Almost a State Alumna of the Month

I first published this post on my Croatian blog, but as I shared it on Facebook, my English-speaking friends saw it and after reading part of the post that was in English, they congratulated me on winning the award - but I didn't win any awards! I was only nominated for the State Alumni of the Month award at the Department of State. According to Ms. Odhuu, the E-Teacher Program Officer who nominated me for this award, I was in the top three in Europe and "the board liked me so much that they put an article about me up on the State Alumni website."

Because they have really written some nice things about me, I've decided to copy it here too. To be honest, this is kind of a show-offish post so you can just stop reading it. Now!

Croatian E-Teacher Alumna Creates Award Winning Websites to Engage English Learners

Posted on 2011-05-11 11:04 am
ZAGREB, Croatia -- Even before joining the E-Teacher Scholarship Program and completing the course “Building Teaching Skills through the Interactive Web”, Arjana Blazic was a self-starting user of the Internet for English language instruction. In fact, between her two exchanges, the 2005 School Connectivity Project and the 2010 E-Teacher scholarship, Blazic created an award-winning website, "Greetings from the World," which is a virtual repository of multimedia posters (glogsters) created by learners to teach others about their countries.

Through the "Greetings from the World" site, students can take a “trip” around the globe. In this way, students are actively engaged in learning from and with their peers about their countries and cultures. In creating this site, Blazic successfully exploited new web technologies to develop students’ reading and writing skills and foster mutual understanding through cross-cultural collaboration. “Greetings from the World” is a growing community, now with 500 students and 24 teachers participating from 15 countries across five continents. Blazic continues to maintain this site and actively recruits international students. Applying the skills she learned in her E-Teacher course, Blazic continues to use this project in her classroom by focusing on the learner autonomy that this project fosters: students do not look to the teacher for knowledge, but instead look to their peers and to themselves to construct knowledge.

"In my classroom today I try to find activities that cater to different learning styles," Blazic explains, "and I think that I have made headway in making my students take control of their learning and become responsible for it.”

"Greetings from the World" won the Croatian Microsoft Innovative Education Forum award in 2010 for its innovative method of online community-based learning. The site reached the semifinals in the European Innovative Education Forum 2010 and the finals in the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum 2010. The project has also been recognized as the Best Educational Wiki by Australian Edublogs for two years in a row, in 2009 and 2010.

Blazic began a second project, “Cultural Profiles,” in her E-Teacher course. Her classroom technology skills and her desire to create autonomous learners helped Blazic create this project for her students. Students from her class research with their peers from Belgium, choosing and investigating an English-speaking country’s culture and norms. As the students conduct this online research, they expose themselves to opinions and stories beyond what they would uncover in a regular classroom. They collaborate, learn about web 2.0 tools, and share their knowledge with the world. So far, Blazic has repeated this project with three separate classes.

Blazic is also one of the three co-founders of “Moja Matura”. She collaborated with two teacher colleagues at her school to create this website, which enables secondary students from all over Croatia to access free interactive exam preparation materials for their standardized exit exams. The founders interact daily with students visiting the site, and as such it has become a unique place for senior-year students to prepare for the exam. Though this project began in December 2009, Blazic has since applied the knowledge she gained in her E-Teacher course to this site by adding webinars, changing the way the founders interact with the students, and introducing the students to a new way of independent learning. As a result, the site’s popularity has grown immensely. On any given day, this website may have up to 12,000 visitors. The founders and students also interact on social networking sites, such as Facebook, where they have more than 5,000 fans.

Blazic’s innovative strategies for engaging students in the learning process encourage teachers and learners worldwide to participate in the rich and unique online learning environment. With her pioneering use of technology in the classroom, Blazic is influencing educational objectives around the world as teachers adapt Blazic’s projects into their own curriculum. The future of education is evident through her projects, as students who are thousands of miles apart work collaboratively online. Her example of peer-to-peer learning in an international environment, through her “Greetings from the World” and “Cultural Profiles” projects, will certainly lead education toward the next great theoretical foundation.”