Picture this –
- 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
- students who are orphaned and many of whom have lost their parents to AIDS.
- visible holes in the decaying walls
- no power in the classroom
- no visible seats or chairs for the students to sit on
- no sign of books and resources
- 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.
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.
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:-
Upon dialling Timboon Consolidated School’s polycom equipment, Jenny, the librarian promptly answered, said ‘hello’ but a little dog could be distinctly heard in the background drowning out some of the audio. She hastily said ‘excuse me” and disappeared from view. Instantly a little black poodle ran up to the equipment and excitedly barked and carried on at me. The more I spoke to it, the louder it’s barking got! What a to do!
Within a few minutes, Jenny returned but the little dog stayed. I thought she would take it away and find it’s rightful owner but by now it was quiet. Jenny proceeded to tell me that the dog, Pablo, was part of the school’s animal program and he was in fact, the library dog!
Part of my role as a virtual conference coach is to help teachers use polycom high definition videoconferencing equipment. This equipment has been rolled out to a number of schools by the Victorian Department of Education and I dialled Jenny, the librarian from Timboon Consolidated School to step her through the procedures. After going through the basics of remote controls, the microphone, camera etc, we again discussed the role of the dog. This discussion would make an ideal lesson for my year 7 ICT class. Jenny agreed to talk to them last week, invited the year 7 teacher, Lisa, and class to connect as well. Lisa is the teacher who introduced the dogs into the school.
And so it came to be that:-
- my year 7ICT class linked up with a year 7 English class from Timboon – another small rural schoolThe two classes
- we learnt about the role of the dogs in the school and their importance eg students who came to the library would often read out loud to the dogs. They relaxed, developed confidence as the dog did not know if they were not reading fluently or were making mistakes. Other children who may be feeling down, will cuddle the dogs in the classroom and gain comfort from them etc
- we shared our environments, using the remote controls to swing the camera to the windows to show ‘what was outside our window’. We had the primary school sports and a race was in progress, Timboon showed us the trees outside their window where resident koalas were perched in the trees.
Outside our windows!
- students stood to speak, introduce themselves and share their favourite subjects, which led to more questions etc
- An hour quickly flew by and we have agree to link up several times over the semester and share further activities.
- learning to use the remote controls and camera effectively
- learning to speak articulately, project the voice and talk to the camera
Some of the learning that took place has been documented as students were asked to record three things they learnt and one question that they still may have on their blogs.
Future linkups – could Pablo listen to our school students reading to him via the equipment?
If I am unable to take my class, I try to leave something that would be engaging for students and something that they could learn together as the replacement teacher rarely has the ICT skills to continue on with what I normally do.
Upon googling “Fun with ICT in class”, I came across a site called abcya animate and thought this would be good to leave for my students yesterday when I was absent. I have long been a fan of abcya website for the primary students. The task set my year 9/10 ICT students was to create a simple animation that would entertain the 5-6 year old students from Tipperary Station school. Students had to explore the tool individually and share with each other in what they discovered.
This afternoon, I scored an ‘extra’ lesson and had a year 9 group which comprises a small group of disengaged, low literacy students. We briefly talked about how an animation is created using frames and then off to work they went using the the abcya animate site and you could have heard a pin drop! They were highly engaged and worked well with most completing an animation. Here is how it works:-
- user friendly program – students were given no instructions on its use
- animations are short as students have only 100 frames to work with
- a palette of bright colourful backgrounds, images etc is provided.
- Students simply drop and drag onto the main stage
- no need to register
- animation is saved as an animated gif
- the animated gif is uploaded as medai into their global2 blogs (an edublogs campus) and maintains the animation (the page may need to be refreshed if it plays through once.
- primarily a tool for younger students but the older ones had just as much fun.
- when students saved their file it lacked an extension name. They right clicked on the saved file>chose rename>carefully added a .gif to the name
- we are trying to work out whether we can save an animation in progress, load it back into abcya animate to finish the work at a later stage. Many left their website open on their laptops and were going to try and finish it at home.
See some of the completed animations that have been embedded on the student blogs.
- Nikki’s My Dog and The Very Blue Fish
- Sarah’s The Chase
- Darby’s My short animation
Evaluation: A simple user friendly tool to create simple animations. A great starting point to learn the mechanics of animation. Although directed at younger students, my older students were highly engaged in using it.
How could this tool be used in maths, English and other subjects?
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:-
- Students worked out their partner as they were to read in pairs
- As a class, discussed what books would be appropriate for young ones
- 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)
- Spent 15 mins working out who would read which pages. Even the poorest of readers were capably reading their share!
- Practised speaking to the webcam in the tools>video settings option of skype and showing the page of their book.
- Had to work out our setup for video projection of the class. A student team put up a tripod with a webcam on top.”
- At the appointed time linked up with Jasmine from Tipperary Cattle Station in outback Northern Territory.
- Jasmine’s class read their book as a whole class.
- 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
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.