On the last lesson of the term I often try and think of a treat for my year 9/10 IT elective group. Often it is a ‘your choice’ lesson with students opting to play their favourite games. The year 10 portion of this class were absent on work experience so I only had a small group of year 9 students. They had not used the class set of iPads, so I booked them.
However, on a spur of the moment decision, I also decided to look at skype and see who was about. Anna a teacher from Indonesia was online. She had wanted to skype me several weeks earlier but it did not suit me at that time. After a quick conversation we decided to link our two classes as part of IT double lesson.
How we met
Anna, from Indonesia had been referred to me by Julie Lindsay. Anna had sought help from a mentor after having enjoyed her virtual attendance at the Global Education conference 2010. Anna is interested in being involved in the Flat Classroom projects, co-organised by Julie Lindsay. Anna and I exchanged emails, skype user names and blog addresses. Anna had tried to join in some of the webinars that I organise in elluminate, but slow bandwidth had prevented her from logging in.
Testing the equipment
First step is always to test the equipment via skype. Anna had problems with her microphone and I had problems with noisy backgrounds. After trying several microphones, I reverted to the headset with attached mic. Anna was able to activate her mic and we were set.
How it looked
Initially it is much easier to work with smaller classes – classroom management is less of a problem.
Students confidently came to the web cam and spoke to each other.Students asked each other questions. We brought objects to the screen eg a piece of fruit, vegemite, students from both sides showed books they are currently reading and discussed their favourite books. One of my students really enjoyed communicating with them, answering further questions and talking about her pet cats. The Indonesian students appeared to be intrigued with the house training of the cat that spends quite a bit of time indoors. Anna’s students then proceeded to teach mine, good morning in Indonesian.
What it sounded like.
Laughter, excitement and a deliberate slowing down of our speech.
Why it worked well
Despite there being no planning of this activity, the lesson worked extremely well. Students are curious about each other. Anna and her students spoke excellent conversational English and students listened hard to work through our different accents. We used a mix of objects and questions to fill in 45 minutes of videoconferencing. Students from both countries enjoyed reading similar books.
At the parent teacher interview which occurred later that afternoon, one of my students excitedly declared to her mother and me that that was the best school lesson that she had ever experienced.