When Santa stole the show!

Santa takes a rest!

Santa takes a rest!

For several months, a connection with a school in a rural area of Japan has been formally planned. Test connections took place and we got a glimpse of the classroom without students.

The empty Japanese classroom

The empty Japanese classroom

This was my first quite formal connection as previous skype linkups have been spontaneous, sometimes unplanned, rather relaxed with some discussion on what we would do and how it would look once we connect. The learning has often been customized by the students and teachers involved as the connection evolves. However, with Mariko, a University colleague from Japan, we had a very formal structure in place with specific briefs and time to be taken for each part of our 30 minute connection.

Meanwhile behind the scenes:

The week before, students decided to organise a KrisKringle with the presents being opened on the day of the organised Japanese linkup. Names were drawn out of a hat so that the girls knew who their gift recipient was to be, would spend up to $10 on the gift and decided to open them prior to the Japanese web conference. Meanwhile, staff decided during the week to have a smorgasboard morning tea on that same day.

Christmas goodies

Prior to the connection:

  1. On the actual day, I emailed Mariko to ask whether her students would like to hear about Christmas and how we celebrate it here if there was time. She responded yes and suggested we do it at the start of the lesson.
  2. Students collected ‘Christmas’ type items around the school eg the year 5/6 Christmas tree, examples of craft work, printouts of pictures and amazingly found a Santa costume.
  3. Students brought in their gifts and placed them in the Santa Bag.
  4. Printed off individual first names on A4 paper so that the Japanese students would see who was talking to them.

The actual connection

Students completed a survey prior to the connection to share what they already knew about Japan. Surprisingly for me, two or three said that they knew nothing at all. At the appointed time, the skype call came through. We were seated informally around the webcamera, Christmas gear discreetly out of sight and faced a very formal classroom setup with the Japanese students seated in rows, some with masks over their mouths and a couple of girls with a blanket over their knees.

students

The girls proceeded to introduce themselves one at a time, name tag clearly displayed. Then showed some of the pictures, craft work and the Christmas tree. As this was going on, a lot of noise was coming from the corner of the room. About to reprimand those who were making the noise, I saw that they were quickly trying to dress a student in the Santa costume. With no planning at all, Santa, then grabbed the presents that were placed in the Santa sack, ho ho’ed her way into to the webcamera and did the Kris Kringle on the spot!

Santa opens her gift

Santa opens her gift

There was much laughter and fun as the girls opened their presents in front of the web camera and showed what they closer to the camera. There were chocolates, lollies, lip gloss, cosmetics and jewellery. Curiousity gave way as we had to explain what some of the goods were and compare whether some of the confectionery and chocolates were available in Japan. At times we had to wait to be interpreted, a new skill for the girls to learn.

Talk then proceeded to the food we eat, when I suddenly remembered the leftovers from our smorgasboard morning tea. Leaving the girls to continue talking, I returned with some of the special cakes, chocolates and part of Christmas fruit cake. Britt Gow a fellow teacher shared her fruit cake with them and explained what it was.

Britt shares her Christmas cake

Britt shares her Christmas cake

It was then question time. Our girls wanted to know why the boys were wearing the face masks and why the girls had a rug on their knees. Too quickly it was time to say goodbye and despite the fact that we did not follow our original program, the lesson worked, was fun, student led and directed with one of our favourite festivals and Santa taking pride of place!

 

A masked student

A masked student

A kitty blanket

A kitty blanket

The Edublogs Awards – #eddies14

lifetime achievement

Where does the year go? With the end of our Australian school nigh it is time for the Edublogs Awards. Many people argue against awards for a variety of reasons but these awards are special as they are organic, nominated and voted for by the general public, highlight those who are doing some wonderful things both in and for, education and give us a wonderful resource bank  of trends, thinking and learning. There are no prizes attached but the fact that blogs, resources and other online tools are nominated brings to the attention of us all those that have a special place in the lives and education of many.

In the school holidays, I love to go through the many nominations and see which resources will be of relevance and interest to me. There are new blogs to peruse, apps to try and online tools to experiment with.

It was with some surprise that I noticed my name had been added to the edblogs twitter list for “life time achievement’ awards. Whoever nominated me, I wish to thank you very sincerely. It makes much of the risk taking, the high evergy intake and time taken worthwhile. It also shows the value of the PLN and its wonderful place and role in pushing learning in innovative directions.

However, I was really surprised to read a tweet by my valued friend and colleague, Julie Lindsay asking people to consider voting for this blog as it had been nominated for the Best Teacher Blog. I had no idea that it was on the list until that tweet.

Again it is such an honour to be nominated and although I will not actively persue on a public scale, if you do vote for me, I  thank you so much, not only for the vote but for being a special part of my life!

best teacher blog

If you should wish to vote for any of those nominated across the globe, please goto the Edublogs Awards site and ‘get lost’ looking at all the onderful nominations. Click on the like button and follow the prompts.

Others that are special to me include:-

 

 

Inspiring Stories Marine Scientists

guy from Antarctica

Always on the lookout for bringing the outside world into my classrooms, a recent email from a colleague alerted me to the  Clickfest Festival held during November. It is described on the flyer as:-

… an annual video conferencing festival run in November each year. ClickFest is an exciting initiative from education organisations across Australia. It highlights the diversity and scope of video conferences available to schools across Australia. Sessions are delivered free or at reduced cost to schools, providing a great opportunity for teachers to give it a go.

Some of the virtual excursions were only available to NSW Australian schools, some cost money but there were others that were free and a slot was available to a school outside of NSW. The “Inspiring Stories Marine Scientists: chasing eddies, drawing blood, restoring underwater forests and catching the invisible!” sounded really interesting. My year 7 ICT class was booked in through DART connections. Polycom videoconferencing equipment was to be used for the connection. A successful connection was almost guaranteed as the affirmative email from Anne Doran, the Education Officer from the Australian National Maritime Museum covered

  1. setting up a time to test the connection prior to the event;
  2. clear instructions and tips for  a successful videoconference linkup
  3. a copy of the presentation (should the content sharing fail at the remote end)
  4. a backup phone number contact if major problems occur

Here are my modified instructions based on this email.

class and polycom

The videoconference was a great success. The four scientists shared their presentations using content sharing, showed photos of their work, displayed a sense of humor, were engaging to the students with topics  of high interest to my 13 year old girls and spoke for just the right length of time. They talked about previous careers – like ice skating and how they got from there into marine science, research field trips to Antarctica, moving seaweed forests to ocean floors that had lost their seaweed etc.

Students enjoyed it as they could interact, ask questions, see the work they did, listen to the experts in that field and as we live 30 mins from the sea or ocean it is an environment they are familiar with.

alex

 

Tips for successful polycom videoconference linkups

ian and participants on polycom

The following tips have been modified slightly from a wonderful list of suggestions from DART connections and although directed primarily at people who use dedicated videoconferencing equipment they can be adapted for use with other tools such as skype, zoom, qq, ghangouts etc

  • Set camera presets before joining the conference (to do this, position the camera, hold down the no. 1 on the remote until the monitor tells you no.1 preset is activated, then position the webcam and preset a no. 2 etc To revert to the no. 1 preset, simply click the no.1) Preset the whole class, small groups of students and individual students who may ask questions.
  • Close any drapes or blinds as daylight is a variable light source and can conflict with interior room lighting.
  • When setting presets, adjust the camera and fill the screen as much as possible with people rather than tables, chairs, walls, lights or the floor.
  • Microphones should be 1 metre away from video conference camera and distant from other electronic equipment.
  • Mute microphones until invited to speak by presenter. These are high quality, sensitive microphones and pick up everything and can be very distracting to all involved. If noise is greatest from your classroom, it will activate your image up on the monitor and push the presenter into a small image.
  • Display options – click on the display button until you get the preferred display setting for each element of the videoconference
  • Questions: If there are a number of schools participating, have your questions ready before the Q & A section of the presentation. Or write them down as they come to you or students or better still, open up and share an online backchannel eg todaysmeet

What suggestions do you have? What has this list missed?

Going back in time!

Video call snapshot 32

Mariko Eguchi took us on a virtual tour of a Japanese classroom belonging to the class she is going to connect us with in early December.  Japan brings images of high technology use in my mind so it came as a bit of a shock to see a blackboard, chalk, no sign of computers or technology except for Mariko’s equipment, chairs in straight lines, desks individually placed allowing one student per desk etc. Certainly a contrast to our classrooms at Hawkesdale! It took me way back in time and reminded me how far we have actually come with technology.

Mariko had brought mobile polycom equipment, but the school firewall did not allow video to be transferred during our test linkup.  Skype was used instead with the video and audio of high quality.

The year ICT class used Mystery Skype, google maps etc to determine where Mariko was from. She then took us on virtual tour of the classroom explaining that we were to meet the actual class in a couple of week’s time. Students were intrigued to find out that this school canteen only serves curried rice compared to our school which has a wide variety of hot foods and cold foods.

Video call snapshot 31

One of my students then took Mariko on a virtual tour of our school, using their microsoft surface tablets device.

 

Breakfast Around the World – #skype2learn

Out of the first #skype2learn chat came a discussion on sharing breakfasts successful linkups between countries, cultures etc using the web camera in skype.

This gave idea to a simple project using the #skype2learn hashtag together with #breakfastaroundworld hashtag, that would allow classes across the world the ability to access photos from those who live there for use in the normal studies.

About the project:

1. Take a picture of a typical breakfast either for you or others who live in your country. A mobile device is ideal!

2. Login to twitter

3. Write a tweet describing briefly what can be seen for breakfast, country you are from, add the hashtags #skype2learn #breakfastaroundworld upload your photo (by looking for the camera icon, clicking on it and exploring your computer for your photo.) Send the tweet.

4. To find the other photos that have been uploaded, look for the magnifying glass top right of twitter or search bar, type in #skype2learn and look for the breakfast photos (or search for #breakfastaroundworld). Shared, tweeted photos should display.

This could form the basis for a number of learning  activities in class:

  • Comparing breakfasts across cultures
  • Exploring reasons for differences
  • Discovering where countries are located
  • Ask further questions of some of the tweet
  • Add to the conversations
  • Find others to connect with across the world

Arrange a skype linkup with others to actually show the breakfast, talk more about it and ask further questions of each other using the web camera.

What other learning outcomes might result? Did you write a blog pst or share online somewhere further details? If so please share the links below. Please join in this simple project.
And as for my breakfast……

A Global Thunderstorm

Patricia Davis  and Vicki  Foster  presented a session called “Increasing Student Achievement Through Nonlinguistic Teaching Strategies”. I happened to drop into the moderators lounge to see if anyone needed help and was asked to look after Patricia’s session and what a wonderful session to moderate!

This session fascinated me as it gave approaches to communicating through avenues other than text. They emphasised involving the 5 senses to get the best impact in learning.

It gave me  a number of ideas to use in our class global connections. The presenters spoke convincingly, had some great illustrated slides and used a wonderful interactive activity where we first looked at a slide with a picture of lightning on it, then each of us were given an element of a thunderstorm eg rain, lightning, thunder. We turned on our microphones and simultaneously made our sounds together to create a global thunderstorm.

Listen to the Recording and their website can be found at Denovolearning