I have been teaching English in Israel since 1990. For the past 5 years the dynamic and interactive nature of the Internet has been steadily luring me away from textbook based EFL (English as a Foreign Language) instruction. My recognition of the potential for genuine exchange and real-world learning has motivated me to extend myself beyond the walls of my classroom and borders of the conflicted country in which I live.
Working with only a simple home based dial-up connection in a remote rural community of northern Israel, I have initiated and managed a number of student-centered projects which have fostered and supported global collaboration among more than 12, 000 learners and teachers in 36 countries worldwide. While sustaining an authentic dimension to the curriculum, these telecollaborative projects have encouraged student ownership, promoted creativity and celebrated cultural diversity. Through my efforts I have established a significant network of hundreds of dedicated educators committed to building bridges and securing a brighter future for the next generation. In this narrative I will describe the process that has led to these projects as well as the projects themselves.
Participation in exciting and enriching online
shared learning activities such as The Monster Project and Day I Was Born
Project left a lasting impression on my perception of teaching and learning.
Convinced of the benefits of online collaboration, I was more than eager to
share my enthusiasm with my colleagues. Having worked for EFL publishers on
textbooks and EFL games, I seized the opportunity to co-author “Surfing
in English” an Internet Guide book for Beginners (http://www.upp.co.il//bookindex5.htm).
I also contributed articles to English and Educational Journals both in
print and online
Determined to reach even more teachers, I volunteered as a Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) councilor and devoted my free time to developing workshops on technology-enhanced education and creating an EFL project clearing house resource. I also used the web publishing technology at Schoollife.net (now defunct) to build my own school’s website. The site hosted our project activities, provided teacher resources, as well as interactive language activities for each of my classes, grades 4-9. I was rewarded for my efforts with positive feedback from teachers, students and parents as well as first prize in Schoollife.net’s international web building contest.
By the year 1999, I was more than inspired by my positive experiences and ready to initiate a project of my own.
I had originally designed Friends and Flags (http://www.friendsandflags.org) as a simple project for my 9th graders. As an EFL teacher my objective was to combine English language instruction with technology to achieve a meaningful social, cultural and personal learning experience. My plan was to have my students assume the role of foreign ambassadors for a year long Internet exchange with partner classes from 5 different countries. This was to be complimented by cultural research packages sent by post by each of the classes in our international mail group. The 'many to many exchange’ would provide all participants with an opportunity to create and receive a finished product that would reflect their culture as well as the project goals.
I began looking for partners by posting an invitation to join Friends and Flags on the project registry at GSH (http://www.globalschoolhouse.org). Within days I was overwhelmed with responses from over 80 interested educators from various geographical locations. I realized that this was an opportunity not to be missed and refused to allow lack of funding and meager resources stand in the way of this enormous and exciting undertaking. Once again, I took advantage of my professional connections, this time as a teacher trainer in both the Jewish and Arab Sectors. I approached teachers from the two arenas and asked them to represent Israel in international learning teams of their own. As a result, a total of 15 schools represented Israel in the project’s first year. In this way Friends and Flags fostered unique opportunities for collaboration among Jewish and Arab educators within Israel.
By accepting the challenge of creating and moderating additional mail groups, I had become a global educator! In that initial year of F&F, I coordinated 15 international groups of 6 member classes each, with a total of 25 countries participating. During the past 4 years students from 360 schools around the globe have joined the project and collaborated to gain valuable knowledge and cultural communication skills. By adapting the project to suit learners’ needs I have been able to promote equal learning opportunities for all student populations. This has created a safe and dynamic online learning environment with tangible results. The website, http://www.friendsandflags.org has become a rich, interactive community. It has enabled teachers, students and parents to contribute content and participate in asynchronous learning opportunities.
Ongoing virtual community building project activities continue to strengthen Friends and Flag’s mission of multi-cultural collaboration. The logo contest has promoted artistic creativity and imagination while the Friends and Flags Multi-cultural quilt (http://www.friendsandflags.org/quilt/index.htm) has added an element of creative cooperation both among participants and within the local communities. Many partners have encouraged active involvement of grandparents, parents, youth leaders and other members of society.
The large number of educators involved in the project demanded an efficient channel of communication. A comprehensive Teacher’s kit provided clear project guidelines. The teacher email list (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/friendsandflags2001) and scheduled teacher chats have enabled me to mentor and foster communication for the duration of the project. Email lists organized by country facilitated additional channels of communication and support for teachers from the same geographical location.
The supportive and compassionate tone of the list has played a significant role in the bonding of the members of the project. Partners have exhibited heartfelt concern for colleagues whether they are Arab and Israeli teachers enduring the stress of the Middle East Conflict, or victims of the horrible tragedy of September 11th, 2001. Each year the teachers and students of Friends and Flags have rallied to show their support in the form of supportive emails, care packages and fund raising.
Since the project began I have continued to contribute to EFL literature on the impact of multi-cultural learning. In various journals and articles I explain how, through Friends and Flags, students have:
I have led Friends and Flags collaborative learning workshops both in Israel (http://www.friendsandflags.org/wkshp) and in Romania (http://www.eminescu.multinet.ro/mmcamp/index.html) . I’ve presented Friends and Flags in international conferences such as TESOL, Vancouver, 2000, (http://www.uoregon.edu/~call/ev2000/internetfair.html), Iatefl, Cyprus 2001 and in online conferences such as Global Learn Day III (http://www.bfranklin.edu/gld3audio/keini2.ram).
Teachers and students around the world contribute to the sustainable development of the educational impact of F&F in a number of different ways:
Participant accomplishments are celebrated and shared in the Friends and Flags community in emails, newsletters and on the website. Each and every achievement fills me with great pride and appreciation. Their success preserves and promotes the continuation of multi-cultural learning as well as the global impact of Friends and Flags.
Friends and Flags has opened doors to additional opportunities that continued to challenge my creativity. I am currently developing a model of Friends and Flags, called Friends and Kin, which connects hundreds of Jewish youth in Israel and the Diaspora (http://www.friendsandflags.org/partnership).
The Technion Institute of Haifa has through Friends and Flags recognized the potential of collaboration and technology enhanced education. They have engaged me to develop interactive online EFL/ESL curriculum programs (http://www.friendsandflags.org/tech/start.htm). This English Adventure program will be expanded for Grades 4-12 in Israel as well as around the world.
While attempting to harness the positive powers of the Internet, I have discovered a new source of creative energy and potential to empower others. My life has been enriched with international friends who guide, support and motivate me to continue my efforts despite impossible circumstances. I dedicate this narrative to my colleagues and partners who have helped me turn a simple idea into reality. I thank the Global SchoolNet Foundation for accepting my nomination and for providing the opportunity to make dreams come true.
"I met Karen Eini during her presentation of ""Friends and Flags"" at the annual English teacher's convention in July, 1999. This passionate lecture, which focused upon authentic language learning via global collaboration, was a breath of fresh air from the typical EFL topics. Karen's touching stories and powerpoint presentation had a visible impact on the audience of over 200 teachers.
I introduced the project to my 9th graders who were none short of exhilarated. My students were engaged in their learning and motivated towards excellence in their use of English. They enjoyed the wide variety of telecollaborative activities, with our partners from Japan, Italy, Australia, Nigeria and Slovakia.
Karen's comprehensive teacher's kit, innovative use of email lists, teacher chats , newsletters and examples on the website, empowered all participants to try new forms of technology in their project curriculums. By following Karen's clear instructions my students and I were able to use interactive surveys, audio email and slide show presentations to share our world with our partners. Throughout the year, Karen was also available to the many Israeli teachers for guidance, innovative thought, and the occasional 'you're doing fine' lecture when we were hindered in our efforts.
My pupils took great pleasure in presenting their work before sending the finished products to their destinations. We were no less excited to receive the packages from our international peers and to learn about their countries. I enjoyed working with the educators in my circle and found the collaboration to be a rewarding experience.
Recognized for the global impact and success of Friends and Flags, Karen was asked to create an 90 hour interactive English program for the prestigious Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. I had the pleasure to collaborate with her on this program. The 3 week summer immersion project was geared to 10th and 11th grade pupils of Ethiopian origin, with the intent of using Internet to enhance their knowledge of English. These young pupils, whose ethnic background regards quiet subservience as a value to uphold, were visibly behind in the acquisition of English as a second language.
As Karen was leading a Friends and Flags workshop in Romania during this time, she encouraged the Technion's teachers to join her online. The Ethiopian pupils willingly corresponded with Romanian, Bulgarian and Macedonian pupils at the Romanian workshop, sharing their thoughts and ideas on various project themes. Following this intensive three-week 'total immersion' course, these pupils developed self confidence, enabling them to stand in front of an audience of officials from the Jewish Agency and the Technion. They introduced themselves, performed, sang, exhibited their work and presentations - all in English.
An Ethiopian learner's thank you letter accurately summarizes the impact of Karen's work : ""I enjoyed myself very much, and made new friends. I have enriched my knowledge of English as well as my self-confidence, thank you for great ideas!""
I strongly believe that Karen Eini deserves the online shared learning award for her outstanding contribution to global collaboration."
Susy Calvert |
Coordinator/Teacher Gifted Education
"Karen and I first met 5 years ago through an online project I administer called ?The Monster Exchange.? The Monster Exchange is a multi-disciplinary project that fosters creativity, encourages the use of English skills, descriptive writing, and reading while integrating computer technology and the Internet. Our classes were partnered together for this project.
During the summer of 2001, Karen and I both traveled far from our homes (she from Israel, I from the United States) to Baia Mare, Romania, to teach in an International Multimedia Camp with students from Bulgaria, Romania, and Macedonia. Karen and I were both presenters at this camp and we taught not only students, but also teachers from Romania about the use of multimedia technology in the classroom.
In September 2000, my students participated in Karen's extremely creative and interesting project called ""Friends and Flags."" I was impressed with the quality of her work and the integration of the different academic disciplines provided in the project. Not only did Karen provide teachers with a comprehensive curriculum resource in a teacher-resource kit, but she also served as an email mentor on a regular basis for participants. There was the added feature of regularly-scheduled online chats for teachers that Karen set up to various topics related to the project. Karen always reminded teachers in advance of the scheduled chats. She was available through email for questions or problems and was prompt in replying to teachers or students. Karen arranged for students to receive their own email so they could communicate with partner schools or other students. Karen made a concerted effort to ensure classrooms were grouped in different countries for a cross-cultural collaboration.
Karen created an amazing web site related to the project which includes links to the different facets of the project; i.e., a teacher's lounge, a student's page, photo page of participating students and classrooms, and related web links. Karen encourages participants to have a better understanding of the differences in culture and to discover that there is a world beyond theirs.
Through Karen?s project, my students were provided with an exciting project related to information that is relevant and authentic. In this collaborative approach between 4-6 classrooms and with a real audience with whom to cooperate, students became more passionate about their learning and took more notice of their world. They were responsible for creating their product for the other schools to see. Learning about many different world countries in today?s time is an essential skill that needs to be encouraged more as Karen has done with her project. With this project came the understanding that we are all part of a huge global community in which we need to learn to live in harmony. They learned that there are differences among countries in culture and language but that difference only makes us all unique. That?s what Friends and Flags has done for my students and me."
Paola Crevola |
"I live in Borgosesia , Italy, and have never met Karen Eini face to face, yet I have come to know Karen during several years of collaboration in her Friends and Flags multi-cultural learning project which has involved more than 300 classrooms world-wide.
As school coordinator of European Educational Projects and International Exchange Programs for ten years now, I am very experienced in Internet-based telecollaboration projects. I am, therefore, greatly impressed with Karen's technical know-how and outpouring of creative energy into her Friends and Flags Website as well as her accurately detailed user-friendly teacher's kit.
Through the years Karen?s unique project has allowed me and my students to deeply explore different social realities, form lasting friendship with partners and set up great exchange programs.
The latest involved students and teachers from Lod Science Comprehensive High School, Israel, in December 2001. The Israeli and Italian students jointly worked on customs and cultures, Unicef peace activities and the Holocaust, and achieved very remarkable cognitive and affective goals.
According to my students that highly-enriching educational experience was a turning point in their lives and made them grow up. No school curriculum could ever get to such far-reaching objectives by itself.
There are also fresh plans for a trip to Eastern Shore District High School in Halifax, Canada, involving students from F&F 2001-02 Group 1.
I firmly believe that Karen is a gifted, charismatic high-tech visionary as well as a brilliant, innovative educator. She is also passionately committed to maximize the enormous educational potential of IT and the Internet through a worldwide project inspired to highly ethical, cultural and human values.
Not only is Friends and Flags aimed to cover wide-scope cognitive, affective and social factors in the virtual learning context but it also develops a broad range of technical skills transferable to the future working lives of the students.
Designing a patch representing Italy in the F&F quilt and entering the Logo Contest helped my students reach a high level of proficiency in computer graphics and win a prize in their category.
Guided by her passion for global collaboration and sheer determination, Karen has solidly built up a bridge spanning the two hemispheres. She has united developed and underdeveloped countries, been effective in teacher training and affectionately guided students to positively use the wonders of the Internet to the fullest potential.
We are all aware that manipulative misuse and shameful abuse of the system are current evils with devastating effects on young people. To oppose these tremendously destructive trends with highly motivating educational goals is an urgent priority all over the world.
I am absolutely certain that Karen's consistent past assets and remarkable present goals will turn into even farther-reaching achievements in the future and warmly wish her the best of luck in the contest.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for further details about Karen Eini and my thorough recommendation that she receive this award.
Liceo Scientifico ""G.Ferrari""
Kirsti Huurrekorpi |
I am participating the Friends and Flags project for the second year now. As a teacher in a school for kids with special needs I am more than proud to be a part of this wonderful global community. Karen has created a project where children and adults learn together how to work and have fun with the help of modern technology. My students are slow learners and in many cases they feel discriminated but while working with this project they have been able to experience equality and joy of being accepted. Contacts by e-mail and chats with other students make learning motivating and fun. This is an equal opportunity project, not just by country, nationality or age, but also by special needs. Karen has helped us with good advice when problems have occured. My students presented the Friends and Flags project to other students and teachers in the Netdays Europe 2000 in Finland's national theme week. They were also granted with a small amount of Euros by a youth organisation for arranging a multicultural day in our school in 2001. This idea raised also from the F&F project. Learning a foreign language and understanding a foreign culture is not always easy but Karen has managed to create a forum where these both things are a little bit easier. Modern technology and creative thinking combined with mixture of cultures and innovative teachers and learners and mutual respect create new educational networking and change this world even a little. That's what Karen has succeeded start and run and that's why she is the right person for the award!
Andreea Belu |
Wendy Singer |
"I have known Karen for most of my life. Though we have miles of ocean separating us,as Karen is in Israel and I am in Montreal, we never lost touch. We continue to share both our personal and working lives. I have participated in Friends and Flags since Karen started the project in 1999. I can tell you that Karen is one of the hardest working individuals I know. I am in awe of the educational games she has created, the textbooks she has written, the projects she is developing, and her ability to reach out and unite children from around the world. Her dedication to making education interesting and fun for students is remarkable. Given the appropriate tools, I believe that there are no limits to the benefits we as a global world can reap from Karen's imagination, drive and dedication. This is why I believe she and the ""Friends and Flags"" project are a perfect candidate for the ""Global SchoolNet "" award.
Catherine Campanella |
"I've known Karen since 1998 when we met in the now defunct schoollife.net community of educators to share ideas and plans for creating our own separate collaborative Internet projects. Although it was only 4 years ago, it seems like eons. In those days, teachers with a vision of the best educational uses of the Internet often felt isolated and misunderstood--many other teachers at that time didn?t ?have a clue?, most school administrators didn?t ?get it?, and parents in general were horrified at what the kids ?might get? from this strange new world called ?The Internet?. Younger teachers may not understand what I?m talking about but seasoned educators will?and might look back with a laugh at how things were not so long ago.
|Grácia Coimbra |
"Talk about Karen is very easy. Because talk about love is easy.
"I have had an ongoing collaborative relationship with Karen Eini since September 1999 and as a fellow educator and global collaborator I have had ample opportunity to assess her character, ability and technical capabilities.
"My name is ANCA MOCULESCU and i am from Romania, I