Hawkesdale P12 College is prep to year 12 school (students are aged 5 to 18 years of age.) This year we had a big intake of year 7 students from our feeder schools. Most of these students live in small rural towns or come from farms. It was decided to hold a welcome afternoon tea, primarily for the new parents, welcoming them to our school, enabling them to get to know each other and encouraging them to stay connected, get involved with the Parents Club and volunteering for canteen duty.
This was organised at quite short notice and as I have year 7 for ICT (Information and Communications Technology ie computers) for the last lesson of the day, I was asked to organise a skype linkup after the afternoon tea. The time of the lesson was 2:50pm which meant most of the USA were asleep. Our school teaches mandarin Chinese, so I made contact with one of my colleagues, Richard Howgate, hoping that we could connect. However, he is in the process of organising a new school, Guiyang Prime International School which does not open until August.
I approached some of my other network, but it is early in the morning for Russia and other colleagues were busy with other matters. It was with relief that Richard messaged me back to say he had arranged for his former school, Bozhou International School to connect with us. By this time it was the Tuesday, the day before our connection. However, I was now working with educationalists new to videoconferencing with skype.
Some of the questions they needed answered were:
- what will the connection look like ( I suggested mystery animal) and was asked to explain the basic premise of this game and what was required of the Buzhou students
- You mention that your students are learning mandarin. Does this mean that the focus of the class will be on their mandarin or a mix of English and mandarin? (The new students have only been learning mandarin for 2 weeks so it had to be predominantly in English – a brave effort on the part of the Chinese students to speak English)
- Could you give me a list of language structures and key vocab that are likely to be used in the class? The mystery animal sheets that Richard had set up were emailed through to Rick so the key vocab and nature of questions that could only have a yes/no answer was demonstrated.
Prior to the lesson (remember time was now the essence!)
- A copy of the mystery animal sheets were emailed through with a set of instructions on how to play mystery animal
- Setup my laptop in the room attached to the library where the afternoon tea would take place, testing the audio, video using tools>options>audio settings.
- The external webcamera had to be placed in a position where the Chinese students could see the majority of the gathering. It was put on top of the whiteboard.
- Unfortunately, there was no cable to plug my laptop into and get the best possible bandwidth, so I also logged onto the whiteboard in the actual library where it was too hot (we had a 36 degree autumn day) to really hold the afternoon tea but the desktop computer was cabled in.
- We gathered up some Australiana – a meat pie, cricket bat, some wool from a sheep to share at the end of the Mystery Animal
- A quick test call was made 45 mins before the connection with Bozhou. Their video did not work but the audio was good. I explained that Rick had to go to Tools>Options>video and choose the option for the external webcam that was attached to the laptop. I laughed when he said he now needed someone who could speak Chinese as the options were in Chinese! Next I could hear students in clear mandarin explaining which option it was. I hung up as I was in class as they assured me they could work on that.
The actual lesson
- Many of the class had not used skype or videoconferencing before, so some basic instructions were given in effective webcam use, clear speaking of questions.
- Everyone was given a handout with the animals on it and we discussed some possible questions that we could ask each other.
- We chose our animal (which was a gorilla) The Chinese students chose their African animal.
- A large Australian flag was got and students at the back of the room held it upright. We were delighted to see the Australian flag against the front tables in the Chinese school.
- Connection was made and a student from each country played paper rock scissors to see who would ask the first question. We won the right to ask the first question.
- If we got one affirmative answer to our questions, we had the right to ask another. Some of the questions asked were: “does it have 2 legs”, “does it have patterns?”, does it live in the jungle”, “does it have fur?”‘ “does it eat meat”. The Chinese students worked out our animal first and we finally worked out theirs – an antelope!
- Students would introduce themselves first, then ask the question.
- 10 mins was left to share a little of where we live and our culture. One of their questions was regarding the weather. Mobile phones were produced to the webamera to show the temperature. Ours showed up at 34 degrees, and there were verbal reactions from our students when they showed their 12 degrees.
- When the boys produced a cricket bat, they wanted to know if it was a baseball bat. The did not know of cricket – one of our favourite summer sports.
We had fun, learnt to cope with Chinese accents, used a webcamera effectively, formulated questions that required a yes/no answer and understood more about Chinese students, culture and schools.
And the feedback from China was
It’s great to work with you together for the Skype class today. It does accelerate a better understanding between cultures and establish a deep friendship between students. We all have a good experience and wonderful time and we are looking forward to running the class often in the future.
We are greatly indebted to Rick and Buzhou International School for connecting at such late notice, providing a class of the same age group and allowing us to get to know them further.
Year 11 Business Management students will learn basic Arabic in 1.5-2 hours using a mix of online tools. As businesses become more global in nature and outreach, cultural understanding and ability to interact with other languages is essential for success. Most of my class live on farms and their beef and lamb may be exported to the Middle East.
We have been offered the opportunity to learn Arabic, initially with a Sophia Aron of Critical Language Service in the USA and then, finally with an Arabic native speaker in Egypt. They will initially learn basic language and also view a number of cultural videos. This is to support Sophia with her request for sample videos of students learning Arabic and will be recorded. Skype was used to connect with Sophia for each of our classes with her. She was able to speak to us, be on standby for any questions and share her screen with us so we could be stepped through some of the tools. The skype chat was used for sharing codes required for some of the tools.
The time allocation:-
- 45 minutes: studying the vocabulary and materials that would be used in the lesson on the platforms Quizlet, Memrise. and Flashcards by NKO.
- 30 minutes actual class
- 15 minutes: student reaction and question time.
Tasks Prior to Learning eArabic
Students will obtain a username and password login for the following sites. Use your login code for computer access as your username.
Pre – session
Sophia was online on skype, she helped us walk the students through the process live of setting up accounts using screen share. The classes work on a Flipped Classroom/Blended learning model so Sophia pre- teaches the material via online tools and then the face-to- face time with the Egyptian teacher serves as a chance to practice implementing what they already learned.
Here are Sophia’s notes to us
I plan to use 2 platforms to pre-teach materials:
1. Memrise http://www.memrise.com/group/9115/
Memrise is the main platform.The class was divided up into 3 groups. Inside the group, there are 2 courses. We will focus on the first course; Arabic for All Ages. The second course is simply an FYI about the Arabic alphabet. If students do study that, then the Egyptian teacher will incorporate writing into her live lesson with them, if not then she will not use any Arabic letters. Inside the course “Arabic for All Ages” there are 4 levels. Level 1 is a video level. The first video in Level 1 is the vocabulary video. It is a section of a cartoon and most of the words we will use in the live lesson are in this short clip. The videos below the cartoon video offer English explanations of basic Arabic expressions and grammar. Level 2 is the where the studying begins. This level is spaced repetition flashcards of the vocabulary words. Students study the flashcards in small chunks. They can opt to take breaks between studying chunks to go back and watch the cartoon video from Level 1. The goal is for Memrise to determine that they have mastered all of the vocabulary words in the list; though due to time constraints this will not likely happen. Level 3 is not relevant for this class. Level 4 is culture videos. These videos will help the students to perform culturally appropriate role plays during the live class. They only need to be watched once.
2. Quizlet https://quizlet.com/_psu61
Sinbad Sets 1 and 2 Transliteration w/D…
Quizlet is used for its games. After the students have been studying the vocabulary for a while its useful to have competitions between groups and individuals using Quizlet Live and the various games built into the platform.
The problems we faced-
- Logging in to some of the platforms and gaining user registrations.
- Downloading some of the apps. Bandwidth at home was not strong enough in our rural areas to download the apps on to their smart phones.
- Student smart phones to not have wireless access at school nor is there mobile phone service.
- One student did not have a smart phone
- Finding common times that would suit all time zones. However, amazingly our Egyptian teacher only gets home from work at 1am and is willing to connect with the students after that time.
- Initially finding a class that I could work with easily. But on reflection, it was easy to ‘tweak’ Business Studies curriculum and fit it in there as it is a small class and I have them 5 times a week This made it possible to work in with Sophia’s time zone.
Victoria, Australia lies neatly in Asian time zones for synchronous connections. We start at 9am, most of SE Asia commences at 7:30 or 8am. With a time difference of 1-3 hours, we can connect synchronously with our classes.
My online colleague, Lin-lin Tan, of Taiwan, wanted a global combination of classes to play kahoot with her students. I thought it would be fun for my year 7 class. Hannah from South Korea involved her grade 5 and 6 class. Lin-lin gave me the following advice:
Hannah and I talked about it this afternoon and we will write our names like this T01Mary (T is for Taiwan 01 student’s number and the name). K24Sharon is for Korea, student number 24 Sharon
Prior to the linkup the following took place:-
- Students watched the Paper Bag Princess (see below) prior to the linkup
- Lin-lin devised a kahoot quiz for the students and shared it on kahoot.
- Google hangout was used to connect the three classes. We all logged into the hangout and could see each class
- Lin-lin then shared her screen with us so we could see the kahoot code
- Students from the three countries logged in individually to kahoot, entered the code
- They entered their names using country codes preceding their names. Students from Australia used au_mac (or their first name). students in Taiwan used T then their first name and Korean students used k as the prefix to their name.
- We proceeded to play kahoot virtually and simultaneously. We could hear each other, see each other etc through the hangout and had a real sense of being one class, each student bent on winning.
Students from my class
The amazing thing was that many of the students from Taiwan or Korea spoke English as a second or third language. How brave were they and what fantastic practise this was for those students. Imagine if my students had to play the kahoot in mandarin Chinese – their grasp of the language is so low in comparison.
The class in Taiwan
The class in Korea
As a member of HLW Skypers, notifications will come through at any time on the skype group chat. One such message appeared 2 hours 30 mins before a special event in India from Sebastian Panakal asking for members to send a video message offering thanks and congratulations to Mr. Hibi Eden, Member of Legislative Assembly of Kerala, Sujathambika, Staff, Students and Parent Teacher Association of S.R.V. School.
I am at the inauguration of SMART CLASSROOM at SRV School, today 2 hours 30 minutes from now. A message from my PLN will go a long way in helping the poor students in Public Schools in Kerala, India.
A quick decision had to be made! What should I use to send a video message. Skype video message on my laptop, was one option as was creating a video using my iphone and uploading to youtube. However, the quickest was a skype video message sent through the group chat. However, the internet in Kerala is not always robust so there is always a chance that it will not work at the appointed time. However, the skype video can be downloaded and shown while offline as long as it had fully uploaded by the appointed time in India. I followed a suggested script from Sebastian, made sure the lighting was okay behind me and found a quiet place away from the noise of the grandchildren who were staying. I usually produce an Australian flag when I introduce myself but in my haste could not find one.
Even though the request came through 2.5 hours before the event, I only read the feed 30 mins before the due time so there was not time to perfect the video msessage. Soon after sending it through, a group call came through from the Kerala location so I was able to share my congratulations in real time with those in Kerala, together with Tracy Hanson in USA (of Next Generation Global Education) and another teacher from India. The teacher in India had prepared some slides to share with us all by using screen share on skype. (Note to myself: I need a short presentation, sharing where I am from and my school!)
The skype group video call can be seen in the image above. This is rather incredible to think that one of the poorest schools of Kerala, India can connect to so many different educators and classes in Australia.and even more amazing that the Member of their Parliament could witness this.
Watch the following video of one of the other participants.
A message sent by Steve Sherman from Cape Town
The thing that always amazes me is that dedicated educators like Sebastian Panakal can use technology to great effect for poor schools in underdeveloped countries – imagine what all of us could do if we connect further!
Reinhard Marx is an innovative connected teacher in Germany and part of the HLW Skypers group. He organised Christmas Around the World and brought the world to his class as well as to those who participated.
I was registered to be a participant in the first class as it was night time in Australia. Unfortunately, I had no class with me. Kim from International Community School of Abidjan from Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa also joined us with her class.
We shared how we celebrate Christmas in our countries. Reinhard’s class shared and I used screen sharing to show a presentation with pictures of what it is like where I live. Kim’s class showed a video story. Each of the students individually shared where they are from and how they celebrate Christmas. It was fascinating to learn of our similarities but also our differences.
As the session drew to a close, the German students sang “Oh Tannenbaum” for us. The words for this carol were shared on our screens. The next minute, Kim’s class broke out in energetic singing and harmonies. The passion of both songs brought sheer delight.
The African class had to move, so I stayed on and showed my packet of Christmas cards and bonbons. The German students did not know bonbons. I opened one, and showed the little toy, party hat and riddle that came with it.
Our friend Maria del Colussa from Argentina also joined us for a few minutes but will be part of the next formal class.
Christmas Around the World will continue through the next few hours with other classes and students joining in. What an amazing experience for Reinhard’s classes and for us!!
How it worked! Reinhard shared
- a google document with us so that we could add the most suitable times.
- a google map so we could add our location using pins
- the google hangout link to connect
We used screen share to show our presentations and the chat to share questions and comments during the presentations.
What surprised me! The African students were so, so confident and had lots of questions. The German students were rather shy as English is their second or third language.
Other countries involved include Hungary, Sweden, India.
Most amazing is that this connection made the German newspaper. See the article online.
Day 2 spent at No 27 Beijing school was another day of learning about the Chinese culture and history. It started with breakfast in the Dining Hall, followed by formal classes in our allocated classroom.
Each class had a Chinese teacher and usually an interpreter. The interpreter was one of the Chinese teachers who taught English in the school. The first class of the day was a handicrafts class. Students were taught the importance of and history of Chinese knots. We were then provided with threads, pins, beads and a foam placemat and taught how to tie a variety of knots to produce a bracelet. Examples of beautiful handcrafted Chinese knotting were also displayed.
Martial arts in the playground followed. The weather was warm and humid and these were not easy skills to master. Whilst we were learning, other physical education groups were involved in marching activities in other corners of the playground. Lunch was then provided with a noon break for us. Paper cutting in the art room involved using stencils to cut out shapes. Students were then encouraged to create their own paper cutouts, then to cut out their Chinese birth year animal.
A favourite activity amongst some of the boys was the flight simulator. We were taken to a computer lab where impressive flight simulators were located, together with desktop computers with flight programs on. Most of us kept crashing our planes soon after take off!! One clever student had built his own drone and demonstrated its use.
After school we were treated to Chinese folk music in the auditorium, where we could listen to and see many of the traditional Chinese musical instruments. This was followed by an Evening Reception.
On the second night of our stay at Beijing no 27 school, hosting students, our students and staff, family members and several staff from no 27 were treated to a school evening reception. A number of welcome speeches were made.
The evening was hosted by the Secretary and chaired by Eric, a Mongolian student who also acted as interpreter for us all.
A selection of traditional Chinese musical instruments were demonstrated by skilled Chinese students.
Australian students were able to attempt playing the instruments. An evening banquet meal was enjoyed by us all.