On many occasions I can empathise with those who are part of the digital divide. Internet access can often be poor from my home and mobile phone service is non-existent, unless I go outside to the end of the veranda, face south and the weather conditions are good. This gives me great empathy for those citizens of other countries and schools who experience similar conditions.
An online teaching colleague, Reinhard Marx from Germany asked for a photo of a typical school lunch box as his year 7 student were studying foods in science. He asked the name school that I teach in. As our official website is very bland, I always send the link to the school blog. He read the post on the school vegetable garden and asked whether I had time to share with his students about our foods. There were three classes in all and the presentations spanned a week Europe (excepting Russia) is not time zone friendly for synchronous linkups with our classes, but it is reasonably friendly for teaching on my part, as their school day starts in my early evening and often finishes late at night for me. Two of the classes were at 6:30pm my time and the third was at 10pm, 8:30am and noon respectively in Germany.
Skype for videoconferencing was the tool agreed upon as google hangouts do not work well for me from home, despite being on a cabled computer. I like skype for the following reasons:-
- User friendly
- Globally acceptable
- Can share my screen for the powerpoint presentation that I prepared on food, the school canteen and the vegetable garden.
- Send files through
- Maintain a backchannel for interpretation, ensuring understanding and adding questions in the text chat.
We tried sharing videos from both sides of the world, but the audio was not good. I dropped my video but audio was still poor when I tried to screenshare. The powerpoint presentation was quickly sent through skype and Reinhard displayed my powerpoint on his data projector and I talked through the slides when prompted without video connections.
The second lesson started in a similar manner but I had booked a Blackboard Collaborate room as a backup. The sound was perfect in here and the presentation could be shown. However, I had forgotten that many of the images were high in pixellation and the final slides did not load for Reinhard and his class. Again, he had to revert to showing my powerpoint at his end. The third time lucky, it all worked as I ensured that I had resized my images on the presentation.
- Bandwidth – found a tool that worked – blackboard collaborate – I can book a room through my Education Department license.
- Working with a class where English is the second or third language. On occasions I had to pause for Reinhard to interpret
- To ensure comprehension – by the third class, I realised I should label the food using the text tool on the whiteboard, use lines etc whilst I was being interpreted.
- To ascertain interest of class when there was one class logon. Would be preferable to have students individually logged on in Germany.
- How to bring my students online next time – share the link and they can logon from home.
- Multimedia tools – audio, text chat, whiteboard, video, labels, lines, shapes, app sharing (through Blackboard Collaborate)
- Recording – the classes were recorded for future reference or use with other classes and the links to the recordings shared with Mr Marx.
- The questions from the students, responses to my questions and the sharing of languages and names of foods.
Here is the