Author Archives: annemirtschin

When is a webinar an unwebinar?

Ben Gallagher was to present for last week’s Tech Talk Tuesday on the amazing accomplishments of his grade 1/2 class who love building with lego. They had this dream of making an animated movie. With Ben’s help it became a reality! Harvey Crumpet an Australian Academy Award winner encouraged them and the movie premiered on the big screen in a 700 seat cinema.

Unfortunately, at the last moment (ie 30 mins before the start of the webinar) other pressing commitments arose as Ben is acting Principal in his school. I often have to teach on the fly and my classrooms can often be messy, but what to do next when this was a webinar of high interest for adults. Should I cancel, quickly find something else or ???? At the very least I would stay in the room for the first 30 mins and tell any participants that the publicised presentation would not occur that day. If there were enough, we could see what questions they had re technology and hopefully answer them or explore the answers together.

A number of participants entered all from different educational backgrounds and some from different countries. We started to chat, share our learning spaces and I then asked what questions any had re technology. Ben, a graduate teacher expressed interest in learning more about connected learning and was an experienced web page designer before taking up teaching. Peggy George, one of my regular attendees from the USA and moderator of Classroom 2.0 wanted to know how to edit out some clips from an existing movie.

Ben suggested using iMovie, but Peggy wanted to see how to do it. Whilst they looked for a movie to share over application sharing allowing Ben to screen share and show exactly how to remove the unwanted material, I showed the use of padlet (an online sticky wall) with my year 7 ICT students. They had started to build a sympathy wall for those who were suffering from the loss of relatives, friends and community in the recent flight MH17 disaster.

Ben loaded a movie for us, app shared his desktop and proceeded to show how to edit and cut sections of the movie. However, Peggy had a different version of iMovie. She shared her movie and then working as a collaborative brain, participants and Ben helped Peggy edit the movie.

It was a fantastic effort by all and a really interesting session that worked completely unconference style but with so much learning gained where it was needed.

 

A new school year begins and global classrooms connect!

Video call snapshot 1

As Australian schools enter the final weeks of term 3 with still another full term to go, our European and USA counterparts (and others) are starting or about to start their school years. Reinhard Marx is an innovative connected colleague from Germany and someone I really enjoy working with asked whether I could teach a grade 4/5 class about the area I live in. It was one of their first classes for the year.

Tools used and resources accessed:

  1. Skype was used to connect me with his class and to provide a backchannel for reminders and prompts when we were both ready.
  2. A powerpoint presentation was created to show a little of my school and the farm that I live on.
  3. It was uploaded to google presentation, should my bandwidth not allow me to share from my screen.
  4. An Australian flag
  5. A real pet lamb (as we are in the middle of the busy lambing period on the farm)
  6. A fresh bunch of flowers (as this is my hobby to garden and work with flowers)
My grandson and me on the farm bike

My grandson and me on the farm bike

We started with a mystery skype. The students did not take long to work out where I was from. When they worked out my country, I shared my flag to the web camera. Students then volunteered to ask me a number of questions eg “Was it winter where I lived?”. The last 15-20 mins, I shared my screen through skype and talked through the photos of school and our farm. The bandwith was great for a start and images and audio crystal clear. However, after the fourth slide, the size of the images failed to load quickly in Germany, so I shared the link to the google presentation and we walked through the images remotely. To complet the lesson, I brought in one of our pet, bottle fed lambs – always a sure winner!

I like working with Reinhard because he:

  •  actively seeks global connections and lessons. He is a science and maths teacher
  • gave students the choice of mystery skype and a lesson with me or they could continue with their maths. (There was a mix but most of the time, they were intently watching me and the presentation)
  •  introduced the class of 26 clearly to me swivelling the camera so I could understand the teaching space I was in
  • always repeats what the students say, so that I can both hear and understand the comment or question asked
  • always stopped me for a question that a student might have – so their curiousity was satisfied immediatley and not forgotten about
  • ensured the students came up to the camera and could be clearly seen by me
  • interpreted my talk so that all student members could understand what I was sharing

Challenges:

  • bandwidth and sharing images over skype
  • working with an interpreter, remembering to keep my sentences short and concise, pausing to be interpreted and then carrying on
  • the accents and understanding the comment or question – especially understanding the name of the students

 

The role of questions in learning!

“What did you learn, Terri?” I asked a student.question mark

“I didn’t learn anything, I just asked lots of questions” was the response.

I was surprised by this comment from one of my year 7 ICT girls following a linkup with students from another school in Melbourne. They had been placed in pairs and used Onenote to learn about each other. I know that she would have learnt a lot as she had asked questions, received responses and discovered the answers to what she wanted to know.

My secondary students also do not think that they are learning when they txt each other on their phones, add updates to their favourite social media sites or share images and videos. They have a ‘set’ view on what is ‘formal’ learning but do not pull that across to this wonderful informal learning.

A recent linkup with Melbourne Museum where students could Meet the Scientists virtually using polycom equipment, meant that they did not have the same opportunity as the f2f audience of students. However, Cameron Hocking had provided them with a backchannel, which some of our students used. There were many questions placed in that backchannel and many of them were also posed to the physical panel of scientists. Following is a sample of some of the questions asked of Dr Erich Fitzgerald, Palaeontologist, in the backchannel:-

  • Are whales your favourite?
  • Did whales once have legs?
  • did you help get that whale back into the water a few weeks agoless than a minute ago by jeremy ring
  • How do you name the animals or find out the names of the animals if you’ve never seen the animal or fossil before?
  • How big is the biggest fossil you’ve ever found? Emily year 6about a minute ago by The King David School
  • how many fossils have you find this year

Wherever possible, students should be given the opportunity to participate in a backchannel, whether it be one set up in eg todaysmeet or backchannelchat or in a virtual classroom eg blackboard collaborate, skype, MS Lync etc. It will provide a teacher with further teaching and learning opportunities, areas for research,  and greater knowledge of student interests and involvement in topics.

Do you get many questions from students? How important do you think that questions are? What role do questions play in learning?

How To Bring in Virtual Participants Effectively

This tweet sparked a conversation on twitter with many teachers offering advice. Before answering the question, further questions were asked:-

  1. was the staff member housebound and able
  2. what software would be best to use and which is easiest
  3. sound could be tricky so need a microphone. Question on what sort of microphone and how to set up
  4. what physical space was being used and how many f2f participants
  5. what does the program look like – presentations, workshops, group work etc?

Valuable advice from Brette Lockyer

As one of my passions is using technology to break down all barriers. From my experience, my response would be as follows:-

Potential tools to be used:

Software options available to Victorian School Teachers:- Skype, Blackboard Collaborate (through DEECD license), MS Lync, Google Hangouts or Polycom videoconferencing equipment. The easiest tool to use would be Skype as it extremely user friendly but may be blocked in some schools. It would allow chat, video and audio options plus some more difficult features such as screen sharing etc. Recording sessions is more difficult and bandwidth may be an issue. A mobile device can be used for access from home.

Using skype

Using skype

MS Lync is available to Victorian teachers but the software would need to be installed and activated on devices. If it is a two way link, it is user friendly and has many advanced features, including chat, whiteboard and the ability to send large files. It can easily be recorded and presents itself as wmv file once finished which can be shared privately or online. All participants could log in and the chat area could be used as a valuable backchannel, giving everyone a voice. Multi participants would take more time to create email invitations.

MS Lync whiteboard

MS Lync whiteboard

Blackboard Collaborate is still one of my favourite tools for bringing in virtual participants to events. It has many advanced features, including that valuable backchannel, an interactive whiteboard, the ability to create breakout rooms for group work and can be recorded easily. One link or booking could run all day or different links created for different sessions logins. The housebound teacher would need to have trialled it first to make sure it all works from home, especially if on a Mac. There is a mobile app which does not allow participants full interactivity eg cannot write on the whiteboard, but can chat, view and talk. At least one staff member will need moderator rights in order to book a room(s).

Interactive whiteboard in Blackboard Collaborate

Interactive whiteboard in Blackboard Collaborate

Google Hangouts Offers many of the above features and is very google based. Sessions can be recorded and uploaded simultaneously to youtube. However only 10 video participants can be involved and it is very bandwidth heavy. If multi participants, takes time to learn how to set up the hangout and share out the link. It would be preferable to provide a different hangout link for each session.

Google hangouts used for PD

Google hangouts used for PD

Polycom Videoconferencing Equipment All rural secondary schools and smaller rural primary schools have access to Polycom equipment. The housebound teacher would need to log in with a mobile device and the video will not be as clear. A separate back channel would need to be created eg with todaysmeet.

Polycom used for PD to several schools

Polycom used for PD to several schools

Brette Lockyers suggestion was such valuable advice as the one of the biggest challenges is to make virtual participants feel part of the professional development.

Other considerations

Requirements:

Equipment: microphone, web camera, ideal location for the recording devices to capture sound, video etc and above all – determination to make it work! Preferably an on-site buddy and a back channel separate to the chosen tool.

The simplest and easiest to use option would be for “an (confident) on-site buddy” to use skype on their laptop or mobile device, sit up the front, directly in line with the presenter and videoconference presentations.  The housebound staff member would be taken with them to be part of their smaller group discussions. It takes pressure off the organisers and presenters to be using the formal equipment and worry about sound, microphones etc. The buddy’s device would need a built in webcam and microphone. However external ones could also be used.  Alternatively any of the above tools could be used by the buddies. The buddy would need to watch the txt chat for any messages from the virtual participant.

If there is no buddy, careful consideration would need to be given to position of webcam and microphone. The webcam will need to capture the presenter, and/or the presentation and will need to be adjusted each time unless using Lync, Blackboard Collaborate or Hangouts.

If the whole staff are to participate in the virtual link up simultaneously, then blackboard collaborate and MS Lync would be the tools of choice. Physical participants will need to turn down their speakers and listen to the actual voice rather than the virtual. They can be active in the chat or on an interactive whiteboard should the occasion present. Other external participants could be invited in to create an even richer environment.

Complementary Tools

A backchannel in todaysmeet could bring in all participants if they have their own device allowing questions, shared resources, information sharing and a space for follow up conversations.

A backchannel should also be agreed upon and tested with the housebound staff member so that they can communicate should the normal channels not work in making connection- could be any of the above tools that they are familiar with.

The buddy

Needs to be comfortable with using technology, networking and a person who can work well, actively, interactively and collaboratively with the housebound staff member.

Recording of the Event

In the event of misfortune, the event/sessions should at least be recorded so that it can be viewed again and again!

What have I missed? What would you suggest? There are many many tools out there now for web conferencing but these are my favourite ones! It is learning in progress and using technology effectively to ensure that no-one is restricted from learning!

When tragedy bonds global classrooms!

Snapshot of "My favourite things" padlet

Snapshot of “My favourite things” padlet

A txt msg, via whatsapp messenger, on my phone from Veronica Woo, of Ipoh, Malaysia, a friend and teaching colleague of mine, alerted me to the fact that the first 20 bodies from the MH17 disaster were to end their long journey home to Malaysia on August 22nd. (Australia’s first victims arrived home the week before!) A minute’s silence  for those who mourn, will be followed throughout Malaysia on Aug 22nd. A tribute or multi-faith ceremony will be broadcast live on the national TV and radio stations of Malaysia.

As I had my year 7 ICT class in the morning, Veronica asked whether we could  open a google hangout so that she could share with other teachers what an open classroom looks like when two countries are connected and team teach. However, this is how the lesson ended up looking like:-

  1. Veronica issued an invitation to the ghangout, called, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”
  2. set up a photo essay wall at padlet called My favourite things for us to share photos. However as the settings were not public, girls had to register for padlet. Even then, they could not login to Veronica’s wall.
  3. We could not locate the link to the ghangout and therefore share our classroom with video, so we had to fill in our lesson “on the fly”.  I set up another wall where we could get started and they learn how to upload images and add text. See the wall I created and the girls’ favourite things. They were encouraged to use photos that they had taken.
  4. Next a sympathy wall was created for the girls to share their sympathies for all relatives and community members who had been lost in the MH17 disaster.
  5. Gchat was maintained with Veronica during this time, and we noticed her txt inform us that the minute’s silence was starting NOW!
  6. The girls immediately wanted to join in this silence and so we shared that silence simultaneously with our Malaysian colleagues. Words cannot describe how meaningful that was, the empathy and feelings that were experienced during that time. Our two countries have sufferered, shared common experiences, bonded in those losses and now at the classroom level across the oceans have entered into a minute’s silence.

As a follow up, Veronica has sent through links to media articles and presentations.

“Meet The Scientists” Virtually

polycom linkup

This week is National Science Week in Australia. Many events have been organised and suggested for schools and science classes. Most of these great events occur in Melbourne which is an 8 hour return trip from our school – a near impossibility!

When the opportunity arose for our students to be part of a remote polycom video conferencing linkup to Meet the Scientists , we were quick to take up the opportunity. Cameron Hocking of the Melbourne Museum was keen to reach out to as many rural schools in Victoria and target primarily year 8-10 students, introducing them to some amazing careers and opportunities in Science.

Yesterday, we had the linkup with 5 scientists who have the most amazing careers, unusual opportunities and chances to travel. A backchannel was set up which provided remote students, teachers and classes to be given an opportunity to ask questions of the scientists. This worked really well and many interesting questions came forward. It was gratifying to hear them being answered.

Why it worked well:-

  • many hours had been spent in preparation for this event, ensuring the connections, equipment etc all worked as it was a first for Scienceworks and the Melbourne Museum (at least on this scale)
  • promotions had gone out through social media
  • the scientists were well chosen and strong, engaging speakers sharing wonderful images.
  • the backchannel was great and could be used for questions, sharing of knowledge and also to report any audio, video issues etc.
  • the careers were adventurous, unusual and of high interest to students
  • the bandwidth was sound
  • best of all, we could actually attend!

Challenges

  • technology and getting the video displays right
  • ensuring all participants muted their microphones
  • keeping within 1 hour, as beyond that time, students get restless in the virtual space
  • getting all students logged into the backchannel

best we can do

Who we listened to:

  1. Dr Stuart Mills, Geologist
  2. Dr Erich Fitzgerald, Palaeontologist
  3. Dr Karen Rowe, Ornithologist
  4. Dr Kevin Rowe, Mammalogist
  5. Mel Mackenzie, Marine biologist

Britt Gow and her biology students also participated in a Polycom videoconferencing event on Monday for Science Week. Professor Doug Hilton, CEO of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will be speaking to Secondary students on the topic of “I wish I was a Biology student in 2014″. He spoke about current research in gene technology at the WEHI.

There are so many wonderful opportunites to bring the outside world into our classrooms, why aren’t more teachers/classes taking up these opportunities. Did you celebrate Science Week? If, so how?

 

Tech Talk Tuesday: Trending Social Media Apps with our Students

Due to technical issues, this webinar is again rescheduled and will take place as follows:-

What year 7 girls 'see' when they hear 'cybersafety'

What year 7 girls ‘see’ when they hear ‘cybersafety’

When: Tuesday, August 19th from 4-5pm Melbourne, Victoria time (gmt+10) See your timezone in

Where: Click on this link to listen to the recording of this session

About this session: What social media apps do you use? How secure are they? As the young, start to increasingly leave FaceBook, what social media apps are increasingly trending with our students? Why are many of these of high concern? What can be done to customize security and privacy settings to ensure that our students are kept as cybersafe as possible? What role should education take in all of this? Can we ever keep up? If not, what can be done? A recent talk by Greg Gebhart of Cybersmart has provided inspiration for this session.

Discussions from the chat included:

  • how to deal with the face book page of a person who is now deceased. Suggested to create a memorial page.
  • All photos are public by default which means they are visible to anyone using Instagram
  • Peggy George:  “you can’t control social media so you really have to teach the students online safety!”
  • Dotty: “Whole new set of rules need to be written for safe use of social media.”
  • How can I keep my KIK account private
  • Cybersmart page on KIK
  • Veronica:”Learning outside the classroom seems to be more powerful than learning in the classroom with the use of apps in society.”
  • Gogooligans is a search engine for students
  • flipagram for making short videos

Some links shared by Peggy George based on a webinar she attended with Stephen Anderson this same day on Digital Citizenship