The intriguing topic of “Eat that Frog” for #globalclassroom chats this month created a lot of interest, discussion and banter. One of the questions was:-
What can frog-eating teachers with global classrooms do to help their peers eat their respective frogs?
This post will explain one way in which we are trying to be frogs in the pond! Our school teaches mandarin Chinese as a second language. Over the last 6 years we have established a sister school relationship with no. 27 School in Beijing. We would like to maintain online connection with them, especially via videoconferencing to allow valuable learning across our school. However the frogs or things that get in the way of this are:-
- Finding a contact person, with a similar passion or desire.
- Risk taking: finding someone who is willing to take a risk
- Language barrier (in my experience, the Chinese people like to do things well and if they feel their English is not perfect, they will be very shy of trying to communicate using audio and video with English speaking countries, despite me not being able to speak Chinese at all!!!)
- Losing face if things do not go well communication or connection wise
- finding synchronous and asynchronous tools that are able to be used by both countries. China blocks so many of our favourite tools for much of the time – google apps, blogs etc
- Meaningful relationships and trust – establishing time to enable trust first between the teachers involved
- Technological issues: Technology access and bandwidth
- How to ensure understanding
- Cultural sensitivity: Appropriate introductions, netiquette etc
Eating the respective frogs!
- Frog no. 1 and 2 – Finding a contact person. This year our school is fortunate to have Wang-Yi a young Chinese support teacher spend 12 months in our school. She accompanied the school group on its bi-ennial trip to China. (Students in years 8-11 are offered this opportunity every two years.) The 10 students who went to China in September this year spent a few days in the sister school and had a home stay with Chinese families. Whilst there, Wang-Yi was able to find a senior teacher, Mary, willing to videoconference with us and maintain when back at our school.
- Frog no. 3 Language barrier – Mary’s English is good and she is extremely fluent (although does not feel confident).
- Frog no. 4 Losing face – It was important for one or two teachers from our school make an initial connection to introduce ourselves as soon as possible as Wang is about to return to Shanghai. I emailed Mary explaining how we had communicated with and undertaken global projects with many countries including Asia where the teacher and classes spoke English as a second or third language. This reassured Mary that we were able to interact and collaborate despite possible language barriers.
- Frog no. 5 – Tools to connect and communicate - We are really comfortable with skype for videoconferencing and messaging, the Chinese people tend to use QQ and this is the tool that Mary is familiar with. Therefore, we will learn how to use QQ and they will have a go at skype. Our first connection today was with QQ. On Thursday we will use skype while Wang-Yi is still in our school.
- Frog no 6 – At lunchtime, we videoconferenced with Mary via Wang-Yi who stayed in the shadows but helped out with language when required.
- Frog no. 7 Meaningful relationships and trust - it will be important to maintain ongoing contact via emails, text msgs on skype and qq (when I learn how to use that etc), so that a friendship forms and mutual trust is engendered.
- Frog no 10 Technological issues – test the connections, use the tools between teachers first, then introduce the students/classes. A videoconference uses simple technology – a laptop with webcamera, will suffice, preferably connected to a data projector. Have back up plans.
- Frog no. 9 Ensure understanding – when no interpretor is present – use the chat, google translate, use objects, use simple gestures.
Relationships like this have the potential to impact greatly on our curriculum both for Chinese but also for geography, history, technology etc. It is far easier to connect with countries that speak English but by eating the frogs it is hoped that we can work together and push learning into new arenas or ‘ponds’!