New year, new projects

This year, I am very much looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with the Liceo Ginnasio “Francesco Petrarca”, Trieste, (Italy), where we have a project running which will consider three stories by the Irish author, James Joyce, who lived in the city of Trieste for many years. It is always a pleasure to go to Italy and I have high hopes for this project and for the opportunity it will offer my pupils to view the oustanding architecture of Trieste, Muggia and Venice.

A new departure this year is an eTwinning project for 2013/14 to be undertaken with the renowned Colegiul National “Stefan Velovan”, Craiova, (Romania). This will allow our pupils to consider the work of the renowned Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi and to view some of his works in Craiova’s museum of fine art. I am busy learning some Romanian and familiarising myself with the history and culture of this fascinating country. We hope to establish links between our two schools, which will foster future educational ventures.


The final goal for 2013 is to set up a link with a school in Austria: The Bundesgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium “Ingeborg Bachmann”, Klagenfurt ( Austria).


Week Thirteen Dec 3rd-Dec 6th

We finished the book on medieval architecture this week and are two thirds through the history book, which we shall finish next term. We looked the the cartoon software package “Creaza” and will incorporate this into our Viking Heritage project next term.
Some pupils found the history quite hard going, but I am pleased at the way they have incorporated the web 2.0 tools into their work as a matter of course. We have now had an overview of the wars of religion and the philosophical basis for humanism. Next term we shall take this further, looking at the writings of Michel de Montaigne, the paintings of Pieter Brueghel and the origins of colour in painting and how different hues and tones were developed. In association with our Italian partners we shall also look at some of stories from James Joyce’s collection “Dubliners”.

Week Twelve 3rd Dec – 9th December


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We are now approaching the end of term with just ten days to go. Next week I shall summarise how things went, but this week was also a summing up in class, starting with a couple of tests on our historical and architectural studies:

Architecture Test Chapters 5 and 6

History Test

There was another presentation on Gothic architecture, this time on Westminster Cathedral

Westmintser Cathedral

We also finished reading the Princess of Cleves and finished viewing “La Reine Margot”.

Week Eleven Nov.26th – Dec. 2nd

More on Web 2.0 tools this week, specifically “Voki”, which looks to be a lot of fun, Animoto, Mindmeister and Vimeo. We continued our reading of “The Princess of Cleves and this should come to an end next week. In history we discussed the concept of “Auslaufen”.
A presentation on the Gothic wonder that is the “Mont St. Michael” in Normandy was given:

Mont Saint Michel [Final Draft]

Week Ten Nov 19th – 25th

No lessons this week because of internal examinations. However on Thursday 22nd I had the opportunity to take four pupils to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London to a debate organised by the British Council entitled the “Mock Council of the European Union”. Here are some photos and a brief video of the event. We represented the views of Latvia and Lithuania.

Photos of event

and here is a link to an article in the Guardian about this event and others (final interview)

Guardian interview

Week Nine 12th – 18th Nov

A week of tests and presentations to ensure that pupils were getting to grips with the new technologies and the old (books!)  I was impressed by presentations on Goear, Crocodoc and Wix and may incorporate these into my own work at some future stage.  Less compelling were the Web 2.0 tools Calameo (I think I prefer Issuu) and Zooburst (although it has some good gimmicks).  All of these tools go to show that, sometimes ICT is the way forward, but it has to be used appropriately and not for its own sake.

Some pupils were working hard as they prepared for the Mock Council of the European Union and we have been in contact with embassy representatives from Latvia and Lithuania (the countries whose views we shall be representing) with questions on the topics of the Green Economy and how the EU should spend its money.  This led to an interesting discussion, since there is currently stalemate between the Commission and the Parliament over the size of the budget and the need to restrict spending at this time of economic crisis.

Our cinema series continued with the start of “La Reine Margot” and this week a writing task was required on one of the following titles:

1. Is student mobility in Europe merely a form of subsidised tourism?

2. Do children’s games involving blindfolds reveal an essential cruelty in human nature?

3. Why does the UN tolerate so many bad regimes?

4. Is there a breakdown of family values in the west, and if so should the state attempt to redress it?

5. Should governments support scientific research when there may be no technological benefit?

Week Eight 5th – 11th Nov.

We started  the week by considering education and how educational systems might be accused of removing our creativity and impede our ability to develop.  Guiding our debate was an inspirational talk by Sir Ken Robinson, which he gave some five years ago at a conference in California:

It was reassuring to hear that the pupils in this class feel free to grow intellectually and to pursue avenues of academic interests which do not form part of the holy trinity of languages, maths or science.

A lot of reading was set this week with pupils being asked to reflect on the meaning of architectural space in both cathedrals and towns in the middle ages, the concept of “Auslaufen” which allowed freedom of worship in the sixteenth century and the first book of “La Princesse de Cleves”.

My course in Prague over leave-out had also suggested some new Web 2.0 tools we should be investigating, so each pupil has chosen a tool to present to the class in a presentation next week.

Week Seven 22nd-26th Oct


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A short week because it will soon be half term and a time to review progress so far.

On Monday we finished reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a marvellous story which has the ability to capture and hold the imagination so many centuries after it was first written: surely one of the tests of “great” literature.

We have now finished watching Henri de Navarre and have concluded our discussion of faith and humanism, guided by Luc Ferry’s book.  I feel sure that pupils have a firmer grasp of some basic philosophical tenets and also an appreciation of the harshness of life in the 16th century, which will serve them well, when we consider Montaigne.

Much work has been done on the Vikings project and we shall shift our eTwinning focus to architecture as we work with the Italian school in Trieste during the second half of term. I learnt today that the project, which we had completed last year with our Italian partners, has been awarded a “European Quality Label” in addition to the national award which we received in June. The citation reads: ” Your school has been awarded the European Quality Label for the excellence of  the work in the eTwinning project “Trieste, Svevo and Joyce”. This means that your work, the work of your students and your school have been recognised at the highest European level.”. Congratulations to all members of last year’s class.

Pupils have learned how to use Prezi, Wikispaces, Sliderocket and the eTwinning Twinspace. There is much more for them to learn, but Rome was not built in a day.  A Croatian friend and colleague has compiled an excellent summary of Web 2.0 tools which we shall explore throughout the rest of the year:

Week Six 15th-21st Oct.

Having considered the triumph of Christianity over the doctrine of Stoicism because it offered, salvation, a reliance on the personal (conscience) and democracy, we moved to consider the growth of humanism and we discussed the developments introduced by Descartes, Newton, Galileo, Copernicus and Kant.  Now man himself was at the centre of the universe and the question of instinct was relegated below that of free will and how to exercise this for the benefit of mankind. The most interesting discussion of the week related to what is the essential difference between a man and an animal. We also considered the Sorites paradox (when is a heap of sand not a heap of sand?) and Zeno’s paradox and discussed the relative values of prescriptive and descriptive linguistics.

Our historical journey took us through some of the flashpoints of the mid seventeenth century and we leanred how the religious became politicised in England as well as the ways in which Protestants and Catholics clashed in Europe.

Another written task was due at the end of the week and this came from one of the following titles:

1. Is dislike of politicians a sensible default position?

2. Why is a leather jacket more acceptable than a fur coat?

3. Why do Jane Austen’s novels continue to be so popular?

4. Can any public and political institutions be trusted to reform themselves?

5. Is it an extremely unnatural condition for a male and female to live continuously together?

Our reading of Sir Gawain brought us to Fitt 4.

Week Five 8th-14th Oct.


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There was a test this week to check how pupils had been keeping up with their reading.  Here are the questions for the philosophy section:

Learning to Live by Luc Ferry A fun test

In our history lessons, pupils were asked to write brief notes on the following: Servetus; the Justinian and Gergorian Calendars; Donauwoerth; Catholicism and Protestantism; Lutheranism, Calvinism and the Anabaptists.

An interesting presentation on the masterpiece that is Cologne cathedral was given: