Category Archives: skype

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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Janet Barnstable

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Instead of a garden party, some HLW Skypers members who were in Chicago for  ISTE 2018, attended  Memorial Service for Janet Barnstable and her husband Richard Sebrin.

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HLW Skypers (Hello Little World Skypers) is group formed using Skype as its chief communication tool by Katherine Zablatnik and others, eight years go. It was formed to facilitate Video conferencing Worldwide for the promotion of Education and technology. Building bridges; we are family, hand in hand we aspire to make a better world, trying to understand one another, and improve our cultural awareness. Our members come from many countries across the globe and many do not speak English as their first languge.

Janet Barnstable joined this group soon after it was formed. As a retired educator, she spent many hours keeping the conversations going, helping those who needed help, suggesting alternatives and solutions to issues raised, took an interest in each and every member,  and despite having no facebook, twitter or other popular social media account had her own well established global network.

She was the program manager for the Global Virtual Classroom. As these projects were usually spread over a 6 month period, our Australian school year finished and started afresh over this time, which prevented my classes from joining in as they changed each school year. However in 2017 Janet introduced mini projects so my class was able to participate in term 4 2017. I am so glad that I had the chance to work with her and some of the other teachers across the world. See and read what our Ocean project was with a class in Taiwan.

However, as ISTE 2018 in Chicago approached, several members of HLW Skypers from other countries talked about attending. Janet lived in Chicago with her husband Richard and she offered to host a garden party in their beautiful garden and excited chatter confirmed that we would love to be part of it. Planning started and another local Chicago resident Ellen Smith met with Janet to plan the afternoon. However, in late January Steve Sherman from Cape Town put a message into the HLW Skypers skype chat, asking whether any of us had heard from Janet lately as he had heard that she and her husband Richard Sebring may have been the as yet, unidentified victims of a house fire. Utter shock and disbelief set in amongst members of the group. It took weeks to identify and verify the bodies but it was indeed Janet and her husband. Unfortunately, both were confined to wheel chairs (Janet was a victim of polio). They were aged 78 and 76 years.

Our group setup a google document to crowd source our memories of Janet and pay testament to the wonderful work that she had done with us. She was collaborating globally even before the internet and she was “the cornerstone” and the “glue that kept the 150 or so global members of HLW Skypers together.”

Read more

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Instead of attending Janet’s garden party, a small group of friends, family and HLW Skypers members gathered at a Graveside Ceremony at Ascension Cemetery, Libertyville. This was timed to coincide with the time that people were in Chicago for ISTE and on the very day the garden party was to take place. It was with a mixture of sadness, pride in knowing Janet (virtually) and the knowledge that she had brought us altogether. It was a simple service led by the Trustee of her estate, where those who had gathered shared a little about the contact that had with Janet. It was comforting to learn more about this friend of ours, especially her past before we knew her.  David Karnoscak , Steve Sherman, Louise and Preston Cameron, Cheryl Kemper, Matthew Kuntz and myself were in attendance.

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We were all invited to a brunch at the nearby Blueberry Pancake restaurant where we were able to share in further conversations and get to know each other better and learn even more about Janet.

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A macrame neck piece made by Janet for this lady’s first communion.

We did still go to the garden party as Ellen Smith decided to host it in place of Janet. As she had already discussed the food etc with Janet, she kept to the same catering ideas – Italian sausage (which is a Chicago thing to eat), Mexican dips and platters etc. Further members were able to join us there as their flights only got in at lunchtime. Jen Maley and two of Janet’s close colleagues from GVC were there.

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HLW Skypers group at Ellen’s garden party

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Looking at the 3D printed self lighting torches that Jen Maley’s class had made for Africa.

A school will be built in memory of Janet. (Will add more details when I find them out).

Janet was a wonderful role model and an innovative pioneer. She will be sorely missed by all those who worked with her.

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

 

Australia Day 2018

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Australia Day falls on January 26th, the same day that India celebrates its Republic Day. Although the date is becoming contentious in Australia, it is still a day to celebrate our wonderful country and its freedom, to enjoy the public holiday, to get together with family and friends and share a barbecue.

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It is fun to be camping in Port Fairy for Australia Day. It starts with a free Lions Club breakfast on the Fiddlers Green. The breakfast consists of sausages, bacon and egg sandwiches, tea and coffee and muesli bars. This is followed by a special Australia Day ceremony. Australian flags abound in the caravan parks – on cars, caravans and tents.

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Lamingtons – an Australian sweet cake treat coated in chocolate icing and coconut are readily available in the bakeries. They were bought as a treat to have with our coffee.

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At 7:30pm, some of the campers set up 18 Australian flags in all shapes and sizes. Others gather around and we proudly sing our Australian anthem.

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It was also an opportunity to connect, using Skype, with Sebastian Panakal and his Women of the Wiki (WOW)and share the special days for the two countries – India and Australia and to wish each other well.

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Sebastian is doing some amazing work with his fellow community members. He explains what he is organising in the following quote.

 WOW is an NGO launching their very first eLearning Centre at Calicut, Kerala on 26 Jan.
We have named it WOW CLT 001. We hope to set up WOW Franchisees, profit to be used for cultural exchanges for learners.
Launch is scheduled on 26 Jan, Republic Day India and Australia Day.

See the video produced by Sebastian

Asian Connections – Vietnam

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People often ask how where I have found educators to connect with. As the network grows, people tend to find me. One such person is Ngo Thanh Nam of Vietnam. Nam is also a Skype Master teacher, Asia’s Educator of the Year and has shares an impressive list of experiences and accomplishments. He has also connected me to a facebook group, connecting classrooms with a global focus on child abuse and safety. This has brought a further number of global connections. Again, I was added to a facebook Skype-a-thon group where a request from Nam was made to connect his class with another Asian class or educator as they were studying Asia.

The time requested suited me but I was on summer holidays, so had no students and I was not really from Asia. Australia is part of Pacifica. However, when I said I was available, Nam asked me to connect.

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A presentation was quickly put together on Australia’s engagement with Asia under the following headings (on a personal involvement scale):-

  • close neighbours
  • trade (we live on a farm and sell our cattle and lamb to Asia.)
  • tourism (my husband and I love to travel Asia, as do other Australians. Bali,  Thailand and Vietnam are the popular destinations for Australians. Our school travels to China every second year)
  • connected classrooms
  • potential to solve global problems together etc

On connecting, I was introduced to the class and then proceeded to share my screen to show photos of our farm and  photos illustrating the above connections with Asia.

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Nam’s students then came up to the web camera on an individual basis, introduced themselves and then asked me questions on my knowledge of Asia – eg what foods are typically Asian etc? The students were well prepared, presented well to the camera, were articulate and spoke excellent English. Thanks Nam for the invitation. It was great to be part of your classroom.