Category Archives: skype in the classroom

When Learning is Evident outside the Classroom

vesna-and-the-virtual-tour-of-shangha1One of the joys of teaching is when student learning from one classroom becomes evident in other subjects or classrooms or better still beyond the classroom.

It has given some self fulfillment to have students return to me to double check how to use moviemaking software for an English class or some other tools/apps that have been taught in the ICT classroom to be transferred to other classes, but when on a recent school trip to China, I was so proud to see one of my ICT students use the skills learnt from videoconferencing in skype with both global and local classrooms, to using skype with her family back home, taking them on virtual tours of the places and attractions that we were visiting and the places we were staying. Although many sites are blocked, including google, skype was not.

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Fortunately, there was free wifi at many of the tourist attractions eg our restaurant at the base of the Great Wall of China, our hotels and much more. But, the most memorable use of Vesna’s use of skype with her family was with her family all gathered around in Hawkesdale as she capably used skype to walk her family around the lookout on the 90th floor of the World Financial Centre (Bottle Opener) in Shanghai.

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Her family included primary students, secondary students through to university students and her parents. They were able to ask her questions on what we all could see and she could share the Bund and other wonderful sights of Shanghai.

Where have you seen evidence of classroom learning in your students outside of the classrom?

Skypeathon

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The recent 2016 Skypeathon was fun. There was a lot of learning completed during this time. Some of the connections made will be ongoing.

We travelled 35545 miles. Our first connection was with Japan. This was a direct connection. The next connection could not be completed in synchronous time, so a group of girls produced a skype video message to send to Kerala, India for International Aids Day.

At night time, a connection was made with a class in Nigeria and another young class from Scotland. Overall, those involved in the Skypeathon travelled nearly 10 million miles. Just imagine the learning!

 

 

 

International Aids Day

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December 1st was World Aids Day. World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
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My dear colleague in Kerala, India, Sebastian Panakal continues his social leadership, through involvement in further events such “Learners Teach Learners”. CLASS (Connected Learning Activities through Social Service). Participants across the world were encouraged to  send a 3 minutes or less video message delivered by teachers/students/children commemorating people who have died of AIDs.
Students, Parents and Teachers of Lady of Mount Carmel Boys Lower Primary School AND Sri Rama Varma Upper Primary School, in India, are commemorating the people who have died of AIDs. The messages will be shown to Academic Leaders, Media and Participants at this meet. Both schools will create their School Wiki showcasing the connected learning event.
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The grandmother of one of my students passed away due to AIDs. She wears her grandmothers brooch on International Aids Day each year. As our school day times do not coincide, the students sent a video message via skype to Sebastian to be shared.

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However, I was able to connect synchronously, once home with the teacher and students involved in Kerala India. I could see the Christmas cake that Sebastian shared with them and meet the students from very poor background.s

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Today I met a girl…..

Today, I met a young girl who wants to be an obstetrician.

But she was no ordinary girl because she :-

  • was only 10 years old
  • lived in one of the most poverty stricken countries in the world
  • was from Nigeria and part of a large classroom of students

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She spoke articulately and when asked what career she hoped to follow, came back with the response that she wanted to be an obstetrician. I wished her all the best with her studies and ambitions. She was one of the students in HAMMED ABDULAZEEZ’ class.

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We had connected as part of the worldwide 2 day skypeathon. It was late at night for me and early afternoon for them. I shared a little about our “Farm in Australia” sharing my screen and showing pictures of the farm. Students from the class shared information about their country and culture and asked me questions about the culture of Australia, who was our president (we have a Prime Minister) and any major festivals that we celebrate. Their knowledge of the world was quite sound (and that surprised me as I am not sure how much my students would know in comparison.)

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Global Skypeathon

class-and-anthony1Many people ask where they should go

  • to start with global education or
  • where to find global projects or
  • how to make global connections.

The global skype-athon is a great way to start. This is a project that encourages people from across the world to connect beyond their classroom walls with other classes, teachers, community and global experts with the user friendly tool, skype. This tool is free and the event is free but the potential outcomes are rich for learning.

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If interested, you will need to

  • join the Microsoft Educator Community
  • search through the Skype in Education community for connections or
  • use the #skypeathon hashtag on twitter to find others to connect with.
  • keep a record of your skype miles and tweet them out, again using the #skypeathon

All you need is:-

  1. internet connection
  2. a laptop or desktop computer with a webcamera and microphone
  3. preferably a white wall, board or whiteboard to project the image onto( but the laptop screen may be sufficient if a small group is involved)
  4. find a class or expert to connect
  5. add them as a contact in skype, using their skype username
  6. agree on a time (check the time zones if it is another country involved), discuss the content of the connection etc.
  7. Discuss appropriate netiquette with your students.
  8. The content of the connection.

The connection can be as long or as short as you like. Even 60 seconds can cover some learning. Mystery skype is always fun. There are many experts willing to come in virtually during the skypeathon. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

What did it look like last year? We connected with schools in India and the USA and were lucky enough to connect with Anthony Salcito. See

Are you going to be part of this project in 2016? What will you do, who will you connect with? What will you do to continue the collaboration?

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Collaboratively “Inking the Thinking”

In December, 2015, year 8 students from Hawkesdale P12 College, Victoria Australia connected with a rural school in Japan using Skype. Students at Hawkesdale are isolated geographically and culturally but were fortunate to be part of a research project on “Inking the Thinking” with the Victorian Department of Education and Microsoft. This meant that each student in year 7 and 8 had a windows surface device with a digital pen.

Months had been spent planning this connection with Japan. A virtual visit to the classroom with our Japanese contact Mariko was provided using skype. My students could see inside the Japanese classroom, learn a little of school life and ask her questions so that they had some knowledge before seeing the Japanese students – it was simply a “taster”. A fully structured lesson plan, complete with timed tasks was put in place by Mariko prior to the live connection. Students in my class were surveyed about their existing knowledge of Japan. To my horror many knew nothing or very little!

Our formal connection was just prior to Christmas time in Australia. Our primary classrooms were decked out with Christmas decorations, the staff had a special morning tea with lots of Christmas baking and goodies, staff and students were in festive spirits and the students had organized a Kriskringle for the second part of the double lesson. (Names had been drawn out of a hat a week before and $5 presents purchased for their Krisringle). Skype was used to connect the two classrooms. 5 mins prior to the video conference 5 minutes prior to the videoconference,  a quick skype message to Mariko, asked if the Japanese students might like to see our Kriskringle in action, to which she replied ‘yes’.

That ended any formality and structure to our fastidiously planned lesson. The whole lesson became learning on ‘the fly’ with students using the 50 mins with complete ownership of the learning. One girl had disappeared at the beginning and returned dressed up as Santa, complete with a sack of Kriskringle gifts. Japanese students viewed the gifts up close via the web camera. Their curiousity was aroused and an interpreter had to be used to ensure understanding of questions and answers. Some of the staff morning tea came in for show – Christmas fruit cake, a Christmas pudding in muslin cloth, Christmas biscuits etc. My students were curious about the masks that the Japanese were wearing in the classroom and the kitty blankets that donned their knees. It was hot summer time here but snowing over there.

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In order to collaboratively document our learning by connecting with this rural school in Japan, students logged into their surface devices, created a shared OneNote and used a mix of pen and text to synchronously build the learning that took place. Our principal was able to login from his office and pose questions, add content etc. The full story and results can be found below. The stylus was used for highlighting, writing, adding colour and generating new ideas. Students chose the medium they preferred.

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Students used a mix of keyboard and stylus. The stylus was often used to explore, annotate, highlight and draw attention to questions or their thoughts, to express their thinking, focus on areas that required responses and produce a multimodal and colourful, visual and engaging outcome. As student thinking and brainstorming evolved as a group, they added images, shapes, structured blocks of text, diagrams, shading, colour etc The stylus helped  create a more effective, beneficial and engaging product, pushing their learning reflections further.  They were not constrained by their speed and skill on a keyboard and mouse. If students had used a keyboard alone, then the result would not have been as rich. It would have taken too long to draw diagrams and lines for highlighting, text comments would not have not aligned well and it would have been too hard to add text or shapes over any existing text etc. Imagine the outcome if the Japanese students could also have collaborated on that document.

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Following on from the documentation, the students decided to create a collaborative Christmas calendar for the month of December to share with the Japanese students. A snapshot of their  synchronously built calendar can be seen in the imageabove. Students drew their own images using the stylus. It encouraged originality, creativity, imagination and resourcefulness. The calendar was rendered digital immediately for online sharing.

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When students have a stylus, they can explore, think, express, collaborate and record their newfound knowledge and experiences in new and meaningful ways. They don’t waste time using a keyboard and mouse to effectively brainstorm, highlight and reflect on their learning. This means more thinking time and best of all more learning time.

Mystery Animal

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As our school teaches mandarin Chinese, any connection with a school in China is of special interest. The assistant principal of an Bozhouu International School in China found me on the Skype in the Classroom website.

As we had already completed a mystery skype connection, Richard suggested that we do a mystery animal game this time, using skype as the videoconferencing tool. He had prepared a wonderful sheet to share with the students bearing images of African animals complete with the names in both English and Chinese.
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Following is how it looked:-

  • Each class had previously chosen an animal from the sheet.
  • My students  had printed off their names on an A4 sheet for clearer understanding.
  • Boxhou rang us on skype. There were technical difficulties on their end but all was resolved within 10 mins.
  • Students played paper rock scissors over the camera to see who was to start first. Hawkesdale, Australia won.
  • Students had to ask questions only with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. eg Is your animal grey? Is your animal a carnivore?, does it have a long nose or trunk?  etc.
  • They took it in turns to ask questions and each student would introduce themselves one at a time.

There was much laughter in the classroom on both sides as we tried to understand each other’s accents, names etc. It took approximately 20 mins for each side to actually determine the other’s animals. All the Chinese students stayed in over their recess period to complete the  a second mystery animal.

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Student reflections on their individual blogs:-