Category Archives: skype

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.

Sebastian and women

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 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


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.

class watching

Next stop – Sri Lanka


flag and class with aussie flag

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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tim with roshan

Next Up – a busy, busy afternoon


Day 1 Skypeathon 2017

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Skype has been a tool that has helped transform teaching and learning in my classroom. It is free, user friendly, available world wide, suits the low bandwidth that I often have to deal with and is constantly being improved. There are many members in the Skype in Education community from across the world, all eager to connect and collaborate.

This is the third year of the 2 day Skypeathon and the dates are 28th and 29th November, with a theme of Open Hearts and Open Minds. Our school is nearing the end of the school year, so senior students have already finished which leaves me with only a few year 7 and 8 classes who can connect.

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Our first connection yesterday was with my year 7 ICT class with a school in Abakan, Republic of Khakassia in Russia. The teacher was Dina Averyanova. A coin was tossed over the webcam with tails called. We won the toss. Questions were asked with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to determine the location.

We asked whether they lived north of the equator and then whether they were in Asia. They responded yes to Asia and we responded no to them when asked. My students took a long time to work it out as they classify Russia as being in Europe. Finally we worked out the countries and then it was question time.

  1. Times of school days
  2. Comparing times and weather
  3. Number of students in the school
  4. Favourite sports
  5. What do you do after school?
    group shot

The learning was evident

  • Skype goal is written in miles. We had to convert to kms.
  • Temperature in Siberia was -17 degrees, we were 33 degrees celsius
  • School days start at 8am, finish at 1:30am in Russia, we start 9am and finish at 3:30pm
  • They had 700 students, we have 220
  • They classified them as being in Asia, which confused my students as they would have thought should be Europe
  • and so much more.

Research after the event: Is Russia really in Asia

Second connection: Our times for classes did not match with the linkup in India. So, several of my students sent a video message through skype with Neeral Mittal and her class in Ghazibad and are hoping that they will respond with a video message.

video message neeru mittal