Tag Archives: skype

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

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?

 

 

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.

A great “Open Night”

sebastian and origami

Although we are not even halfway through our school year, schools in our area are holding Open nights and Information Evenings in an effort to ‘sell’ their school to parents and encourage students to come to their school to complete their secondary schooling.

As such our open night was held tonight. After a few brief formal presentations, the visitors are split into two groups, guided around the school and undertake a number of activities. The science lab is converted into a whizbang mix of experiments where amazing light shows and loud ‘bangs’ can be heard, the home economics centre hosts the decoration of cupcakes into a wonderfully cute little pig and students make simple sanded wooden products in the Wood Technology room. I was asked to do something in the computer lab and as such wanted to show the power of technology to engage and connect us beyond classroom walls.

So, I turned to my wonderful colleague in Kerala, India, Sebastian Panakal and asked whether he would have the time to speak to two different groups of parents and students. Instead of just talking to each other, it was decided to put family groups in front of a computer with a map of the world and play Mystery Skype. They came to the webcam and asked questions of Sebastian that could only have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Both parents and students particpated in the questioning and finally worked out he was from India.

Then Sebastian shared the fabulous origami that his wife Seena has made. She learnt the skills through youtube and they are now teaching women in their area this craft so that they can market the product online and make precious and much needed funds from their sale. This was a ‘wow’ session when the intricately made products eg swan, peacock etc were shown. The gasps of delight could be heard! Thanks you Sebastian and Seena for giving up your precious time.

Whilst waiting for the second group to arrive, Sebastian made this little youtube clip and shared it via a link in the skype message. It shows the same wonderful origami. It is now shared on our school facebook page for all the school community to see.

The highlights:

  • families working together on a computer to solve the mystery location
  • plucking up courage to come up to the webcam and ask the question
  • trying to fathom each other’s accents
  • hearing Sebastian talk to his wife in their local dialect when she did not quite understand the Aussie twang
  • seeing the intricate creations that can be called origami and inspiring us to consider going beyond the simple paper folding
  • being able to ask questions of each other
  • but best of all, showing how a small country school that is rurally and culturally isolated can learn beyond classroom walls and the textbook.