International Schools CyberFair'99
The Knights of Malta
Information About Our Site
1. We entered our Web site in CyberFair Category:
Category 6; Historical Landmarks
2. Description of "Our Community"
Our community consists of the Maltese islands, mainly the island of Malta and the smaller island of Gozo. The total area of the two islands, which are found in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea is about 320 square km. Surprisingly, more than 350,000 people live on this small archipelago and about 1,000,000 tourists visit our Islands every year. Malta is only 27 km and 14 km at it's longest and widest parts respectively. Malta's strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea has lured settlers from as early as 5000 B.C. up to Malta's Independence 1964. This has made Malta very rich in its historical heritage with a number of locations being designated as UNESCO heritage sites.
The community represented in this project consists of all the people of Malta since our school's "catchment area" is from all over the Island.
3. Project Description:
For a few days last December, Malta relived some of its glorious history. This is because over eight hundred members of the Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem (or of Rhodes or of Malta SMOM), from various countries assembled on the island for a three-day "pilgrimage" which launched the ninth centenary celebrations of the Order. A highlight of this unprecedented gathering of Knights (and Dames) in Malta took place on December 5th with the signing of an agreement between the Maltese government and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (the Order of St. John). Through this agreement, the upper part of the historical fort of St. Angelo (the victorious Fort of the Great Siege of 1565 against the Turks) was turned over to the Order on a ninety-nine-year lease. The agreement binds the Order to restore and maintain the fort while Malta will retain its sovereign rights over the fort. Therefore, since the Order has returned to Malta again, we felt that it was highly appropriate to formulate our CyberFair'99 Project on the Order of St. John. Our project describes the Order from its origins in Jerusalem till its comeback to Malta of nowadays. The project is divided into eight topics, which describe: the Order's origins, the period before the Order came to Malta in 1530, the Order's first decades in Malta, the Order's departure from Malta in 1798 and the Order nowadays. Due importance is given to both Turkish attacks on the Maltese Islands in 1551 and the most important in 1565. The causes and consequences of these attacks are also analysed. Moreover, great importance is also given to the Order's fortifications around our Grand Harbour. Great emphasis is also put on the construction of Valletta (our capital city) with all its architectural splendours, built on the initiative of Grandmaster La Vallette and on the designs the famous international architect Laparelli, the famous international painter Mattia Preti and the Maltese architect Gerolamo Cassar. Apart from giving importance to the already mentioned historical concepts of cause and consequence, great importance was also give to the important historical concepts of change and continuity, which are listed as important objectives of this category (Historical Landmarks). The latter concepts were greatly emphasised through the use of beautiful pictures, paintings, drawings, maps and photos in all the "screens" of the "website". The project also includes information and pictures about some of the Order's Grandmasters during its stay in Malta. Obviously the project also gives great importance to the Eight-Pointed Cross, which is the emblem of the Order and which is also known as the Maltese Cross. Our project also includes current events, since it deals with the current arrangements between the Order of St. John (also known as the Knights Hospitallers or Knights of Malta) and the Maltese Government.
4. Our Internet Access
Our school obtains Internet access through a dialup 28K modem connected to Maltanet Internet Services provided by Terranet Ltd., which is on one of Malta's leading Internet providers and which also sponsors our school. The Internet service is distributed to ten multimedia personal computers in the ICT suite through a server.
5. Problems we had to overcome
One of the first problems we had to overcome was the time constraint. This is because in our school, the grade seven (grade five for the U.S.) have a senior school timetable with eight periods each day, ten different subjects and obviously different subject teachers. Therefore, the grade seven students could not work on the project throughout the whole day as a class teacher can do. We overcame this problem by having the students doing the research in the library during the history lessons and having the students typing and scanning during the ICT lessons.
Another problem we had was that we planned to have an interview with Fra Andrew Bertie, who is the present Grandmaster of the Order. Fra Andrew has a house in Malta, which he uses for his holiday. Unfortunately, since from January to March he had a number of commitments abroad, we could not get in touch with him. However, we still managed to get some information about Fra Andrew and the Order from some students who had been taught judo by Fra Andrew Bertie last summer during the Summer School.
Another problem we encountered was that some students had problems with typing, opening, closing and saving documents. This problem was overcome by having the ICT teacher explain the mentioned procedures and also helping the students practice the procedures during the ICT lessons as well as during the computer clubs, which take place during the long midday break. Another problem was that some students did not have Internet at home and so could not access certain sites about the Knights and the site about the CyberFair. However, we overcame this problem by having an "Internet Café" during the long midday break, during which the students had ample access to the Internet.
Since we encountered some technical problems with the scanner, we had to continue scanning pictures at Terranet Ltd., our Internet Service provider. Moreover, since we also encountered some technical problems in including a video-clip of the historical re-enactment done by the students about Dragut's attack on Gozo of 1551, we instead inserted photos of the "video-shooting" of this re-enactment.
6. Our Project Soundbite
Our CyberFair Project enabled us to integrate in a very practical way History and ICT (Information & Communication Technology), thus showing that any academic subject in the curriculum can be integrated with ICT and with the Internet. Our CyberFair Project also enabled the students to share their personal resources together and with those of the school's, as well as uniting the students, their parents and the teachers involved, towards a common goal. Moreover, it enabled the students to share their country's rich history with other schools world-wide and it also gave them the opportunity to learn about the history of other countries around the globe.
1. How did your activities and research for this International School CyberFair project support your required coursework and curriculum requirements?
This project fitted perfectly in the school's curriculum since the topic "The Order of St. John" is one of the most important topics in the syllabus of grade seven. Moreover, our school aims to provide its students with a balanced and broad-based curriculum and it tries to achieve this by integrating subjects whenever possible. Luckily enough, our CyberFair project offered great opportunities for inter-disciplinary learning since it enabled us to integrate History, Geography and ICT (Information & Communication Technology) successfully.
As regards to Geography, this project helped the students to learn the two important Geographical Skills of comparing and contrasting. This is because they could compare and contrast the similarities and differences between Malta and Gozo, as well as the similarities and differences between Malta's old medieval capital city Mdina and Gozo's medieval city the Citadel. By analysing the advantages and disadvantages that Malta "offered" to the Knights, the students analysed the advantages and disadvantages of being an island.
As regards to History, apart from learning the actual content, the students also learnt important historical skills and concepts. By analysing the causes and consequences of "Dragut's attack on Gozo", "the Great Siege of 1565" and "the building of Valletta", the students learnt the important historical skills of cause and consequence. By analysing the similarities and differences of the "forts around the Grand Harbour" and the magnificent buildings of Valletta and comparing them to how they are nowadays, the students learnt the important historical concepts of similarity and difference, and those of change and continuity. Moreover, through the analysis of the "Great Siege of 1565" and their re-enactment of "Dragut's attack on Gozo of 1551", the students succeeded to practise the fundamental historical skill of empathy. Obviously, this project has also helped the students reinforce the important historical concept of time.
As regards to ICT, the students had ample exposure to the Internet, learnt about creating websites, learnt how to open, edit and save documents, as well as organising documents into files and directories.
Apart from this, the research process for this project enabled the history teacher, Mr. Stephen Briffa to guide the students through Bloom's Taxonomy of Cognitive Skills. This is because through their group-work research and discussion the students moved from the cognitive skill of knowledge to comprehension (through the skills of translation, interpretation and extrapolation), application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Through the research process of this CyberFair Project and through the continuous eliciting of the teachers involved, the students were active participants (actively participating in creating their own information by taking initiative for their own learning) as opposed to being passive recipients. Through their group-work research, they practised peer-tutoring and so showed signs of self-directed learning. This project gave the teachers involved the opportunity to practise a problem-posing type of education since the students had to come up with their own solutions for effective learning. This research, together with the use of the Internet, provided the students with important skills for life-long learning, which is so important in today's world of great technological progress where one need to continuously update oneself. All this shows that the CyberFair project provided us with an excellent example of integrating ICT and History. It also helped the students to become aware of their country's rich history as well as with the history of other countries participating in the CyberFair. Moreover we succeeded to achieve the objectives of this category (historical landmarks), since (as already mentioned) "the students' views of the world community was broadened through familiarity with the local community by an understanding of the concepts of continuity and change". Moreover, the "students were able to relate the special historical landmarks that have distinguished their community from other communities.
Through this project, the students reinforced group skills, since both grade seven (our grade seven corresponds to grade five in the U.S.) classes were divide into eight groups. Each of these groups chose a topic (from the eight topics we chose to do research on) and did research on that particular topic. However, the eight groups had to co-operate with each other in order to develop links (called hyperlinks) between the topics.
Finally, one must surely say that the whole project was academically successful (please refer to question 6 about discoveries, lessons and surprises in order to see the reason for this academic success) and through the use of Internet, teaching has surely been more effective. This is because it motivated the students to take initiative and do their own searching for information and it also made historical information from around the globe and from different perspectives easily accessible to the students. Moreover, the Internet encouraged the students to start adapting their writing to different audiences. It also enabled the students to share and communicate their history and ideas with children around the world and thus encouraging unity world-wide.
2. What information tools and technologies did you use to complete your CyberFair project?
Throughout the period during which the project was compiled, the following technologies were used:
· Personal computers - These were used for a number of uses, e.g., word processing, scanning, image manipulation, communicating through E-mail, sending and receiving faxes, building web pages, etc.
· A server and dial-up modems - These were used to provide the school with Internet access.
· Telephones - the most popular communication tools used by all those involved in the project.
· Photo cameras - to take photos of the students' charts, the students' historical re-enactment and the students themselves
· Scanners - These were used to digitise photographs, drawings, pictures, maps, postcards and examples of children's work.
· Fax machines, plain paper copiers and other office equipment - these were used extensively throughout the project.
The software applications that have been used include:
· Microsoft Word - a word processing software for typing in, editing and saving all the scripts and documents.
· Microsoft Power Point - for helping the students with the presentation of their project.
· Image manipulation software - to handle the graphics through all the stages of digitising.
· HTML Editors - to help us build our Web Pages
· FTP software - to transfer our pages to the file server
· Mail software - to communicate with different people around the World.
· A Web browser (Internet Explorer) - to browse through Internet resources.
It is very difficult to say which tools were most important since all the above were extensively used throughout the project. However one must surely not forget the valuable information and pictures we got from libraries (especially the school library), history books, history leaflets and booklets, tourist brochures from the NTOM (National Tourism Organisation of Malta) local tourist and history magazines, and postcards.
3. In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.
We made contact with one of Malta's local councils (Zurrieq) in order to get information about the present Grandmaster of the Order, Fra Andrew Bertie; since the latter has a house in this locality, which he uses when he is on holiday in Malta. Therefore the committee members of this local council obviously got to know about our project.
Another contact we made was with the Director of Planning of the Education Department. This was made when he paid a visit to our school and saw the children at work in the ICT room. Apart from being highly impressed (please refer to the story of question six), he gave us great encouragement and offered all his support. Moreover he was determined to encourage state school for similar projects.
Through this project, we also reinforced our contacts with Terranet Ltd., which offers Maltanet Internet Services and who is our Internet Access Provider. The company showed great interest from the outset and apart from sponsoring our CyberFair Project, their technical people have provided us with invaluable help and support.
We also got in touch with local newspapers who were really interested in our project and gave us newspaper articles and supplement magazines about the Order of St. John.
The History teacher, Mr. Stephen Briffa took the students who were working on this project for an educational visit to an audio-visual show about the Knights called "The Knights Hospitallers". This show takes place in "Casa Magazzini" in Mdina, which is a historical building in the old medieval capital of Mdina. The Knights used this building as an ammunition depot. The people who run this show were really interested in our project and during the show they did their best to help the students to learn more about the Order of St. John.
However, the students were really excellent "ambassadors" of our Project during our school's Open Day, which took place on the 25th of March 1999. During this open day the students did a presentation (using Microsoft Power Point) about their CyberFair Project (what it is and how it was compiled) and later guided the parents (sitting near eleven computer stations in the ICT room) around the website of our CyberFair Project. A rehearsal of all this was also done the day before with the grade six (our grade six corresponds to grade four in the U.S.) students of our schools. Both the students and the parents who came to the open day were highly motivated, interested and impressed with our Project and congratulated a lot all the students involved.
4. What has been the impact of your project on your community?
The project has had a very positive impact on both the school and the community. This very positive feedback was especially felt during our school's open day, which was described in the answer above. Both the other students of the school as well as all the parents were very interested and motivated with the project's presentation. Many of them knew about the agreement, which the Order of St. John did four months ago with the Maltese government. However through our project, the members of our community who came to our open day learnt much more about the Order of St. John and surely understood the importance (both historically and economically) of this agreement.
Our Project has also had a very positive impact on all the teachers of our school as well as on the university lecturers who attended the open day. The Minister of Education who was also present for the open day was highly impressed by the project and like the other people who saw the site, he also said that the site shed light on certain aspects of the Order's history which were not popular with the public. The members of our community who attended the open day and saw our project were also interested to browse through the site privately at home since they continuously asked us for the Internet Address of the site!
Finally, our Project surely left a very positive impact on the technical people at Terranet Ltd. (the company which provides our school with Maltanet Internet Services) who helped us a lot as regards the technical aspects of our Project. Throughout this period they really showed interest and motivation like that shown by excellent "historians"! They really learnt a lot about the Knights and also started liking History more!
5. How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?
Our CyberFair Project would not have been a success without the invaluable help of the following people:
· Ms. Dorianne Mallia -- Marketing Manager of Terranet Ltd., the company, which apart from providing our School with Maltanet Internet Access Services, it is also sponsoring our CyberFair Project. Ms. Mallia was our first contact and from the outset she really showed great interest in our project and gave us full support.
· Mr. Robert Caruana and Mr. Michael Azzopardi -- Web Developers at Terranet Ltd.
· Ms. Lina Farrugia -- our school's librarian. Ms. Farrugia collected all the information and pictures about the Order of St. John from the school's library and made them accessible for the students to use during the research process. During the library sessions with the students, she also reinforced their research skills and methods.
· The teachers of San Andrea Middle School and the parents (of the students participating in this project) - They all showed support and made the information and pictures they had in their personal libraries at home, readily available for our Project.
6. Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises
We felt that we should answer this question since through this project we (especially Mr. Stephen) made an important "discovery", which at the same time was a surprise which gave us a very important lesson.
We used to hear teachers say that such projects as the CyberFair one were very interesting, motivating and fun to make; but doing them requires too much time and they usually result in no academic achievement. Although the time constraint is true, academic achievement can in fact still be achieved. We discovered this by a particular incident, which came by surprise.
Last February, the Director of Planning of the Education Department (Mr. Joe Sammut) together with some high officials from this Department, paid a visit to our school. The history teacher, Mr. Stephen Briffa did not know anything about this visit. While he was doing a lesson about the CyberFair project in the ICT room, these important officials from the Education Department came into the latter room to see what we were doing and they were really impressed. The Director of Planning decided to do like a short oral quiz to know how much the students knew about the Knights. Our History teacher was somewhat "afraid" of this since we had not yet done all the normal lessons in class about this topic and the students had not yet been given any proper handouts. However, all the students starting answering correctly all the questions and Mr. Sammut was so impressed that he thought that the students were two grades older. When the History teacher told him that we were still in grade seven (fifth grade in the U.S.), he was amazed because the questions he was asking were academically targeted for students two years older! Moreover we answered from what we learnt during the CyberFair Project only since in class this topic was not tackled yet!
Another thing which we did that was really beneficial and which we would surely recommend to other schools is to organise an open day for the members of the community. In this open day the students would do a presentation of their CyberFair project (explain what the CyberFair is and how they tackled this project) and then guide the people around the website. This open day would surely help in fulfilling the CyberFair's "mission", which is to share and unite!