Author Archives: murcha

When technology makes the impossible possible!

Capture

Picture this -

  1. a class of students in a slum/ghetto of Kenya – the largest slum in Africa by both size and population See Boomtown Slum: A Day in the Economic Life of Africa’s Biggest Shanty Town
  2. students who are orphaned and many of whom have lost their parents to AIDS.
  3. visible holes in the decaying walls
  4. no power in the classroom
  5. no visible seats or chairs for the students to sit on
  6. no sign of books and resources
  7. volunteer teachers  who care passionately about  and for these students

Despite all this:

  • the teacher is amazingly innovative, creative, connected and active with the use of his laptop and mobile wifi
  • uses skype to connect his students to others across the world
  • the children are confident and seem happy, singing with gusto and rhythm
  • the children are given opportunities to learn at the Cheery School – “a place for nurturing students for their better lives”.

Technology makes these connections that were previously impossible, possible. Children from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya can learn from others around the world in real time, when they cannot afford books, education or even food etc!This week is multicultural week in Victoria, Australia and Friday 21st is National Harmony Day, which makes even more precious the story that now unfolds.

the girls1

Last night it was my great privilege to connect with this class of young children aged 5-7 from The Cheery School, Kibera slums, Nairobi, Kenya. Their passionate and caring teacher, Livingstone organised them to individually ask questions of me. They were confident, well mannered and at times shared objects with me to show their culture and the wild animals of Africa. In fact, I thought they had a real snake to show but it was a toy! To complete the connection, the students sang a wonderful song to me in an enthusiastic and joyful manner, showing rhythm and unity.

A toy snake is shared to show some of the local wild animals.

A toy snake is shared to show some of the local wild animals.

How can we help classes such as these? Will technology provide the ability to learn with and from the world, help them break out of their cycle of poverty? The impossible, may just become possible!

Below are some  videos that  share more about the Cheery School:-

And the little dog laughed to see such fun!

The little dog who laughed

Upon dialling Timboon Consolidated School’s polycom equipment, Jenny, the librarian promptly answered, said ‘hello’ but a little dog could be distinctly heard in the background drowning out some of the audio. She hastily said ‘excuse me” and disappeared from view. Instantly a little black poodle ran up to the equipment and excitedly barked and carried on at me.  The more I spoke to it, the louder it’s barking got! What a to do!

Within a few minutes, Jenny returned but the little dog stayed. I thought she would take it away and find it’s rightful owner but by now it was quiet. Jenny proceeded to tell me that the dog, Pablo, was part of the school’s animal program and he was in fact, the library dog! 

Part of my role as a virtual conference coach is to help teachers use polycom high definition videoconferencing equipment. This equipment has been rolled out to a number of schools by the Victorian Department of Education and I dialled Jenny, the librarian from Timboon Consolidated School to step her through the procedures. After going through the basics of remote controls, the microphone, camera etc, we again discussed the role of the dog. This discussion would make an ideal lesson for my year 7 ICT class. Jenny agreed to talk to them  last week, invited the year 7 teacher, Lisa, and class to connect as well. Lisa is the teacher who introduced the dogs into the school.

jenny clear and girls

And so it came to be that:-

  • my year 7ICT  class linked up with a year 7 English class from Timboon – another small rural schoolThe two  classesThe two classes
  • we learnt about the role of the dogs in the school and their importance eg students who came to the library would often read out loud to the dogs. They relaxed, developed confidence as the dog did not know if they were not reading fluently or were making mistakes. Other children who may be feeling down, will cuddle the dogs in the classroom and gain comfort from them etc
  • we shared our environments, using the remote controls to swing the camera to the windows to show ‘what was outside our window’. We had the primary school sports and a race was in progress, Timboon showed us the trees outside their window where resident koalas were perched in the trees.

Outside our window! Outside our windows!

  • students stood to speak, introduce themselves and share their favourite subjects, which led to more questions etc
  • An hour quickly flew by and we have agree to link up several times over the semester and share further activities.

The challenges:-

  • learning to use the remote controls and camera effectively
  • learning to speak articulately, project the voice and talk to the camera

Some of the learning that took place has been documented as students were asked to record three things they learnt and one question that they still may have on their blogs.

Future linkups – could Pablo listen to our school students reading to him via the equipment?

the two classes

Embedding videos onto student blogs!

Students are taught how to create videos using MS LIVE Moviemaker in most ICT classes. The results can be fabulous and I have been looking for ways for students to share their videos on a blog post. Embedding the videos only seemed possible by uploading their videos to youtube, vimeo or a similar online video host, grabbing the resultant code and adding to the html code of the blog. As many students are too young to register themselves for such sites and as I queried the use of these sites for hosting the  work of especially young students.

Year 9/10 and 7 students are creating “About Me” videos using only text. Here are their instructions:-

  1. Use MS Powerpoint to add  text, colours etc, sharing what they like!
  2. Save the ppt as jpgs in file type,
  3. Add these images into MS Moviemaker.
  4. Add transitions
  5. Add music preferably from danosongs - royalty free music as long as his site is credited.
  6. Insert appropriate credits.
  7. Save as a movie
  8. Upload to your blog, under upload media

As our Education Department provides us with a blogging campus – global2 which is edublogs based, the students use edublogs. Previously students have uploaded the media which appears as a link. Visitors to the blog, then click on the link to watch the movie. To our delight, when students uploaded their videos, they could choose the embedded media player and were able to view the movie through the player on their blog. See some of the results:-

Fun with ICT – abcya animate!

abcya animate

If I am unable to take  my class, I try to leave something that would be engaging for students and something that they could learn together as the replacement teacher rarely has the ICT skills to continue on with what I normally do.

Upon googling “Fun with ICT in class”, I came across a site called abcya animate  and thought this would be good to leave for my students yesterday when I was absent. I have long been a fan of abcya website for the primary students. The task set my year 9/10 ICT students was to create a simple animation that would entertain the 5-6 year old students from Tipperary Station school. Students had to explore the tool individually and share with each other in what they discovered.

This afternoon, I scored an ‘extra’ lesson and had a year 9 group which comprises a small group of disengaged, low literacy students. We briefly talked about how an animation is created using frames and then off to work they went using the the abcya animate site and you could have heard a pin drop! They were highly engaged and worked well with most completing an animation. Here is how it works:-

  1. user friendly program – students were given no instructions on its use
  2. animations are short as students have only 100 frames to work with
  3. a palette of bright colourful backgrounds, images etc is provided.
  4. Students simply drop and drag onto the main stage
  5. no need to register
  6. animation is saved as an animated gif
  7. the animated gif is uploaded as medai into their global2 blogs (an edublogs campus) and maintains the animation (the page may need to be refreshed if it plays through once.
  8. primarily a tool for younger students but the older ones had just as much fun.

Challenges:

  1. when students saved their file it lacked an extension name. They right clicked on the saved file>chose rename>carefully added a .gif to the name
  2. we are trying to work out whether we can save an animation in progress, load it back into abcya animate to finish the work at a later stage. Many left their website open on their laptops and were going to try and finish it at home.

See some of the completed animations that have been embedded on the student blogs.

  1. Nikki’s My Dog and The Very Blue Fish
  2. Sarah’s The Chase
  3. Darby’s My short animation

Evaluation: A simple user friendly tool to create simple animations. A great starting point to learn the mechanics of animation. Although directed at younger students, my older students were highly engaged in using it.

How could this tool be used in maths, English and other subjects?

World Readaloud Day

boys practising

Imagine a world where everyone can read. This is the dream of World Read Aloud Day. “It is all about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people.” Parents, students, teachers and community members from more than 60 countries across the globe are coming together today to address the issue of adult and childhood illiteracy.

Jasmine Shannon wanted to try a skype linkup this week and the World Readaloud Day made the perfect connection for my 9/10 ICT class and Jasmine’ 5-7 year olds. What seemed like a simple task turned into quite a lesson of learning. I thought my kids would grizzle about doing this but there was only silent affirmation when told. Here is how it looked:-

  1. Students worked out their partner as they were to read in pairs
  2. As a class, discussed what books would be appropriate for young ones
  3. Students found books they thought the young ones might like to have read to them either from the library or from the prep-2 classrooms. Not surprisingly most of the books featured animals. (Remember that my students live on farms or in small rural towns)
  4. Spent 15 mins working out who would read which pages. Even the poorest of readers were capably reading their share!
    practising their reading
  5. Practised speaking to the  webcam in the tools>video settings option of skype and showing the page of their book.
    nikki and sarah practising
  6. Had to work out our setup for video projection of the class. A student team put up a tripod with a webcam on top.”
    students getting hardware organised
  7. At the appointed time linked up with Jasmine from Tipperary Cattle Station in outback Northern Territory.
  8. Jasmine’s class read their book as a whole class.
    closer up of them reading a book
  9. ICT students came up in pairs and read their book

As we ran out of time, several of the girls stayed in at lunchtime to read their books. Then students from each school shared their lunchbox via the webcam and we learnt a little of each other’s food supplies. We have a school canteen, they do not. They are in the outback and food supplies are only flown in each week etc

sophie and taylor

Did you take part in World Readaloud Day? If so, what did you do? This was a fabulous excerise that will definitely be repeated next year.

sophie taylor and the book

Clean Up Australia Day

clean up Australia Day1

Each year one day is dedicated to Cleaning Up Australia – Clean Up Australia Day. Although this day falls on Sunday, March 2nd, our students from foundation to year 12 were allocated an area of our school grounds and fenceline to clean up. At 12 pm, the forms and year levels congregated under the bus shelter, were given rakes, gloves and bags and proceeded to clean up their area.

As a form teacher for year 10, we cleaned up the fenceline along the school grounds and roadway. See how beautiful our surrounds are and as we finished the roadside, we heard two kookaburras laugh! They must have been well pleased with our efforts.

If you are from another country, do you acknowledge similar days?

Making personal the ACMI Screenit Competition

Whiteboard discussion

Whiteboard discussion

ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) runs an annual Screen It CompetitionWatch the Screen It 2014 Teaser Video for an overview of the competition. It’s aim is to foster, develop and encourage creativity in future film makers, games designers and animation creators etc. This year’s theme is “Reflection”.

My year 7 ICT class logged into the blackboard collaborate room to be part of a session that outlined the Screen It competition, encouraged the participants to share what “Reflection” means to them via the whiteboard of the chat, view last year’s award winning movie and then share on the following:

  1. how can photographs help us reflect
  2. how reflections help us contemplate the future
  3. how does it make you feel to reflect on your past, your family, your dreams for the future.

Students were engaged with this virtual lesson because:-

  • they are individually logged on, can watch their own monitor and can join in the conversations via the chat or have a voice on the whiteboard.
  • it was a well structured lesson
  • 30 mins in total (just sufficient for year 7′s concentration span)
  • captivating imagery used on slides
  • variety of activities – listening, interacting, discussing 1:1 in the real classroom, clicking on links to watch the winning video – Visiting Grandpa from last year
  • interactive activities eg encouraged to use the chat, emoticons, polling, writing on whiteboard making it all worthwhile.
  • two links were given to watch the video should one of the links be blocked.
  • there were classes, students and participants from across Victoria.
  • links were shared for later viewing or re-viewing

The challenges:-

  • logging on 16 students simultaneously on individual computers, the java download took a little while, so some were late getting in. But next login will go faster as java is downloaded
  • protocols – students need constant reminding to use the chat effectively and to use the whiteboard as asked and not to graffiti over it.
  • encouraging everyone to simply use the text tool – some chose the pencil and this took up a lot of the whiteboard are.

how does it make you feel to reflect on past, family and dreams for the future

This was a great addition to my double class of year 7 ICT where some of the boys find it very difficult to concentrate for 100 mins on one subject, but breaking up the activities, giving then an outside, expert speaker, a  virtual and a physical classroom, made the time go fast and they had fun.

Diigo – the students dig it!

The educators group on diigo

The educators group on diigo

Although I use any tools to curate eg scoopit, educlipper, symbaloo, delicious etc, my favourite is still diigo. Why?

  1. It is the quickest  and easiest way for me to add  urls for future retrieval
  2. Easy to tag (categorize) and pull up the tags
  3. Has a groups function and have joined a number of educational groups eg Global Education Conferencand Educators

This morning I decided it was time to study cloud computing a little more with my year 12 students, discuss how they bookmark (they all just used favourite son their computer), get the to register for diigo, add bookmarks, tag the bookmarks, add notes and commence bookmarking some essential online sites (essential resources) for IT.

Within 15 mins of registering, they discovered the social bookmarking aspects – created a class subject group, added each other to the group, added comments, changed the images and discovered the chat.  Images can also be bookmarked and they taught me so much more. I love learning with the students, who just push software and tools in all directions and show me how even more valuable many of these tools can be.

The engagement of Flat Connections Project

Teaching in a small prep to year 12 school sometimes comes with its challenges. Subject choice can be restricted for students. Class sizes and budget often means that the only way subjects can run at senior levels is for the two year levels of  VCE be combined in one subject area. As such I teach a total class size of 16  year 11 and 12 students in one class but following two different currciular. (or should that be curriculums).

The girls love to network

The girls love to network

Students who would not normally be pursuing a full VCE, will often attempt subjects for which they may not be suited. This year, I have a number of challenging, disengaged students at both levels. They are easily distracted by other online activities and reluctant to do any theory work. The year 11 portion are participating in the Flat Connections Global Project Usually students enjoy joining the ning adding their profiles, customizing their pages etc

However for one of my students even this was too much. He wrote in his profile “I live in a house” and that was it — “I live in a house” I nearly saw red, then quietly explained how nearly everyone around the world lived in a house. Other global students were more interested in what the house was like, what it looked like where they live, what they do after school.

After much nagging, he finally wrote a little more that he lived on a farm and liked shooting! Next discussion with me – “There are students in the project from USA who may be upset that you are shooting! What do you shoot? Be specific!”  By the end of the 50 minute lesson he had a brief profile that shared how he lived on a farm and liked to go shooting to get rabbits and foxes! I was on the verge of finding another subject for this student!

Bg4uZKgCYAAn8sX

So, it was with some dread that I entered the classroom today, only to be greeted by “Guess what, Miss!” by this same student! He was woken up last night by his mobile phone alerting him to the fact that two students in the USA had commented on his handshake post! One of the students also liked shooting and his targets were turkeys, squirrels etc. He shared the names of guns he used and wanted to know what guns my student used…..  and so a now highly engaged students commented back, looked for other handshakes to comment on and the wonderful world of global learning just opened right up!!!

The next minute, one of the boys discovered the chat, found one student in USA working at home, trying to work out how to upload a video on to his ning page. Aaron, then responded in the chat exactly how to do it. Peer to peer mentoring is the best way to learn!

boys1

Three G’s for Global

The three G’s

  1. Global presenters from across the world, presented on a -
  2. Global theme –  Globally Connected Learning in a -
  3. Google Hangout
My opening slide

My opening slide

Reinhard Marx sought interest from members of the HLW skypers group in presenting to teachers of English at a conference in Russia on the topic of “Globally Connected Learning” . The time suite me – 7pm my time, so I was in.

Steve Sherman from Sth Africa, Larisa from Serbia Russia, Maria del Carmen Colussa of Sth America Anna and Michael from Russia, Reinhard from Germany and me, from Australia logged into a google hangout to present to about 300 English teachers live at the Paedagogical University Chelyabinsk, Russia. The google hangout was chosen as it is free, could be recorded, allowed screen sharing and could be broadcast live on youtube.

Prior to the presentation

  • a google presentation was set up so that we collaborate and add our slides.
  • a google document and qr code was set up to allow for questions from the participants after the event.
  • an online meeting in a hangout was held in late December
  • extra messaging and chat took place in gmail or on skype
The university theatre with our presenttion up on the screen
The university theatre with our presentation up on the screen and the virtual presenters

The university theatre with our presentation up on the screen and the virtual presenters

The presentation

  • the presenters logged into the hangout early to test sound and make sure all was ready.
    However, we had many technical issues. I returned to school as the bandwidth is much stronger than at home, but my microphone did not work in the hangout, so switched to a computer lab desktop, which meant that I did not have a webcam. The first hangout link did not work well, so another had to be quickly booked by Steve in Sth Africa. We started a little late due to the difficulties.
  • Steve and Reinhard co-ordinated the session virtually, whilst a technician in Russia ensured all was working there.
  • Reinhard commenced the presentation and then the rest of us spoke to our slides for approximately 7 mins.
Larissa of Siberia waits to give her presentation

Larissa of Siberia waits to give her presentation

The highlights

  • being part of a presentation that involved speakers from so many continents
  • seeing the theatre that our participants were in, in Russia – always amazing to think that this can be even done!
  • having two experts on hangouts in our midst
  • listening to my colleagues share their experiences with globally connected learning
  • just being able to be part of a presentation that involved the globe!
  • pioneering and paving the way for more presentations like this

The challenges

  • as always, technology does not always work as it should but we kept working at alternatives to ensure the presentation went ahead
  • keeping all presenters, who all had so much to share, to their assigned time frame
  • ensuring presenters had their mics on mute when not speaking as any movement often activated their image on the main screen
  • learning to have the current presenter or speakers module highlighted so we could see the shared screen
  • speaking slowly and clearly enough to allow for differing accents

hangout snapshot of slide
Here is our presentation