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I first heard of Barbara and the work she was doing with her students in Norway when the top 50 finalists of The Global Teacher Prize 2018 were announced. What struck me about her was how practical and effective the methods she was using were in getting her students to become connected 21st-century learners. To my delight, she was chosen as a top ten finalist which meant that I would get the opportunity to meet and interview her when she came to Dubai for the awards ceremony. I not only got the chance to interview her but I also had the honour of being a part of her master class during which she explained how she uses technology to engage her students. She also shared with us some of her favourite technology tools and applications. The session was extremely engaging.

Barbara teaches English and International English at Nannestad High School, Norway. It is a public school with academic and vocational programmes.

In 2007, she earned her master’s degree from the University of Silesia, Poland. She knew that she wanted to move abroad at some point in her life. She had visited Norway several times, and it felt natural to move there and start one of the biggest adventures in her life. So, she packed her suitcase and moved to Norway just one week after her graduation.

Her parents were both high school teachers, and they were the first ones who showed her the beauty of this profession. When she was a kid, she enjoyed observing their classes very often. At the age of 17, she worked as a volunteer at a local orphanage on Saturdays. Every Saturday she taught English to a group of kids who did not have any English at their schools. This experience showed her that teaching was more than just a profession, it is both a mission and a calling. She knew that it was something she would love to do later on in her adult life. Join us as we learn more about this fascinating and innovative Global Teacher Prize finalist.

Describe your experience of being a Global Teacher Prize Finalist.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Not only was it a recognition of my teaching methods, but it was also a great honour. Besides, it was a testament that hard work, commitment to a creative and empowering mindset would be recognised and accepted by other educators from all over the world.

Why should students use social media in their learning?

I think that we need to show our students that they can use social media in an effective and productive way in a classroom setting. Not only can social media help us engage and motivate our students, but it can also help us make our students better collaborators and future workers. In my projects, I encourage my students to reach out to experts using Twitter or Facebook accounts. By doing that, I try to show my students that social media does not mean ENTERTAINMENT only and can be a great tool in the research process.

What are your two favourite EdTech tools and why?

The list of my favourite EdTech tools is really long, but if I were to choose two, I would probably go for FlipGrid and Adobe Spark. FlipGrid allows students to post short video reflections and promotes engagement and discussion among students. Adobe Spark is a great tool for anyone who would like to create a poster, page or video. In the past, my students used WordPress to create blogs, but this year it is all about Adobe Spark as it is much more user-friendly.

How do you help fellow teachers to share good practice with each other?

At our school, we have a learning management system called ITSL. Some years ago I created a space for all the teachers where I post information about my favourite tools, lesson plans, project ideas, educational events and gadgets. Besides, I use my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to spread the word about my teaching and project ideas. It is amazing how much we can learn from each other once we start sharing all the resources and ideas.

What do you do for fun or to unwind after a long day at school?

I live very close to nature which means I usually go for a walk or cross-country skiing during the winter. I feel that staying in the forest boosts my energy levels and reduces stress. It is really important for teachers to relax their bodies and minds as this job can be stressful and demanding.

What is the one thing about you that would surprise your colleagues?

Most of my colleagues do not know that I have been a pen pal since 1995. It is both my hobby and my passion. I still write handwritten letters and believe that anyone who is interested in learning a foreign language, culture, traditions, and wants to create meaningful relationships should give it a go. Besides, it is amazing to be able to visit people whom you have corresponded with for 10 or 20 years.

What is the best professional advice that you have received and how has this helped you?

Build rapport with your students before doing other things. It is my strong belief that taking a genuine interest in getting to know our students and showing them that we care about them and their future, helps to create conditions conducive to learning such as higher motivation and enhanced trust and communication. I received this piece of advice in the beginning of my teaching career, and it has really helped me become a better teacher.

By: Leisa Grace Wilson