Category Archives: skype in the classroom

Virtual Tours for Students

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Technology allows outside experts to come in to a classroom and speak virtually to classrooms and also enables virtual tours in real time. Today, year 7 students had the pleasure of touring the MOMA exhibition at NGV (The National Gallery of Victoria) with Ingrid, one of the Education Officers but it was instead of a live excursion, it was conducted using Skype. Use this link to book your own.IMG_3675.JPGHow it looked! 

Year 7 students went to the library after form assembly, where a new SMART monitor was used to project Ingrid’s image and the virtual tour. She introduced herself and proceeded to walk us around the dynamic NGV and show us elements of MoMA – the exhibition that has been brought from New York City. During the 40 minutes that we connected, we saw and heard her speak about some of the most famous pieces of artwork in the exhibition.

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Not only were their paintings but animations, videos. cartoons, posters and 3D works of art. Ingrid did a great job in chatting to us, informing us all the time of what she was doing and zooming in on the art work so that we could see in fine detail the actual brushes involved or dots that compiled the art work. There was even a dining experience where guests are invited to sit in one of the windows of the NGV and eat a Thai meal!!! The connection was robust and stable and only dropped out a little when Ingrid moved between rooms. Ingrid encouraged questions through the tour.

Note if we had to go to Melbourne for same experience at the NGV:

  • 4 hour bus or train trip to Melbourne plus up to 1 hour for parents to get students to bus or train by car (from home)
  • permission forms required
  • costs of bus, food etc involved
  • Risk assessment needs to be completed etc.

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The advantages

  • no cost
  • little effort
  • no travelling to and fro Melbourne (we are 4 hours drive from the NGV).
  • No need for extra risk assessments, permission forms and other administration
  • simple technology use, user friendly software in Skype
  • Watching Ingrid zoom right in with her iPad to the actual art work to see the finest details, which I don’t think the naked eye could do (certainly not mine!)
  • Our classroom was lovely and warm on a cold winter’s day.
  • we could see what goes on behind the scenes before the gallery is opened. People cleaning glass casing, wiping clean the white walls, an exercise class moving through etc This made for further research and conversations once the virtual tour had taken place.

The challenges

  • my lack of technical expertise on using the new SMART monitor in the library where an HDMI cable is now required for projection. (I am used to the interactive whiteboard) I had to get the computer technician to come and help me and this took a while, so although I had tested the webcamera and tested the external webcamera and activated that, I did not get time to test the microphone so this did present problems for Ingrid as she could not hear us well, but we heard her really well. That 2 way conversation is essential for successful interaction.) Our linkup was first thing in the morning, so there was little time to get organised.

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However, this is an amazing opportunity and I cannot understand why more educators dont make use of these virtual tours.

Twitter: #NGVkids @NGVMelbourne

Link to book your own virtual tour. 

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Mystery Skype with South Korea

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As Hannah, a teacher in South Korea, had a Parents’ Open Class early in the morning her time, she reached out for teachers in Australia or New Zealand to connect at this time and show the families the power that technology and global connections can bring to learning in the classroom.

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Fortunately, I had a year 7 class at this time, so it was possible for us to collaborate. They were similar ages from both countries, which was great. Discussions were made using chat in Skype as to how the lesson would look. Here is what was planned:-

  1. Start with Mystery Skype so students had to determine where the other class was from, asking questions that could only receive a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
  2. We would toss a coin to see who would start the questioning
  3. Once the countries were worked out, we would share items of culture eg money, food, flags, Sth Korean traditional costume, sheep wool from Australia etc
  4. Learn some Sth Korean language
  5. Question time, if time permitted.

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Due to the space restraints in the classroom, most students had a book atlas to look through to determine where in the world they were from. Some had their portable devices. One of my boys tossed a coin over the webcam, Sth Korea called heads but tails was the outcome.

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We started the questions, which included:

  • is it hot there?
  • do you live on an island?
  • do you live near China?

It took about 10 minutes to work out the countries we were from.

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By sharing out cultural objects, we learnt about languages, accents, exchange rates, features of their money, value of money in each country, national costumes, how to speak some basic phrases in Sth Korean, some of the food differences etc It was a great learning experience with interested parents in Sth Korea looking on.

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The power of technology connections in learning


Each year, district schools, open their buildings to interested prospective parents. It almost becomes a competition, with some schools holding their information evenings earlier and earlier in the school year. Of course we all think that we teach in the ‘best school’!

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Although our school, Hawkesdale P12 College is small, it is big on opportunities for students. Technology has enabled us to open up the doors to the world. which includes expert speakers eg authors, scientists, museums; to global classrooms and to some of the best teachers and educationalists there are.IMG_2686.JPG

For the information evening, parents are divided into groups with both a teacher and student leading them around the school. Parents are rotated around Science, Physical Education, Food Technology, Robotics and Information and Communications Technology  areas where they participate in a range of ‘hands on’ activities.

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Each year I am asked to videoconference (using Skype) in to another classroom or with other teachers to show the magic that technology can bring to learning. My two wonderful colleagues, Steve Sherman (Living Maths), South Africa and Lin-lin Tan from Taiwan agreed to connect with us for each of the groups. Steve was at another school and kindly went out of his way to skype with us. This meant he used his mobile phone to connect and he was seated in his car in the carpark to talk to us. This was a first for me! To have an educator teaching us from within their car.

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Initially, the parents and students played Mystery Skype, asking questions that required a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to determine their location. Lin-lin had to tell them where she was from as they did not work it out in the allocated time. She also shared a poster and map of where she was from, some Chinese culture (as she is Chinese), her evening meal and some of the foods she enjoys. (Note, our school teaches mandarin Chinese.)

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After a number of questions by students, one of the parents determined Steve’s location with the question: “Did the Australian Cricket Team recently play in your country.”

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People will often ask well “What did you learn?” from doing these connections. Here is just a little bit of learning in the 15-20 minutes that Lin-lin and Steve had.

From Lin-lin

  • Where in the world, Taiwan is. Some students may not have even heard of Taiwan!
  • What the Taiwanese language sounds like! (She was home about to eat her evening meal and her mother had called her to come and eat. She responded in her language to say that she was working with a class in Australia)!
  • It was very hot where she lived. (It is nearly winter here!)
  • We saw the soup she was about to eat – it was vegetarian with many healthy greens etc and heard about her fried rice for tea. She also showed us their pickles.
  • The landmark that Taiwan is famous for – the Tapei Tower
  • Chinese lucky envelopes and how they are used.

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  • witnessed the true ability of being able to teach anywhere and anytime using technology. Steve taught us from his car in the school carpark.
  • exchange rates – students showed Steve our $5 note and he immediately turned into a learning moment. Parents and students had to search for the exchange rate between AUD and the Rand. The Australian dollar buys nearly 10 rands.
  • Different cultural phrases: South Africans say ‘tins of coke’, Australians say ‘cans of coke’
  • Students/parents had to work out how much a can of coke would cost in AUD, if Australians were in South Africa.

Guest speaker for International Women’s Day

I received a very special invitation from Seena and Sebastian Panakal to speak to a group of women for International Women’s Day on March 8th. In Australia, the status of women continues to improve and gender equality is increasing in evidence. There is a lot of public attention on treating women with respect but that is still not always the case.

The group of women who I was to present to were from Kerala, India. These are Women of the Wiki, women who wish to become empowered, improve their status in life and the education of their community and to increase employment opportunities for their families. They do not enjoy the same privileges or standard of living that I, as a woman in Australia does. How special to share this International Day with women who lived in another country.

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My role was to share the power that technology can provide. Accents can always be a problem and English may not be their first language, so I put together a brief Powerpoint presentation with images to help with understanding. I showed where I live  (on a farm in rural south Eastern Australia) and where I teach (a remote rural school of 200 students aged 5 to 18), an area that has no mobile phone service. However, access to the internet and a powerful network has enabled the world to be our classroom, resulting in a number of awards including global awards. Many invitations have now come my way to present at a variety of conferences both in Australia and overseas, including Qatar, Shanghai and USA. It is hoped that these women could see that ordinary women can achieve great things with the innovative use of technology and a strong network.

Skype was used to connect. Screen sharing allowed the Indian audience to see my presentation. Sebastian capably organised the videoconference from his end.

The women of Kerala, India were encouraged to consider tourism, providing homestays (through homestays.com or airbnb or similar) or “meals with strangers” (through apps and sites like VizEat, EatWith) could provide a welcome income for some of these women. Selling their craft work online is another possibility. The internet can open up willing global markets. They could teach their language online for a small fee. What other ideas do you have to help them?

Sebastian Panakal, a valued online teaching colleague, together with his wife Seena organised this event. Other online guest speakers were to follow. It is hoped that these women can think of ways to use technology to full effect and improve their and their family’s station in life.

One of the women asks a question

One of the women asks a question

 

Skypethon – without students!

Australia is not an easy country to connect due to our time zone. Australia, after New Zealand, is one of the first countries to greet a new date and day across the world.

There were a number of times, when I was able to connect with other classes of students. The first was with Masterwide 10, Kavali near Nellore in South India and it must have been 2am in the morning for them, 7:30am my time. After brief  introductions, we shared conversations, but they had technical issues so the connection was cut short.

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Another visit to India was with Sebastian Panakal at St Mary’s public school, a 5 hour train journey from Kerala. It was interesting to speak with one of the head teachers, Ashik and another younger teacher and compare our education systems. It was fascinating to see one of the women deliver them their morning tea, whilst we spoke.

One of my network, created a Skyeathon group in Messenger. Many impromptu requests were made. One was from Dondi in Hungary where her students were eagerly waiting to share their folk songs with others. One was played on the flute and the other was sung to me.

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Steve Auslander’s class were fascinated with the fact that I lived in their tomorrow. They had 10 minutes to connect before their school day finished and mine was about to start. One of his girls was really keen to come to Australia, so I sent a picture of a koala that had been in our driveway several days earlier.

 

Despite the dates for the Skypeathon having finished in Australia, the USA schools were still in November 29th, so  two calls were made to them  just before my school started and their school day finished.

One was a spontaneous request from Kyle Calderwood and his class who had 10 minutes before their next call. The second call was from Andrea Friend – a call that had been organised via Skype in the Classroom website. Both times I was able to share my screen with them and quickly show them some of our farm and wildlife.

Kyle Calderwood and his class.

Andrea Friend and her class

I love to travel and I love to learn. The Skypeathon provided both opportunities – one day I will try and work out how many miles we covered in total!!

Skypeathon – Day 2 Afternoon

This was a busy afternoon with contacts in India requesting connections. Unfortunately, Victoria is in Daylight Saving time which pushes us 5.5 hours ahead of India. Therefore there was only a 1.5 hour opportunity of synchronous class time. My senior classes have finished school, but as I had a ‘replacement’ year 9 class. They connected for the first 50 minutes with a couple of girls who had finished their work connecting for the last 40 minutes. Remarkably we were able to fit a number of connections in.

Anu Sharma and her students from New Delhi, India shared a little about India and then students from both sides interacted with questions.

Next, it was a connection with Masterwide from India. They treated us to colourful dances and shared a little of their culture.


The next connection was with a private senior school in New Delhi, India. Their teacher is Arti Chopra, a fellow master Skype teachers. Her students asked quite sophisticated questions of the two year 8 girls, including what policies our government has for looking after our older people, how technology is used in disaster management etc, but Angelina was able to respond and ask similar questions of them.

The final call for our school day was from Anamika Jha, also from India. Her students shared some talents, asked us questions, sang their national anthem and to our consternation, asked us to sing ours. We do not sing our national anthem as often as we should, students are rather shy of singing and when students do sing it, it is accompanied by a taped recording. However, the two girls, to their credit did sing.

These skype linkups all worked well. They were spontaneous on our part, organised on India’s part but students love to learn from each other. The #studentvoice can be powerful and connections like these help them to collaborate beyond classroom walls.

Day 2 Skypeathon: in the morning

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This was a hectic day with many requests having come in from India. As we are in daylight saving, it pushed our times 5.5 hours apart. With only 1.5 of actual synchronous school time with India, it meant the connections were only 15 to 20 minutes in length which was not enough time. This post will describe the morning events.

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First call was with Shiva, from India, who put together some amazing options for people to connect with his school – a cultural extravaganza,  a virtual field visit or mystery skype.  We chose the cultural extravaganza where we were treated to cultural dances, drumming and flute playing. The stage was set beautifully and once we got through the technical issues of not being able to hear the music, my students were treated to an extravaganza or Indian culture. Shiva had paid great attention to detail with colourful cards introducing the connection and a great online site and posters set up to promote it.

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Next stop – Sri Lanka

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This was a game of mystery skype with Roshan Kumar. Roshan’s student worked out our country well before we determine his. We eventually asked for clues as students immediately thought India (judging by appearances). One of the clues was that they live on an island, so Taiwan was mentioned but the second clue was that it was to the east of India.

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There was a few minutes for sharing of cultural objects and information. My students were really interested in the description of their flag and the reason for the lion and all its features appear as it did. Roshan’s student asked “What is something unique about Australia” and we responded our animals ie koalas, kangaroos, emus, platypus etc. They responded that hospitality was one of their unique features.

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Next Up – a busy, busy afternoon