Bilipals between Ghana and Estonia
This blogpost profiles a school partnership we have set up between teachers Emmanuel Akasegri and Pillerin Arge. In this project we are collaborating with Teach For All to build an international community of language teachers, including Emmanuel representing Teach For Ghana and Pillerin from Noored Kooli (Teach for Estonia).
School Lamashegu M/A Junior High School Puhja Kool Location Tamale Puhja More information We have a population of about three hundred students, and 17 teachers. Lamashegu junior high is the oldest junior high in the community and has produced many prominent educators in northern Ghana. We have two blocks with 3 classrooms each. Puhja school is situated in a small borough with under a 1000 inhabitants. Our school has 22 teachers and 219 students. We are really happy to have returned to our beautiful, newly renovated school building in January 2020. School motto “Respect, hardwork and determination” “Finding happiness through studying!”
What motivated you to set up a Bili exchange?
Emmanuel: My students are very active and turns to learn better in groups or pairs. Also my students are interested in communicating and learning about other countries abroad. I realized joining the billi exchange will help them learn more about others in a different country, which they already wanted. I also thought of the communication improvement benefits it brings to my students. When I heard of it I loved it and I knew my students would love it also, which they did.
Pillerin: I realised that my students would really benefit from real-life communication with someone who doesn’t speak their language. Some of my students weren’t that motivated to learn English before the project, others could also use more practice and knowledge of other countries a bit further away from us. When I heard of this project I knew I had to apply.
Unusually for an exchange on Bili, both of your classes are learning English. How do you think your pupils benefit from learning together with their partners from Ghana and Estonia?
Emmanuel: My students see the topics and tasks from very interesting and fun. We are really excited to have partners in Estonia. The exchange helped us build on our communication and spelling skills since there was room for checking and correction of partner’s work. Students were more careful and did more research before sending their task and replies. We learned a lot about Estonia and we had the opportunity to share about Ghana.
Pillerin: My students find their partners, their tasks and culture fascinating. We are all learning so much about Ghana. I think the differences and the desire to find out more motivate the students a lot. They have the chance to correct each other’s mistakes, which makes them think more about grammar and spelling. Another thing I have noticed is an amazing rise in motivation in students just because their partner has the same interests. Matching the students based on their interests has worked wonderfully.
Any tips for making the most of an exchange on Bili?
Emmanuel: Guiding students through all the technical aspects of exchange. Starting from how to set up their accounts, how to complete and reply to tasks. Making tasks interesting, challenging and fun. Assisting students with relevant material to complete their work (internet and a device to connect with). Regular checking on partners on how the exchange is going.
Pillerin: Assist your students as much as possible when they’re logging in for the first time. Make sure to go over the technicalities: where do they have to click to do their assignment, where do they see the deadlines, how does the replying system work and so on. Create fun tasks that you find interesting and think your partnering students would too. Enjoy the process!
With schools closed due to COVID-19, how has Bili helped you to deliver teaching remotely to your students ?
Emmanuel: This exchange has challenged students to keep learning especially during this period of school closed down. The exchange is the number one thing that motivates and keeps my students active to learn at their homes because of its fun nature. The exchange is great and the matching of partners based on their interest was perfect. We are very grateful to Billi. It is very motivating, educative and fun being with billi. I was wondering what will have kept my students active at home without billi.
Pillerin: It has been of great help! They already know the platform, it’s easy for me to manage and it’s definitely more interesting for the students than Workbook-Textbook.
“The exchange is the number one thing that motivates and keeps my students active to learn at their homes because of its fun nature. “
Many students unfortunately do not have good access to internet or devices. Have you found that this is a challenge and how have you overcome it?
Emmanuel: This is really a great challenge to me but thankfully, I think I had my way-out. Access to the internet or devices is a great challenge to my students. I grouped my students in groups of 3 based on their proximity, most of them already learn together in those groups, so it wasn’t hard to do. They write and work on their task for the week in their notebooks, I schedule a day to meet them with my laptop, which they used to complete their task and replies. I made provisions for some of them in nearby cafes and majority of them rely on their parents and siblings who have access to the Internet. I always call them through their parents and siblings to find out their well-being and also remain them. Most students complete their task and reply on time. Though there were challenges, it was interesting and fun.
Pillerin: I’m privileged to live in a place where this is not a big problem. None of my students have missed out due to not having access to internet or devices. It is, however, perhaps more difficult to get hold of the students who don’t do their tasks on time. I can’t talk to them when I see them in school, but I can try to get in contact with them and their parents online or over the phone.