I was a amused today to hear dynamic Sheryl NussbaumBeach https://twitter.com/snbeach relate a story from years ago of getting up at 2am in the USA to be involved in an online conference. At one stage she grabbed the microphone to share her experiences only to be asked to please repeat what she said. After the third ‘please repeat’ she asked what language they spoke. When English was the reply, she realised her accent was providing a barrier to understanding.
This reminded me of the time I hosted a Tech Talk Tuesday webinar during global education week. I noticed in the chat that someone asked me to slow down. So, politely, I asked what first language they spoke and the response was “English.” My Aussie accent was too broad and fast for them despite me thinking that I was speaking slowly and clearly. Earlier this week I spoke to year 2 students in Russia. Their teacher stated that their questions would be very simple and may be unusual. When asked “Do I have a bed?” I said yes and tried to describe it, only to be interrupted by the teacher to say that the question was “Do I have a pet?” Oh dear!
On Tech Talk Tuesday this week, Marc Grossman from the UK presented on “Coding for everyone”. He stepped Peggy George from USA through creating a simple type game in Scratch. I quietly laughed as the two completely different accents wanted reassuring of what was said eg Did you say ‘hall’? etc When classes connect and try to communicate, we know that something is not quite right when we hear laughter at the other end when nothing really humorous was related! But, we continue to try and make ourselves understood and just laugh together.
Overcoming the accents!
- Use a backchannel for questions and to support understanding eg skype chat with video, chat in the virtual classrooms, todays meet etc
- Slow deliberate talking helps!
- Laugh together and work through it all as much as possible.
It is interesting to note that skype is working on a translator during video calls. See http://mashable.com/2014/05/27/satya-nadella-microsoft-2/
Visiting Federal Politicians
A big thank you is extended to the education staff at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) who taught our year 9/10 Visual Communication students and VCE Vis Com/Studio Arts students about “the use of lines and patterns in design” – their current topic of study”.
Ingrid Wood of NGV taught them about contemporary Melbourne artists and the ways in which they have used line and pattern in their work. These Melbourne artists were featured in the recent popular Melbourne Now exhibition were featured. Polycom videoconferencing equipment was used to bring Ingrid into our classrooms. Our visiting politicians were also able to witness this great use of technology in giving equal educational opportunities to country students.
Our school is approx 3.5 -4 hours drive to Melbourne. The cost, effort and time taken for a day trip makes it very difficult take students on excursions, to explore and enjoy many of the cultural institutions that city students take for granted. Our students are geographically and culturally isolated, so it is wonderful to be able to use technology to connect them to many institutions, galleries, museums virtually so that they learn beyond classroom walls.
Feedback from the students on this engaging videoconference:-
- There are many different simple ways to make art – magazine cutouts of bottles were re-arranged to make a new work of art
- I liked how they demonstrated local artists from Melbourne to show you can actually do it. They weren’t overseas artists but our very own.
- I liked the masking tape on the wall that had an intricate design.
- Exposure to different artists that we did not know about or haven’t seen before. As a student I wouldn’t know who to look up to find what we saw yesterday.
- I learnt how to use patterns and colours
- You can use anything to create art.
- How different artists use different products that are just part of everyday life to make art – the orange bags, the stickers, the Ikea buckets to make the dome.
- Really liked the mix of media types eg video, presentation, talk in the presentation.
How we could improve:-
- I want to see more even more examples of artists work and more sessions.
- Position the class better – tables were in the way.
- Set up a backchannel for questions, feedback as it is too hard to ask question because students didn’t want to interrupt the presentation as it stops the flow.
Earlier on this year it was National Action Day against Bullying and Violence
In ICT, Year 7 students were to watch a couple of pertinent videos and discuss bullying. However, based on past experience, only a few students will speak up and the majority will usually remain silent. It was decided to book a virtual classroom in blackboard collaborate where each student could (and did) use the backchannel and the whiteboard to share their experiences, feelings and question. The following questions were posed:
- What is bullying?
- What does bullying look like?
- Where does bullying occur?
- How does bullying feel?
- Do you feel safe at school?
- How can we make school safe?
- What can you do if you are being bullied
What does a bully look like?
Where does bullying occur?
How does bullying feel?
At the conclusion of the virtual discussion, the girls approached me and wanted to create a video on “Bullying is not good”. Within a short period of time, the girls, using the discussion pointers and outcomes, put together a movie using MS MovieMaker. This video was later shared the year 9/10 girls health class.
A month or so later, I was alerted to a tweet by Gail Desler, an early online colleague of mine.
Gail Desler and Natalie Bernasconi co-curate the Digi-ID challenge. It was decided to participate in this opportunity and the deadline was extended for a few days so we could be involved. The year 7 girls modified their movie so their faces were no longer showing. Students in Girls Health subject were also encouraged to contribute to this Digi Citizenship project in a short, tight time frame. Below are the final results – 2 interesting videos against bullying, from student perspectives.
Why this worked well?
- giving every student a voice in a backchannel and on an interactive whiteboard
- having an authentic project to get involved in.
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.
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.
- 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.