Category Archives: global classroom

Behind Closed Doors: Sebastian guest educator from Kerala, India

cropped selfieThis week is Education Week in Victoria, Australia. To celebrate teaching and learning, our school opened its doors today on the theme: “Behind Closed Doors”. Grandparents and parents were invited in to the classrooms between 11:30am and 2:30pm.

Year 7 ICT class demonstrated the power that technology can bring in opening up the doors globally. Sebastian Panakal kindly accepted the invitation to play “Mystery Skype” with the students, then show his wife’s Seena’s wonderful samples of origami and and answer any further questions.

whole class with Sebastian

Students had to think of one question to ask Sebastian, that required only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, whilst I solved the many problems I was facing with my laptop. Sebastian waited extremely patiently whilst my laptop rebooted. Students gradually worked out where Sebastian was from, using visuals and accents as ancilliary clues. Hamish actually worked out the name of the city – Kerala! Students had previously asked if he lived in the northern hemisphere, near a tropical forest, near the Pacific Ocean etc. Once they knew it was India, the next questions were

  • Do you live in southern India?
  • Do you live in a big city?
  • Do you live in Kerala?

showing origami

Sebastian proceeded to share the wonderful origami that his wife Seena creates. I hope he could hear the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the students as the webcam beamed them back to us. She shares her work over youtube.

As it was breakfast time for Sebastian he told us he was having Chappati & Daal – further learning as to what this actually looks like. Appam (made of rice) and curry was also part of it. Our students had had toast, toasties or cornflakes with banana!

Then he  invited us to Skype with “Sandesh – Be the Change” learners as part of training of a team of social entrereneurs ready to empower poor at the bottom of the pyramid in Kerala. The Prime Minister is eagerly promoting “Make in India” – Kerala Government is keen on digital democracy, empowering the marginalized. What a fabulous event for us to be involved in.

another origami

Read some of the student blog posts and what they thought about it all:

  1. Kiara’s post
  2. Dominic’s post
  3. Emmerson’s post
  4. Tim’s post
  5. Megan’s post

An amazing visit to Kenya!

Each year our school holds an information evening for prospective parents of year 7 students for 2016. Being a small school, we try to show some of the best aspects of learning at our school. Again, I was asked whether a global connection might be made using skype to demonstrate the ability of technology to break down the barriers of geographical and cultural isolation and take learning beyond the textbook.

Govinda Panthy from Nepal was approached  as the first earthquake was still making headlines in our media.  He was unable to connect as he had an important meeting in Katmandu. Livingstone from Kenya was also asked. Michael Soskil, from the USA.  was visiting with him and they had been actively seeking people to skype with a few days earlier to connect students fom the Cheery School in the biggest slum in Africa but as there was no word from them, Sebastian Panakal, from Kerala, India again kindly consented to skype with us. Just as the first group was about to come into the computer lab, Sebastian warned us that his power may be about to go out and then……. it must have as he immediately went offline!

Video call snapshot 59

Instead, current year 7 students showed some of the global projects that they had been involved in. Fortunately there was a 45 min break as in that time, Livingstone skyped me to say they would be ready for us whenever we were! Student helpers quickly gathered up some objects to share as we were told that the Kenyan students were young and did not speak much English. The Kenyan students attended the HIP academy, a rural school in Kenya.

Video call snapshot 60

As the second group of parents and students entered into the room we called Livingstone on the video camera and commenced with a mystery skype challenge. The prospective students in Hawkesdale posed the following questions that could only have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question :-

  1. Are you south of the equator? Answer = no, our country covers the equator
  2. Do you have a big rainforest? Answer: no
  3. Do you have lions? Answer: yes
  4. Are you in Africa? Answer: yes
  5. Are you from Kenya? Answer: yes

The sight of the dark coloured faces made it reasonably easy for us to work out where they were from. They worked out where we wer from with some visual clues. They had a paper poster world map to refer to, we had online maps on our computers.

Video call snapshot 61

A young Kenyan girl then taught us swahilli by showing us toy animals that Michael had brought with him to Kenya. She spoke the word in English, then Swahilli, we then had to repeat. She did not move onto the next animal until we pronounced it reasonably well. What a brave effort on this girl’s part as none of these students or teachers had used skype before. Then to our delight, the power of the webcamera was shown, when Michael took Livingstone’s laptop outside and showed us the surrounding countryside. One of the school volunteers then explained about the gardens that they were growing to supply food for the children to eat at lunch – corn, pumpkins etc A donkey could be seen in the distance. The picture was crystal clear and it was as if we were actually there!

Video call snapshot 62

Parents came up to us afterwards to say they had no idea we could even do this! What an amazing introduction to the learning that even small country schools can make on a global scale! A fantastic connection – thanks Livingstone and Michael for making this possible!

Read some about our linkup from Michael’s perspective Adventures in Kenya Series – Day 9 – From Mukuyuni to Nakuru

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