BuyuksimkesyanJanet Bianchini and Cristina Silva.

The task includes:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
So here I go:
11 random facts about me
1. I'm a proud mom of two boys who are now at university, studying mechanical engineering and ICT.
2. My husband and I swim 2 kilometers every Sunday. We've been doing that  for 12 years now.
3.  I travel a lot, but always on stand-by, which means that we can travel only if there are free seats available on the plane. It can get really nerve-racking, but it's worth it.
4.  Until last year I thought  jogging was not my kind of sport. Now I simply adore it.
5.  I like reading and always have my Kindle in my purse.
6.  I can't stand waiting in queues because I think that's utter waste of time. That's why I never leave home without my Kindle.
7. I can shop for hours without getting bored. It's not necessary that I buy anything. I'm happy with just browsing. 
8. I joined Twitter because of Ashton Kutcher. I'm still following him, but he's never followed me back.
9.  I'm a chocoholic. I can't say no to chocolate. I love all sorts, but I'm totally nuts about dark chocolate with whole nuts.
10. I think I've tried every diet. As a matter of fact I'm always on a diet. Except when I'm eating chocolate.
11. I can sew, knit and crochet. I used to make my own clothes - skirts, blouses, dresses, caps, mittens.

My answers to Eva's questions:
1. Do you remember the first class you entered as a teacher?
Yes, I do. That was a long time ago, when I was still a student at university I was hired as a sub in a primary school. I was standing there petrified while the headteacher was introducing me to a class of 14-year olds.. The moment she left, I felt at ease. I still remember what I was wearing on that day - a striped black and white dress with big white buttons on the back - I designed and made it myself.
2. What is your favorite social media platform? Why?
Twitter because I learn so much from my PLN. Facebook, because it's fun.
3. How do you think blogging helps your teaching?
It's  a great way to reflect on what I have done as a teacher or as a teacher trainer.
4. Tea or Coffee?
Coffee by all means. I'm a coffeeholic too.
5. Who is your favorite singer, band, musician?
Robbie Williams
6. Do you attend conferences? Why? / why not?
Yes, I love conferences because I can meet people (usually from my PLN) fcf and learn, learn, learn. I'm addicted to learning.
7. Who were the most helpful tweeters or bloggers for you when you started blogging or tweeting?
Shelly Terrell, Karenne Sylvester and Burcu Akyol.
8. What will be the first goal in your New Year’s resolutions list this year?
Flip my classroom more often.
9. Where would you like to travel in 2014?
Buenos Aires.
10. How long does it take to write a blog post for you and how often do you update your blog?
Sometimes it takes so long that I quit. At other times words just keep flowing and this is an amazing feeling. Most often I have writer's block at the beginning, I know what I want to write, but words just don't keep coming. After a while however, there they are and I can write for hours on end. I write at least one post a month on each of my blogs.
11. What is your favorite food?
Chocolate :-)
My answers to Janet's questions:
1. What has been one of your priceless 'aha' moments as a teacher?
In 2009, when I introduced my students to Glogster I realized there was a very thin line between them as digital natives and me as a digital immigrant.
2. Which educator has inspired you to be the best teacher you can be?
My teacher of German from my primary school. He was an erudite teacher who instilled the love of language in his students.

3. Are you an early bird or night owl?
Both. I don't sleep a lot. But I like quiet early mornings the most.

4. Which do you prefer, Facebook or Twitter and why?
Twitter because it's there that I learn most. Facebook,
 because it's fun. 
5. Which adjectives would you use to describe yourself using the letters of your first name?
Ardent - about everything I do.

6.Do you collect anything in particular?  If so, what is it and how long have you been collecting it?
I've been collecting fridge magnets since 1998 when I bought my first magnet in Lichtenstein. My fridge is not big enough for all the magnets, so we also have a magnet board.

7.Which place in the world would you most like to visit, and why?
Bondi Beach at Christmas Time to see what it's like to spend Christmas on the beach and see Santa in swimming trunks.

8. What is the most treasured possession you have received from one of your former students?
A book they made containing all their names, photos and a special message for me from each one of them. I'll keep it forever. 

Do you like teaching exam classes?  No, I don't. I'm dreaming of a school with no exams, no grades, just plain leanirng and having fun while doing it.

10. What do you most enjoy about blogging?
I'm the happiest when someone leaves a comment.

11. What's your favourite song?
Go gentle by Robbie Williams.
My answers to Cristina's questions:
1. What was the best moment in your life?
When I met my husband. It happened on a warm summer afternoon on Island Krk.

2. Do you expect much of people?
Yes, I do.I believe in the good of all people. By default.

3. How many true friends do you have?
I'm lucky I have a few true friends who I can rely on and who I  love fondly.

4. What do you do when you need to have YOUR moment?
I go jogging.

5. What is the film of your life?
"My travels" - a travel movie.

6. When was the last time you slept 10h? 
I don't remember.

7. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Look at the alarm clock.

8. Which historical character would you like to meet if you had that chance?
Marco Polo, because I'd like to ask him where he really comes from, either from Korčula, Croatia or Venice, Italy.

9. An embarrassing moment in your life was…
As the coordinator of the Comenius project at my school I organized a visit of 51 teachers and students from 7 European countries in Zagreb. I planned everything very carefully, including the meals at restaurants, but somehow missed to ask people about their dietary habits. I was really embarrassed when I realized that the food I had ordered was inappropriate for some people. Luckily, the chef was really understanding and skillful and cooked new food really fast. 

10. When did you last burst out laughing and couldn’t stop?
In October at the eTwinning contact seminar in Dubrovnik when a good friend told a story about his childhood fears. Hilarious!

11. City or countryside?
City, definitely. I used to live in the countryside when I was a little girl and even though I only have nice memories of it, I prefer living in a city. 

I tag you:
Daniela Bunea, Alessandra Pallavicini, Sonya Van Schaijik, Sanja Božinović, Mihaela Rusu, Lidija Kralj, Suzana Delić, Tea Horvatić, Jugoslava Lulić, Maja Dakić Brković, Anna Varna.

And I'm looking forward to your answers:
1) What is your favourite book?
2) How much time on an average day do you spend online?
3) iPad or Android tablets?
4) What do you consider the most valuable thing you own?
5) What is your favourite way to waste time?
6) If a movie was being made about you who would you choose to play you and why?
7) If you could have an endless supply of food what would that be?
8) What's the best holiday you've been on?
9) What's the worst haircut you've ever had?
10) What three things do you love most about your best friend?
11) What is your favourite smell and what memory does it remind you of?

Thank you  Eva, Janet and Cristina for tagging me. I really appreciate it.

Finally, let me tell you that when number eleven is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is this hilarious video about a voice recognition elevator:

ETWION - inspiring, powerful, irresistible

Dec 20, 2013

I love Twitter, I always have, ever since I first started following Ashton Kutcher @aplusk, (yes, really!) in April 2009. Only a month later, my PLN began to take shape. That was also the time when the first educational Twitter chat took place.

4,5 years later, my PLN plays a very important role for my professional, but also personal development and Twitter chats are events I take part in whenever I can.  I have grown both professionally and personally over those 4,5 year, as Italian educator Alessandra Pallavicini aptly said:

Yesterday, I went even further than that -  I led the first eTwinning Twitter Marathon together with Bart Verswijvel, with whom I have already done lots of educational projects that have inspired a huge number of educators worldwide.

ETWION as we called it, brought together more than 150 educators from all over the world. It lasted for 5 hours non-stop, with Bart and me welcoming the audience, involving them in the conversations, making sure everything was running smoothly and being there for the participants all the time without stopping. Our special guest, Shelly Terrell, @shellterrell, American educator and co-founder of #edchat, greatly  contributed  to the topic Using Social Media for CPD.

These five hours passed in a flash. You could feel contagious enthusiasm and passion in the tweets with the  #etwion hashtag.  Everything was perfect except one thing that, fortunately, no one noticed, but the two of us ( Bart and I were in touch via Skype during the whole event).At one point, during the second hour of ETWION, I got a message from Tweedeck telling me that  I had reached the daily limit of tweets and I wasn't allowed to tweet  from that platform anymore! But I could still tweet from Twitter web (with no possibility of retweets, though) and I also used Echofon on my iPad. Suddenly, less than an hour later, the service was restored  and I was back in business at full speed.

During the Twitterathon some wonderful resources were shared, creative ideas were exchanged, student projects were showcased, web tools were discussed, ETWION games were made, new partnerships were forged and new projects were launched. At the end, the information everybody wanted to have was the date of the next ETWION.

Bart made this chirpified list of tweets and Valentina Garoia of European Schoolnet collected all the tweets in Tweet Archivist.

The number of sent tweets is absolutely amazing - 1703 during the five hours. I lead the list of top tweeters - no wonder, I love Twitter - and connecting and learning with like-minded educators.

Miracles do happen

Dec 13, 2013

These days when the West Jet Christmas video is going viral, I've been thinking about the message it conveys - Miracles do happen if we all work as one. Yes, I know, it's a fairy tale, but still, I want to believe and I do believe that miracles really happen - if we join forces we can make things happen, do the unthinkable, make dreams come true!

Take my school for example. It's old, it desperately needs a complete makeover, which will most likely not happen, not even in the distant future, with all these cuts in the field of education (unfortunately, my government doesn't understand that investing in education brings prosperity to a country).

This time last year our computer lab looked like this:

Today it looks totally different:

Inspired by the Future Classroom Lab in Brussels, it is now a flexible learning space that motivates students, sparks creativity and instills the love of learning and teaching.

I've written about it so many times before here and here and recently I was invited to lead a webinar for the Living Schools Lab, a project coordinated by theEuropean Schoolnet, and to talk about how we managed to create such a creative space. The recording is here and the presentation is below:

The video about how Samsung School Solution is used at my school:

How to take part in #ETWION

Dec 10, 2013

#ETWION is an eTwinning Twitter Marathon that Bart and I are organizing for eTwinners and educators from all over the world on December 19.

We're really pleased to see that lots of teachers have opened a Twitter account and are getting ready to take part in the twitterathon. Here are some tips for newcomers on how to make the most out of #ETWION:

First and foremost, we communicate with other Twitterers (or tweeps) by sending short messages or tweets which are up to 140 characters long. Even though this may seem really short, we can add links, photos and even video clips to our tweets. Every Twitter user has a Twitter name, also known as Twitter handle, which consists of the symbol @ placed before the username. If you don't add the @, the user might not see your tweet, so make sure you always add the twitter handle of the person who you're addressing this tweet to.

For example, I sent out this tweet to no one in particular so it appeared on the timelines of all the people who follow me. If they follow lots of people then most likely they didn't notice my tweet at all.

However, if I want Bart to see my tweet, then I must add his Twitter handle - @BartVerswijvel - to my tweet to make sure he gets it:

 I can also add a photo to my tweet by clicking on the camera icon:
ETWION however will not be a conversation between two people only. There will be lots of educators who will be tweeting at the same time. In order to keep track of all the tweets in a chat, we use the symbol called  hashtag to which the name of the Twitter chat is added: e.g. #etwion, #edchat #edchatie #lslchat, etc. Hashtags are usually created by the organizers of the chat.  By adding the hashtag to your tweet, you'll make it visible to all the people who are taking part in it:

You opened your account on the official Twitter website, but I recommend you download one of the many Twitter clients or Twitter management tools which will enable you to add different columns to your dashboard. By adding columns that show your timeline (all the tweets by all the people you follow), mentions (tweets with your @Twitter handle that were sent to you), DMs (direct messages that no one else can see) or columns with  #hashtags (you can have as many as you want), you'll be able to easily follow all the tweets and to interact with other users. Here's a screenshot of Tweetdeck, a Twitter client that I find really useful.

As you can see all the tweets with the hashtag #etwion appear in one column and I can immediately see all the tweets and interact with their senders. Other Twitter clients that are very popular are Hootsuite, Echofon, Metrotwit and many others - have a look at Mobile and Apps as well.

Whenever you see a tweet that you like and want to share with your followers you can retweet it, or in short, RT it, which means re-publish it. You can do so by clicking on Retweet at the bottom of each tweet and republish it as it is, without changing it or you can add your comment to it.

Finally, Bart has created a list of all the teachers who are interested in taking part in #etwion. A Twitter list allows us to easily follow the tweets of all the members in the group. When someone adds you to a list, you are instantly notified about it. If you haven't been added to the ETWION list, send a tweet to @BartVerswijvel so he can add your Twitter handle to it. Subscribe to the list by clicking on Subscribe.

If you have further questions please feel free to ask here or on Twitter by adding one or both of our Twitter handles to your tweet - @abfromz or @BartVerswijvel. Don't forget to add the hashtag #etwion.

We're looking forward to chatting with you at #ETWION on December 19.


Dec 7, 2013

Many teachers use social media to connect and collaborate with peers from across the world. Twitter is one of the social networking sites where they can communicate by sending short messages to their peers. Twitter chats on different educational topics are very popular among educators because they can easily share their ideas, experiences and examples of best practice and promote their professional growth.

That's why Bart and I have decided to do a new project together - on December 19, 2013, we're organizing the first ever ETWION - eTwinning Twitter Marathon - a five-hour festival of teaching and learning on Twitter for eTwinners, but also for educators from across the world, no matter what subject they teach or where they live.

The ETWION will be held from 6 pm - 11 pm (check your time zone here). It will be divided into five time slots - Twitter chats -  each featuring a different educational topic. The topics are as follows:

6 pm - 7 pm -  Social Media for CPD 
7 pm - 8 pm  - The Synergy of Web 2.0 and Collaboration
8 pm - 9 pm - Involve Your Colleagues! 
9 pm - 10 pm - Let's Flip It!
10 pm - 11 pm - The Fun of Learning

Our dear friend, distinguished American educator Shelly Sanchez Terrell - @shellterrell will be a special guest in the first Twitter chat.

To participate is easy - send a message using the hashtag #etwion. If you don't have a twitter account yet, you can create one here.
Find more about ETWION on our blog and on the eTwinning website.

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