Category Archives: global classroom

Making International Friendship Day Authentic

the class cropped

Responses to “What International Friendship Day means to me?” Sample responses from students in Malaysia and Australia demonstrating the wisdom or dreams of our youth!

We are not alone in the world. When talk to people from other counties we realize everyone is the same, with fears, dreams, family issues, school issues and love troubles. When you talk with a group of international students it is amazing how wars could be averted because of the one and one discussions instead of ‘global politics’ I was involved with an international exchange program and the students from around the world created life long friendships and many changed their lives due to this exchange and work to further international relations and politics. International friendship is of the utmost importance, of course! It is to recognise your friends and their contribution to your life. Friendship helps to bring peace and positivity to the globe – a great reason to celebrate! Because it let’s us form new bonds with different people around the globe. It helps us learn how to understand more about people with different cultures. We can make new friends or enhance the bond between friends. Friendship brings happiness to us. This is a chance for us to recognise their contribution to our life. Hence, that is a good reason for us to celebrate International Friendship Day.

International Friendship Day took place on August 2nd. Veronica Woo, from SMK Poi Lam School, Ipoh, Malaysia and I decided at the last minute to do something together with our classes to mark this significant day. We liked the idea of putting them into small virtual groups to discuss questions on friendship using google documents and also having a hangout open throughout the class so we could formally introduce ourselves and give each class a visual perspective of each other. However, technology challenged us and audio and video and the hangout links did not work well until the very end. Here is what it looked like:_

  1. Created 10 google documents. As I only had 10 students in my class, each student was put in a separate group.
  2. Set questions were added eg “How would you formally introduce yourself  in your culture?” “Why is International Friendship day important?” “What do you look for in a friend?” “What questions would you ask of a new friend?”
  3. The documents were shared on a ” public for editing” basis and also with Veronica by invitation email.
  4. The links were then pasted on my class blog for student access and for Veronica to grab if need be.
  5. Veroncia’s class was much bigger so she added three of her students to each group
  6. The google hangout was to start the class off with formal introductions to each group.
  7. Students would proceed to discuss and answer the questions on the virtual document

But………………………the Challenges!

  1. We had big problems with audio and video at the Malaysian end and could not start the hangout
  2. I had forgotten to make three documents public
  3. It took a few minutes to explain to the girls what to do and then had to be repeated for some

Whilst Veronica and I battled with the technology and problems, the students just got going on their documents and used them like a chat room. Many introduced themselves formally and off they went asking each other questions. Some of the surprises came from learning what ‘chewing fats’ was to knowing that our love of horse riding as a pastime outside of school hours, was of high interest to the Malaysian students who only see horses in zoos! The students were highly engaged whilst Veronica and I finally go the hangout to work just as the bell had gone in Ipoh, Malaysia My biggest takeaway:- My students liked not seeing each other initially as they felt there were no preconceived ideas about the students from visual introductions. They really liked getting to know each other in the chat. Why it worked so well

  1. The students were in small groups mixed across the countries
  2. They had a proforma to follow
  3. They also had the opportunities to create their own learning about each other. Their curiousity could be satisfied by the questions they asked
  4. When the video worked on the hangout, students were happy to wave to each other to show what they looked like

 

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

 

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.

Independence Day India – Friday August 15th

A skype message alerted me to the fact that it was Independence Day in India.

sebastian

It came from my good online friend, Sebastian Panakal and he asked:-

When may I call you? Today is Indian Independence Day and I would like to celebrate it together with you and your students, share my happiness with you

sebastian and quill earingsWishing that I had a class of middle school students whom I could connect him with, I in fact had a VCE accounting at that time (which is a subject not so easy to interrupt, due to the tight curriculum timeline). Wanting to make the most of this opportunity, I  asked whether he might wait until the last 5 mins of that class for us to connect. The students were rather shy about greeting Sebastian, but they soon rallied around and wished him a “Happy Independence Day”. In turn, Sebastian showed us the beautiful paper quill earings that his wife had made in the tri-colours of their national flag. They were to be distributed to local school girls.

 We learnt that India celebrated it as s a public holiday. Schools, clubs and associations celebrate by hosting the National Flag  (flag:in) and distribute sweets. Thereafter they sing, dance, party etc. Schools have the same fun and frolic, but a march past in the morning.

Sebastian was hoping to connect with as many of his virtual global friends to share this Independence Day. You can see his linkup with another online colleague, Katherine Zablatnik from Austria.From this linkup, Sebastian shared the following statement:-

As I shared my happiness on Indian Independence Day, an opportunity for promoting Health Tourism evolved.

As I hung up on skype, one of Sebastian’s friends also called me. As I was speaking to him, his mobile phone rang. Fascinated, I was party to a conversation in an Indian dialect as he quickly dealt with the phone call.. Not understanding a word of it, I still felt part of the connection!

Sebastian's friend

Does it matter that we interrupt senior classes for short connections like this, running the risk of falling behind the curriculum. Not at all in my opinion. Students are highly interested in what happens in other countries, they develop confidence in themselves and their communication ability and left my class in a happy frame of mind. Thank you Sebastian for saying hello to us on this day and sharing your celebrations!

International Friendship Day

Collage of Brendahs class

Collage of Brendahs class

Today is a celebration of International Friendship Day. Such a day becomes more meaningful the more globally connected we get. Having online global friends helps develop empathy for different cultures, ideas, religions, spaces we live in, conditions we live under etc. Misunderstanding leads to racism, friction and conflict.

My good friend, Sebastian Panakal from Kerala India was going to link up his students with mine today to do an international wave. But, the school was unable to connect. As Sebastian stated:

The school has postponed World Friendship Day Celebration ( and the Skype wave to your students) on 30th July due to Ramadan Holidays. Unfortunately MOON on this day came a bit late and the Ramadan prayer had to be rescheduled..

Immediately, my class is getting a sense of a different religion, the importance of this festival to Islamic people etc without connecting formally.

At night, a request came over the HLW skype group from Brendah of Port Elizabeth, East Cape, South Africa, for someone to speak to her grade 4 class about subsistence and commercial farming in their country. As I live on a farm, it was of personal interest to me. 29 students from her class, with names that I could never have pronounced, participated in the skype linkup with me and had to work out what country I was from, then ask questions on farming. They all spoke their native tongue, learnt in English at school but also learnt Afrikaans at school.

To complete the linkup, they sang with great rhythm and passion, a song that nearly brought tears to my eyes. There was a time ….

What does International Friendship Day mean to you? How did you celebrate it?

 

 

Starting and Sustaining a Blog for Global Understanding

que-es-un-blog-y-para-que-sirve-un-blog

Image source

Starting and Sustaining a Blog for Global Understanding can provide an understanding of your classroom, community, country, culture, ideals, experiences and learning within and beyond the classroom. Before I connect with others, I want to know more about them – are they genuine, who are they, what are they about, do I want to maintain contact etc?  Therefore, I look for their blog or other online space for more information. This becomes important as we become more globally connected.

Blogging is an essential, user friendly, online space that teachers and classrooms should use as it offers a rich learning space and enables ongoing conversations through comments. It enables customized learning. Starting and Sustaining a Blog for Global Understanding was one of my workshops for “Supporting the Challenge” at the recent Flat Connections Conference in Sydney. See the actual presentation below and read further for my notes on this presentation. A resources document has been set up. Please add to it, if you have suggestions.

Some of the popular blogging platforms include edublogs, wordpress, blogger, kidblog. My personal preference is for edublogs (the pro version or a campus) as they provide ready advice, offer some great support materials and online resources and enable the use of multi-media which is essential for global understanding when language differences may be a challenge. Edublogs pro also allow movies and podcasts to be directly uploaded without the need to embed code from eg youtube, vimeo etc.

To get started a blogger will need to understand the nature of posts, pages, links, widgets, hyperlinks, categories tags and the necessity for an “about me or us” page (an essential ‘handshake’ to foster initial interest and encourage ongoing connections and reading)

Comments

Comments enable ongoing conversations, provide a base for discussion and enable ongoing learning. Readers can ask questions, seek clarification and share their own knowledge and resources. A blogger needs to know what ‘good’ comments look like and how to moderate them.

Media

Embed media including sound, images and videos wherever possible to supplement or replace text. Images ‘speak 1000 words’ and where languages may not be the same, will show and share so much to provide for global understanding. Stories can be shared in images, videos, sound stories and animated slideshows. Youtube and vimeo videos can be embedded to reflect where you live and learn or links to videos provided.

Widgets for global understanding

Following are some widgts that could be added to theblog  sidebar

  • Clustrmaps, flagcounters to motivate and show the location of readers. They can be used to also teach statistics, the location of countries and the flags of different countries
  • Clocks – eg clocklink provides learning re time zones, days and dates. A countdown clock eg Countdown  or Create a Countdown will alert to upcoming cultural and religious festivals, school holidays etc. A time convertor eg world time buddy will help with the ever challenging time zone differences.
  • Weather – eg willy weather or weather add gadget provide a  global perspective on weather conditions
  • Translate widgets – google, bing to allow posts to be interpreted across languages. Learn how to translate blogs even when widgets are not present
  • Flickr – eg flickr slidr will show the latest photos shared on flickr on the sidebar showing what it looks like in your classroom, community or country
  • A blogroll can share blogs that your classroom might be connected to or that might be of interest from global classrooms, communities or teachers
  • Twitter – enables a feed of tweets to be shared
  • World news widgets eg reuters

Some advanced features

  • Embed the code from powerpoint presentations that have been uploaded to slideshare.
  • Vokis – can be used to introduce yourself in your native language
  • Embed google maps complete with pins that share global collaborations, images and explanations in text. See Skippy’s blog post (manouvre it till you see her pins)

Consider the following:

  • The use of mobile apps for blogging on the ‘fly’ or quickly sharing images, podcasts and videos
  • Choosing a theme that suits mobile reading
  • Taking part in the student blogging challengeJoining a quadblogging group
  • Some countries may block blogging sites

Tips:

  • Post regularly
  • Read other blogs
  • Comment on others’ blog posts
  • Share new posts on social media eg twitter, facebook etc Use global hashtags eg #globalclassroom #globaled etc
  • Let your blog take direction over time

Useful resources from Edublogs

What suggestions might you have to add to this topic? Please add as a comment below this post.

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!

gifts

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.

office1

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.

gifts
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