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A touching introduction!

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I attended Comview, the Victorian Teachers Association for Commercial Teachers annual conference. On Tuesday morning, I gave my presentation on “Trending Tools and Apps for Students in the Commerce Classroom”. There were approximately 40-50 teachers in attendance.

Aishah introduced my session, explaining a little about me and my role in the Commerce Classroom. She made welcome to country and acknowledged the elders on whose land we were on.

However the next was totally unexpected! she asked us all to take a few moments to reflect on the recent events in the world (Paris), reminding us of the important role that we play as educators and the influence that we can have on students, whilst they are young, to develop empathy, tolerance and an understanding of different cultures/religions.

Aishah was a female, muslim teacher from one of the Melbourne Islamic schools. I nearly started my presentation in tears!

The Global Education Conference


The Global Education Conference is here again. It is free, online, open to all interested in global learning over a span of four days, 24 hours a day. It is  a space for educators from all corners of the globe to congregate, socialize, network and to learn with and from each other.

There is something surreal about being in a presentation with people who may not speak English as their first language, whose names I cannot pronounce and who may come from countries I have to ‘google’ to find out where they are from.

There is an amazing array of keynotes and presenters, who come from all countries of the world, all passionate about global education, willing to share their experiences. Please make time to join this amazing conference. Check out the conference program in your time zone, put up your feet and enjoy the best that technology can bring.

The twitter hashtag is #globaled. The ISTEglobal PLN has put together a list of their presenters and some recommended sessions. You can see it by clicking on this link.

Immigrants vs Refugees – a global challenge!

learning of immigration and refugees

A network is vital for global collaboration but when an established network is in place and collaborators are live with each other, the most amazing connections can occur.

As skype message popped up on my HLW Skypers groupfrom Lin-lin a teacher in Taiwan asking if anyone was available to listen to one of her students

speaking about the differences between a migrant and  a refugee

Unfortunately I was about to go to on recess yard duty, but quickly found two year 7 girls who were willing to linkup with Bill, the student sharing the difference. This was such an opportune topic as Australia is about to accept 120000 refuges from Syria and there is much debate on the pros and cons of doing so. Skype was used for this connection.

This is a great example of a simple connection from an established global network, demonstrating how it can lead to ongoing learning across cultures and world boundaries.

The challenges:-

  • trying to understand the distinct Asian accent

What the girls liked:

  • getting Bill to work out where we were from in the first place.  We showed him pictures of Australia
  • liked hearing the accent even though it was hard to understand.
  • just liked linking up with different countries. Can find out different things like what they are learning about.
  • I am learning about countries and where people are from by their accents. We can learn their culture from it – tells us where they are from and their history from people who actually live there.

Further questions we now have:-

  • Is Taiwan accepting refugees from Syria? Why or why not?
  • What countries do they accept refugees from?
  • Where do most of their immigrants come from?
  • Where do most of their refugees come from?
  • and so much more?

And the reaction from the class in Taiwan:

 However, I just gave a lesson about this issue to my Grade 6 students.
My class and I pay highest respect to all the nations which will give great help to the refugees and my G6 classes will make peace cranes to exchange with an American class.
Anne, thank you so much. My class read your message (re the fact Australia is taking in Syrian refugees) and they just started to know how serious the situation is and what your country has contributed to those people in urgent need.

and continuing conversations brought this message:

There were another 2 classes of mine also went on discussing and getting to know that  there are great amount of people suffering and facing the threatening  of losing lives in order to live in a safer place… And there are generous nations to receive those people.  News reports here are full of coming presidential elections next year and entertainment news….We are not connecting  to the world most of time.

One of the biggest learnings from global collaboration is that of knowing and understanding your own culture. I am so grateful to live in Australia, the lucky country!

Conversations Worth Sharing

girls and alisa

It never ceases to amaze me about the many opportunities that technology can provide to learning in breaking down the barriers of distance, cost and effort. This also includes seas and time zones. Our school is rural remote – 30-40 mins from a major shopping centre. Our students either live on farms or in very small country towns. The town our school is situated in has 150 residents. We are surrounded by farmland on three sides.

One of my favourite tools continues to be skype. It is user friendly, able to be readily used by people from all countries, is free and relatively stable with our unpredictable school bandwidth. Bearing this in mind our students were offered the opportunity to linkup with the TED conference in Vancouver, Canada several months ago. Permission notes went home to parents of year 8 ICT students and my year 11 Business Management and Accounting students.

Year 8 ICT students were to play Mystery Career with a TED speaker (who turne out to be Alisa Miller, CEO of Public Radio Internationaland Year 11 students were to be given the opportunity to talk with Blake Mycoskie founder of TOMs shoes. Then, the most exciting connection of all (from the students’ point of view was the opportunity to interact with Mark Ronson! (of Uptown Funk fame).  He is an English musician, DJ, singer, and record producer. Please watch the fantastic result.

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

Prior to the linkups

  • Permission forms were sent home to be signed by students’ parents.
  • Year 8 students prepared a series of questions that they could ask their mystery connection to determine their career.
  • Year 11 students compiled a series of questions to ask of Mark and Blake.
  • I booked the library as it had a cabled computer for best bandwidth, a whiteboard for projection of the TED conference
  • Our school was tested on several occasions for bandwidth and other technical capabilities by Skype technicians in London to ensure that our school, computer and setup would be capable of the connection.
  • 45 mins before the official connections, we were dialled in to ensure that lighting, backgrounds, framing of the students and audio was all okay! Our webcamera ended up being taped with masking tape to one of the speakers to ensure students were centred and framed well. So, please dont say that teachers need a lot of money or technology to achieve great things!!!
Out mystery career guest!

Out mystery career guest!

The actual linkup no 1 with Alisa Miller – Mystery Career

  • The call came through and we answered and connected with good video resolution and audio
  • all went well for the first 10 mins and then our computer independently rebooted and we lost connection
  • We dialled in again but our computer rebooted once more
  • Highly frustrated, I connected my laptop which had not been tested and it worked well enough for us to finish the first connection.
  • Surprisingly one of the year 8 students finally asked whether she was a CEO and there was an affirmative answer. See  the questions they had at their disposal to ask and determine the mystery career.
  • Alissa went on to talk more about what she does, how she got to the top and encouraged the girls to do their best and aim the highest!

Connection no2 with Mark Ronson and Blake Mycoskie – year 11 Business Management, Accounting Students and some year 8 students

  • again we connected 45 mins prior and tested the connections (technicians had replaced the desktop computer in the library). We were framed appropriately.
  • the dialling and connections worked a treat, the video and audio was of high quality. Another school from Tasmania was on skype with us and Mark Ronson
  • students were really excited to work with Mark as his work in the musical field was well known to them.
  • Blake was highly motivating in his stories of success and where he had started from. He outlined his social entrepreneurship as part of the Toms Shoes organisation. The content covered was highly relevant to their study of Business Management.

How amazing to be able to talk to three highly regarded global entrepreneurs from the comfort of our small rural school! Students  may not remember much of the textbook but they will remember their skype call with these people.

10 things to do at the start of the school year

start of school

This week will be the start of our first full week back at school for the Victorian (Australian) school year of 2015. I love the excitement of a new year, with classes returning, new classes starting, students enjoying being back together again, excited conversations, catching up with everyone etc.

It is a time to get organised, set the scene for learning and connect with the students. The bulk of my teaching load is Information and Communications Technology from years 7 to 12 and this is what I will be doing this week:

  1. Reconnect with my professional learning network on twitter, skype groups, email lists etc and be increasingly active after a 5 week summer holiday break.
  2. Connect with my students – get to know them, their learning styles, their strong points, interests, extra curricular activities, technology use outside school etc. Each new class will start with a backchannel chat using TodaysMeet with a series of questions each student will resond to simultaneously. The room is booked for 12 months, so that I can go back time and again and see what they say about themselves.
  3. Connect students beyond our classroom walls. Search out some sessions with other national and global teachers, classes and experts. Take a thorough look at skype in education for those who are actively seeking connections, expert speakers and community members who are willing to share for free over videoconferencing.
  4. Actively seek out global projects for each class. Register year 9/10 and 11 for the Flat Connections Global Project (a personal favourite.)
  5. Ensure all students have an individual blogs (I use global2 blogs) which our Department of Education and Training provide us with through their campus license.
  6. Ensure that all students can access MS 365 of which we are a trial school so that work can be saved and accessed in the cloud and that group learning can take place.
  7. Students will add a snapshot of their timetable to both a post and a page on their blog. Another  post will list the subjects studied, another share three learning goals for the year.
  8. If time permits they will share another post on “Ten things you don’t know about me”
  9. Catch up on updates on twitter, google+ and a variety of educational blogs, including those targeted with upcoming events and resources for Victorian teachers eg global2, Digital learning, fuse, abc splash and a firm favourite Free technology for teachers
  10. Actively participate in the organisation of the upcoming OZeLIVE conference – a virtual conference that will run in Australia friendly times.

Australia Day – a day to celebrate

australia day on the wharf flag
Today is Australia Day, a time for us as Australians to celebrate what we enjoy and experience in our wonderful country. It is a day of celebrations, ceremonies, relaxation, barbecues, enjoyment of our great outdoors and socialization. It is a public holiday for all.

It is also of interest that it is Republic Day for India and much as I would love to connect our students with those in India, school has not yet returned for us. So special thoughts go to our friends from India also on this special day. Yesterday was Chinese New Year. The week is full of many festivities.

Does your country have a special day?

Inspiring Stories Marine Scientists

guy from Antarctica

Always on the lookout for bringing the outside world into my classrooms, a recent email from a colleague alerted me to the  Clickfest Festival held during November. It is described on the flyer as:-

… an annual video conferencing festival run in November each year. ClickFest is an exciting initiative from education organisations across Australia. It highlights the diversity and scope of video conferences available to schools across Australia. Sessions are delivered free or at reduced cost to schools, providing a great opportunity for teachers to give it a go.

Some of the virtual excursions were only available to NSW Australian schools, some cost money but there were others that were free and a slot was available to a school outside of NSW. The “Inspiring Stories Marine Scientists: chasing eddies, drawing blood, restoring underwater forests and catching the invisible!” sounded really interesting. My year 7 ICT class was booked in through DART connections. Polycom videoconferencing equipment was to be used for the connection. A successful connection was almost guaranteed as the affirmative email from Anne Doran, the Education Officer from the Australian National Maritime Museum covered

  1. setting up a time to test the connection prior to the event;
  2. clear instructions and tips for  a successful videoconference linkup
  3. a copy of the presentation (should the content sharing fail at the remote end)
  4. a backup phone number contact if major problems occur

Here are my modified instructions based on this email.

class and polycom

The videoconference was a great success. The four scientists shared their presentations using content sharing, showed photos of their work, displayed a sense of humor, were engaging to the students with topics  of high interest to my 13 year old girls and spoke for just the right length of time. They talked about previous careers – like ice skating and how they got from there into marine science, research field trips to Antarctica, moving seaweed forests to ocean floors that had lost their seaweed etc.

Students enjoyed it as they could interact, ask questions, see the work they did, listen to the experts in that field and as we live 30 mins from the sea or ocean it is an environment they are familiar with.