Category Archives: Asian Connections

Happy New Year to my Chinese friends!

gong xi fa cai 恭喜发财

May You Be Prosperous! May You Earn A Lot Of Money! May you Obtain A Fortune! (used as a greeting at Chinese Spring Festival or Chinese new year)

year of the horse1

Chinese New Year is a special time of year as our school teaches mandarin Chinese as its second language. It is also special to me as I have some very close online and face to face colleagues who are Chinese. One such colleague is Veronica Woo who I have e-worked with over the last 5 years or so. (See cultural eLearning adventures). Veronica teaches in a Chinese school in Malaysia - SMJK Poi Lam School in Ipoh.

So much of a culture, language, geography and backgrounds can be learned in real time using technology to connect with those who live in other countries….. but nothing beats travel, actually visiting the country and meeting face to face online colleagues. As such my husband and I have visited Malaysia and met Veronica and travelled with her around Ipoh and Penang. To our delight, Veronica and her niece came to visit us, stayed on our farm and vistied my school in December last year.

xhiao wen and veronica

A large parcel  was discovered in our roadside mailbox yesterday. It was full of gifts, cards and red packets or ‘ang pau’ for family and students at school to celebrate  the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Horse in 2014. There were decorations, photos, Tshirts,  cushion covers, a  horse and much more!


With pride, I took the cards and gifts to school, distributed them to students and  adorned our front office proudly with the decorations acknowledging our association with the Chinese people!  Students were excited to open up their cards and find their laminated photos and of course my grandchildren loved the gifts and cards too.

A snap decision was made to decorate our office window and foyer with Chinese decorations to share this festival with staff, students and community members.


office and lanterns

Festivals are a time for celebrating with families. Thanks Veronica for making the new year special to us at Hawkesdale and Happy New Year to you and all my Chinese friends.

Do you celebrate the Chinese New Year? If so how? Melbourne (my state capital city) celebrates Chinese New Year. Veronica has suggested that the following movie is viewed:-

The Reunion Dinner (回家過年) is a 15 minute short movie written and
directed by Anthony Chen (導演: 陳哲藝) who just won the Golden Horse 2013
Best New Director (第五十屆金馬獎最佳新導演).A simple yet superb film that will surely touch your heart:
The Reunion Dinner 回家過年by Anthony Chen 陳哲藝@

Two other youtube videos suggested by Veronica Woo for the staff and students to watch:-

A site for Chinese phrases

An unpredictable class!

majority of class
Today was day 1, term 4. Period 5,  my year 8 ICT class were to link up with Port Phillip EcoCentre, St Kilda Botanical Gardens and Gio to learn about the nesting boxes that are being placed around St Kilda ensuring the survival of a number of birds and animals. Blackboard Collaborate was the software to be used. My class all successfully logged in. We talked about appropriate online behaviour and netiquette whilst we waited.

However technical issues in Melbourne prevented Gio and Jill from coming online at the appointed time. Whilst they were solving their problems, an online colleague from Taiwan – Lin-lin was asking over our HLW skype group for someone to connect with her students so that they could do a mystery skype linkup and then sing a song to another teacher or class.

rachel grace and taiwan students

Thinking this would be good filler and stop my students ‘hanging from the rafters’, I offered my class. However, just as we connected over skype, Gio entered the virtual classroom. How could we be part of both activities? I did not want to offend either of our virtual connections.

Two of my girls said that they would videoconference with Taiwan, whilst the rest of the class learnt about the nesting boxes.  I was a little nervous about this as those two same students would not ask questions over mystery skype a couple of weeks prior – due to shyness. The girls retired to the small store room adjacent to the computer lab, with no instruction from me, whilst I then had to give full attention to the rest of the class.

rach and grace from linlin

Periodically I checked on the two girls but they appeared to be going well, took some photos for me and asked questions of Lin-lin by microphone and used the chat to ensure understanding. This could have been very messy as there was no backup plan for the class. But all students were engaged in either of the two activities. The photos display this engagement.

What I learnt

  • splitting students into groups can work well – each group having their own virtual learning activity with a different tool
  • images such as those that Gio shared can be powerful for learning and engagement. He shared a number of pics of the nesting boxes and the tiny animals who inhabited them.
  • the backchannel is great! Every students can ask questions, share experiences and feelings
  • it is often better for me, the teacher, to get right out of the way and just leave a small group of students to themselves when videoconferencing over eg skype so that they are forced to learn how to communicate with others who may not speak English as their first language.

This could have been a very messy class but instead turned out to be highly successful for all students.

class engaged

Technology and the Future of Education

The PGL Panel

As part of the keynote sessions at the Partnerships for Global Learning conference, a panel of guest speakers was invited to share their opinions on “Technology and the Future of Education” from a global perspective. The panel consisted of Steve Hargadon, Lucy Gray, Julie Lindsay, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano and me (Anne Mirtschin). Steve ably led the discussions and spent much time preparing the forum questions. Approximately 600 conference participants listened to the panel.

Panel discussion audienc

Here are some of the questions directed at the panel members:-

  • Please give a favorite example of a use of technology in global education/collaboration
  • Have our definitions of global education changed because of the internet and web/collaborative technologies, and how do we begin to identify (store) best practices we’re seeing with technology and global education?  That is, what do successful global projects [using technology] look like?
  • How do we measure the outcomes of global education, and how is the technology involved?
  • In an increasingly test-driven education environment, how do you find leadership support for global activities?
  • Students and teachers increasingly lead parallel lives:  they are learning from and with new technologies, they are being measured in inadequate ways…  Lets’ talk about technology from the educator side
  • Are there ways of overcoming technology gaps between participating schools? How do you connect with a school that has low, limited, or no access to technology or connectivity?
  • Is global education our end goal?  What is your prediction for where we are headed?

Thanks Steve, Julie, Lucy and Silvia and a big thank you to the organisers of this great conference for inviting me to participate. It was such an exciting and proud moment. The conversations continue on our mighty bell space. Please join us.

Julie, Sylvia and me

Steve and Lucy ensure discussion questions go smoothly

What the…..? and other classrooms sounds!

Students followed the link given on my classroom blog, but as the first student opened it, all I could hear was “What the…..?” Wondering what was wrong, I glanced at the computer screen and saw the following:-

Next comment from another student “It’s all in Japanese!” I just laughed and thought “let the learning begin”!

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by an educator from Japan, who taught English at Hokusei Gakuen University in Japan. As Interpretation was one of the upcoming topics for study, Nakao wondered whether we could create some videos on Family  or School for her students. Wondering how I could build this into my VCE IT subject where the current topic is databases, I realised that I could actually tweak things and use data from the linkup, student names etc to build a database that would be far more engaging than textbook exercises.

The procedures:-

  1. Naoko’s professor built a space for my students in their moodle learning management system.
  2. Two spaces have been setup – a forum area for discussion and another space to upload the videos.
  3. My students will upload their videos to youtube – the university professor  suggested that we make them private and has told us how. However, I think it is better to make them public as many others may also be interested in our way of life, family life, school, culture etc. Due to our isolated rural community, we are so different to many! The youtube videos will then be embedded into the moodle.
The students from Japan each added a conversation starter to the forum. Once my students worked out the English translator, they were away!
There were periods of absolute silence as they read with fascination, the comments made about life in Japan and questions asked of my students.
At other times there was lively chatter as they discussed pronunciation of names, topics shared and who was going to respond to whom.
Here are some comments that caused keen interest:-
180 million people lives in Sapporo city. What does your town look like?
Response: We have 150 people live in our town of Hawkesdale
I soppose that ski is one of the most popular sport.
Response: The closest snow fields are 6-8 hours drive away from where we live. (Most of my students have not seen snow)
I love vegetables which my grandfather makes. Especially, White Pumpkin is delicious満面の笑顔
Reaction: Australian students are intrigued about white pumpkin. We have never seen one 
  1. the engagement of my students
  2. their eagerness to participate and respond as best they could
  3. students  completely focused on task at hand (other times they are easily distracted with youtube, playing games etc)
  4. the discussion amongst my students that was triggered by some of the questions and comments
  5. having an expert set up the system for us in moodle – a university professor! Thank you! Using moodle and the forum is an excellent way of collaborating. Students took to it like ‘water off a duck’s back’.
  6. the learning that takes place – we are different, live in completely different environments, learn at different levels of education and yet students are so curious about each other.
  7. our mandarin Chinese teacher walked in at the stage where the screen was in Japanese text and identified many Chinese characters amongst them. He shared with the students, why they were the same.

  • language barriers, different terms used, completely different names!
  • using a new tool and system although they students embraced it quickly. They quickly worked out how to add images etc
  • the cultural differences and avoiding offending each other
  • I am afraid that I will mess up the moodle space if I change details etc.

So proud and honoured to be a part of SMJK Poi Lam, Ipoh!

The Big Classroom - SMJK Poi Lam What a proud, uplifting and memorable morning I spent (together with my husband) at SMJK Poi Lam school in Ipoh, Malaysia on Monday, October 3rd.   A full cultural welcome was given to us at a  special assembly held at 7:30am as part of a presentation for certificates for the DEECD Innovations Showcase 2011, where my two Chinese friends had videoconferenced in two special cultural performances as part of my presentation there. See Malaysian Students in Real Time Performance for Innovations Showcase As we arrived at the school we were ushered into the Principal’s office. The principal, Mr Lau Swee Mun,  is one of excellence ranking in Malaysia. There we had a very informative chat discussing many educational issues some relating to technology. Next we were ushered to the assembly area to the beat of the kompang (Malay drums),  through a  student  guard of honour, including the Chinese dragons, joker and flag bearers. The students were  dressed in National Costume representing the three cultures of Malaysia – the Chinese, the Malay and the Indian. To our delight one student was dressed as an Australian! This was a very emotional moment for me, especially as I am sure that events like this are normally set aside for people or events of high importance. Once seated on the stage and facing the student assembly, the national anthem of Malaysia and the Perak anthem were sung. The treats continued with a traditional   Chinese dragon dance welcome, complete with a joker.

the Chinese dragon with Joker

This was followed by:-

  • a Wushu demonstration  by 4 expert  students
  • a very creative, innovative choral speaking performance “Jom! Let’s Visit Perak!”
  • Choral reading and Acapella “One moment in time with the Lion King”

Choral speaking "Jom! Let's Visit Perak1"

Choral Reading

We were amazed by the confidence and professionalism of the two  MC/s who happened to also be the two students who created book trailers as part of our Globalstorytelling project for the Melbourne Writers Festival. But mostly, I loved seeing the creativity of my friend Veronica Woo and also of Yew Yan Koon and their fantastic work using  performing arts with the students.

The assembly was entitled ” Little Big Classrooms 2011 Innovations Showcase” and it was held to honour the students who took part in the Videoconference linkup as part of  the Victorian Education Innovations and Next Practise Showcase in May 2011. These students would be  issued with their certificates which had been signed by our Victorian Minister for Education.
After a speech by Veronica, myself and the Principal, I was able to give each student their signed certificate. (Veronica had withheld the issuance of the certificates until I came to Malaysia). Veronica had told me that:-
These students will  in Malaysia, students will be awarded maximum bonus points of 20 marks for their involvement in any form of extra curricular activities at the international level.
In return, Innovation and Next Practise and a number of staff, including me received a certificate signed by the Perak Director of Education. This wonderful assembly concluded with the crossing of the two country’s flags – Malaysian and Australian.
A traditional meal of Malaysian Nasi Lemak – Malaysia’s national dish was offered to invited  guests, parents and a number of staff. It was great to be able to continue conversations with the Principal, to meet face to face members of the Malaysian Writers Festival committee, the reporter from the local newspaper, parents and a principal from another school.  Special times were also spent with some of the performing students, getting to know them and learning of their ambitions. Shyness was overcome and we were able to work through our different accents and way of speaking.

Many cultures represented

What a wonderful, honourable, exciting, emotional treat and event to be actually part of. Thank you to my two special friends and colleagues – Veronica and Yew Yan Koon. Thank you for connecting, communicating and collaborating with us, taking on risks,  sharing, pioneering and innovating what technology to experience what it can do for learning on a global level.
As Veronica said:
“The classroom is my world and the world is my classroom!”
Thank you for being part of our little big classroom!
Terima Kasih
Xie Xie
I need to find the Indian word for thank you

Veronica, Evon and me

Lights, camera, action!

An excited but rather nervous audience gathered together sharing conversations whilst waiting for the TV camera team to enter the classroom and commence filming. A newspaper reporter waited in the wings to catch the news in print. One team member made sure his hair was done neatly. Others completed tasks on their computer while they waited. I was introduced to the key teachers and students involved whilst we waited for the camera crew to arrive.

This was no normal audience as it was not local but global in nature. Katherine from Austria had put a skype text into the group chat looking for people to be online with her for her first class of the day. A TV camera team was coming in to film her class using skype to  videoconference with other countries. In the wings waiting, were educators from England, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Lithuania, Peru and me from Australia online ready to be part of the action.

The newspaper reporter with Veronica in Malaysia

Veronica and Evon of Malaysia had a news reporter from Ipoh with them.  While we waited they interveiwed me and shared their plans for promoting their local region, called Perak in 2012. Using the webcam, they shared brochures and promotional material using the webcam and talked of the exciting places to visit in Perak.

The Austrian students

Soon it was time for me to come online with the students in Austria. Skype started to falter, so the Austrian classroom switched off their video. This meant that I could not see or feel what was going on the other end of the world but the connection was then stable enough to allow my webcam to project my image.

We chatted about:-

  • the weather and seasons
  • school
  • holidays
  • food and meals
  • Australian culture and icons – I showed vegemite, the Australian flag and some of the beautiful Australian native flowers that are currently flowering in our spring season. They talked about eidelweiss.

Sharing Australian spring flowers

How amazing is this!  A global group all waiting in the wings to share the exciting learning and sharing that technology can bring to the classroom. My local media rarely feature the fantastic work that can be done with technology and yet we can be featured on TV on the other side of the world and be part of a newspaper report in Malaysia, both events occurring within 30 mins of each other.
What experiences have you had with media? What can you share about videoconferencing with skype?

The real life participants in this drama:-

  • the teacher combing his hair was from the UK, waiting with his class.

Reflections on Learning2.011 Asia Conference

What a great conference this was! The Learning 2.011 conference is innovative and unique, in that participants can have complete choice over sessions, workshops and the direction of their cohort groups. There were more than 400 people in attendance, most of whom were from schools in Asia.
This is how it looked:-

  • When participants first registered, they chose cohort groups based on subject areas or other areas of interest.
  • Cohort leaders were then chosen on the basis of interest shown by registered participants. (Jabiz (@intrepidteacher) and I worked with the English/Social Studies cohort.)
  • There were five cohort sessions – one on the first night of the conference and two on each of the full days.

  • Each day started with a keynote session – these included cohort group leaders  eg @kimcofino, @kevinhoneycutt, @gcouros, @courosa, @thecleversheep, @jessmcculloch, @libraryanne, @intrepidteacher, @wesfryer and myself. Each of these sessions demonstrated an interest or passion, yet all focused on  the power that technology and networking can bring to learning. Students also provided keynote sessions – these were amazing with confident students sharing their knowledge, their learning and their outcomes. Some fabulous student video creations were shared.
  • Between cohort sessions, there were workshops and unconference sessions. Conference participants would put up a suggestion for an unconference session based on a topic or need that arose out of the conference. I attended unconference sessions on podcasting, the flipped classroom, making a mobile app,  virtual worlds and Wonderland etc. These were fabulous and the often small group sizes led to intimate discussions and sharing.

    Sample unconference sessions

There was no need to sign up for workshops or unconference sessions, simply find the allocated room. I loved this flexibility.  Experts within the conference can run workshops or unconference sessions on an fantastic range of topics and  workshops and unconferences are selected at the time. There were cohort groups for all educators including leaders, assessors, PE teachers, the Arts, Digital Storytelling etc. (See the scheduled cohort groups and  workshops.)


  • Meeting face to face many of the people who I follow on twitter and have admired for a long time.
  • Meeting many new contacts who are just as passionate about immersing technolgy in learning
  • Working closely with all cohort leaders in the two days prior to they conference. This gave us a chance to feel comfortable with each other, to learn from each other, share our passions and gain confidence in the direction we would take .
  • Working with Jabiz (@intrepid teacher) on the English/Social Studies cohort. A wiki, Connect, Communicate, Collobarte, Create was set up and on the Thursday evening, it was decided to split them into two groups. The wiki was our framework, place to share resources etc and gave us direction, should the group need guidance in what they wanted to know.
  • Networking with so many wonderful educators, including two others from Victoria @jessmcculloch and@mr_robbo
  • Ability to connect with 450 educators mostly from Asia, all of which can fit into schools’ time zones.
  • Sharing conversations around educational and technological passions.
  • The flexbility of the conference to cater for all needs
  • Meeting the committee members who worked tirelessly  and who looked after the cohort leaders so well.


  • Ensuring the needs and desires of the cohort group were met. Did we really cater for what they wanted to know? Did they know what they wanted to know?
  • Working with
  • Preparing a 5-7 minute keynote presentation and keeping to the time line.
  • Working without many of the great tools that I use for learning as so many sites are blocked in China eg twitter, my blog (could not edit it), youtube and facebook.
  • Watching the cohort group tackle the use of technology each session.
What would I do differently next time?
  • make more use of the student who was assigned to our cohort and get him to share his learning.
  • give the group more time to share with each other using informal discussions.
  • setup an ongoing networking system when back at school, before the conference finished. (Have since created a group in skype for ongoing conversations.)
Have you been to a conference similar to this, where differentiated learning is encouraged all the way? Were you at Learning2.011? What were your takeaways and reflections on the conference?
Thanks to all involved, I have come away a richer, more empowered educator with many more in my network. Looking forward to Learning 2.012. If you want to attend a conference where you have almost full control over your learning, this is the one for you. Hope to see you there!

The worlds’ largest GeoPark learns from the smallest GeoPark

another class shot

Today 27?students from year 8 Humanities and 11 IT and several staffed ?linked up with Boris and TK from the Hong Kong. They work for the GeoPark in Hong Kong. This was the first time Adobe Connect had been used for our classes.

A great slide show with some amazing photos enabled us to compare the Hong Kong City area with the beautiful natural GeoPark areas. One could have been forgiven in thinking that we were on a remote coastal area of Australia. We learnt about the geography, population and geographic features of the Hong Kong City and the Park itself.

As usual with 35 students in the classroom, they were noisy for a start but once logged on with headsets and individual netbook or desktop access, there was silence – absolute silence broken intermittently by the sound of keystrokes as students typed something in the chat.


  • A video was to be played demonstrating the natural features, but our bandwidth was not strong enough to play it
  • The audio cut in and out at times. We took the webcams off, but although my audio was okay, the students complained that theirs was not.
  • Any of my chat went through quickly, but students complained that theirs did not.

What we liked:-

  • the amazing ability to connect in real time with Boris and JK who both speak English well
  • The wonderful photos and beautiful and unusual natural attractions featured
  • the ability to be able to ask questions and interact in the chat
  • learning immediately from other countries and cultures
  • the initiative taken by students. (One girl could not get her laptop to work so two girls shared a desktop with the external volume on but soft!)

laptop screen
Next time:-

Learning Vedic Maths from Sebastian

Frequently time (or the lack of it)  gets in the way of documenting some of the journeys we take. Last term, Sebastian taught my year 11 IT class about vedic maths, using web conferencing via elluminate (Blackboard Collaborate).

 Sebastian Rajattan from India is an educational innovator from Kerala, India. Verdic maths  is  the name given to the ancient system of Indian Mathematics and was commonly taught to the peasants.

The Learning

  • Initially coping with a different accent, for our students who are isolated culturally.
  • Concentrating intently on the slides and presentation.
  • Learning to work with a more visual type of maths
  • Learning about another culture
What worked well:-
  • Sebastian was well organised, competent in the use of elluminate, and had prepared  some great slides to illustrate the concepts.
  • Students correctly answered his questions, so they had learnt from him.
  • He kept the presentation moving and engaged the students with interactive activities.
  • Using web conferencing tools such as elluminate, allows the students to interact in the chat, respond to questions and concepts and to respond individually to questions asked.
  • Great to have someone like Sebastian who is used to working with students, keeps the session moving, knows his topic and how to interact with students.
The constraints
  • The powerpoint presentation failed to load from our end
  • All slides had to be quickly saved as image files and uploaded individually. This pushed some out of order, making it difficult for the presenter.
  • One of my boys could not logon with his netbook or with many of the spare desktops, but finally found a computer that would. This is frustrating for the students.
The bonuses
  • As Sebastian used his video camera, we could see the women in his household say goodbye as they were about to go out shopping. This gave the students a glimpse of the beautiful Indian dress.
  • As our school was being under research on our use of technology, a  research student sat in on the lesson with us, and experienced the magic that technology can bring.
Thanks Sebastian, it is great to know you, thank you for teaching us  and it is hoped that we can continue to make connections.
Footnote: I met Sebastian through a skype group. How do you meet your contacts?

Teachable opportunities made easy with skype

Anna and me testing prior to class

On the last lesson of the term I often try and think of a treat for my year 9/10 IT elective group. Often it is a ‘your choice’ lesson with students opting to play their favourite games. The year 10 portion of this class were absent on work experience so I only had a small group of year 9 students. They  had not used the class set of iPads, so I  booked them.

However, on a spur of the moment decision,  I also decided to look at skype and see who was about. Anna a teacher from Indonesia was online. She had wanted to skype me several weeks earlier but it did not suit me at that time. After a quick conversation we decided to link our two classes as part of IT double lesson.

How we met

Anna, from Indonesia had been referred to me by Julie Lindsay. Anna had sought help from a mentor after having enjoyed her virtual attendance at the Global Education conference 2010. Anna is interested in being involved in the Flat Classroom projects, co-organised by Julie Lindsay. Anna and I exchanged emails, skype user names and blog addresses. Anna had tried to join in some of the webinars that I organise in elluminate, but slow bandwidth had prevented her from logging in.

Testing the equipment

First step is always to test the equipment via skype. Anna had problems with her microphone and I had problems with noisy backgrounds. After trying several microphones, I reverted to the headset with attached mic. Anna was able to activate her mic and we were set.

How it looked

Initially it is much easier to work with smaller classes – classroom management is less of a problem.

Students confidently came to the web cam and spoke to each other.Students asked each other questions. We brought objects to the screen eg a piece of fruit, vegemite, students from both sides showed books they are currently reading and discussed their favourite books. One of my students really enjoyed communicating with them, answering further questions and  talking about her pet cats. The Indonesian students appeared to be intrigued with the house training of the cat that spends quite a bit of time indoors. Anna’s students then proceeded to teach mine, good morning in Indonesian.

What it sounded like.

Laughter, excitement and a deliberate  slowing down of our speech.

Why it worked well

Despite there being no planning of this activity, the lesson worked extremely well. Students are curious about each other. Anna and her students spoke excellent conversational English and students listened hard to work through our different accents. We used a mix of objects and questions to fill in 45 minutes of videoconferencing. Students from both countries enjoyed reading similar books.


At the parent teacher interview which occurred later that afternoon, one of my students excitedly declared to her mother and me that that was the best school lesson that she had ever experienced.

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