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!
Every second year our school organises a trip to China, as mandarin Chinese is taught as our second language. Part of this trip involves a four or five day visit to our sister school at no 27 Beijing. It is offered to students in years 9 and above.
I am fortunate to be one of the supervising teachers in attendance. There are 11 students, 2 staff and four adults who are related to the students. On arrival at the airport, we were met by Mr Wan who picked us up and took us by bus to no 27 school where we were greeted to our official welcome, early lunch and then attended classes. We were given a home room where most of the classes took place.
On that first day, our classes included:
Students were then greeted by their host familes who came to the school to pick them up and take them to their homes for four nights. This really pushes students outside their comfort zones as English may not be spoken by the parents or may be very limited. Their homes are tiny compared to our large Australian homes and most Chinese students slept on a couch so that our students could have a bed. The girls especially showed some nervousness about this. All but two families had one child.
The school then treated our staff and adults to a sumptuous meal at a local restaurant where we enjoyed amongst other amazing dishes – the famous Peking or Beijing Duck. The duck was carved in front of us by the chef!
When classes from two different countries and cultures connect or collaborate for the first time, it can be very difficult to determine the names and gender of the students involved.
My school had a Chinese language assistant teacher from Shanghai for 12 months several years ago. She introduced herself as Wang Yi,so we called her Wang but after she had left we realised her first name was actually Yi!!! We had been calling her by her last name.
There will be differences in the order of names. In Australia we state our first names followed by our surnames (or last names). In China, students’ last names (or family names) come first then their first name. Some Indian citizens do not have even have a last name just their first name or name of their father which is carried down through generations.
When classes do connect and collaborate for the first time, it is essential for success that teachers share student details with clear headings for first and last (family) name. Pronunciation of the name using a audio would be useful. Gender should also be shared, as foreign names may not convey whether they are a boy or a girl.
If using webconferencing software such as skype, polycom videoconferencing, ghangouts, zoom etc, signs or printouts showing the name of the student (and pronunciation if possible) could be used as the student comes up to the camera.
What tips and hints do you have? How else do names differ around the world?
School families have been asked to host visiting Chinese students from our sister school in Beijing. Many are reluctant and all are rather nervous. Our community is geographically and culturally isolated so people from different languages and cultures are rare.
Parents are concerned about the following:-
- What to feed their visitors? What will they eat and what should they cook?
- How will they communicate effectively?
- Will the students be bored?
- Where should they take the students?
- If they go to their room early, are they upset?
- How should they fill in the time after school and on the weekend?
- Most can only take a single student as they would not be able to transport them in their family car.
- Will they mind sharing a bedroom?
This certainly pushes many of us outside our comfort zone? How did it all turn out? Following are some comments from parents on our school Facebook page:
We experienced an amazing week both Max and Chen taught us so much we now have a greater understanding of their culture and country.
We had such a fantastic experience with Jing Jing staying with us. She is looking forward to seeing Chelsea again next month!