Although, I had heard much about the Global Virtual Classroom Project, (GVC Project), which was founded by Janet Barnstable, my classes have not been involved before due to the nature of our school years. The original projects spanned 6 months but as schools in Australia enjoyed their long 5 week summer break and then started a new school year, it was impossible for me to have a consistent class that could complete the project.
However, a mini-project was introduced this year and this was more manageable for the school calendar. It did span across semester 1 and 2, and my ICT elective students changed over this time, but we were able to participate due to the willingness of our partner school and teacher Yunchai Chen, Wunshan Senior High School,Kaohsiung, Taiwan to condense the project to fit in with the first term of our semester 2.
What I liked about the project:
- strong support from the leadership team of Janet Barnstable USA and Lakshmi Srinivas of India.
- being partnered with a school in a similar time zone. We could actually communicate virtually in real time using skype
- Yunchai Chen had been part of the project before and was therefore experienced.
- the tools used were user friendly and free
- the project was flexible to fit in with specific needs
- students in Taiwan and Australia could choose their own global topic. They chose Oceans
- an awards process to acknowledge work completed
Both countries are islands. As we live 25 minutes drive to the closest ocean and seas, and as our beaches are beautiful, students felt comfortable with the topic and had some basic knowledge. As the Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s big tourist destinations, Warrnambool’s Logan beach is a nursery for the Great Southern Whales and Port Fairy is a nearby quaint village (which started out as a whalers station), the students had plenty of scope for ideas.
The tools used:-
- email for teacher correspondence
- edmodo for sharing of conversations, files and other needs (student and teacher use)
- google sites – was chosen by Yunchai and me to display the student outcomes
- skype for synchronous virtual connections
- Windows MovieMaker to produce the videos – my student choice
The time frame was tight – approximately 6 weeks, but this gave students a sense of real time pressures that they may face in the work place. Three students produced videos – Tim’s was on Ocean Life in SE Australia; Port Fairy, Bethany’s favourite beach and Sophie chose to produce a movie on the Great Ocean Road.
To the delight of the students, a silver award certificate was granted for the collaborative Oceans project. Our certificate can be seen below.
Lorraine Leo from the USA and Yoshiro Myata, Japan, the founder of the World Museum Project requested us to compose messages for “Peace Across the World” for the World Peace Song project partners at the beginning of the peace workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, February 3.
As time was short, students in year 7 were asked to compile their thoughts. It was then shared as a text update on the World Museum Edmodo networking site. Following is the collaborative message from my students:
Peace is awesome. Peace is the most wonderful thing to share with the world and is definitely something we need more of. It is about giving, helping each other out, enjoying ourselves and others and not fighting. Peace is when everybody is happy and working as a team. Peace is what we all want and shows with happiness and laughter all around the world.
What would your message be?
When the opportunity arose to join China Connections, a global collaborative project setup by Julie Lindsay of Flat Connections and Katie Grubby of Mandarin Pathways, it was taken up immediately, with strong approval by our principal. Our school teaches mandarin Chinese from Prep (5 year olds) through to year 10 with the option to study it further as a formal VCE subject by distance learning.
Students in our school are isolated geographically and culturally and see little need to learn another language as travel overseas and exposure is not an option for many. Most live on farms or in small rural towns, are from low economic backgrounds and often remain in the small rural communities. However, our school has had Chinese language assistants for the last three years and Beijing no. 27 school sends students to our school every second year and our students are offered that same opportunity. Only a very small number of students take up this opportunity.
In 2015, one of our year 10 student, Sarah was was fortunate enough to be part of the Victorian Young Leaders to China Program in 2015. Sarah wishes to study mandarin Chinese through to year 12. Along with four other year 9/10 ICT students, they will be part of this trial project.
The Project so far has involved:-
- several schools in China, Australia, USA and a number of individually enrolled teachers and students.
- finding tools that can be accessed in both China and the other countries involved. These include edmodo, voicethread, skype, wechat and email.
- cross age students from primary through to secondary and some home schooled students
- supportive community members in China See The Learning Concierges page.
- regular global staff meetings online in fuze.
- a wechat group for updates, sharing pictures, conversations etc Wechat is a popular social media app used in China with many great features
Global Collaboration Day was celebrated on September 17th. Tech Talk Tuesdays weekly webinar series took place on a Thursday to be part of this great day. The topic for conversation was “Best Approaches to Global Collaboration” and the direction of the conversations were chosen by the participants.
The participants came from five countries – Australia, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and USA but they came from a broad section of educational tiers and layers – community members, universities, schools, special interest groups including “Gifted Students”, “Toastmasters” etc. This variety of experiences and interests led to rich discussions. We shared what we could see outside our windows while we were waiting and then shared pictures of what it was like where we live.
Some of the topics raised for potential discussion included:
- how much collaboration is enough!
- why it is so important to collaborate globally!
- Is there a taxonomy for collaboration reqirements, that help us map tools to requirements and simplify the choices?
- breaking down the fear barriers for real time collaboration across the globe
- best strategies of social media
- learn more of Yoshiro’s World Museum and Mystery Skype
- managing of discussions in a global workplace
Why collaborate globally was the first topic for discussion. Some of the responses included:
- to understand the many common experiences, issues and concerns we all have no matter where we live.
- Breakout of the ethnocentric perspective to work together for collaboratively
- Our lives are supported by the whole earth – need to develop gratitude and contributing minds.
- Learn beyond the textbook
- To build understanding and empathy between cultures
- Broaden the experiences
- we collaborate to broaden our world, if we avoid global collaboration, then our world shrinks.
- fun, time coverage, interesting people, access specialist knowledge, understand cultural implications, save travel costs, create holiday opportunities
Ideas for “Breaking down the fear factors for collaborating across the world”. (Some of the mentioned fears included: loss of control, accents, languages – not being able to speak eg English well enough, cultural challenges, technology confidence, bandwidth/infrastructure etc)
- in the World Museum Projects kids love to create interesting fun projects, without using too much language. They can share their projects with people around the world . They get to know each other Scratch. They get interested in each other and feel easier about communicating.
- turn the camera off – helps them to be less shy
- practise a videoconference call with just one person
- watch video recordings, read blogs of people who have already done it.
- have images and signage ready to share to ensure understanding
- attend Professional Development sessions with encouraging mentor figures
- use text chat where possible to support video and/or audio connections
- sharing idioms and common sayings to compare languages
- Always have a support check list along with the training
- Share quick ‘how tos’
- Provide easy to follow tutorials
- side by side assistance in the one place
- provide alternative times for both hemispheres
- ask about the different cultural protocols
- participate in twitter chats
- show best way to converse in a face book group
- introduce speech craft lessons before conversing online – breaks down fear of talking in virtual rooms or videoconferencing
- practise talking to each other – learn from the different languages, accents, cultures. Use any chat feature or signage to ensure understanding
- Just try it!
How do we get started?
- find out what others want
- first step is just wanting to engage
- where there is a gap in the educational services, explore how to use it collaboratively.
- In the World Museum site, Yoshiro starts with a World Friends Project in which the students draw themselves doing their favourite activities as a way of introduction.
- MOOCs can be a popular way of learning. Seeking out one of these helps to understand collaborative learning.
- find out what equipment/tools you will need
- make sure it is within your school’s acceptable user policy to have students on camera
- Cybraryman has a page for most educational uses/issues.
- there are many great global projects to be involved in. See these crowd sourced documents for some of them Global Projects for Beginners and Global Projects: Where to Begin?
- Think about the purpose of connecting with another classroom and plan your conversations and activities around this.
- Need to explore what kind of collaborations you need.
Best Practise of Social Media
- Social media is seen as those online tools that enable connections among many at any time.
- Using the right tool for the purpose in mind, eg linkedin for professional connections, facebook for community sharing in groups
- as educators we need to understand the limitations such as cultural equipment, access etc Once we have an appreciation of this,
- World Museum uses Scratch website with forums, voicethread, wikis, edmodo, voicethread
- Cross generational collaboration is useful because older students can support and facilitate the younger students eg students in Ann Marie Park’s university often help primary students work on their projects as well as communicating with overseas partners.
- understand that you are managing a community
- be aware that many social media tools may be blocked in some countries
What would your answers be to some of these questions? Which responses do you support, which would you challenge?
One of the huge successes of Global Collaboration Day was allowing people to discover and use many of the possible tools that can be used for global connection, communication and collaboration. One of my favourite new tools is Sway from Microsoft. This is a simple but really effective multimedia tool that allows professional presentation immediately. What I really love most is that it is collaborative and interactive so that it makes a great tool for global connections and collaboration!
Global Journeys to School encourages people to share their journeys to school so that others around the world can see the space and culture that we populate. This project was one of the possible projects that people could get involved in for Global Collaboration Day. There are already a number of schools, representing many different countries, with their journeys shared on this sway. They include Taiwan, India, Switzerland, Norway, Serbia,Malaysia and Australia
Please check it out by clicking on this link and if you could, please add your journey to school. How can we use this for classroom learning? What would you suggest?
I have been proud to be part of the Leadership Team with the Global Education conference since it’s inception. Here is a flipgrid video to introduce myself to others, share what I do in education and my experiences with the Global Education Conference.
- Click on this link to see my introduction. (The video would not embed into Word Press, Sorry!)
- Click on this link to see other members of the Global Education Leadership Team.
My introduction in text format
Hi I am Anne Mirtschin, a technology teacher from Hawkesdale P12 College a small prep to year 12 College in Australia. Technology has allowed us to breakdown our classroom walls so that we can learn with and from the world and beyond the textbook. As my students are geographically and culturally isolated, I am passionate about global education. We connect with others whenever we can and get involved in global projects wherever possible.
One day per week I partner with our Victorian Dept of Education and Training as a web conference coach. I love to travel. I have been on the Leadership Committee for the amazing Global Education Conference since its inception. It never ceases to astound me that I can be in a webinar with people from Africa, Nepal, the Middle East, Europe, USA, Asia etc all sharing our passion for global education. I am Communications Officer for the ISTE Global PLN, a Flat Connections, Master Skype and Global Classroom teacher.
My network is now global, my classroom is global and my students are also becoming global.
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”
- 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.
- 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.