Three continents, two different time zones, two classes from different countries and the guest speaker from a third country/continent for International Women’s Day.
March 8th across the world is International Women’s Day. Our school continued to celebrate it on March 9th, when Canada, USA and others on the other side of the world were still in March 8th . A special lunchtime linkup was organised with Arianne Jones, a Luge Olympic Champion for Canada. Due to time zone confusion, the primary school students became part of a later connection rather than the lunchtime linkup that we were expecting. The fascinating part of the linkup was that a school from Delhi, India became part of our 3 way connection. The connection was organised through Skype in the Classroom and Classroom Champions.
Arianne was an inspiring speaker who should never have been a Luge champion. She is thin and far too light in weight. Even her coach had no faith in her and gave her little opportunity initially. However, she persevered and is now the Olympic Luge champion for Canada.
When she finished speaking, Arianne encouraged Hawkesdale students to ask 5 questions, then the students from India asked 5 questions – all really interesting and forcing us to cope with the Indian accent.
She encouraged the students to “dream big and chase your dreams!!!” The response from the Indian teacher was ” our kids are so overwhelmed speaking to you.. you have been a true motivation for them” There are many wonderful opportunities on Skype in the Classroom website, many tailored for special celebatory days
@skypeclassroom @@jonesluge #IWD2017 #IWD
It was World Book Day. To celebrate this day schools across the world were given a rare opportunity to Skype with Mark Wood – a Cold Extremes Adventurer. He has trekked across the North Pole and the South Pole and led an expedition to climb Mt Everest, taking millions of students across the world with him, by using Skype webconference in.
I was asked whether our school would be interested in connecting with him as there were still some time slots available.Not to miss any of these wonderful opportunities, I invited the school. For Mark, it was Thursday night at 10pm and Friday, 9am our time. We were the last school of the day. He had already been to schools in England, India, Croatia and 3 times to the USA.
Approximately 120 students from years 4-11 gathered in the library to hear Mark speak. He shared his stories, especially of his adventures to Mt Everest. His engaging speaking style, sense of humour and easy going manner endeared him to all who listened. Mark was motivating and inspiring. Unfortunately the Mt Everest expedition was called off just as they got to the death zone 200 metres from the top. One of the sherpas fell critically ill and the doctor experienced frozen feet. They made their way down and all survived.
We see people attempting Mt Everest on the television news, read of it in the magazines or newspapers but here we were listening and interacting with someone who had actually been there. We caught the emotions, excitement, the extra details in stories and felt we experienced the adventure with him. Mark humanized the expeditions.
After 15 mins of story telling , Mark handed over to the students to ask him questions. This was a wonderful interactivity that satisfied student curiosity and made us think of more questions.The young ones were less shy and asked most of them.
Some of their questions:
- What inspired you to be an explorer?
- How old were you when you had your first adventure?
- What was your favourite thing about climbing Mt Everest?
- Have you ever had a life threatening experience?
- How do you go and who do you go with?
- Was it cold at the North Pole?
- Have you ever forgotten anything?
- Have you had frostbite?
- What food and provisions do you take?
Our literacy teacher wrote new and key words on the whiteboard for discussion later. the older students immediately returned to class and wrote up some of what they learnt. When all the student stories were put together, there is almost a complete script or picture of Mark’s presentation.
His parting sentences reminded students that everything comes from education – if you think differently you will have a better life. The only thing preventing you is yourself. Earth will look after itself, but Mark wants to look after the human race.
Our school will continue to follow Mark on his second venture to conquer Mt Everest and be part of the new emerging stories. If you ever get an opportunity to hear Mark present, do no miss out. He was fantastic.
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.
Learning Arabic, initially with a fluent speaker from the USA, Sophia Aron of Critical Language Service who has devised a series of flipped learning activities where students can learn vocabulary at home using apps at home which provides a fun and engaging way to learn. Then practising during face to face time with Sophia.
In our second class with Sophia, she setup a 3 way skype call, where a couple of young American children spoke to us in Arabic and showed us how they would greet each other if they were in Egypt. This was a great demonstration showing my older students what should be done.
Students enjoyed using the apps either individually, in pairs or in small groups. There was mixed reaction as to which they preferred – Quizlet, Memrise. or Flashcards by NKO.
Some of my Business Management class had learnt mandarin Chinese last year and queried why they would want to learn Arabic. However, I reminded them that they lived on farms and some of their beef and lamb would be exported to the Middle East. In fact when I travelled to Qatar many years ago, I saw Midfields vacuum packed lamb in the freezers in a local supermarket. Midfields is our local abattoir.
To supplement the language development, Sophie had added videos into the Memrise app. Students watched some of these to gain a better cultural understanding of the people – another important skill when dealing with global markets.
What a wonderful opportunity my students were given!
- the importance of hearing accents prior to dealing with them when connecting virtually
- class room setup. My computer lab is a great setup for normal classes but when connecting online with videoconferencing, it is not ideal. Straight rows in front of the webcamera would ensure better engagement for both sides.
- how effective videoconferencing can be for learning – and the abolute need for chat, video, audio, screen sharing and recording possibilites etc
- greater impact of a charismatic engaging teacher for learning
- importance of getting to know each other on a simple basis before getting into the nitty gritty of learning.
One 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.
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.
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?
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!
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!