Category Archives: global classroom

Mystery Skype video messages

Teaching in Australia, means that our time zone makes it one of the hardest to connect synchronously with others.

A request via Skype in the Classroom to do a mystery skype with a class from Portugal was read with real interest. However, our time zone is not good for working synchronously with students from Europe, coupled with the fact that 99% of my students catch a bus back to their farms and small towns which can involve more than an hour on the bus.

This was explained in a message back to the requesting teacher (Ana), but instead of giving up, Ana suggested we ask 10 clues via a video message. Students in each class would then work out where the mystery class was from. This was a new idea to me and it is always exciting to learn with others, but it was also a little daunting as I was not sure what this would look like.

Here is what it did look like!

  • Ana’s class sent us a video of her class sharing 10 clues. Her students were in pairs sharing one clue.
  • We watched it and gained ideas for our clues.
  • An answergarden allowed students to add short answers to what they think of when they hear “Australia”
    our culture in answer garden
  • A google document was set up for my students to collaborate on, and as a pair share their clue. Each clue had to be different. The link to the document was shared on my class blog for them to access.
  • We quickly filmed pairs of students sharing their clues, uploaded it to youtbe and shared link with Ana

  • Accents were a stumbling block for us, so we listened, rewinded and worked out their 10 clues. They were written on the board.

    resized clues
  • Students then proceeded to search for the answers to the clues. The music clue stumped us we could not work out whether their famous music was fun, or funk, or folk but then after some research and narrowing down the country to Portugal, some girls worked out it was “fado”
  • Finally most pairs of students worked out the mystery country might be Portugal. Here is our video response which has been sent to Ana and her class who do actually come from Portugal

As this was all in progress, students were highly engaged, actively searching, collaborating and brainstorming together. Further learning took place by more intense searching on some of the clues eg what exactly is fado music, where is Portugal in world soccer etc.

It’s 30 degrees – global weather contradictions!

summer here
path between snow

It is 30 degrees in Boston, USA according to Lorraine Leo, a teacher there but she showed photos of snow. My students related that it will be 30 and 31 degrees here in southern Australia, but that meant it would quite a hot day for us! How could this be?

It was the first ICT class for year 8 ICT – a group of 23 students. I like how Reinhard Marx in Germany introduces his students to global connections in their very first week of school to set the scene for a year of global collaboration and communication.

A skype chat with a great colleague, Lorraine Leo alerted me to the fact that she had just been notified that there was no school that day due to the heavy snow falls in Boston, USA. This was the second consecutive day this week and students had also missed school last week for 2 days due to snow. A couple of nights ago Australian television news actively highlighted the potential weather extremes on New York City.

Always aware of using up online colleagues’ spare time to connect with my students, I asked whether she might skype us the next morning to share the weather and snow falls with my year 8 class.

cars in the snow at night

Lorraine kindly agreed and we discussed the possible tools. We would start with a mystery skype, using skype, then use the virtual classroom software, Blackboard Collaborate to share images, Lorraine’s audio to present and enable students to use the chat to ask questions, provide feedback on the images and generally share. As a backup I created a backchannel in Todaysmeet Whatweather for conversations and skype would be used for the video projection. (we did not use this during the presentation but in the last 8 mins of class time, students quickly answered some questions that I put in there).

Students were quick to work out where Lorraine was from. They then logged into Blackboard Collaborate. However, we faced technical hitches as many computers had to download the launcher and experienced a slow bandwidth, took a long time to do so. We perservered and started with the presentation, with some students sharing desktops!

Lorraine expertly talked about the current conditions and had some wonderful photos to share with the students. Students asked some great questions in the chat, were quiet, engaged and listened intently. The subject of 30 degree temperatures was compared and what a great global lesson – different countries have different units of measurement!

Below are the comments from the students sharing what they liked about this synchronous lesson and some of what they learnt!

Kailyn:  I liked that we are talking to someone from another country and learning a bit about the different things that happen. I learnt that it is snowing there at the moment while here it is rather sunny and that over there it is night time, and here it is morning as we have just started school.

Dharma:- liked the part of the pictures of how big the snow is, and telling us about the schools sometimes being closed off.

Lisa: It was good to see the photos so I could see what Lorraine was actually talking about. Mrs Leo explained things really well.

Kyra: choose where the person was from. She said it really clearly and showed the photos of what the snow looked like especially as I have never seen snow.

Chelsea: I liked how we could see the pictures and I have never seen snow before so it was interesting to see it through pictures.

Sophie: I liked seeing the pictures and seeing what it is like in Boston.

Vesna: I liked using BbC as it is easy to connect with someone rather than skype which can glitch easily. I liked the way she presented it as we had pictures to see what it looked like and not just telling us about it which made it more interesting. I liked the flowers representing spring with the icicles in the window.

Isaac: The snow was pretty cool! It looks pretty fun! I liked the church picture with the person skiing in front of.

Kyle: I liked seeing how much snow there was. I liked learning about what happens in Boston from someone who lives there. The people walking on the pathway to their house with snow piled up on both sides.

Jonas: I liked seeing how much snow there was around the houses and seeing how high the snow was. I liked the people walking to their houses with the snow piled hight.

Zac: I liked the pictures of the snow and the one with the man snowboarding on the hill where a church was located.

Terri, I liked all the pictures of the snow. It was really interesting. I wish it would snow here. I learnt that snow can be very heavy and lie in big heaps.

Skyla: I liked seeing all the snow because we do not get it here. It was interesting to see how cold it gets. I learned that it snowed in Boston. I thought it was always hot. As when I visited USA it was really hot.

Teneika: I learnt that there was snow in America because my Dad’s family live in America and they have never mentioned snow. I liked how she had pictures as she was talking so you could see rather than just listen.

Lucy:  That my technology worked and I got into BbC. Mrs Leo took time to speak to us. I liked seeing the snow as it is a novelty to us. I learnt that it is a lot different over there like weatherwise at the minute.

Taylah: I liked every picture that was shown , was explained by Mrs Leo. I learnt that it is snowing over there, so the students cannot go to school and have 2 days off last week and 2 days off this week.

Caitlin: I liked how she taught us about Boston- the weather and what she does in her spare time and that she is a teacher. I found it interesting that it snows over there and that she has 238 students in her school.

Thank you Lorraine for allowing me to use the photos that you took the time to take for us. As you can see, the students frequently commented on seeing what it looked like rather than hearing what it was like! A memorable photo was this one, of roses (a sign of spring) in a florist shop with the tell tale signs of the current weather conditions (icicles) in the window.

roses with icicles

The significance of images in globally connected classrooms

My word is very poor so I make pictures  Xu (Bob from Beijing)

As we become more globally connected, the importance of images to tell stories for learning ir to share conversations, takes on an increasingly important role (together with media other than text).

Our school teaches Mandarin Chinese as a second language. Our sister school is Beijing no.27 in China. Over many years we have exchanged visits with small groups of students and teachers from this school but then there is little connection or communication until the next visit.

school group in China

Over the last 3 years we have had a visiting Chinese language assistant live and teach with us for 12 months at a time. From them, we learnt about qq and wechat which are both popular networking tools with the Chinese. As one of our school groups is over there now, teachers, parents and students downloaded the app wechat on their phones, formed a group and added key staff from Beijing no. 27. The chat has been updated constantly and pictures shared immediately. Bob, one of their senior teachers speaks some English and visited our school last year. As he joined our “china group” on wechat, he made that profound quote shared at the beginning of this post.

What can we take way from this?

  • images are of increasing importance in global communication especially when a common language may be a problem.
  • students need to be taught how to take them for best effect especially to reflect local culture
  • how can we thread them into a story comprising only images
  • the significance of copyright/creative commons
  • how to resize and digitally enhance
  • be aware of the range of apps, networking sites that are best to share these images, remembering that countries like China block google, facebook, many blogging platforms etc
  • the nature of the cloud for storage

 

 

 

 

Making International Friendship Day Authentic

the class cropped

Responses to “What International Friendship Day means to me?” Sample responses from students in Malaysia and Australia demonstrating the wisdom or dreams of our youth!

We are not alone in the world. When talk to people from other counties we realize everyone is the same, with fears, dreams, family issues, school issues and love troubles. When you talk with a group of international students it is amazing how wars could be averted because of the one and one discussions instead of ‘global politics’ I was involved with an international exchange program and the students from around the world created life long friendships and many changed their lives due to this exchange and work to further international relations and politics. International friendship is of the utmost importance, of course! It is to recognise your friends and their contribution to your life. Friendship helps to bring peace and positivity to the globe – a great reason to celebrate! Because it let’s us form new bonds with different people around the globe. It helps us learn how to understand more about people with different cultures. We can make new friends or enhance the bond between friends. Friendship brings happiness to us. This is a chance for us to recognise their contribution to our life. Hence, that is a good reason for us to celebrate International Friendship Day.

International Friendship Day took place on August 2nd. Veronica Woo, from SMK Poi Lam School, Ipoh, Malaysia and I decided at the last minute to do something together with our classes to mark this significant day. We liked the idea of putting them into small virtual groups to discuss questions on friendship using google documents and also having a hangout open throughout the class so we could formally introduce ourselves and give each class a visual perspective of each other. However, technology challenged us and audio and video and the hangout links did not work well until the very end. Here is what it looked like:_

  1. Created 10 google documents. As I only had 10 students in my class, each student was put in a separate group.
  2. Set questions were added eg “How would you formally introduce yourself  in your culture?” “Why is International Friendship day important?” “What do you look for in a friend?” “What questions would you ask of a new friend?”
  3. The documents were shared on a ” public for editing” basis and also with Veronica by invitation email.
  4. The links were then pasted on my class blog for student access and for Veronica to grab if need be.
  5. Veroncia’s class was much bigger so she added three of her students to each group
  6. The google hangout was to start the class off with formal introductions to each group.
  7. Students would proceed to discuss and answer the questions on the virtual document

But………………………the Challenges!

  1. We had big problems with audio and video at the Malaysian end and could not start the hangout
  2. I had forgotten to make three documents public
  3. It took a few minutes to explain to the girls what to do and then had to be repeated for some

Whilst Veronica and I battled with the technology and problems, the students just got going on their documents and used them like a chat room. Many introduced themselves formally and off they went asking each other questions. Some of the surprises came from learning what ‘chewing fats’ was to knowing that our love of horse riding as a pastime outside of school hours, was of high interest to the Malaysian students who only see horses in zoos! The students were highly engaged whilst Veronica and I finally go the hangout to work just as the bell had gone in Ipoh, Malaysia My biggest takeaway:- My students liked not seeing each other initially as they felt there were no preconceived ideas about the students from visual introductions. They really liked getting to know each other in the chat. Why it worked so well

  1. The students were in small groups mixed across the countries
  2. They had a proforma to follow
  3. They also had the opportunities to create their own learning about each other. Their curiousity could be satisfied by the questions they asked
  4. When the video worked on the hangout, students were happy to wave to each other to show what they looked like

 

A new school year begins and global classrooms connect!

Video call snapshot 1

As Australian schools enter the final weeks of term 3 with still another full term to go, our European and USA counterparts (and others) are starting or about to start their school years. Reinhard Marx is an innovative connected colleague from Germany and someone I really enjoy working with asked whether I could teach a grade 4/5 class about the area I live in. It was one of their first classes for the year.

Tools used and resources accessed:

  1. Skype was used to connect me with his class and to provide a backchannel for reminders and prompts when we were both ready.
  2. A powerpoint presentation was created to show a little of my school and the farm that I live on.
  3. It was uploaded to google presentation, should my bandwidth not allow me to share from my screen.
  4. An Australian flag
  5. A real pet lamb (as we are in the middle of the busy lambing period on the farm)
  6. A fresh bunch of flowers (as this is my hobby to garden and work with flowers)
My grandson and me on the farm bike

My grandson and me on the farm bike

We started with a mystery skype. The students did not take long to work out where I was from. When they worked out my country, I shared my flag to the web camera. Students then volunteered to ask me a number of questions eg “Was it winter where I lived?”. The last 15-20 mins, I shared my screen through skype and talked through the photos of school and our farm. The bandwith was great for a start and images and audio crystal clear. However, after the fourth slide, the size of the images failed to load quickly in Germany, so I shared the link to the google presentation and we walked through the images remotely. To complet the lesson, I brought in one of our pet, bottle fed lambs – always a sure winner!

I like working with Reinhard because he:

  •  actively seeks global connections and lessons. He is a science and maths teacher
  • gave students the choice of mystery skype and a lesson with me or they could continue with their maths. (There was a mix but most of the time, they were intently watching me and the presentation)
  •  introduced the class of 26 clearly to me swivelling the camera so I could understand the teaching space I was in
  • always repeats what the students say, so that I can both hear and understand the comment or question asked
  • always stopped me for a question that a student might have – so their curiousity was satisfied immediatley and not forgotten about
  • ensured the students came up to the camera and could be clearly seen by me
  • interpreted my talk so that all student members could understand what I was sharing

Challenges:

  • bandwidth and sharing images over skype
  • working with an interpreter, remembering to keep my sentences short and concise, pausing to be interpreted and then carrying on
  • the accents and understanding the comment or question – especially understanding the name of the students

 

When tragedy bonds global classrooms!

Snapshot of "My favourite things" padlet

Snapshot of “My favourite things” padlet

A txt msg, via whatsapp messenger, on my phone from Veronica Woo, of Ipoh, Malaysia, a friend and teaching colleague of mine, alerted me to the fact that the first 20 bodies from the MH17 disaster were to end their long journey home to Malaysia on August 22nd. (Australia’s first victims arrived home the week before!) A minute’s silence  for those who mourn, will be followed throughout Malaysia on Aug 22nd. A tribute or multi-faith ceremony will be broadcast live on the national TV and radio stations of Malaysia.

As I had my year 7 ICT class in the morning, Veronica asked whether we could  open a google hangout so that she could share with other teachers what an open classroom looks like when two countries are connected and team teach. However, this is how the lesson ended up looking like:-

  1. Veronica issued an invitation to the ghangout, called, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”
  2. set up a photo essay wall at padlet called My favourite things for us to share photos. However as the settings were not public, girls had to register for padlet. Even then, they could not login to Veronica’s wall.
  3. We could not locate the link to the ghangout and therefore share our classroom with video, so we had to fill in our lesson “on the fly”.  I set up another wall where we could get started and they learn how to upload images and add text. See the wall I created and the girls’ favourite things. They were encouraged to use photos that they had taken.
  4. Next a sympathy wall was created for the girls to share their sympathies for all relatives and community members who had been lost in the MH17 disaster.
  5. Gchat was maintained with Veronica during this time, and we noticed her txt inform us that the minute’s silence was starting NOW!
  6. The girls immediately wanted to join in this silence and so we shared that silence simultaneously with our Malaysian colleagues. Words cannot describe how meaningful that was, the empathy and feelings that were experienced during that time. Our two countries have sufferered, shared common experiences, bonded in those losses and now at the classroom level across the oceans have entered into a minute’s silence.

As a follow up, Veronica has sent through links to media articles and presentations.

Independence Day India – Friday August 15th

A skype message alerted me to the fact that it was Independence Day in India.

sebastian

It came from my good online friend, Sebastian Panakal and he asked:-

When may I call you? Today is Indian Independence Day and I would like to celebrate it together with you and your students, share my happiness with you

sebastian and quill earingsWishing that I had a class of middle school students whom I could connect him with, I in fact had a VCE accounting at that time (which is a subject not so easy to interrupt, due to the tight curriculum timeline). Wanting to make the most of this opportunity, I  asked whether he might wait until the last 5 mins of that class for us to connect. The students were rather shy about greeting Sebastian, but they soon rallied around and wished him a “Happy Independence Day”. In turn, Sebastian showed us the beautiful paper quill earings that his wife had made in the tri-colours of their national flag. They were to be distributed to local school girls.

 We learnt that India celebrated it as s a public holiday. Schools, clubs and associations celebrate by hosting the National Flag  (flag:in) and distribute sweets. Thereafter they sing, dance, party etc. Schools have the same fun and frolic, but a march past in the morning.

Sebastian was hoping to connect with as many of his virtual global friends to share this Independence Day. You can see his linkup with another online colleague, Katherine Zablatnik from Austria.From this linkup, Sebastian shared the following statement:-

As I shared my happiness on Indian Independence Day, an opportunity for promoting Health Tourism evolved.

As I hung up on skype, one of Sebastian’s friends also called me. As I was speaking to him, his mobile phone rang. Fascinated, I was party to a conversation in an Indian dialect as he quickly dealt with the phone call.. Not understanding a word of it, I still felt part of the connection!

Sebastian's friend

Does it matter that we interrupt senior classes for short connections like this, running the risk of falling behind the curriculum. Not at all in my opinion. Students are highly interested in what happens in other countries, they develop confidence in themselves and their communication ability and left my class in a happy frame of mind. Thank you Sebastian for saying hello to us on this day and sharing your celebrations!