Saturday, 16 February 2019, 8:46 AM
Site: Teach about US
Course: Teach about US (Home)
Glossary: FAQ
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Can my students access the TeachAboutUS platform from their smartphones and tablets?

Yes, the TeachAboutUS platform has a responsive design, i.e. it recognizes and automatically adjusts its interface to the device you are using. All functions that are available on regular desktop computers will also be available to smartphone and tablet users. This means that you and your students will be able to access TeachAboutUS materials flexibly ‘on the go’.

For the app fans among you, the official Moodle mobile app is available for Android and iOS devices. 

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Do I have to do all the classroom work to participate in the competition?

As with the final competition, we highly encourage to use the TeachAboutUS classroom materials, but this is not a mandatory requirement for participation. Although we provide an interesting, interactive, and up-to-date selection of authentic materials, you can also choose to use only part of the materials or only participate in the competition. Again, you are very welcome to join the project and implement it into your classroom according to your needs and capacities.

Do I have to participate in the competition?

We highly encourage participants to develop their own sustainability action plans (Going Green) / their election predictions (U.S. Election) and take part in the student competition, but this is not a mandatory requirement. Although such a participation will offer a great motivational incentive to your students, we understand that sometimes time pressure and other constraints can stand in the way of such an approach. So, the message here is: You are very welcome to participate in the project, even if you cannot submit a contribution to the competition.

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How can I get access to the tasks and materials on TeachAboutUS?

Register here at https://www.teachaboutus.org/login and we will inform you once the online course is open for classroom use (if it isn't already). For both projects, you will find a preview course under the Going Green and US Election tab.

We will provide you and your students with a password secured e-classroom, i.e. a learning area with all tasks and materials where you can work and communicate in a protected environment. To register your own e-classroom, please send an email to krueger@life-online.de, preferrably from your school e-mail account so that you can be immetiately identified as a teacher, stating:

  • Name of teacher:
  • E-mail:
  • Bundesland/town:
  • Name of school:
  • Class grade:
  • Participation with a partner school (yes/no):

Please note that your students will have to register as well in order to get access to this e-classroom. Registration is simple and secure, and can be completed in not more than two minutes. In addition, for both projects (Going Green, US Election) there is a Virtual Town Hall, i.e. a public space where all registered students and teachers in the project can meet and communicate beyond classroom borders.

Here is a tutorial for registering your account on Teach About US:

Tutorial

How can my students enroll in our course?

There are two ways to enroll your students in the course:

  • with an enrollment key
  • manually

Using an Enrollment Key

  • Ask your students to create a Teach about US account following the instructions on the homepage.
  • Tell them the enrollment key for your course (you will receive it from Katja Krüger, our administrator, via e-Mail).
  • Your students will find the link to your course in the Going Green section under the tab "Going Green Courses", in the section "Schools". It will be named according to your school name.
  • Once your students click on the course link, they will be prompted to type in the enrollment key.
  • Your students can now access the course page. The enrollment key is only necessary once for the first registration.

Manual Enrollment (by the teacher)

  • Ask your students to create an account following the instructions on the homepage.
  • Go to the menu (side box) Administration in your course.
  • Click on Users.
  • Click on Enrolled Users.
  • You will see a table with two users: yourself and "Going Green", a virtual teacher, who asks some predefined questions.
  • Click on Enroll Users. You will see a list of authenticated users, which very soon will become very long.
  • Search for every student you want to enroll and click on Enroll beside his/her name (for this purpose, it is important that your students register with their actual name).
  • Then click on Finish enrolling users. Your students are now enrolled in the course and can access the tasks and materials.

How does the project incorporate language study and practice?

Since the Going Green project will be implemented in a variety of school contexts, we have included a flexible focus on language in the materials. Apart from authentic text-based target language materials, you will also find a rich selection of audiovisual materials. We also provide language tasks in categories like vocabulary acquisition, written text production, language and culture mediation, cartoon analysis, and others. In addition, for most tasks there are additional self-study resources for students that explain the task type and provide an easy-to-use self-assessment grid, e.g. for mediation asks, cartoon analysis etc.

How long will the project last and what is the time frame for participation?

The official phase of the 2017-18 Going Green project cycle will be launched in October 2017 spring 2018 (date tbd). This means that you will be able to use the materials starting in late September and contributions to the competition will be accepted until spring 2018 (exact date to follow).

We estimate that the proposed classroom work can be used to create a teaching unit of c. 5 weeks (with an average of 4 class periods per week). However, the materials are flexible and can easily be adapted to a shorter time frame. Additional materials can also be used to provide a more detailed and intensive approach.

Please also note that TeachAboutUS is going to be available after the official conclusion of the Going Green project, even though competition participation will not be possible anymore.

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I am a U.S. teacher and want to work together with a German colleague. What should I do?

Are you a U.S. teacher and want to reach out to a German partner? Contact our colleague Jan-Marie Steele (Jan.Steele@washington.goethe.org) at the Goethe Institut's TOP program in Washington D.C. Together, we will try to match you with a German partner.

Please include the following information in your email:

  • Name:
  • E-Mail:
  • City, State:
  • School:
  • Class grade(s) and Subjects:
  • Number of students who would (ideally) participate:
  • Comments/Questions/Preferences:

I am teaching CLIL classes. Can we participate?

Yes, TeachAboutUS tasks and materials are suitable for different types of CLIL (content and language integrated learning; bilinguales Sachfachlernen) courses, especially with focus on political and social sciences. The project materials provide opportunities for language practice, political and civic learning, as well as intercultural contents. The paradigm of research-based learning on local case studies is at the core of both projects (Going Green and US Election) and the materials offer many possible ways to make adjustments to your specific learner group.

I am teaching young learners. Can we participate?

Generally yes, but this is likely to require major adjustments to the project curriculum. The projects are designed to serve the target group of upper secondary school students in the Qualifikationsphase of the German Gymnasium. Teachers can make adjustments to tasks and materials as well as adapt the level of task support on the platform. The proposed classroom work is not mandatory and teachers can use the provided materials selectively in their courses according to learner needs and ability. Contact the TeachAboutUS team for further suggestions regarding this aspect (contact Joannis Kaliampos).

I have a partner school/course in the U.S. Can we participate as a team?

Yes, we highly encourage partner schools or courses to participate together as teams. In fact, this is a great way to intensify your partnership and complement your regular exchange programs. Simply let us know that you want to cooperate in the project and we will provide a joint e-classroom with access for both learner groups. The Moodle platform facilitates easy and effective collaboration online.

For Going Green, we also encourage these teams to jointly develop their sustainability action plans and seek possibilities of implementing them on both sides of the Atlantic. In the last two project cycles, we were able to award a special prize to outstanding transatlantic projects and partnerships.

For the U.S. Election Project, existing school partnerships can complement the project participation. The main goal is that German students predict the election outcome in their adopted U.S. state. German students can reach out to their American partners to inquire about their home state, for examply conduct skype interviews on the political culture, voting history, economy etc. in the state. German teachers, please let us know during the registration that you already have a U.S.-based partner so that state can be assigned to your group.

I have never used Moodle before. Will I be able to use it in class? Where can I get support?

Yes, there are several sources of useful support for teachers and students. Through our detailed classroom research in previous e-learning projects we are well aware that this will be the first e-learning experience for many participants. TeachAboutUS provides ready-to-use materials for participants and does not require prior experience with Moodle. Teacher trainings on using Moodle for Going Green will take place for participant teachers in the Berlin and Brandenburg area in September 2015 ( see Going Green / Upcoming Events ). In addition, we produced learning materials (The Book 'Basic Course Management' can be found in the first section in the Virtual Town Hall) explaining the use of this platform along with teaching tips and background information about the platform and links to support materials by the Moodle community. Many general and helpful resources on using Moodle can also be found at http://moodle.org/ (go to the tab “documentation”).

I've found a partner. What should we do now?

Once you've found a colleague overseas who is willing to start a cooperation between both courses, let our webadministrator, Katja Krüger (krueger@life-online.de), know about this (unless we have matched you with your partner). The most convenient form of collaboration is to enroll students from both classes in the same Moodle course. We will provide you with two enrollment keys for your course - one for German students and one for U.S. students - so that they automatically belong to two separate groups within the course. In your course, your students can do the tasks in parallel mode and exchange their findings in Skype calls or a forum and document them in the course journal or blog. You can also insert a forum for planning purposes that is only available to you and your teacher colleague. Simply set it to 'invisible' so your students will not be able to see or access it.

For both school projects, the standard Moodle course now contains a course journal, course forum, a database, and a glossary at the top of the course page. These are not attached to a specific task and can be used flexibly, for example for collaboration and communication beyond classroom borders.

If I don't find a transatlantic project partner, what other options of transatlantic collaboration are there?

German participants, who represent the majority of enrolled learners in this platform, can initiate discussions and exchanges beyond classroom borders in shared forums and databases in the Virtual Town Hall. Other options are: 

  • Posting questions to our team of U.S. experts (in both projects) during their 'expert weeks'. Information on this will be posted in the Virtual Town Hall during the project and student questions will be collected and forwarded to our experts regularly. Their answers will be posted in Teach About US Blog. 
  • We are fortunate to have a team of young university students on board as our bloggers for Teach About US. They will report about timely issues from the perspective of your students' peers in the U.S. Would you like to organize an e-mail exchange or a Skype interview with them? Let us know and we will help you organize this (contact Joannis Kaliampos).
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My school doesn’t have a U.S. partner. Can we find partners online?

Teach About US has been broadly advertised among U.S. teachers, especially focusing on schools in the German-American partnership program (GAPP) and the Washington D.C.-based TOP Program (sponsored by the Goethe Institut, Deutsche Bank, Siemens, Robert-Bosch-Stiftung, Federal Republic of Germany - Foreign Office). We cannot guarantee to provide transatlantic partners, but hope to be able to match participating courses as the project proceeds. Apart from fixed partnerships, there are several tasks that ask students to share their research findings and project ideas on the platform and exchange findings in forums, databases, and other task environments.

My school doesn’t provide the infrastructure to use e-learning regularly. What can I do?

You are not alone in this. From our teacher networks we know that the digital infrastructure in schools can vary tremendously, ranging from schools with wireless web-access and tablet classes to schools with traditional computer labs and inconvenient access to digital technologies.

TeachAboutUS does not require access to computers during each lesson. Inquire about arrangements at your school, e.g., to use your computer lab once a week. If possible, also ask your students to bring their own devices as the platform will be compatible with smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

The materials also allow for a flipped classroom approach (see below), i.e. asking your learners to access the online materials at home and discussing them at school. In addition, selected TeachAboutUS materials will be accessible for download, so that participants can use them in an ‘offline’ environment.

What is a flipped class? from TEXAS Learning Sciences on Vimeo.

My school’s curriculum is packed. How can I fit Going Green into my courses?

We don’t want you to take unnecessary detours from your curriculum. This is why we have designed the project contents in line with state curricula for English in the upper secondary school and U.S. curricula.  This means that the suggested classroom work should cover curriculum contents and can, if necessary, be easily extended or adjusted. Think of it as an invitation to incorporate new teaching and learning resources into your classes as well as a strong connection to learning with digital media and authentic resources.

For integrating Going Green into your curriculum, please read this overview

My students and I are concerned about data security. How are their data protected?

It is good that you consider this issue and we encourage teachers and students to make this a discussion point in their courses, especially if this your first encounter with e-learning. We can assure your privacy and personal information are securely protected on the TeachAboutUS platform.

This platform has been jointly developed under the expertise of LIVE e.V./eXplorarium, a non-profit e-learning specialist based in Berlin. It has been accredited and co-funded by the Berlin Senate of Education, Science, and Research and the European Social Fund. LIVE e.V. is partner of many schools in Berlin with now more than 25 years of experience in school cooperation projects. It also played a leading role in the development and administration of the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2012 and its Moodle platform, in which more than 1,400 German students participated in a comparable e-learning project and mock election of the U.S. President.

All files and personal and communication data generated on TeachAboutUS can be deleted at your wish. Learn more about LIVE e.V. at http://www.life-online.de/ and their e-learning section ‘eXplorarium’ at http://www.explorarium.de/  and have a look at our privacy policies (insert link).

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There are several colleagues at my school who want to participate with their courses. Is this possible?

Yes, we highly encourage teachers to inform colleagues about the project. We also welcome schools who wish to participate with more than one course and even teachers participating with several of their courses. They all can participate in the competition with individual contributions. It is also possible to use the materials, e.g., in the context of project weeks with learner groups formed across classroom boarders.
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What are some suggestions and activities for such a partnership?

There are generally two options to organize your collaboration: share a Moodle course as a joint work and communication space, or use other online tools (e.g. Skype, email) outside this Moodle platform.

To share a Moodle course, ask our web administrator Katja Krüger (krueger@life-online.de) to create the course for you and provide you with the enrollment information.

The standard Moodle courses for the election project and the Going Green project are primarily targeted at German high school students and the tasks in it will reflect this. However, these activities are mostly content-based and will also allow U.S. students to work on the project theme in a meaningful way. Probably the best way to launch your cooperation is to discuss the project together with your colleague and seek out options for online exchanges. These exchanges can be facilitated via the course forum in your Moodle course or private messages between your students. You can also set up Skype meetings. For teachers, we have included a teacher-to-teacher forum at the top of the course page. It is invisible to students.

Online collaboration activities should progress through the three phases of (1) information exchange, (2) comparison and analysis, and (3) collaboration and product creation. Here are some ideas for such activities:

1. Information exchange

  • Introduce yourself! Students introduce themselves in the course forum (either in groups or individually). This could involve the students' hobbies, school and community, everyday activities etc. You could use this as a first step, say, before a Skype conference.
  • Create an info wall! Students create short blurbs and contribute short videos or photos of them in a shared padlet (an online pinboard). Propose guiding questions or an introductory theme, e.g. "Sustainability on our school campus" or "What we want to learn about our peers". Avoid controversial or face-threatening issues at this stage. At this introductory phase, a primary focus should be on trust-building and socializing activities.
  • Prepare mini-presentations! Students can prepare short presentations about their home town and relate it to the project topic, e.g. "Public transportation in my town," "Grocery shopping in our town" etc.
  • Exchange questionnaires! German students could formulate questions about their U.S. partners' home state and community: What does life look like there? Who are the people living in the state? What about the landscape and climate? What are famous tourist attractions? etc. Our German students are supposed to become experts on their assigned state and instead of researching this information online, they could discuss it directly with their U.S. peers. Use the Moodle plugin for creating questionnaires or tools like Google forms.
  • Discovery task: Ask students to review their partners' responses from the above activities and identify the most interesting, funny, or strange aspects. Why are these aspects so unexpected? What can students learn from them?

 

2. Comparison and analysis

  • In Going Green, students in both courses can complete the self-study modules and eco-challenges in parallel mode and exchange their findings, e.g. by posting them in the Moodle course (see Demo Course, course section "2. Group work // Exploring the challenges"). For example, in module on plastic and recycling, students on both sides can describe their schools' recycling and waste management policies, investigate their peers' attitudes towards this issue through a poll, or document the amount and types of plastic waste found on the school grounds.
  • Results from both groups should be compared: What are similarities and differences in both school communities? What could be possible reasons, e.g. attitudes ("Recycling considered more/less important than here"), infrastructure ("There are recycling bins installed everywhere on campus"), practices and habits ("People are accustomed to buying 'take-away' and 'to-go' products that are packaged individually"), and other aspects.
  • Communication: Your Moodle course offers the options of asynchronous communication (forum discussion) and synchronous communication (instant messages between users).
  • Collaboration: Your Moodle course contains a course database for uploading and sharing files and text. Also, a project journal can be used to document work processes and results.

 

3. Collaboration and product creation

  • Students work together to produce a joint product or conclusion of their collaboration
  • In Going Green, students can produce a joint sustainability action plan for both schools, e.g. launch a PSA campaign in both schools, organize a parallel upcycling festival, prepare a parallel presentation on "lessons we can learn from our transatlantic partners" etc.
  • Discuss the idea online, define a joint goal (create a website, shoot a video, organize an event, ...), and establish roles for the participants.
  • Set up a workplan, e.g. a mode for communication, a time frame (when to exchange ideas, when to meet virtually, by when to have results ready, ...)
  • Agree on how the result will be presented and, possibly, published online. How is it going to be evaluated? For example, students can write reports for their school websites or personal reflections in a learning portfolio or blog.

 

For more useful and hands-on activities, check out the UniCollaboration task database.

 

You see, the options for collaboration are varied. What your cooperation will look like will depend on the available time budget, student motivation, and other factors. We would like to stress that this exchange can be very flexible, ranging from a single e-mail exchange to regular Skype chats and joint development of learner projects. The goal is to create a satisfying learning experience for both sides, and have fun along the way!

Who can participate? What is the target group?

We invite all teachers and students of English and CLIL courses in Germany as well as interested courses in the U.S. to participate in the project and the student competition for sustainable action plans. The target group comprises EFL courses in the upper secondary level (Qualifikationsphase) and students in the U.S. in social sciences and German as a foreign language classes.

Will the TeachAboutUS platform be accessible after the project?

Yes, you and your students will have access to the platform after the conclusion of the project. This is especially important for courses in the German Gymnasium, where course contents will be important for comprehensive Abitur exams. In fact, the Moodle platform can easily become a record of classroom work for future reference and participants in our previous projects made intensive use of online materials for later class tests.