Category Archives: skype

Connecting with China

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Every two years, students of Hawkesdale P12 College and parents are offered the opportunity to visit China. Mandarin Chinese is the second language taught. Approximately 10 days are spent in China, including four nights spent at our sister school, Beijing no. 27 Middle School,  several nights in Xian and the final days spent in Shanghai. Students stay with Chinese host families in their homes. in Beijing.

Social media enables the students to stay in touch with their families and friends back in Australia, and to stay in touch with their host families once they leave Beijing. It is essential to be able to contact the tour guides that accompany the group during the daytime.

Wechat is the biggest communication tool used in China and is used for everything including as a mobile payment app. Before the students and parents left, we tried to setup their mobile phones with the app but had all sorts of trouble activating the app. As it was nearly time to leave, it was decided to find another app. However, this is difficult as facebook, snapchat, blogs etc are all blocked when in China. A VPN is required to access them, but these are not technically legal, they can be blocked at any time and it would not be socially responsible for us to use a VPN whilst there.

Skype was suggested but we needed to find out whether it required a VPN. Fortunately, through Skype in the Classroom network, the names of two Skype Master teachers who work in China were provided. These teachers assured me that a VPN was not required. Students downloaded the Skype app and were added to a group that included the teachers attending and family members.

It has worked really well, with daily schedules posted, lots of pictures shared of what everyone has been up to, videos, questions and generally maintaining contact, especially when students were staying with their host families. It meant that the people back home could ‘live’ the experience with them and I could share many of the photos and videos with my students as they were shared. Skype was used to connect classes back at Hawkesdale with the students in Beijing and the calls could be recorded for future use in the Chinese classroom

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Virtual Tour with an Aquanaut

 

An opportunity arose for the students in our school, to participate in a virtual field trip with an Aquanaut, based in an undersea laboratory near Florida, USA – the Aquarius Reef Base, using Skype. This is one of only 3 undersea laboratories dedicated to education and science in the world. A group Skype call allowed classes and students from Asia, Pacifica and USA to connect. As it was a late afternoon call from Florida, it was our first lesson of the day. Usually Australian time zones are difficult to cater for.  Our years 4 to 7 went to the library to view the linkup.

Some of the group participants from other countries

It was another amazing experience, learning from an Aquanaut, watching his tour in real time, viewing the cramped conditions, facilities and gear, and even seeing sealife swimming outside the window as he took the camera up to the window. We got a ‘real life view’ of what life in the laboratory is like.

We were all given an opportunity to ask questions. At first, we had difficulty seeing his image and tour but despite that students were highly engaged just listening. Then the full image projected on our screens which made it more special.

Read what students have posted to discover some of their learning and opinions. They have written blog posts on the connection.

What a fabulous opportunity this was for us.

We could even see the fish swimming outside their windows

 

 

 

 

Does anyone need a teacher?

sebastian roshan dwight and christian

skype message

The above message popped up in one of my Skype groups as I was preparing for my next class – Year 9/10 Global ICT. What an opportunity! I hope to connect this class to many different teachers, classes in as many countries as possible. Roshan is a Skype Master teacher from Sri Lanka – a country many students do not know of.

As it was only 10 mins to the start of my class, there was little time for formal organisation. Another message popped up from my long time online colleague, Sebastian Panakal, from Kerala, India. He wanted to be part of the same connection.

sebastian and roshan

Unfortunately, there was so much happening in the school that for much of the time, I only had two students in my class. This is what the lesson looked like:-

 

  1. Played Mystery Skype. Students quickly worked out that Sebastian was from India but Roshan’s country was much more difficult to determine.
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  2. Roshan shared his screen and a pictorial presentation on Sri Lanka- the country, the culture, the religions, festivals etc.
    sri lankan culture
  3. Students were given an opportunity to ask questions
    elephants
  4. Sebastian, of India, then spoke briefly of his work and his passion for experiencing a peaceful world. He believes that connecting students world wide will develop empathy and understanding, forming the foundation for a peaceful world, free of terrorism.

The class then took on a completely different atmosphere. Roshan talked about the recent terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, the emotions that people were feeling, the environment they were now living in etc. It was with mixed emotions that we listened to a teacher in a school of 3000 where only 200 students are coming in each day. Students are too frightened to come to school. Facebook is still blocked by the Sri Lankan government to keep rumours at bay.

There is fear, disappointment, disbelief everywhere. The community no longer supports some of the Muslim traders. There are swords found in some of the religious mosques leading to even greater fear. Some of Roshan’s friends are Muslim and are wonderful people. They feel that the terrorists were a highly educated group organised from outside their country.

It was with great disquiet, that we left the classroom with much to think and reflect on. How can we help these people? How can we reduce terrorism? What is it really like to survive attacks like this? What impact does it have on the local communities?Will life ever be the same for them again? So many questions!

The highlights:-

  • Having two guest educators in our classroom at once, each from a different, but neighbouring country.
  • Learning about the recent terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka from someone who lives there and experienced it.
  • Being able to interact in real time and ask questions.
  • Seeing the props that Roshan used to add engagement – a smiley face when the answer was ‘yes’ to the Mystery Skype questions and the flag when the students calculated the right country.
  • Experiencing the presentation showing different aspects of Sri Lanka
  • Having access to a recording that Sebastian had made.
  • and so so much more….

all of us

 

 

Second linkup with Mariana Ilanos

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As I am teaching an elective called Global ICT to year 9 and 10 students, I asked Mariana if she would have time to connect with them. This is a small class of students, so I was delighted when she agreed to speak to them. Year 7 class really enjoyed the previous connection and it was a great chance to learn about and discuss cultural differences a better understanding of the world we live in and to develop empathy for different ways of life

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Again Mariana spent time introducing herself and explaining her background including the fact she was born in Lima, Peru. By sharing her screen, she read and showed the pages of her book “(Not) Home for Christmas”. Although it was in English the Spanish text could be seen on some of the pages. Once the book was finished, Mariana talked about some of the cultural differences in celebrating Christmas. Students then shared their ways of spending Christmas. Photos of Peru and Peru were also shared.

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I would highly recommend Mariana to any classes around the world. Following are some of the ways in which she makes it engaging for students of all ages.

  • Mariana effectively used objects to capture the students interest – a blown up balloon map of the world to show where she lived in the USA (Oklahoma) and where Lima Peru is located. Students then had to guide her to find where Hawkesdale Australia can be found.
  • By sharing her screen, and showing the actual pages of the book, students could read  the text in case they did not always understand  her Spanish/US accent. The Spanish text could be seen as well.
  • Students enjoyed seeing the cartoon type images of the book as they were highly engaging and it added depth to the meaning of the book.
  • Mariana is a confident and engaging presenter who interacts well with the students.
  • Even though the book was written for younger students, these 15-16 year old students enjoyed hearing it and liked learning about the different cultures.
  • Mariana connects from her home and it is interesting to see what the space around her looks like, to have some of her family members interact with us and to hear her speak Spanish to her children.

Please read some of the student summaries on their blog posts:-

  1. Dwight Skype Linkup with Mariana Llanos
  2. Bayley Skype with an author
  3. Olivia Skype with Mariana Llanos
  4. LachlanS Skype with mariana llanos an author

selfie with year 10 and Mariana

 

 

 

 

Skype an Author for World Read Aloud Day

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World Read Aloud Day occurred on February 1st this year. As school had only just started back it was too difficult to organise something for my students on this day.

Upon checking the Skype in the Classroom website a number of authors were willing to Skype into classrooms beyond the World Read Aloud Day. One author who took my interest was Mariana Llanos.  She was born in Lima Peru but now lives in the USA and writes books for children to promote cultural awareness. My students tend to be geographically and culturally isolated as they come from farms or small rural towns of 3000 population or less.

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Mariana used a number of techniques to engage students including:

  1. Questioning for interaction
  2. Sharing her screen to enable us to read her book and enjoy the illustrations as she read it to us. Then, later on, to share photos on her computer of Christmas in Peru and the USA
  3. Using her home to Skype us so that sometimes she spoke Spanish to her daughter to give her instructions.

She started our session by sharing a little about herself eg she was born and grew up in Lima, Peru, then moved to Oklahoma where she has now lived in the USA for 17 years. She speaks Spanish and English. Mariana n shared her screen with us, sharing the pages of the book (Not) Home for Christmas and read this book to us. The illustrations were engaging and students seemed to understand her accent.

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The video image was clear so students could actually read the text whilst Mariana read it to them. The story was about a family from the USA who returned to Peru to celebrate Christmas with their relatives in Sth America. There were marked cultural differences between the ways that the two countries celebrate this festival. eg Santa Claus is called Papa Noel in Peru.

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Mariana then told us how the people in Oklahoma celebrate Christmas and then was interested in how we, in Australia experience this time of year (December 25th).

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As the year 7 class has a boy who was born in the Philipines and a number of students who lived in New Zealand, we were able to gain some knowledge of the differences and similarities in these countries.

What I liked:-

  1. Mariana was an accomplished presenter.
  2. She shared her love of different cultures with us and gave my isolated students an insight into the US and Peruvian culture.
  3. We caught a glimpse of her home and her daughter.
  4. The session was structured well – introducing herself reading the book, discussing the content of the text, discovering how we celebrate Christmas, question time etc
  5. She shared her book via the screen so we could see the illustrations and text (especially if we had difficulty with her accent.)
  6. Mariana showed photos of Peru and Oklahoma at Christmas time.
  7. Mariana used a wonderful cartoon image that encouraged the students to read (either books or digital versions) as that gives the brain real power.

International Tolerance Day – a global celebration

introductionReinhard Marx is an online colleague from Germany who is always at the cutting edge of using technology for global collaboration. We met through the Hello Little World Skypers Group. Last year, he looked for teachers/classes to be involved in judging a Flash Mob Dancing Spectacular, as part of International Tolerance Day. I readily agreed as it was held during my evening and any projects Reinhard helps organise are always great. A similar event took place this year on November 16th. There is something rather amazing to be down near the southern tip of the world, yet be so intimately part of a school spectacular in the northern hemisphere – a school that is in the middle of Asia – and in a country that I know little about – Kazakhstan which is in the heart of Central Asia.

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The 13 global judges came from Germany, Sweden, Bangladesh, Hungary, USA, England, Greece, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Australia. Chills went down my spine, when the two student comperes acknowledged the judges, their countries and my name was read out over the youtube live streaming. These comperes were young, yet so professional. Judges were introduced using three different languages. 17 different dance groups performed often to a medley of music that included traditional, folk, hip hop, Asian, modern Western style. It was comforting to realise that these students loved similar music to what my students enjoy.  The dance routines were fabulous, kept an absolute secret from anyone involved and choreographed by the students themselves.

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The online tools used

  1. Skype: a skype group  – the “Shymkent Flash Mob Jury 2018″ – was formed for those educators who were interested in being part of the global judging – either solo or with a class. This gave us a valuable backchannel both before, during and after the actual event. Some teachers were new to the process and were able to work out what they should do and where they should be on the actual online google judging sheet. Begaim, the chief organiser of the event, was able to keep us up to date with which group was performing and translate for us when necessary.
  2. Youtube – for live streaming of the event with the live audience chatting in the backchannel of youtube – mostly in a language I could not understand.
  3. Google sheets – for judging each flash mob. Teachers were given an individual sheet with in the group sheet. Each flash mob had a number and a name. Voting took place for each dance group. The following categories were voted individually on a score out of 10 – dance energy, team spirit, musicality (all movements in the dance must correspond to the specific features of the music), dance synchrony, creativity and appearance.

my worksheet

What the  event looked like::-

  1. Testing of the youtube stream took place one hour prior to the event
  2. Skype group was used as a backchannel
  3. The two student comperes did a great job introducing the school and contestants, and introducing the global, virtual judges.
  4. Their national anthem was played
    national anthem
  5. The 17 different groups performed their flash mob dances (the whole process took approx 2.5 hours)
  6. As each group finished, the judges scores went up on the google sheet and were collated in real time.
  7. The winners were announced at the end
  8.  One large skype group call enabled all the judges and classes across the world to see each other and speak – an amazing finale (although my bandwidth was not stong)
skype call

The global judges meet at the end over a group Skype call

Kudos and hearty congratulations to the teachers and students of Kazakhstan for such an amazing event. Thanks to Reinhard and Begaim for pulling in some of the global network to be judges and part of it all. A great way to celebrate International Tolerance Day.

me on laptop

It was night time for me!

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Excerpt from the youtube chat on live streaming.

Skypeathon 2018

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The annual Skypeathon gets bigger, better and more global each year. The dates for 2018 are Tuesday, November 13th and Wednesday 14th. The theme this year is “Open Hearts, Open Minds”.

I like the quote from this tweet from Microsoft in Education, Canada re “it is a live-learning marathon”.

The following tweet provides more details about the social goals for this year’s Skypeathon.

You can learn more by visiting the Skypeathon site Follow the steps to request mystery skype calls. There is an activity plan to organize your calls or digital passports, stickers  and posters etc to be had. If you follow the #skypeathon hashtag on twitter, there are opportunities for organic or unplanned connections with people who are looking for partners. However, for the miles to be recorded, please request a mystery skype call at the planned time.

Already planned Skype calls for my classes include the following countries

  • Argentina
  • USA (students are either sleeping over or staying back after school)
  • Philippines
  • India
  • Australia

Some of these involve live cultural or muscial performances, some are mystery skype calls and some are short sharing session. One is a connection with Microsoft manager talking about digital technology to my year 9/10 computer class. Are you going to be involved and if so, who will you connect with.