Teachers at the Heart winner - Cares Diaz Farre

Ms Cares Díaz Farré is Head of English at Escola Ramon Llull in Cataluñya and has been working in the industry for 14 years.

As well as bringing major benefits to her students and school (and winning her the scholarship!), her pioneering '24 Hour Global Blind Date' project has sparked the attention of global media: including Barcelona TV and the US channel NBC, who have both reported on her innovative methodologies.

Here, she tells us more about the project – and the difference it made to her school.

What was the aim of your project?

"I set up the ‘24 Hour Global Blind Date’ (24HGBD) project with my 4th grade class in order to: 

  • Make students more aware of the importance of using English as an international means of communication
  • Increase the motivation and confidence of my students to learn English as a second language
  • Break the walls of my classroom using the technology available (video conferencing)
  • Improve the fluency of spoken English of my students, creating situations that require real and meaningful communication
  • Teach geography in a creative and fun way
  • Make students aware and more understanding of other cultures and lifestyles"

What did it involve?

"The 24HGBD is a 24 hour mystery Skype marathon in which two classes from different countries arrange to meet via Skype without students knowing each other’s locations. Pupils must take turns to ask yes/no questions about geography and culture in order to find out with which city and country they are skyping with.

It took me some months to organize our 24HGBD timetable, as I had to contact well in advance many schools and teachers and arrange a suitable time to call taking into account the different time zones. I also had to prepare my class very well by teaching my children about continents, oceans, seas, countries, etc."

How did it benefit your students?

"The results of the activity were very significant and immediate after our 24HGBD. My students’ motivation and confidence in speaking English has increased rapidly. They are aware of how useful speaking and understanding English is, as it enables them to communicate with the world. They are not embarrassed anymore to speak in front of a camera or an unknown audience. They have acquired simple and useful techniques to make themselves understood when speaking.  

Their knowledge of geography is also very significant now. They know where they live, who their neighbour countries are and also where oceans and other continents are located. They can now read maps on posters, atlas books and Google maps. Moreover, after playing so many mystery Skypes during our marathon, they have learnt to work cooperatively and as a team; they help each other and think together of suitable questions to ask during each game, which they see as a fun challenge.

After the implementation of my project, my students are more eager to learn English as a second language because they see it is a tool for meaningful and real communication. To put it in 21st century words, using English for a specific and significant purpose has become our school trending topic."

Why has it been so significant to your school?

"In Spain, pupils do not start learning world geography until they are in secondary school (14 years old). This is why this Project has been so significant in my centre. It is a pioneering activity in my school and also in my country to teach world geography and English through the use of Skype to 4th graders. For our 24HGBD we skyped with countries from all continents and it was an unforgettable experience which my school aims to repeat every year from now on.

The Project provided benefits to each of the students in 4th grade and also to the other teachers working in Escola Ramon Llull. In my school we often work in a way where different subjects and teachers interact at the same time. Teachers in my school are now more eager to introduce technology in their lessons, as it has been proved that students’ motivation increases dramatically when digital tools and applications are put in their hands. The teaching of map reading and learning of other cultures with the combination of technology in a fun and interactive way is seen as an example for other teachers to follow and apply in their classrooms and lessons."

Finally, how do you feel about winning the scholarship?

"Winning a prize for carrying out an innovative project in my school means a lot to me. We teachers know very well how many hours we invest after school in order to design meaningful activities which can motivate our students and foster their creativity and critical thinking.

I was well aware when I presented this project to my students that it would be something special because in order for it to be a success it needed them and the whole school to put their hearts and souls into it. Luckily, everyone involved in the project gave their very best and felt happy to collaborate and I am truly thankful and proud for their great work. It has made me feel like I have the best job in the world!"

They said:

Cares was nominated for our Scholarship by School Principal Oriol López Julià, who said of her work:

“Cares is an innovator and believer in the use of integrated technology in our classrooms. She leads different projects which are pioneering in our school, such as the '24 Hour Global Blind Date'. Her work has changed the way we teach English in our centre in a qualitative way.

As a school we are very pleased and especially proud that a teacher of our faculty has received this scholarship. We value this contest because it encourages continuous training of teachers. I believe that success is not by chance, but the result of a steady job, so I think that lifelong learning is important in all professions, and of course it is also essential for a teacher of English.

The first thing Cares Díaz told me upon knowing she had won the scholarship was that, even though it was a contest of individual character, it is the school and especially the students who will benefit from it.”

Our judges verdict:

“A creative and fun use of Skype to develop learners’ intercultural awareness and listening and speaking skills - particularly fluency. It’s easy to picture the students’ motivation and engagement and there were measurable benefits to the whole school. We’d love to be part of this project both as a teacher and as a learner!”

What's next for Cares Diaz Farre?

As part of their scholarship prize, Cares will be attending a two-week training course at the NILE teacher training institute in Norwich this summer.  Find out more about the courses available and how Macmillan Education is working in partnership with NILE.

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