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European Innovative Teaching Award
Project

Comics in Teaching Languages

School: Liceul Teoretic Mihail Kogălniceanu

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Topic(s) addressed

The aim of the Erasmus+ KA2 “Comics in Teaching Languages/La BD en classes de langues strategic partnership was to revamp the processes of language teaching and learning through the innovative use of comics so as to increase student motivation and improve the overall quality of the language learning process. The project’s duration was from 2015 – 2017, during which 6 European partner schools incorporated cultural and communication elements into their institutions as a result of an international partnership that was coordinated by the Theoretical High School “M. Kogălniceanu” Vaslui Romania, which has broad experiences in the coordination of European projects (having been awarded 7 European Language Labels). The project consistently met the objectives that were laid out in the development plans of all E2020 Strategy participating institutions with regard to language learning, new technologies, and the need for increased flexibility and innovation within the learning process so as to provide students with a plurality of competences and to facilitate their selection of appropriate jobs or universities. The project’s main objective was to increase the quality of language learning through the promotion of intercultural European education that was centred on comics, which facilitated the achievement of a number of key capabilities such as foreign language communication (English, French, Italian), digital competencies, the development of a sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, as well as enhancement of students’ cultural responsiveness and expression. To this end, the project’s main activities included preparation of project teams, the selection of target groups (A1-5); implementation (A8,A10-A16); general management (A14); evaluation ( A16); dissemination (A9,E1); financial management (A15); transnational meetings (M1-Ro, M2-Tk, M3-Cy, M4-Pt, M5-It, M6-Pt, M7-Ro); the preparation of intellectual outputs (O1); and, the Multiplier Event (E1-the International Conference “Comics in Teaching Languages – for a New Age of Didactic Creativity”). In addition to innovating the learning process, the project’s specific objectives were to promote the role of comics and their historic, artistic, communicative, and IT aspects in the teaching of foreign languages (French, English, Italian) to 4458 pupils and 100 teachers from the 6 European partner schools; endorse creativity, competitiveness, employability, and initiative among the project’s students and teachers; and, develop a single creative open-source e-Learning Management System that facilitates a linguistically creative and technologically-based approach to the use of comics in the learning environment of partner institutions, which consisted of 15 course spaces and the following 5 course support materials for teacher-training: i. use of the project’s website for information and the development of multimedia lessons; ii. use of the project’s LMS; iii. editing of a school magazine’s graphics through a computer; iv. audio-video editing; and, iv. using web instruments for creating comics. Furthermore, the project aimed to enhance interculturality through a magazine (13 editions) that was jointly created by the 6 project teams, and the fostering of an inventive spirit and a sense of art through the development of graphics for 13 comic magazines, 19 comic-inspired cartoons, and 6 documentary films (totalling 72 episodes) on project implementation and the progress of the 7 transnational meetings. In addition to increasing the resourcefulness of the 100 teacher participants from the 6 institutions, the project aimed to increase schools’ didactic and IT capabilities, which consisted of the use of comics to develop 50 multimedia art lessons, 50 multimedia history lessons, 224 language multimedia lessons, and language competences in English, French, and Italian. Twelve training webinars and 10 international contests were used to augment cooperation and improve IT learning, with a DEOR Consortium that was jointly created by 60 EU, Romanian, and Moldovan schools. Lastly, the project aimed to ameliorate the school’s curricula and increase the project’s impacts by creating 13 course supports (using comics, cartoons, IT, and languages) for 13 optional subjects. All of the project’s activities were integrated into the curricula of participating institutions, with its overall monitoring, evaluation, and dissemination strategies grounded on the DEOR consortium’s complex instruments and techniques.

Target groups

The project’s main target groups consisted of 5000 students from the 6 partner schools:

850 from M. Kogălniceanu High School (Romania), 650 from Comprehensive School Frosinone 3 (Italy), 1200 from AESA Barreiro (Portugal), 800 from AS Vialonga (Portugal), 500 from Livadia (Cyprus), and 1000 from Kastamonu (Turkey).  Additionally, there were a total of 100 teachers from partner institutions: 30 from Romania, 10 from Italy, 30 from Portugal, 10 from Cyprus, and 20 from Turkey. A Dissemination and Exploitation of Results (DEOR) Consortium had also been established, which included 7 departmental institutions from Vaslui County; 43 schools from 30 Romanian towns and villages; and, 17 schools from 11 Moldovan departments (approximately 7000 beneficiaries). Other project beneficiaries were local, regional, national, and international communities, with a special focus on education stakeholders.

Other beneficiaries were also reached through a number of big impact activities (didactic reunions, international and national symposiums, practical seminars, conferences, multiplier events, national translation contests (“Corneliu M. Popescu”), via websites dedicated to the project and the Learning Management System, and, social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, IF Profs, YouTube, Flickr). Moreover, there were also approximately 10,000 external users of the project’s products, experiences, and innovative tools. In addition to the DEOR Consortium, target groups external to the project consisted of the Implementation Consortium (comprising all institutions involved with the partnership) with 7 Romanian institutions (City Hall, the Prefecture, Departmental Museum, Departmental Library, House of Teaching Staff, School Inspectorate, the Centre for Resources and Didactic Assistance, as well as 4 institutions from every partner country (the municipality, the regional school inspectorate, one regional media, and one school). The role of these institutions was to support the project’s activities and to create an environment that was more conducive to the dissemination of project results. The aforementioned institutions were involved in both the 2016 and 2017 editions of the “Corneliu M. Popescu” Translation Contest (with about 2500 participants), the 2015 international practical seminar, national seminars, the multiplier event, and events organised for Scaramouche Magazine’s official launch. Another relevant stakeholder was the Ministry of Education’s network of school inspectorates, who were sent regular emails that informed them of the project’s output such as its impacts, enrolment forms, magazines, the evaluation of large events (National Translation Contest, the multiplier event), documentaries, student cartoons, training courses, and the call for DEOR partners. Two other stakeholders were the Cultural French Institute and the Cultural Spanish Institute, both of which were involved in organising the Translation Contest, as well as in the dissemination of the project’s results. The project coordinator participated in the official launch of the French Institute’s IF Profs platform and was also invited to contribute to the platform as a trainer. This presented an ideal opportunity during which to place the project on the IF Profs platform, and to introduce it to the platform’s over 9000 global users. Chisinau’s Ministry of Education, National Inspectorate, and its Institute of Education Sciences were all special stakeholders during the project's activities and results. Their participation in the project was vital to its success, as they contributed to the LMS, encouraged greater involvement of their teachers in new technologies for the teaching and learning of languages, and facilitated the participation of teachers who were interested in the project’s multiplier event. The French Teachers Association helped disseminate information on the project’s larger activities, with its members having participated in the DEOR Consortium, Translation Contest, Scaramouche Magazine, the multiplier event, both the "Scaramouche" and "Hourglass" didactic magazines, the "Festimaj" cinema festival, and the Learning Management System. Publication of both the Scaramouche and Hourglass Magazines in printed and electronic formats and the placement of both in public libraries ensured that individuals who frequented public libraries also became the project’s stakeholders, with both the magazines and LMS’ methodology being ISSN/ISSNL-registered and publicly available. Broader target audiences were also captured through the project’s social media platforms, which included 3 Facebook pages, 2 Twitter pages, 1 IF Profs page, the blog detailing the National Translation Contest, a special Flickr space with 47 picture galleries, 6 YouTube video playlists, a special slot on the Issuu platform, and Scribd.

Methodologies

The project was successful in its development of multiyear products that brought together a number of schools from the project’s partner countries, all of which were working towards a common interest – to foster a new approach to language teaching through the use of comics and IT, and the development of valuable products. The Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership succeeded in providing added value and access to its end products, and engaged multifaceted scientific approaches towards reaching the project’s objectives. Products that were developed were widely accessible, for example, the innovative Learning Management System came with a downloadable php-MySQL open-source software that could either be installed by potential beneficiaries, or used directly on the website: http://lang-platform.eu/lms. This software, in addition to having been created and tested during the project, stores the 15 course supports and 13 training sessions required for the creation of comics and movies. Additionally, it also hosts LMS courses that have been developed by partnering institutions over the course of the project’s 2-year implementation period. Given its grounding on an open-source learning management system, the project’s methodology and the aforementioned 15 courses are all freely accessible to the public, as well as to educational institutions. With 5058 registered active users, the LMS (an open-source software) operates in a similar fashion to a training school, and given that the coordinating institution had acquired the platform, it continued to register new users up until 2021. The 13 comic magazines (one of the project’s main outputs) were registered with the ISSN, and stored in the world’s largest libraries in both PDF and print formats, together with the project’s other outputs such as didactic files, teachers’ studies, news on the project, and useful connections to the comic universe. Moreover, the project’s end products are hosted on the Virtual Campus platform (http://nelpae.ro/elearning), as well as on https://e-evaluare.ro, which allows for the addition of future projects. The added value dimension of a majority of the project’s end products is that they were jointly developed and tested by partner institutions, with said end products consisting of a number of approaches to the teaching of languages, such as through comics, LMS, websites, training courses, course spaces, course supports, documentaries, cartoons, tutorials, the Scaramouche magazine, the multiplier event’s scientific communications, the 4 practical seminars, the 12 webinars, the DEOR Consortium, the 3 international symposiums, and the Translation Contest. Another of the project’s added value dimension is its solidarity, with all products developed for the use of (and even by) students with disabilities, those who were socioeconomically disadvantaged, and the children of migrants, so as to provide them with the opportunity to further pursue their education. The project has a presence on a number of social media platforms, as well as on the largest network of French teachers, which not only resulted in extra communication opportunities, but also consistently maintained the interest of the broader European public in the project’s theme. One of the project’s animated movies was submitted to the 2017 Festimaj International Film Festival, as well as in the hors concours section of the International Comics Festival Angoulême 2017. Two comic books that had been produced as extra-products will continue to intellectually motivate students, and contribute to the pupil-creator or literary re-creator dimension through its re-interpretation of comics. The plurilingual character of the project’s LMS and its proposed courses promoted multiculturalism, cultural ingenuity, and an openness to new concepts, software and methods in teaching languages to children. The project was an excellent example of successful trans-institutional European teamwork, which resulted in the development of several high-quality end products. As a result of the DEOR Consortium (which included 80 schools from across 7 countries), the partnership created through this project has since been extended to several other undertakings, such as the development of a new handbook, an alternative method for language learning through the use of characters and IT instruments, and the exchange of experience acquired from the present project. The project’s implementation was based on a number of management phases, as well as anticipated actions, encompassing planning and preparation (action strategy), project realisation (founding of teams, detailed activities), management, evaluation (as stipulated in the project’s approach), the dissemination of results, a follow-up strategy, and considerations on sustainability. In addition to winning the first prize in the Made for Europe National Contest, the project’s results were validated by the 2016 European Language Label, with the DEOR Consortium’s intellectual output having been extensively utilised by project participants. Moreover, by maintaining the LMS platform for a period of 7 years following the project’s completion, students can continue improving their IT and language skills for years to come.

Environments

The project’s primary learning environment was its intellectual output, an innovative Learning Management System consisting of 15 course supports and 13 training courses for the development of comics, movies, and audio-video editing. As an open-source software, LMS functions as an online training institute, with 5058 registered active users and a web domain that has been acquired by the coordinating institution until 2023, so as to ensure the continued maintenance and development of the LMS. The LMS contains 50 multimedia art lessons and 50 multimedia history lessons that both utilise comics, and 224 multimedia language lessons in English, French, and Italian, with all 4 language competences having been divided into categories. These categories consist of 15 training courses in French and English: Initiation in Comics; Comics Description; Character Design; Online Tools for Creating Comics; Comics Culture; Recommended Software; Cinematographic Perspectives; How to Write Comics; Using Project Websites; A History of Comics, Le Concours de Traductions - section langue française en ligne; Initiation in Comics (in Greek, Turkish, Italian, and Portuguese); English through Comics; Le français par la BD, Fumetti, Scaramouche Magazine, the National Translations Contest (English language section); and, Concurso Nacional de Traducciones Idioma español. The LMS, being an online open-source multimedia software, was developed specifically for language and IT learning, and uses its own methodology and a plurality of didactic considerations. It was installed online on the designated domain lang-platform.eu/lms, and comes with an allocated space for the storage of data. Each national coordinator also served as the local LMS administrator for their respective schools, and was responsible for the creation of user accounts for their institution and for ensuring the quality of proposed didactic materials. Furthermore, the LMS was developed in such a way so as to allow teachers to choose from a variety of teaching methods, and also carries a function where the teacher is rendered ‘invisible,’ which allows for the content to be central to the student’s learning experience. With a growing list of resources available on major networks such as YouTube, SlideShare, and Twitter, the LMS platform comes with a substantial amount of resources, documents, audio and video files, Flash, and other multimedia elements, including exercises with various items and communication facilities that have been organised into learning paths. The Learning Management System is also an e-learning system (learning management), which was collaboratively developed through a project partnership under the Coordinator’s guidance using an open source software. Operating under the GNU/GPLv3 license, the LMS may be combined with existing IT infrastructure, and works with most operating systems including GNU/Linux, BSD, UNIX, Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8), Mac OS X, and Android (tablets, mobile phones). One of its most distinguishing characteristics is its portability – its capacity to function across major operating systems and Internet platforms. The LMS encompasses a number of tools, including i) administrative tools: used by general administrators, national coordinators, and trainers to create user accounts, classes, workgroups, courses, course descriptions, lessons, documents, exercises, tests (including a large variety of exercises/items), learning paths, glossary, attendances, forums, assignments, Wikipedia entries, and projects; ii) interaction/social tools: used for developing agendas, forums, Dropbox, chats, notebooks, surveys, groups, voice recordings, and Web conferences; and, iii) evaluation tools: used for reporting, course progress, wheel of competences (original tool), and the delivery of personalised competence certificates (original tool). Launched in December 2015, the LMS has undergone three corrections during the project’s implementation, primary of which was a software update to eliminate bugs and improve its initial structure. Over the course of the project, the LMS was jointly used by all project teams for the storage of items and the development of electronic lessons (including in the study and use of comics, graphics, IT, and languages). It was also the primary tool used in a number of training sessions, including 5 international training seminars with 200 participants, 12 training webinars, and 90 partner-training sessions. The LMS comes with 12 special video tutorials that explains the platform to new users, with the platform itself having been the main subject of the project’s multiplier event – an international conference titled, “Comics in Teaching Languages - for a New Age of Didactic Creativity," which was held from 8–9 May, 2017.

Teachers

Teachers involved with the project first disseminated its outputs and results among partner communities, followed by broader dissemination efforts across the educational community. In relation to the former, presentation of products was carried out by teachers during 62 special meeting-didactic reunions, 4 practical seminars, an international conference, as well as through 10 mass emails to members of the DEOR Consortium, which consisted of students and teachers from all participating schools, with certificates awarded for participation. Teachers also disseminated the project via a number of media outlets, which included 10 TV news coverage, 2 radio shows, 80 published and virtual press releases, and 6 documentaries (consisting of 72 episodes) dedicated to the project. Implementation of project spaces (20 in total) focused on meeting the needs of students and teachers, with the project’s graphic identity drawn from submissions made by students for a competition on the project’s mascot, logo, and posters. The project’s 10 international contests directly involved 40 teachers and 800 students from all participating institutions, who voted in the selection of the most outstanding outputs, with the final 10 educational meetings that were held in 2017 having provided an opportunity for the dissemination of final products among teachers and students. The project’s 2 websites and 7 social pages were presented during comprehensive didactic meetings that targeted all participant and institutional levels, with the presentation of final products and the LMS made during the multiplier event. The event, which saw the attendance of 147 participants, was largely covered in regional press releases, and on the Internet (as a result of the 7 documentary movies made during the event), with a brochure printed to inform participants and representatives from the local community. The project’s 2 primary websites contain 80 articles, movies, forms, evaluation forms, picture galleries, and hyperlinks (with event highlights) – all of which had been posted by teachers who participated in the press workshop. Within the wider education community, teachers participated in 10 international thematic conferences on teaching innovation, where they presented the project, its website, and results, with the Festimaj film festival having provided the ideal opportunity for the screening of the project’s documentary, cartoon movies (particularly the student-made animated film ‘The Comeback’), and several other products. The primary opportunity for the dissemination of the project’s Intellectual Output (the LMS) was at the international conference “Comics in Teaching Languages – for a New Age of Didactic Creativity,” which was held on 9 May 2017 in Vaslui, Romania, where it received extensive coverage across regional, national, and international media, as well as in Web-Press platforms, video playlists, and picture galleries. Lastly, 90 demonstrative lessons had also been organised during the project’s implementation across all participating institutions, with activities that focused primarily on the use of comics in teaching and LMS tools.

Impact

The project won first prize in the 2017 Made for Europe contest, and had also been awarded with the 2016 European Language Label award, both of which recognised the project’s development of a robust and broadly accepted approach to the teaching of languages through the use of comics and LMS. The project had a major impact on all 5050 student participants and the 100 teachers from the 6 partner institutions, with approximately 40 articles on the project having been published in various didactic magazines. Furthermore, a number of training courses had been implemented, including in-person and remote DEOR training sessions, as well as 10 training tutorials, with the project having been systematically disseminated on social media platforms (6 social pages), video space, photo albums, and the project’s national websites/pages. The project had also been disseminated to its 5058 active and 2000 temporary users via an internal social media tool that had been incorporated onto the project’s platform. According to official statistics, approximately 270,000 visitors from 25 countries had accessed the project’s website, with the eTwinning platform also used to spread information on the use of comics and LMS in the teaching of languages. The project’s novel approach is grounded on its combination of comics with IT (through the use of the LMS platform) in the learning of languages, where language skills may be practiced through the drawing of comics and cartoons. As a result of this project, the majority of student participants were able to advance their language proficiency in English, French, and Italian. Face-to-face training was particularly motivating, and by facilitating the formation of new skills, allowed for new intellectual and social discoveries to be made. The LMS, which was used in both frontal training and individual study, provided participants with the social tools necessary to facilitate communication, such as online chat, videoconferencing, social groups, and integration with social media platforms. Tradition and interculturality were two of the project’s major aspects, with the intercultural dimension met through practical implementation seminars and the use of the project’s documentary movies as learning objects, as well as by course supports that had been created by project partners (stored on the LMS). A number of much-appreciated impactful activities were implemented through questionnaires and electronic evaluation, consisting of the International Practical Seminar (RO-10.11.2015) with 140 participants; 5 national events across all partner countries (+1 international event for the launch of Scaramouche Magazine) with 1000 participants; a national conference (RO-19.04.2016) with 116 participants; and, the multiplier event (RO-09.05.2017) with 147 participants. Training activities on the other hand consisted of 5 international training seminars with 200 participants; 12 training webinars; and, 90 training sessions at the partnership level. Notably, both the 2016 and 2017 editions of the International Symposium for Intergenerational Education saw the attendance of 300 direct and 2000 indirect participants. Furthermore, the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Corneliu M. Popescu National Translation Contest were among the most successful ever launched, during which almost 2500 participants participated in the LMS’ online examinations for French, English, and Spanish (divided into 5 age categories) with hundreds of auto-corrective items; both events had also been included in the official calendar of the Romanian Ministry of Education. The project also saw the launching of 10 international contests that were aimed at enhancing reciprocal knowledge of the work carried out by partner institutions, as well as for the selection of the best outputs for inclusion in Scaramouche Magazine. The project’s visual culture and identity were established through 120 presentations, 100 invitations, 70 project meeting files, 500 seminar/conference files, 500 leaflets, 50 posters, 7 press releases, and 3 rollup posters, with the project’s visual considerations having been highly appreciated at the European level and downloaded almost 8000 times through its Flickr account. In the year and a half since its release, the Scaramouche magazine, which is officially registered with the ISSN and hosted by major public libraries, has been downloaded 7200 times by users from across the globe. In addition to 20 Erasmus+ dissemination spaces, a total of 100 local dissemination activities had also been implemented – all of which were highly beneficial to attendees. A highly significant impact indicating the project’s quality and originality was the selection of the project’s cartoon “The Comeback” during the 2017 edition of the Festimaj International Angoulême, with the project’s highest impact recorded during the “Comics in Teaching Languages – for a New Age of Didactic Creativity conference, where 147 participants (24 foreign) lauded the quality, originality, and functionalities of the project’s intellectual output: http://lang-platform.eu/lms. As for informing the community, participating teachers had organised 15 regional press meetings (via newspapers, radio, television) to disseminate the project’s results and activities, resulting in 80 newspaper articles and reports, 7 press releases, 2 radio-TV shows, 10 television news articles, and several other outputs on a number of Internet platforms.

 

Stakeholders

Participants

Agrupamento de Escolas de Santo André Barreiro

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Portugal

Agrupamento de Escolas de Vialonga

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Portugal

Istituto Comprensivo Statale Frosinone 3

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Italy

Kastamonu Mesleki Ve Teknik Anadolu Lisesi

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Turkey

Regional Gymnasium of Livadia

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Cyprus