Author Archives: murcha

Global Connectedness

At the recent Flat Connections conference in Sydney, the program included a several “Supporting the Challenge” bootcamps which allowed participants to choose the topics that were of high interest to them. “Global Connectedness” was the theme of one of my offered workshops (bootcamps).

In this session, the following questions and topics were shared and discussed.

  • What is a global community?
  • Some examples of global communities.
  • Where can educators start to connect with the world?
  • What are some of the most popular networking tools to build a community?
  • How can a global community be successfully maintained.
  • Tips for sustaining a global community.
  • Challenges

View the presentation:-

Skype in the Classroom – #ISTE2014 presentation

Last minute preparations

Last minute preparations

At the suggestion of Toni Oliveri-Barton, I submitted  a proposal to present on “Skype in the Classoom” for ISTE2014. It was accepted and special online friends and members of HLW Skypers and Global Classroom group offered to be part of the presentation. They were Toni Oliveri Barton,Theresa Allen, Louise Morgan and David Karsoncak. We asked Steve Sherman (Living Maths) from South Africa and Janet Barnstable, of USA, to be our special e-guests so that conference participants could experience the nature of skype and multi video participants Prior to the session

  • A skype group was formed initially for the face-to-face participants so that we could collaborate and chat 24/7. The chat remains and will be there for up to 12 months or more. Living on the other side of the world still meant that I could read the discussions in my waking hours. (See 7 tips for successful skype groups)
  • several skype videoconference calls were made to finalize the presentation
  • google presentation Skype in the Classroom was used for our collaborative session – add slides, comments, images
  • a google document Skype in the Classroom Resources and a collaborative live binder were setup to add resources. Conference participants and others were encouraged to help crowd source the google document.
  • decided on an iste skype hashtag #iste14skype See the twitter feed

collage Immediately prior to the session

  • @murcha @dkarnoscak @toniobarton @tdallen5 @mrsmorgansclass met in the bloggers cafe to finalize our presentation
  • labelled the slides with our initials
  • tested the connection 30 mins earlier from our allocated room. Brought in Steve and Janet via video
  • positioned a webcam on the audience so that Steve and Janet could see who they were talking too.
  • enlisted Sue Wyatt aka @tasteach to be our chief tweeter and administrator. Thanks Sue!
  • Preston Morgan to be our general liaison person, photographer etc

nearly ready The challenges

  • ensuring sufficient bandwidth for two simultaneous video linkups as the 1000s of conference attendees were using the internet often with 2 or 3l devices.
  • keeping the 5 presenters all keen to talk about their exciting work, to a time limit.
  • ensuring that both Janet and Steve could feel part of it by facing laptop webcam on the audience
  • ensuring we were ready to talk to our slides so that time was not wasted. Theresa setup her laptop with the presentation advanced one slide in front of the session laptop.
  • enabling Steve to demonstrate the more complex features of skype remotely from Sth Africa.
Participants start to arrive

Participants start to arrive

After the session

  • Louise Morgan created a storify listing the twitter conversations
  • Session and document links were uploaded to the ISTE site
  • Tweeted out the links to documents and presentation

Do you have ideas, resources etc to add to our crowd sourced document:- Skype in the Classroom Resources. Please add them. Were you at our session? If so, we would love some feedback.

The Fun of ISTE

 A fun night out at edtech karaoke

A fun night out at edtech karaoke

A gathering of Flat Connections Educators

A gathering of Flat Connections Educators

There are many opportunities to have fun and socialize at ISTE. Here are some of the activities/places where I had fun:-

  • meeting online friends face to face
  • deliberate meetings with the PLN – going to Martin Luther King Centre with blogging and other friends before ISTE officially began
  • impromptu meetings with friends
  • meeting up with others at the bloggers cafe
  • organised dinner meals with special interest groups eg Julie Lindsay and the Flat Connections Project participants and HLW Skypers groups
  • edtech karaoke – see image above
  • special receptions eg the Australian reception which was held in conjunction with Alberta in Canada
  • being immersed in another country with its cultures, accents, different foods and ways of life that can be different to mine!
  • struggling to be understood on many occasions with my ‘thick’ Aussie accent
Thanks Toni Oliveri-Barton for this pic!

Thanks Toni Oliveri-Barton for this pic!

Kevin Honeycutt, me and Sue Waters who was #notatiste14

Kevin Honeycutt, me and Sue Waters who was #notatiste14

Special friends - Karen Lierenman, Louise Morgan, me and Peggy George

Special friends – Karen Lierenman, Louise Morgan, me and Peggy George

Bloggers Cafe - Angela Maiers tries on Kevin Honeycutt's wearable technology

Bloggers Cafe – Angela Maiers tries on Kevin Honeycutt’s wearable technology

Enjoying time with Theresa Allen

Enjoying time with Theresa Allen

Impromputu dinner meetings with Toni Oliveri-Barton and friend

Impromputu dinner meetings with Toni Oliveri-Barton and friend

#iste2014 in full swing

the iste crowd

ISTE is one of the biggest edtech teachers’ conferences in the world. This year it is downtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA #iste2014. As it is my third time at ISTE, I am feeling quite comfortable with the huge crowds, the vast array of sessions that participants can attend and seeking out many of my online network as well as making new contacts. However, it is still a challenge to share regularly on the social media including twitter, instagram, FB, skype and even this blog.

Flying in just in time for the start of the conference brings the challenges of jetlag, time zone changes, climate differences (from the depths of Australian winter to the height of the northern hemisphere summer.) etc. There is always some angst as to ‘not wanting to miss out on anything’, what should I attend and how much time should be spent seeking out the PLN, meeting new people and looking around the city that ISTE is held in.

Saturday morning was spent with some friends at the Martin Luther King Centre, checking out many of the displays, viewing the eternal flame, entering his church, walking through his boyhood home and looking at the museum.

ebeneezer church

As day 1 tends to have a global theme, the globaled summit was the first official session attended. A number of ignite sessions and round table discussions took place during this 3 hour time slot. I was proud to lead the discussion on Bridging Cultural Differences. 

Global Classroom Project educators

Global Classroom Project educators

Immediately after this session it was time to head to the Bloggers Cafe and avoid the queues and crowds lining up for the opening Keynote speaker, Ashley Judd, an actress and a producer. However, we ended up in the poster session area as the cafe was crowded and several of us were helping  Louise Morgan with the Globalclassroom poster session. It was great to work with David, Theresa, Preston, Robyn and Karen. The two hours flew by as many, many people walked past and showed interest in the these wonderful global opportunities.

And that ended a long, but wonderful day!

Easing the distance of friendship

Two best mates

Two best mates

@murcha Would you believe that today we had a new student start in my classroom in rural NZ who was from your school!

— Myles Webb (@NZWaikato) April 15, 2014

This tweet came soon after one of our school families returned to New Zealand to take up work there again. All too often we lose contact with students who leave us, so this tweet caught me by surprise and again show the power of the online network.

After some discussion, it was decided to try and link our schools up and allow Fred and Bayley, who are great mates to continue their friendship over skype. There is something quite fascinating about being connected with another classroom, seeing the posters on their walls, their doorway and corridor etc. The quality of the video connection was superb and after some issues with my microphone, the two boys were able to chat away, asking questions of each other. Thanks Myles for making this possible. Our principal thought this was a great idea and hopefully it will ease some of the homesickness and loss of other buddies.

Soon, we will link up the two classes and hopefully this is the start of an ongoing connection.

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