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Internet Tasks and Projects in Ethnic Schools. Robert Debski The University of Melbourne [email protected] Aims. To explain how the Internet can be used to implement tasb and project-based learning

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Internet Tasks and Projects in Ethnic Schools

Robert Debski

The University of Melbourne

[email protected]

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  • To explain how the Internet can be used to implement tasb and project-based learning

  • To provide a linguistic and pedagogical rationale for Internet-based tasks and projects (ethnic education, VELS)

  • To provide examples of tasks and projects (Polish Saturday School in Albion - 2006, 2007)

  • Discuss the process and outcomes

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  • Tasks activities that are primarily focused on meaning and use of language in context. Any learning of language form that takes place while completing a task is incidental. In contrast, an “exercise” usually focuses on form and requires students to function as learners, rather than language users (Ellis, 2003).

  • WebQuests are tasks that utilize the Web as a resource, repository of information and communication medium. Tasks can be completed at school or at home.

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“Travel itinerary”

Imagine that you are about to travel to Poland on a school trip and your teachers have asked you to plan the trip. Use the Internet as a resource. Visit the official Websites of the cities that you would like to visit. Decide how you are going to travel around Poland and how much this is going to cost you. Working in small groups, develop a complete travel itinerary for your school trip to Poland. Each group will present their itinerary and the best one will be awarded.

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Templates: Travel plan, travel account, time capsule, historical story, simulated diary, commemorative, alternative story, persuasive message

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WebQuest - Advice

Pick something that:

  • Makes good use of the Web

  • Is associated with one or more curriculum standards

  • Replaces a lesson you are not happy with

  • Requires understanding (synthesis, analysis, evaluation, etc.), not just remembering

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  • A project is an activity usually occupying a term of study. The outcome of a good project is of value to some set of people somewhere.

  • Agency - the extent to which a project empowers learners to impact real-life individuals and/or communities (a tool for entering a speech community)

  • Uniqueness - knowing how to develop a project idea with your students is a skill

  • Course as invention - the rigorous application of curriculum gives way to the art of managing the learning process (the course is in the process of becoming itself, being invented by the teacher, learners and the speech community)

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Collaborative Projects

  • Shared student publications (classroom journalism and publishing; students perform different roles: reporter, editor, correspondent; joint editorial board)

  • Comparative/contrastive investigations (comparative community survey --> think globally, act locally)

  • Folklore compendiums (folklore and community narratives: proverbs, folk tales, children rhymes, fables)

  • Oral histories (community interviews, key figures)

  • Cross-cultural anthropologists (pairs of student informants help each other explore a particular cultural topic)

Based on the “From Shore to Shore Project”


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Incubation, investment, justification, creation and donation

  • Incubation tasks aim to define the project in terms of its goals as well as processes

    Develop specific classroom activities such as evaluating containing examples of student projects, brainstorming project ideas (expressing opinions, likes and dislikes, planning future activity, making comparisons)

  • Investment tasks facilitate student access to communities that use the target language

    Find out if your students have any contacts with target language individuals, groups and communities. Get them to write to these people to gauge their interest in collaboration in the project (communication with people they do not know, expressing politeness, marking social roles)

    Debski, R. (2006). Project-based language teaching with technology. Sydney: NCELTR.

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  • Socialization

  • Relevance

  • Biliteracy

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Rationale: Socialization

Language socialization is rooted in the notion that the process of acquiring a language is part of a much larger process of becoming a person in society (Ochs, 2002).

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The family often is the only language community the learners are socialized into.

Projects may create opportunities for learners:

  • To negotiate their sense of self as speakers of the target language across different social domains mediated by relations of power, degrees of commitment, emotional intensity, etc.

  • To acquire the language of their peers and language aligned with different social roles (keypal, reporter, researcher, critic, editor, friend, etc.), as learners interact with partners and the community

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Rationale: Relevance learners are socialized into.

As their learning is not embedded in activity that is meaningful to them and other people, students often:

  • Fail to make a connection between the community language and important life goals, and

  • Do not learn to appreciate the value of being bilingual

    The availability of relevant electronic media can act as a motivator and can help develop the knowledge of a minority language by:

  • Not allowing the community language to be overshadowed by glamorous media products in the more widely used languages (e.g., English)

  • Giving learners access to new environments, situations, relationships where they can learn to appreciate the value of knowing the community language

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Rationale: Biliteracy learners are socialized into.

  • Community language learners often do not develop biliteracy

  • Internet Projects emphasize the importance of biliteracy (first a barrier, then a motivator to develop biliteracy)

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Rationale: VELS learners are socialized into.

Year 9/10

“[Students] … use a range of learning tools, including multimedia tools, to encounter a range of language and cultural forms and practices.”

“Both directed and independent learning is focused on … comparisons between languages and societies.”

“Teaching activities are diverse and consolidate language and cultural understandings, encourage risk-taking, and use many materials and genres, texts and media.”

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Case Study: learners are socialized into.The Polish School in Albion

  • Primary school established in 1993 and a secondary school in 1996 in Hoppers Crossing

  • Relocated to new rooms in the Polish Sports and Recreation Centre in Albion in December 2003. The Centre provides an ideal infrastructure for the School (restaurant, waiting areas, meeting rooms)

  • Currently located in 4 new barracks (8 classrooms)

  • Over 160 students studying Polish in 8 language groups.

  • Qualified teachers, well-equipped in books, dictionaries, DVDs, digital projector, computers, digital camera

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Students - 2006 learners are socialized into.


Students: 8 (9) students age 13-15 (selected class)

Level: Year 9/10 (VELS)

Duration: 1 April - 17 June (9 meetings)

Contact: 1 of the total of 3 contact hours once a week


Students: 9 (28) gymnasium students age 14-15

(editors of a school newsletter, members of

a computer interest group, volunteers)

Duration: 1 April - 17 June (9 meetings)

Contact: flexible, but usually weekly

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Learning community on learners are socialized

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Syllabus learners are socialized into.


During this school term, a group of children in Australia and their partners in Poland will create annotated digital photo albums, in which they will present their family, the neighbourhood where they live, their school and places they visit with friends. In other words, they will attempt to present the everyday life of young Australians of Polish descent, and children in Poland will describe the everyday life of young people in Poland. The photo albums will be created in the classroom and at home and will be shared through the Web ( Once the albums are completed, students in Australia and their partners will meet online in order to discuss them, ask questions and find out more information about each other. Based on the content of the photo albums and the information gathered during the virtual meeting, the students will finally write individual essays discussing an aspect of the life of young people in Poland and in Australia. The best texts will be published on the Internet and in the Polish periodical “Akcent”.

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Syllabus - objectives learners are socialized into.

In the course of the project, the children will practise how to:

  • Write about the world around them and their everyday life

  • Talk about themselves and their environment during classroom meetings

  • Communicate with peers in Poland, ask and answer questions and control an online discussion

  • Prepare a short oral presentation

  • Write an essay presenting their own point of view and making comparisons

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Assessment learners are socialized into.

Photo albums (30%)

Each photo album will be composed of an introduction (60-100 words) and 9-15 photographs. Each photograph should have a short (2-3 sentences) annotation, for example about what it presents, when it was taken, and what is interesting about it? The following criteria will be used to assess the photo albums:

  • Amount of text (10%)

  • Correctness of text (10%)

  • Creativity (10%)

    Oral presentation of photo albums (10%)

    Students prepare a 10-minute presentation about their photo albums. Marks will be given for the appeal of the presentation (5%) and correctness and diversity of the language used (5%).

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Assessment learners are socialized into.

Correspondence with partners in Poland (10%)

The students’ task is to maintain communication with the partners in Poland using the discussion forum. They will obtain marks for the number (5%) and quality (5%) of their contributions.

Participation in the chat conference (10%)

Students will obtain marks for the number of words they wrote during the conference.

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Assessment learners are socialized into.

Essay (30%)

The essay will contain at least 400 words. The following aspects of the essay will be assessed: organization (5%), number of words (5%), correctness (10%) and creativity (10%).

Contribution to class discussions, attendance (10%)

Each student will get marks for their participation in classroom discussions and attendance.

Students will obtain additional marks if they present evidence of

  • Email/blog communication with a cousin/keypal in Poland

  • Writing comments on the blogs written by partners in Poland

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Digital photoalbums learners are socialized into.

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Awards learners are socialized into.

Two students from the Polish school in Sunshine who obtain the most points will win valuable prizes (about $100 each). Prizes will also be awarded to the authors of best photo albums and essays in Australia and Poland. The prizes will be given at the end of the year during the Certificate Awarding Ceremony. The best student essays will be published in the Polish periodical Akcent Polski.

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Outcomes learners are socialized into.

  • Positive response from both children and parents

  • 5 children in Australia posted their photoalbums (3-17 photos); 7 children in Poland (4-28 photos)

  • 73 messages left on the Forum on topics such as computer games, introductions, my family, soccer, school in Australia, what young people do after school.

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Nature learners are socialized into.

Earth - our home

Youth language

In search of roots

Cultural heritage


Youth literature

Video film

Internet page

PowerPoint presentation

Electronic brochure


Topics and techniques (2007)

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Students - 2007 learners are socialized into.


Students: 7 (9) students age 13-15 (selected class)

Level: Year 9/10 (VELS)

Duration: second term 2007 (10 meetings)

Contact: 1 of the total of 3 contact hours once a week


Students: several gymnasium students age 14-15

(editors of a school newsletter, members of

a computer interest group, volunteers)

Contact: flexible, but usually weekly

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Vignettes learners are socialized into.

  • Students in Poland as a source of information

  • Opportunity for cultural learning

  • Learning Polish youth language

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Vignettes learners are socialized into.

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Outcome: Socialization learners are socialized into.

  • Discussions start on topic and then switch to personal

  • Use of Polish slang

  • Polish students point to their own Web sites, blogs, private radio station

  • Project on youth language

  • Asking questions, controlling conversations

  • Cultural learning (helpful, focused on study, serious)

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Outcome: Relevance learners are socialized into.

  • Learning Polish related to topics of interest: youth music, greenhouse effect, youth language, places of interest to youth

  • Using Internet in Polish (e.g., to find information on the greenhouse effect)

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Outcome: Biliteracy learners are socialized into.

“Places of interest in Australia” (Sara and Konrad)

  • Project: 600 words

  • 6 discussion forum entries (370 words)

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Outcome: Peers support learners are socialized into.

  • Language support

  • Encouragement

  • Language exercises

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Challenges learners are socialized into.

  • Little work accomplished by the students after school hours

  • Parents hesitant about giving their children too much Internet access

  • Logistical problems with computers and the short overlap between the school terms in Australia and Poland

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Recommendations learners are socialized into.

  • Address the issue of internet safety and assist parents and children in reaching an agreement about educational use of the Internet

  • Introduce digital literacy using the community language in the early years of schooling

  • Develop and share examples of best practice in integrating technology into ethnic schools curricula, with a particular emphasis on Internet projects and Web-based tasks

  • Establish a learning-management system (LMS) server dedicated to storing and distributing electronic content such as audio and video recordings, lessons, tasks, etc.

  • Assist the ethnic school with the development of infrastructure, obtaining access to technology, the Internet

  • Make sure that computers in the child’s environment are multilingual (e.g., ethnic keyboard, dictionaries, fonts, etc.)