Tag Archives: skype

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.

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:-

World Readaloud Day

boys practising

Imagine a world where everyone can read. This is the dream of World Read Aloud Day. “It is all about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people.” Parents, students, teachers and community members from more than 60 countries across the globe are coming together today to address the issue of adult and childhood illiteracy.

Jasmine Shannon wanted to try a skype linkup this week and the World Readaloud Day made the perfect connection for my 9/10 ICT class and Jasmine’ 5-7 year olds. What seemed like a simple task turned into quite a lesson of learning. I thought my kids would grizzle about doing this but there was only silent affirmation when told. Here is how it looked:-

  1. Students worked out their partner as they were to read in pairs
  2. As a class, discussed what books would be appropriate for young ones
  3. Students found books they thought the young ones might like to have read to them either from the library or from the prep-2 classrooms. Not surprisingly most of the books featured animals. (Remember that my students live on farms or in small rural towns)
  4. Spent 15 mins working out who would read which pages. Even the poorest of readers were capably reading their share!
    practising their reading
  5. Practised speaking to the  webcam in the tools>video settings option of skype and showing the page of their book.
    nikki and sarah practising
  6. Had to work out our setup for video projection of the class. A student team put up a tripod with a webcam on top.”
    students getting hardware organised
  7. At the appointed time linked up with Jasmine from Tipperary Cattle Station in outback Northern Territory.
  8. Jasmine’s class read their book as a whole class.
    closer up of them reading a book
  9. ICT students came up in pairs and read their book

As we ran out of time, several of the girls stayed in at lunchtime to read their books. Then students from each school shared their lunchbox via the webcam and we learnt a little of each other’s food supplies. We have a school canteen, they do not. They are in the outback and food supplies are only flown in each week etc

sophie and taylor

Did you take part in World Readaloud Day? If so, what did you do? This was a fabulous excerise that will definitely be repeated next year.

sophie taylor and the book

Perfecting the Blend – Local and Global in the Blender

This was a presentation given at a recent Perfecting the Blend conference in Melbourne, Victoria that shares the use of virtual conferencing and virtual classrooms on a local and global basis. Our Education Department has provided Polycom Videoconferencing equipment, a license for Blackboard Collaborate and MS Lync. Skype is a free tool.

Enriching the Skype or Videoconferencing Experience

maria and carina

Recently Maria del Carmen Colussa posted an update on the HLW  skype group looking for someone to practise conversational English with one of her students – Carina. It is not often that my time zone matches that of students in the USA or Sth America so here was a golden opportunity to connect. Maria comes from Santo Tomé, Santa Fe, Argentina and teaches English to Spanish speaking students.

Carina is an adult student – a pharmacist who wished to travel thereby wanting to improve her conversational English. We talked a little about Australia. Then I noticed one of my year 9 students working in the lab and invited her to be part of the conversation. Initial confidence, volume of voice, accents and clear speaking are always a challenge when first connecting.  Georgina used the txt chat regularly to ensure they understood her.

The sharing and demonstrating of objects is always engaging. Georgina showed a toy koala and to our delight Carina and Maria immediately produced and showed us two cholitas which come  from Salta the north of our country.  

From Maria and Carina

From Maria and Carina

Georgina’s curiousity was aroused and she searched online for more information about the dolls and the country once the skype videoconference was finished. As often occurs, the learning continued beyond the initial linkup. Read Georgina’s post on Skype with Argentina.

24 hours in the Life of a Connected Educator

Please note that this post is cross-posted aSmartBlog on Education

A virtual classroom of engaged students

A virtual classroom of engaged students

As it is connected educator month, it is interesting to take note of what life can be like in 24 hours as a connected educator! Following are the sequence of events one 24 hour period last week!

6:30am Perused my emails – mostly content sent whilst the rest of the world was awake. Responded to the most pressing emails. Checked  twitter for any interesting updates, especially those tweets directed to me. Checked for any comments to moderate on my blog posts and respond to them, enabling further conversations and connections. Looked at the day’s statistics. (It is always motivating to know that people may have read posts or that keyword searches have found my blog posts. The search terms added give an idea for further posts that may be of interest to many.)

7:30am Last minute preparations for the day’s classes

8:15am Depart for school, turn on laptop proxy settings and check for any skype group updates

9am       Coach a potential moderator online,  in the use of Blackboard Collaborate (virtual classroom software. Our Education Department provides teachers with a statewide license for PD, meeting and classroom use.)

11am     Activated the school polycom videoconferencing equipment to connect with a teaching colleague in Melbourne  who was with the executive committee of  Parents Victoria.  We demonstrated the potential it has for effective and easy connections via high quality videoconferencing. Discussed various uses of this equipment and other  tools  may have for connecting  eg bringing statewide parents in to virtual meetings from their homes, virtual parent/teacher/school  information evenings, virtual school assemblies

1pm       Noted the emailed link to the virtual room for my year 8 ICT class linkup with Gio and Port Phillip EcoCentre. Gio, a year 11 student in Melbourne, is to share his work on the Nest Box Forum with my students. My class is to be a champion class for Gio to learn how to make effective use of blackboard collaborate as a teaching/learning tool. My students will have the chance to interact with Gio, learning netiquette and appropriate online behaviour and finding answers to their curiosity.

2pm       Year 8 students individually logon and enter the virtual room. Surprisingly, Gio was not there yet. An email alerted us to the problems they were having with their technology back in Melbourne. While we waited, students drew pictures on the whiteboard to share something of where we live. Wondering how long this would keep them engaged, I tried to think of a plan B. However, a skype pop-up window, alerted me to  a request from Lin-lin in Taiwan, looking  for a class to do a mystery skype with her students now!  Thinking this could be a life saver, I immediately said we would – at least until Gio was able to connect with us. Just as I set up skype to display on a bigger monitor, Gio appeared. Not wanting to offend either party, I got two girls to take my laptop in to the backroom to do the mystery skype with the Taiwanese school, allowing me to work with the majority of students. I fleetingly and periodically checked on the two girls, but they seemed to be able to make themselves understood, looked like they were having fun as they communicated and connected, using the chat when there was misunderstanding with the spoken language. At one stage the Taiwanese class could be heard singing a song to the girls. Meanwhile my main class was highly engaged listening to and learning of the bats, possums and birds that used the nesting boxes.  Gio shared some delightful images with them on the whiteboard.

Two countries,two cultures, two languages learn over skype

Two countries,two cultures, two languages learn over skype

3:45pm Staff meeting. Got a viber alert on my ipad  –  a new healthy granddaughter, was just  born in Johannesburg, Sth Africa!

8pm       Checked emails, skype updates, viber messages, twitter feed and wrote a blog post  An Unpredictable Class to share the impact of connectedness!

What does your typical ‘connected’ day involve?  How important is it for educators to be connected? What impact has being connected had on your teaching/learning?

Which webinar platform for online professional learning?

A recent question came up on our Oz Teachers mailing list re which webinar platform could be or should be used  for national online professional learning. Following is my response:-

One tool will rarely suit all scenarios. Many factors affect the choice. Teaching and living in a remote rural area of Victoria, I personally feel that it is important to choose a tool that is accessible for people who experience low bandwidth.

Some considerations when choosing a platform are as follows.  Does it allow:-

  • shared presentations
  • individual logins, number of logins
  • bandwidth  -ability to manually pull back bandwidth so anyone from anywhere can participate
  • ability to record sessions and share recording
  • interactivity from participants – chat, interactive whiteboard, polling, breakout rooms for small group discussions, sharing emoticons
  • ease of use and logging on
  • use chat, voice, video etc
  • ability to share screens
  • can files be sent through the medium?
  • Moderating abilities and potential need to control the participants
  • The use of any device – fixed devices, a variety of platforms, mobile devices etc
  • And is there a cost

Having used a variety of webinar platforms over the last 4 or 5 years, blackboard collaborate is still my favourite. I use it weekly for Tech Talk Tuesday webinars where participants from across all states and many countries of the globe, including Nepal and Indonesia, have attended. This  includes participants from state and government schools, community groups and government departments. There will be problems at times with sites being blocked in individual institutions, or proxy setting issues– all of which are fixable with technical support and permission

Webinar tools that I have used include-

Tools that are free, or have a free element :-

Tools that cost:

  • Blackboard Collaborate – Victorian Education Department has purchased a statewide license for teachers in both state and private schools to use for educational purposes: classes, online meetings and professional development.
  • DiscoverE – built specifically for low bandwidth areas
  • Adobe Connect etc
  • MS Lync: available for Victorian Educators to use with a Department of Education license

What platforms have you use? Which have you had issues with? Were they resolvesd? What do you look for as either a presenter of participant in online professional learning?