Internet Tasks and Projects in
Ethnic Schools
Robert Debski
The University of Melbourne
• To explain how the Internet can be used to implement tasb
and project-based learning
• To provide a linguistic and pedagogical rationale for
Internet-based tasks and projects (ethnic education, VELS)
• To provide examples of tasks and projects (Polish Saturday
School in Albion - 2006, 2007)
• Discuss the process and outcomes
• Tasks activities that are primarily focused on meaning and
use of language in context. Any learning of language form
that takes place while completing a task is incidental. In
contrast, an “exercise” usually focuses on form and
requires students to function as learners, rather than
language users (Ellis, 2003).
• WebQuests are tasks that utilize the Web as a resource,
repository of information and communication medium.
Tasks can be completed at school or at home.
“Travel itinerary”
Imagine that you are about to travel to Poland on a school
trip and your teachers have asked you to plan the trip. Use
the Internet as a resource. Visit the official Websites of the
cities that you would like to visit. Decide how you are
going to travel around Poland and how much this is going
to cost you. Working in small groups, develop a complete
travel itinerary for your school trip to Poland. Each group
will present their itinerary and the best one will be
Templates: Travel plan, travel account, time capsule,
historical story, simulated diary, commemorative,
alternative story, persuasive message
WebQuest - Advice
Pick something that:
Makes good use of the Web
Is associated with one or more curriculum standards
Replaces a lesson you are not happy with
Requires understanding (synthesis, analysis, evaluation,
etc.), not just remembering
• A project is an activity usually occupying a term of study.
The outcome of a good project is of value to some set of
people somewhere.
• Agency - the extent to which a project empowers learners
to impact real-life individuals and/or communities (a tool
for entering a speech community)
• Uniqueness - knowing how to develop a project idea with
your students is a skill
• Course as invention - the rigorous application of
curriculum gives way to the art of managing the learning
process (the course is in the process of becoming itself,
being invented by the teacher, learners and the speech
Collaborative Projects
• Shared student publications (classroom journalism and
publishing; students perform different roles: reporter, editor,
correspondent; joint editorial board)
• Comparative/contrastive investigations (comparative
community survey --> think globally, act locally)
• Folklore compendiums (folklore and community narratives:
proverbs, folk tales, children rhymes, fables)
• Oral histories (community interviews, key figures)
• Cross-cultural anthropologists (pairs of student informants
help each other explore a particular cultural topic)
Based on the “From Shore to Shore Project”
Incubation, investment, justification, creation and donation
• Incubation tasks aim to define the project in terms of its
goals as well as processes
Develop specific classroom activities such as evaluating
containing examples of student projects, brainstorming
project ideas (expressing opinions, likes and dislikes,
planning future activity, making comparisons)
• Investment tasks facilitate student access to communities
that use the target language
Find out if your students have any contacts with target
language individuals, groups and communities. Get them to
write to these people to gauge their interest in collaboration
in the project (communication with people they do not
know, expressing politeness, marking social roles)
Debski, R. (2006). Project-based language teaching with
technology. Sydney: NCELTR.
• Socialization
• Relevance
• Biliteracy
Rationale: Socialization
Language socialization is rooted in the notion that the
process of acquiring a language is part of a much larger
process of becoming a person in society (Ochs, 2002).
The family often is the only language community the
learners are socialized into.
Projects may create opportunities for learners:
• To negotiate their sense of self as speakers of the target
language across different social domains mediated by
relations of power, degrees of commitment, emotional
intensity, etc.
• To acquire the language of their peers and language
aligned with different social roles (keypal, reporter,
researcher, critic, editor, friend, etc.), as learners interact
with partners and the community
Rationale: Relevance
As their learning is not embedded in activity that is meaningful to
them and other people, students often:
• Fail to make a connection between the community language and
important life goals, and
• Do not learn to appreciate the value of being bilingual
The availability of relevant electronic media can act as a
motivator and can help develop the knowledge of a minority
language by:
• Not allowing the community language to be overshadowed by
glamorous media products in the more widely used languages
(e.g., English)
• Giving learners access to new environments, situations,
relationships where they can learn to appreciate the value of
knowing the community language
Rationale: Biliteracy
• Community language learners often do not develop
• Internet Projects emphasize the importance of biliteracy
(first a barrier, then a motivator to develop biliteracy)
Rationale: VELS
Year 9/10
“[Students] … use a range of learning tools, including multimedia
tools, to encounter a range of language and cultural forms and
“Both directed and independent learning is focused on …
comparisons between languages and societies.”
“Teaching activities are diverse and consolidate language and
cultural understandings, encourage risk-taking, and use many
materials and genres, texts and media.”
Case Study:
The Polish School in Albion
• Primary school established in 1993 and a secondary school in
1996 in Hoppers Crossing
• Relocated to new rooms in the Polish Sports and Recreation
Centre in Albion in December 2003. The Centre provides an
ideal infrastructure for the School (restaurant, waiting areas,
meeting rooms)
• Currently located in 4 new barracks (8 classrooms)
• Over 160 students studying Polish in 8 language groups.
• Qualified teachers, well-equipped in books, dictionaries,
DVDs, digital projector, computers, digital camera
Students - 2006
8 (9) students age 13-15 (selected class)
Level: Year 9/10 (VELS)
1 April - 17 June (9 meetings)
1 of the total of 3 contact hours once a week
9 (28) gymnasium students age 14-15
(editors of a school newsletter, members of
a computer interest group, volunteers)
1 April - 17 June (9 meetings)
flexible, but usually weekly
Learning community on
During this school term, a group of children in Australia and their
partners in Poland will create annotated digital photo albums, in
which they will present their family, the neighbourhood where they
live, their school and places they visit with friends. In other words,
they will attempt to present the everyday life of young Australians
of Polish descent, and children in Poland will describe the everyday
life of young people in Poland. The photo albums will be created in
the classroom and at home and will be shared through the Web
( Once the albums are completed, students
in Australia and their partners will meet online in order to discuss
them, ask questions and find out more information about each other.
Based on the content of the photo albums and the information
gathered during the virtual meeting, the students will finally write
individual essays discussing an aspect of the life of young people in
Poland and in Australia. The best texts will be published on the
Internet and in the Polish periodical “Akcent”.
Syllabus - objectives
In the course of the project, the children will practise how to:
• Write about the world around them and their everyday
• Talk about themselves and their environment during
classroom meetings
• Communicate with peers in Poland, ask and answer
questions and control an online discussion
• Prepare a short oral presentation
• Write an essay presenting their own point of view and
making comparisons
Photo albums (30%)
Each photo album will be composed of an introduction (60-100
words) and 9-15 photographs. Each photograph should have a
short (2-3 sentences) annotation, for example about what it
presents, when it was taken, and what is interesting about it? The
following criteria will be used to assess the photo albums:
• Amount of text (10%)
• Correctness of text (10%)
• Creativity (10%)
Oral presentation of photo albums (10%)
Students prepare a 10-minute presentation about their photo
albums. Marks will be given for the appeal of the presentation
(5%) and correctness and diversity of the language used (5%).
Correspondence with partners in Poland (10%)
The students’ task is to maintain communication with the
partners in Poland using the discussion forum. They will
obtain marks for the number (5%) and quality (5%) of their
Participation in the chat conference (10%)
Students will obtain marks for the number of words they
wrote during the conference.
Essay (30%)
The essay will contain at least 400 words. The following aspects
of the essay will be assessed: organization (5%), number of
words (5%), correctness (10%) and creativity (10%).
Contribution to class discussions, attendance (10%)
Each student will get marks for their participation in classroom
discussions and attendance.
Students will obtain additional marks if they present evidence of
• Email/blog communication with a cousin/keypal in
• Writing comments on the blogs written by partners in
Digital photoalbums
Two students from the Polish school in Sunshine who
obtain the most points will win valuable prizes (about $100
each). Prizes will also be awarded to the authors of best
photo albums and essays in Australia and Poland. The
prizes will be given at the end of the year during the
Certificate Awarding Ceremony. The best student essays
will be published in the Polish periodical Akcent Polski.
• Positive response from both children and parents
• 5 children in Australia posted their photoalbums (3-17
photos); 7 children in Poland (4-28 photos)
• 73 messages left on the Forum on topics such as computer
games, introductions, my family, soccer, school in
Australia, what young people do after school.
Topics and techniques (2007)
Earth - our home
Youth language
In search of roots
Cultural heritage
Youth literature
Video film
Internet page
PowerPoint presentation
Electronic brochure
Students - 2007
7 (9) students age 13-15 (selected class)
Year 9/10 (VELS)
second term 2007 (10 meetings)
1 of the total of 3 contact hours once a week
several gymnasium students age 14-15
(editors of a school newsletter, members of
a computer interest group, volunteers)
flexible, but usually weekly
• Students in Poland
as a source of
• Opportunity for
cultural learning
• Learning Polish
youth language
Outcome: Socialization
• Discussions start on topic and then switch to personal
• Use of Polish slang
• Polish students point to their own Web sites, blogs, private
radio station
• Project on youth language
• Asking questions, controlling conversations
• Cultural learning (helpful, focused on study, serious)
Outcome: Relevance
• Learning Polish related to topics of interest: youth music,
greenhouse effect, youth language, places of interest to
• Using Internet in Polish (e.g., to find information on the
greenhouse effect)
Outcome: Biliteracy
“Places of interest in Australia” (Sara and Konrad)
• Project: 600 words
• 6 discussion forum entries (370 words)
Outcome: Peers support
• Language support
• Encouragement
• Language exercises
• Little work accomplished by the students after school
• Parents hesitant about giving their children too much
Internet access
• Logistical problems with computers and the short overlap
between the school terms in Australia and Poland
• Address the issue of internet safety and assist parents and
children in reaching an agreement about educational use of
the Internet
• Introduce digital literacy using the community language in
the early years of schooling
• Develop and share examples of best practice in integrating
technology into ethnic schools curricula, with a particular
emphasis on Internet projects and Web-based tasks
• Establish a learning-management system (LMS) server
dedicated to storing and distributing electronic content
such as audio and video recordings, lessons, tasks, etc.
• Assist the ethnic school with the development of
infrastructure, obtaining access to technology, the Internet
• Make sure that computers in the child’s environment are
multilingual (e.g., ethnic keyboard, dictionaries, fonts, etc.)