Tag Archives: skype

Going back in time!

Video call snapshot 32

Mariko Eguchi took us on a virtual tour of a Japanese classroom belonging to the class she is going to connect us with in early December.  Japan brings images of high technology use in my mind so it came as a bit of a shock to see a blackboard, chalk, no sign of computers or technology except for Mariko’s equipment, chairs in straight lines, desks individually placed allowing one student per desk etc. Certainly a contrast to our classrooms at Hawkesdale! It took me way back in time and reminded me how far we have actually come with technology.

Mariko had brought mobile polycom equipment, but the school firewall did not allow video to be transferred during our test linkup.  Skype was used instead with the video and audio of high quality.

The year ICT class used Mystery Skype, google maps etc to determine where Mariko was from. She then took us on virtual tour of the classroom explaining that we were to meet the actual class in a couple of week’s time. Students were intrigued to find out that this school canteen only serves curried rice compared to our school which has a wide variety of hot foods and cold foods.

Video call snapshot 31

One of my students then took Mariko on a virtual tour of our school, using their microsoft surface tablets device.

 

Children’s Day: The first time I heard the National Anthem of India

Singing the National Anthem

Singing the National Anthem

Today is Children’s Day in India. What a wonderful day to celebrate and acknowledge our young and make them feel very special. To mark the occasion, my dear friend, Sebastian Panakal from Kerala, India asked whether I could arrange students to link up with his.
childrens day

 

Sebastian and children

Unfortunately the time was right on our school closing time, so our students were unable to videoconference, but I was happy to be their audience. Teachers and students of varying ages came up, said hello and asked some questions of me. The children were delightful, appeared extremely interested well mannered and spoke clearly.  Balloons were evident in the classroom – a sign of the celebrations.

girl and children

At the end of our 20 minute linkup, the students, teachers and Sebastian sang me their National Anthem with great pride and gusto. And I hate to admit it, it was the first time that I ever remember hearing the National Anthem of India.

children at desks

 

“That’s weird! We live in their future!”

I woke up this morning to read a skype in education message from a teacher in the USA looking urgently for a class to ‘mystery skype’ with. Knowing that our time zones rarely work, I nearly declined, but checked out the suggested times for connection and ‘hey presto’, I could say that I could find a class to connect for them to connect with.

request

Students love to connect with the USA as many of the TV shows that they love to watch come from America, many of our fast foods are from there etc etc However, I had to find some students as I thought I was not timetabled with a class. Three year 9 girls gladly came out of their maths class and some of my year 11 IT students took part.

Bellingham

The notice was late as Brian, the lecturer suddenly thought “Why teach his pre-service teachers about the use of skype in the classroom, why not actually do it!” and so we did.

group of girls and Bellinghamr

Here is what it looked like:

  1. We introduced ourselves individually to each other.
  2. Next, we played mystery skype. It was easy for us to work out they were from the USA, but then quite difficult to work out exactly where. After several clues, we finally worked it out.
  3. On the US part, the pre-service teachers used their mobile devices – phones, tablets etc to finally work out exactly where we were from (after some clues).
  4. Times of each country were shared, then the date and day of the week we were in. As soon as the girls heard they were still in Wed afternoon at 4:00pm, they responded with “That is weird, we live in their future!”
  5. The US teachers asked what the girls thought made a good teacher. Some of the responses were ‘a sense of humour’, allow students to follow passion projects, take into account different student learning styles, they want to have fun with their learning etc.

monitorr

Student reaction: They had fun, enjoyed learning with them and sharing their knowledge and particularly liked working with older students”

Global Selfies

A global selfie featuring people from Indonesia, Australia and China

A global selfie featuring people from Indonesia, Australia and China

What can you see in this picture –  sights, feelings, atmosphere??? Selfies are a great way to capture learning, experiences and learning and can now be done on a global scale!

A fun linkup was held last Thursday after school with Endang from Indonesia and some of her helpers to created global classrooms with students in Pekalongan, Indonesia. Unfortunately, our students had just gone home on their school buses so I connected with  three lads who  wanted to know what Mystery Skype was. Instead of telling them, they participated in a mystery skype. Questions that could only have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer were asked until they worked out where I was from.

Li Min, our Chinese language assistant who is helping with our mandarin Chinese language program at school, came into the room after hearing the laughter, so they had fun working out where she was from. She hails from Wuhan, China. This added another accent to the mix of conversations, so the chat was used, together with audio,  to ensure we all understood each other.

They then asked about the global projects that students in our school have been involved in and what projects we are currently involved in. Year 9 and 10 students have just started a Global Selfies project through Taking IT Global, so I mentioned this. Immediatley, hearing the word selfie Mumtaz Kwizime pulled out his phone as if to clarify that is what we meant.

The second selfie taken!

The second selfie taken!

We asked if he would take a selfie of all of us involved, and above is the result! I love the photo. What do you think? What can you see in the photo? How do you think our connection went?

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

 

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!

Amazing eClassrooms

sydney opera house

I was proud to present for 30 minutes on the topic of “Amazing eClassrooms” at the recent #ITEC14 conference in Sydney at one of the most beautiful conference venues possible, The Sydney Opera House. See my presentation below or read the summary of it below that.

Hawkesdale P12 College, where I teach is a small, rural school, where innovative teachers have reached out to connect, communicate, collaborate and learn collectively, both locally and across the globe. Learning extends beyond the textbook and brings to life different cultures, religions, geography, ideas, ways of thinking.

This presentation will share classroom stories and personal experiences and illustrate how learning is becoming increasingly organic, collaborative, networked and beyond the classroom walls. These  stories will share:-

  • The benefits and value of virtual conferencing and its essential place in transforming the classroom as we know it.
  • The innovative ways in which outside experts, classes and community can be virtually brought into the classroom. This includes authors, illustrators, virtual parades, learning share ‘n tell, student forums, virtual concerts etc using a range of tools and hardware including polycom videoconferencing equipment.
  • Examples of amazing, ongoing connections and student outcomes including the extension to learning
  • Some global projects
  • The exciting use of videoconferencing eg skype, google hangouts and virtual classroom software such as blackboard collaborate to connect classrooms statewide, nationally and globally.
  • Using virtual classrooms to connect Asian and Australian classes in real time.
  • Uses for professional development and online meetings
  • Hints and tips for effective and engaged learning and for overcoming challenges
  • Where to find partners, resources etc