Lost in translation?

Social media transforms the textbook lesson

The students at BETT
Photo by Vidar Alfarnes, Skolemagasinet

In the weeks since we spoke at the BETT 2014 conference in London, we have enjoyed a lot of press coverage. The article written by BBC has gotten a lot of attention in many different countries. I have now read the article with the use of Google translator in Turkish, Bosnian, Romanian, French, Lithuanian, Italian and Thai. Translating an article first from English then to Italian and then back to English using Google translator is a fun experience. Reminds me why we should warn our students not to use Google translator as homework help or an attempt to do well at exams.


La Technica Della Scuola.it

This is the Google translate result from one of the paragraphs on this Italian webpage.  A project to “Libra”, which closely resembles the Norwegian reality, as recently reported by the BBC: “Duties and lessons? Everything goes through my blog, where I communicate with my students. Everyone has a tablet and Wi-Fi provided by the school, does his homework and publishes them on his personal blog, “he told the British TV Ann Michaelsen, telling the Sandvika High School in Oslo.

Photo by Vidar Alfarnes, Skolemagasinet

I’m not sure our classroom reflects the Norwegian reality, but judging from the comments on this BBC article I think Norway might be more advanced in the use of technology compared to other schools in Europe. I guess the European Horizon report will give us an indication about what schools in Europe are prioritizing. In a Romanian newspaper they had this headline: Norwegians will revolutionize education. That is quite an honor to represent Norway in that way and in many ways we are very lucky in Norway. Our schools have the advantages of wifi that works and most students are well equipped with computers. BBC refers to my students using tablets, but that is not true. They use computers or Macs. Personally I think it is difficult to do schoolwork on a tablet. When writing blogs we need a computer. Which is ironic since the BBC article is used to promote tablets on an Lithuanian Euronics site!

Territories of a planet light years away.

Photo by Vidar Alfarnes, Skolemagasinet
Photo by Vidar Alfarnes, Skolemagasinet

My surprise reading the BBC article and the reactions from it is that to me this is not very high tech or advanced. This is easy, free and available for most educators even if all students don’t have their own laptops. It is educational, a way to open up your classroom. By using blogs and your network you get an authentic audience for your students which motivates them to write interesting and relevant articles. When communicating with other students in other countries your students get to see both sides of the story and an opportunity to discuss and learn. And this is just a supplement to all the other activities that go on in class. In the technology discussions there tends to be a black or white version of the truth. The belief that you are either on all the time or off all the time. Believe me, paper and pencil can sometimes be an option and we still read books! Even if BBC describes my classroom as “the classroom of the future” where; “The exercise books, the textbooks and the stationery can also be packed away. There is no need for any of them in the classroom of the future.”

The article in Italian ends with this sentence: “The technology, in short, in the service of those same classrooms that sometimes seem territories of a planet light years away.”

Even if something quite clearly is lost in translation here I am a little worried when they describe what we do in my class as territories of a planet light years away. Makes me think about this article by Will Richardson: If this is the best that 2014 has to offer, we might as well close up shop. (And not for nothing, but if teachers using blogs to connect  their kids to global others is “best practice” in 2013, then what was it some 12 years ago when we were doing that in my lit and journalism classrooms? Mercy.)

Does this mean we give up? No! Because when you are a connected learner it is easy to share ideas with other teachers! And we should continue to do this to make learning more authentic, interesting and relevant for all our students!

Links to articles in Europe.

RSLN Youritworks, Ziare.com Manager.ro Vatan.Mola, Telegraph.online.ro Mediainfocus Balkan , Euronics  Thumbs-up,

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Hi Ann,
    Long time… Big congrats on all the work you do inside and out of the classroom. You touch on a point that I am often reminded of: many of the things we do in the classroom that seem natural, simple, obvious are astonishingly not at all common. Another reflection is that the focus is often on the tools, gadgets, gidgets, hardware, software that we use (particularly in non-education media) whereas our primary focus is pedagogy and everything we use is merely a tool to create the learning environment we are aiming for.
    Hope our paths cross again in the near future.

  2. Thank you Richard! Yes long time! Thank you for taking time to comment here. I agree with you, too often the focus is on the tools not the pedagogy! We had a discussion about this with our staff yesterday and it is always interesting to hear their views on this topic. Take care!

  3. When I listened to your excellent presentation with your students, I felt so much joy. Joy full, because 9 years ago, when I did these activities with student – inspired by Will Richardson, David Warlick, George Siemens and Stephen Downes – we were facing so many different problems; should kids be creators, or publishers at all (they would spam the world with their nonsense content)? Who should own the content (made during school-time? teachers, schools or the student?)? Could teachers use third part tools in class? What was the risk? I had schools hiring me for teaching their student how to use Internet, that would not allow their students any space on their servers for storing files. I had schools hiring me for teaching their student about how to use Internet, and at the same time not allowing their student to go online – seriously, I did 🙂 I quit this job – obviously (2006). This was my first job after finishing teachers ed … So, when I watched you there (you can se me smile in pink on the second pic), I was so grateful that pedagogy had come to a better place in this world! A place with teachers embracing the tools, students glowing in the glory of motivation, and leaders nodding their heads wishing and dreaming they had teachers like you Ann. Teachers who leans back, let the kids handle their own learning while supervised, letting the walls of their school fall while connecting to content and people world wide. Letting learners love learning! It was priceless! If it wasn’t for the lousy salaries, I would probably be a teacher again after this BETT! 😀

    1. Thank you for those kind words and sharing your story, I did not know that you worked with this 9 years ago! And yes it is a good thing that we are moving forward even if it seems to take a very long time!

I would love to hear from you