Daily Archives: December 11, 2008

A virtual school becomes evident

Jean Pennycook amongst her beloved penguins

Jean Pennycook amongst her beloved penguins

A penguin egg hatching

A penguin egg hatching

Today bore witness to the start of a virtual or web2.0 school. Jess McCulloch and I had teacher professional leave this year to lay the eplanks in web2.0 or virtual school. This would have to be one of the highlights of this project.

My valuable contact from Boston, Lorraine Leo connected us to Jean Pennycook, living in a tent, in Antarctica for a webcast. To ensure all went well, a backup date and time had been pre-arranged. Our primary teachers, (now there was a real purpose to use virtual classroom software, discoverE)  rather nervously entered the virtual classroom yesterday to test the sound and gain confidence in the use of the classroom. Three year 9 girls acted as the technicians (students became experts) and supported the staff. This procedure went well and full credit to the staff for their quick acceptance of this software as they had not been exposed to it before. It was agreed for management purposes that most classes remain in their own rooms and log on as their class name. However, prep/one/two were combined and the secondary students were combined in the library (years7-9)

This morning we held an early recess and logged everyone on to their discoverE  classrooms. One staff member who was absent yesterday was required to respond to Lorraine in Boston but came to me and said she had no idea how to talk or chat to her. Imagaine my surprise when at recess we were testing the sound with Lorraine and this teacher took over with utter confidence and performed the tests. After some internal gliches, we were so pleased to hear Jean Pennycook  online with perfect audio transmission. Jean talked about the penguins and her research with them. Lorraine and Jean had prepared a presentation of slides with some wonderful photos.

Reflecting back, the eplanks of a virtual school were in evidence by the following factors:-

  • students as experts (year 9 girls became the experts on sound checks, software management etc and worked with Lorraine in Boston)
  • teachers from Taiwan, Adelaide, Sth America, USA were in the classroom (global teachers)
  • several students were in their homes in the USA listening and particpating (global students)
  • Geoff the software developer from Perth was in there (virtual team involving all aspects of the linkup)
  • every class and student at Hawkesdale P12 College from 5 year olds through to 15 year olds – a broad age group whom Jean managed to keep captivated for more than 1 hour (virtual school)
  • the vast majority of our staff (including those who were not timetabled for this timeslot) were in one of the virtual classrooms.
  • each class was a virtual classroom with teachers confidently managing audio and chat questions.
  • The chat moved furiously and fast with lots of questions from all year levels. Time was allowed for our students and the global students to ask questions using the microphone.
  • Jean allowed self directed student learning to occur, in that she paused to answer the student questions, rather than always speak to the slides. The students had some great questions that not only related to the penguins but to her life and experiences in Antarctica etc (student directed learning)
  • Parents came in to our classrooms and also listened to the webcast (parents as partnerships).

A huge thank you to all concerned for this wonderful 21st century educational experience.

Listen to the recording of the webcast and read some of our other staff’ posts