by Alaa Al-Reqep
‘EAST TELECOLLABORATION PROJECT for IUG and UoG students’. When I read the announcement, I asked myself what kind of project it will be? I was completely confused; however I decided to enroll in this project because it was in partnership with a foreign and a prestigious university like University of Glasgow and this project definitely would add benefits to my language skills. Even more exciting was when I was selected for this project.
In our first session with University of Glasgow using WizIQ, a virtual classroom facility , things began to manifest clearly when tutor from UoG; Anna and Bill explained everything about the project, for example some concepts of the project, the goals of the project, how the students will collaborate with each other, and the schedule of the project) .
In the first stage of the project we received intensive course in providing constructive feedback using an interactive learning method under the supervision of Anna. I think that way of learning is very important and very motivational for the student because it is one of the modern methods in education which depends heavily on the student by giving them larger space for reading and researching to brainstorm and discover information by themselves. Also, interactive learning teaches students how to collaborate and work successfully in groups while passive learning relies on listening to teachers’ lectures or rote memorization of information. But with interactive learning, students are invited to participate in the conversation, through technology. We used online Google documents to hand in our tasks without needing to upload any files, which in turn saved a lot of time. We also used the ‘padlet’, which was a fantastic technique because it gave us the opportunity to submit our thoughts supported with pictures and videos and anyone could see it.
This part of the project was important for me as a teacher through two important aspects; the first one is the instructional paradigm; it is important for me to obtain students’ opinions about the quality of my teaching. The second aspect is the learning paradigm; after gathering information on the students’ learning process, it is essential for me to reflect and then give my feedback on what I have observed to the students. It gave me solid foundations how to give feedback, which was reinforced by experiencing being given feedback too. The best proof of that was when Bill provided his feedback on my feedback on the last task; he wrote a sentence which impressed me “I like the final sentence – it shows you have a good grasp of your role as provider of constructive feedback”.
The second stage began when we collaborated with the international students from UoG. Our role in IUG was proposing scenarios about engineering problems in Gaza to the UoG students who in turn wrote essays on these problems, proposing solutions to them. Again we used the ‘padlet‘ and closed Facebook groups to facilitate our communication. Through this stage we had an opportunity to learn about the culture of each other for instance; the people overseas became more informed about the situation in Gaza and vice versa we here in Gaza made friendships with the students in Glasgow. This opens up a lot of doors for us to know more about the outside world and especially that these students are international students. Facebook was the most commonly used in our communication despite the power cuts for long periods in Gaza which disrupt network services. Hence whenever the electricity was available, we would seize this opportunity and make every effort to keep in touch with Glasgow students to ensure the successful outcome.
The fifth week was the most important week because we reaped our efforts’ fruit. Using videoconference with attendance of IUG and UoG students, and the tutor staff from both institutions, the students from UoG introduced their presentations about Gaza problems and they did all their best to propose effective responses. Anna followed up on that event with some pictures and comments on the Facebook group of the EAST project throughout our meeting indeed she made great and wonderful efforts during the project . That was our Big Day 1 and our Big Day 2 was the next day when we celebrated together and the most exciting moment was when our partners from UoG showed our certificates through the videoconference; at that moment I felt if we were in the same place, it was a great day; happiness could be seen on the faces of everyone.
The EAST project offered to my life a different experiment too; when Bill asked Gazan students to film a short video about our problems, I considered that was a big challenge for me to stroll around the streets holding my camera, especially that my teams’ problem was the road traffic and I faced some obstacles like interrogation by police. That experience made me a courageous and strong human. I was very happy to make that video because it transferred our suffering to the world, it was a clever idea.
The EAST project was helpful for my career as it also developed my intercultural awareness and transferable skills, gave me a chance to practice English language, especially writing skills, and it made me feel more and more responsible.
I hope the next project will involve participation from native students to improve our speaking and conversation skills and will give Gazan students more space for sharing.
Finally, as we say every name tells a story and my name ‘Alaa’ means blessings; hence it was a great blessing from God to be a participant in the EAST project as it gave me a chance to meet such amazing people who like their work deeply and to get to know foreign students who shared with us our most beautiful moments in our life.