Author Archives: murcha

International Aids Day

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December 1st was World Aids Day. World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
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My dear colleague in Kerala, India, Sebastian Panakal continues his social leadership, through involvement in further events such “Learners Teach Learners”. CLASS (Connected Learning Activities through Social Service). Participants across the world were encouraged to  send a 3 minutes or less video message delivered by teachers/students/children commemorating people who have died of AIDs.
Students, Parents and Teachers of Lady of Mount Carmel Boys Lower Primary School AND Sri Rama Varma Upper Primary School, in India, are commemorating the people who have died of AIDs. The messages will be shown to Academic Leaders, Media and Participants at this meet. Both schools will create their School Wiki showcasing the connected learning event.
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The grandmother of one of my students passed away due to AIDs. She wears her grandmothers brooch on International Aids Day each year. As our school day times do not coincide, the students sent a video message via skype to Sebastian to be shared.

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However, I was able to connect synchronously, once home with the teacher and students involved in Kerala India. I could see the Christmas cake that Sebastian shared with them and meet the students from very poor background.s

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Today I met a girl…..

Today, I met a young girl who wants to be an obstetrician.

But she was no ordinary girl because she :-

  • was only 10 years old
  • lived in one of the most poverty stricken countries in the world
  • was from Nigeria and part of a large classroom of students

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She spoke articulately and when asked what career she hoped to follow, came back with the response that she wanted to be an obstetrician. I wished her all the best with her studies and ambitions. She was one of the students in HAMMED ABDULAZEEZ’ class.

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We had connected as part of the worldwide 2 day skypeathon. It was late at night for me and early afternoon for them. I shared a little about our “Farm in Australia” sharing my screen and showing pictures of the farm. Students from the class shared information about their country and culture and asked me questions about the culture of Australia, who was our president (we have a Prime Minister) and any major festivals that we celebrate. Their knowledge of the world was quite sound (and that surprised me as I am not sure how much my students would know in comparison.)

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Global Skypeathon

class-and-anthony1Many people ask where they should go

  • to start with global education or
  • where to find global projects or
  • how to make global connections.

The global skype-athon is a great way to start. This is a project that encourages people from across the world to connect beyond their classroom walls with other classes, teachers, community and global experts with the user friendly tool, skype. This tool is free and the event is free but the potential outcomes are rich for learning.

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If interested, you will need to

  • join the Microsoft Educator Community
  • search through the Skype in Education community for connections or
  • use the #skypeathon hashtag on twitter to find others to connect with.
  • keep a record of your skype miles and tweet them out, again using the #skypeathon

All you need is:-

  1. internet connection
  2. a laptop or desktop computer with a webcamera and microphone
  3. preferably a white wall, board or whiteboard to project the image onto( but the laptop screen may be sufficient if a small group is involved)
  4. find a class or expert to connect
  5. add them as a contact in skype, using their skype username
  6. agree on a time (check the time zones if it is another country involved), discuss the content of the connection etc.
  7. Discuss appropriate netiquette with your students.
  8. The content of the connection.

The connection can be as long or as short as you like. Even 60 seconds can cover some learning. Mystery skype is always fun. There are many experts willing to come in virtually during the skypeathon. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

What did it look like last year? We connected with schools in India and the USA and were lucky enough to connect with Anthony Salcito. See

Are you going to be part of this project in 2016? What will you do, who will you connect with? What will you do to continue the collaboration?

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Collaboratively “Inking the Thinking”

In December, 2015, year 8 students from Hawkesdale P12 College, Victoria Australia connected with a rural school in Japan using Skype. Students at Hawkesdale are isolated geographically and culturally but were fortunate to be part of a research project on “Inking the Thinking” with the Victorian Department of Education and Microsoft. This meant that each student in year 7 and 8 had a windows surface device with a digital pen.

Months had been spent planning this connection with Japan. A virtual visit to the classroom with our Japanese contact Mariko was provided using skype. My students could see inside the Japanese classroom, learn a little of school life and ask her questions so that they had some knowledge before seeing the Japanese students – it was simply a “taster”. A fully structured lesson plan, complete with timed tasks was put in place by Mariko prior to the live connection. Students in my class were surveyed about their existing knowledge of Japan. To my horror many knew nothing or very little!

Our formal connection was just prior to Christmas time in Australia. Our primary classrooms were decked out with Christmas decorations, the staff had a special morning tea with lots of Christmas baking and goodies, staff and students were in festive spirits and the students had organized a Kriskringle for the second part of the double lesson. (Names had been drawn out of a hat a week before and $5 presents purchased for their Krisringle). Skype was used to connect the two classrooms. 5 mins prior to the video conference 5 minutes prior to the videoconference,  a quick skype message to Mariko, asked if the Japanese students might like to see our Kriskringle in action, to which she replied ‘yes’.

That ended any formality and structure to our fastidiously planned lesson. The whole lesson became learning on ‘the fly’ with students using the 50 mins with complete ownership of the learning. One girl had disappeared at the beginning and returned dressed up as Santa, complete with a sack of Kriskringle gifts. Japanese students viewed the gifts up close via the web camera. Their curiousity was aroused and an interpreter had to be used to ensure understanding of questions and answers. Some of the staff morning tea came in for show – Christmas fruit cake, a Christmas pudding in muslin cloth, Christmas biscuits etc. My students were curious about the masks that the Japanese were wearing in the classroom and the kitty blankets that donned their knees. It was hot summer time here but snowing over there.

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In order to collaboratively document our learning by connecting with this rural school in Japan, students logged into their surface devices, created a shared OneNote and used a mix of pen and text to synchronously build the learning that took place. Our principal was able to login from his office and pose questions, add content etc. The full story and results can be found below. The stylus was used for highlighting, writing, adding colour and generating new ideas. Students chose the medium they preferred.

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Students used a mix of keyboard and stylus. The stylus was often used to explore, annotate, highlight and draw attention to questions or their thoughts, to express their thinking, focus on areas that required responses and produce a multimodal and colourful, visual and engaging outcome. As student thinking and brainstorming evolved as a group, they added images, shapes, structured blocks of text, diagrams, shading, colour etc The stylus helped  create a more effective, beneficial and engaging product, pushing their learning reflections further.  They were not constrained by their speed and skill on a keyboard and mouse. If students had used a keyboard alone, then the result would not have been as rich. It would have taken too long to draw diagrams and lines for highlighting, text comments would not have not aligned well and it would have been too hard to add text or shapes over any existing text etc. Imagine the outcome if the Japanese students could also have collaborated on that document.

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Following on from the documentation, the students decided to create a collaborative Christmas calendar for the month of December to share with the Japanese students. A snapshot of their  synchronously built calendar can be seen in the imageabove. Students drew their own images using the stylus. It encouraged originality, creativity, imagination and resourcefulness. The calendar was rendered digital immediately for online sharing.

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When students have a stylus, they can explore, think, express, collaborate and record their newfound knowledge and experiences in new and meaningful ways. They don’t waste time using a keyboard and mouse to effectively brainstorm, highlight and reflect on their learning. This means more thinking time and best of all more learning time.

Expert Games Developer speaks to remote classroom with skype

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This year, my teaching load involves secondary students from years 7-12. One of the year 9/10 electives that I run this semester is called “Gaming”.

In my other ICT classes we often connect to other global classrooms or teachers using skype. These contacts have been found on twitter, Skype in the Classroom website or through other professional learning networks.  It is not  easy finding expert speakers for my senior classes, as many are directed at the younger age groups. Upon searching the Skype in the Classroom site, I came across Bharathwaj Nandakumar, a video game developer working with Activision in Santa Monica, CA. He is one of the core members of the Call of Duty team for the last 8 years.

Knowing that Call of Duty is a favourite video game being played by the students, I was thrilled to know that, despite being in California, he was available at the very time that I have my students. A quick request to connect, came up with confirmation that he was available. My prime concern was that they are a shy group and reluctant to engage in conversations readily on a public scale.

The students were excited when they found out who they were to connect with, and listened with interest as Bharathwaj spoke and shared his screen with us over skype, showing mystery screen grabs of the games that he has found influential in designing  games he is involved in. Students had to tell him the names of the games. Some they knew, some they did not. This broke the ice with them and helped them overcome their shyness and reticence to talk to him.

He continued on and talked about the work he is involved in, what a typical day’s work looked like, how he and fellow workers are encouraged to play games and how important maths is if any of the students wished to pursue a similar career.

His presentation was well set out, with lots of images. Bharathwaj was at home with Call of Duty posters visible everywhere behind him. (Students liked this feature). They were intrigued with the fact that 200 people worked on developing Call of Duty and that it took 2-3 years to develop each game. He encouraged them to create their own games with programs like GameMaker using video tutorials to help them. After the session he shared links with us and offered to stay in touch and continue to answer any questions for them. The following were resources suggested by him:

  1.  yoyogamesfor great video tutorials to get started.
  2. Make your first game
  3. Make a platformer game  

How amazing that students in our rural remote school in south eastern Australia, could link up with a games developer in California and learn in real time with him about one of their favourite video games. Technology certainly breaks down the barriers of cost, distance and borders!

I am off to explore the site again for further speakers. Have you used any experts to come in virtually to your classroom?

Temple of Heaven/Summer Palace

Day 8 of our school trip to China involved a visit to both the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace.

A large park is adjacent to the Temple of Heaven. As it was still early morning, the older Chinese people were using the exercise park, singing in groups and generally enjoying the outdoors. Students joined them on the exercise equipment.

In another part of the park, we were fascinated to see what appeared to be a dating service. Parents were patiently filling in the morning with a photograph, the age and other details of their son or daughter. The details were on paper laid in front of them. The crowd would walk through perusing the information with parents hoping that one of them would be a future match for their child.

A short walk took us to the entry of the Temple of Heaven – another fascinating site of historical significance. Ming and Qing Emporers would worship their god and pray for a good harvest. This is an interesting site that should be on any itinerary if visiting Beijing.

The Summer Palace is another beautiful historical site and one of my personal favourites. As the Empress would spend summer here, it is more ornate and colourful than the Forbidden City. The lake, the beautiful gardens, ornate buildings, marble boat and the ornate long corridor mean that its beauty leaves a lasting impression in visitors’ minds.

Prior to the visit to the Summer Palace, it is the usual custom of tour guides to try to get tourists to visit a silk factory. First an explanation and demonstration of where silk comes from, then on to the factory floor to tempt us to purchase silk quilts or other silk apparel.

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Day 7 China -The Great Wall

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Day 6 in Beijing involved a visit to the Great Wall of China – always a highlight of any tour of China and an essential part of an itinerary. Our tour guide took us to Mutianyu entry point. The wall is set in picturesque mountainous country but is a steep climb.

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The students and some adults made the climb to the wall but there was a cable car to take the adults who were not so fit to the wall. The option of a toboggan ride down appealed to the students but unfortunately, rain forced that activity to be closed. It is certainly awe inspiring to look at the nature of and the great length of the wall from the many guard towers. Tower number 1 was the furthest point that could be walked to as it then reverted to the original and wild wall.


Lunch was in a restaurant near the bus carpark. It had lovely views down the mountain. The afternoon was spent driving to a traditional tea house and tasting a variety of Chinese teas.

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