Category Archives: skype

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.
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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)
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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.

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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.

 

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

jen maley and janet's friends

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.

Steve Sherman

  • 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.