Meeting at Anna’s Hotel, Latvia, February 2010

Photo: Øyvind Rangøy

In a really nice rural winter landscape – and yet in a highly comfortable and interestingly designed hotel with good conference facilities – in Anna’s Hotel, about 60 km from Riga, we, members of E-Nordisk, a Nordplus supported project, gathered in February 2010 for one of our first meetings in the Baltic countries.

We were working together on a challenging project on developing a web based platform for language learning. The platform’s target groups are citizens in all three Baltic countries who are interested in learning Nordic languages, primarily Norwegian and Danish.

The partners from the Nordic countries represent universities in Norway, Iceland and Denmark, all of them researchers and teachers of Nordic languages as foreign or second languages. The partners from the Baltic countries represent both universities and other organisations and are, first of all, very experienced teachers/translators of Nordic languages in their countries. Thus, practitioners and researchers are trying to sort out and get to a consensus about what, how and in which ways to develop language platforms, which would be useful for citizens of the Baltic countries.

For professionals within language teaching, a range of questions has to be addressed in such a project: What kind of pedagogical approach should one choose? Grammar based or based on the thinking of communicative competence? What about the socio-cognitive development of language skills? And should we include and refer to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages?

There were several other discussion points (Which content and themes? Content and subject-based lessons? Or could we create person-based storylines and combine them with theme-based lessons?) as well as new challenges (which e-learning platforms might be useful and appropriate to step on to? and how could it be used?). The IT-skilled persons in the project facilitated the less IT-skilled partners. And even more questions arose: how to create language tasks, developing cognitive and language skills, considering learning styles, learning strategies and technical possibilities? How to create stories, pictures, photo stories, videos? The discussions and questions addressed in Anna’s Hotel in February 2010 were many.

But there was also a lot of creative – and funny – hands-on work. The partners worked in groups, tried possibilities, created funny and serious stories. And they experienced cross-linguistic and multi-cultural work in their efforts of trying to professionally develop a website.

Not surprisingly, however, we experienced some frustrations as well. It is quite a big work to create a professional website for learning Nordic languages for Baltic citizens. Maybe even a work that exceeds the framework of this project.

However, everybody at Anna’s Hotel was contributing, discussing and putting into practice. The discussions witnessed mutual interest, engagement… and the partners realized the big dimensions of designing a platform. Working from early morning to late evening – the meeting seemed to be a creative work place where ideas were developed and tried out. The physical meetings may turn out to be the places where things are getting done and developed in the collaboration….

Karen Bjerg Petersen, Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark

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