Category Archives: Uncategorized

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’!

school sign

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.

linlin taiwan

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.

steve from south africa

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.)

linlin and soup

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.”

nathan and steve south africa

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.
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South Western Victorian Bushfires on St Patrick’s Day

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March 17th was forecast to be hot and windy, with high fire danger and extreme warnings were issued by the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

It was an early morning rise on Saturday 17th March. I had stayed overnight with my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in an airbnb accommodation in Broadmeadows as it was a short ride to Tullamarine airport. They were flying out to Sth Africa and had to check in at 7am. I was then to drive their car back home.

After seeing them through their flight check-in, I continued on to the Victoria Market to have some breakfast and purchase some fresh delicatessen items, meat and fruit. It was a lovely warm, calm and pleasant morning and I thought that surely the weather forecast was wrong.

After a 3.5 hour drive home, I stepped out of the car to feel the heat and the strong winds that were now blowing. It did not cool down much at all so even when I went to bed it was really hot. Instead of the winds dying down they continued to escalate in strength and speed – a most unusual occurrence. As I was tired I had retired early for the night.

Our landline phone had been out of order for four days, but Telstra had said it should be fixed by the following Tuesday. For some reason, I took my mobile phone to our room and placed it on the bedside cupboard (it is usually charged overnight in the kitchen). At 12:40am I heard it ring via viber (using our wifi) as we do not get mobile phone service at home. It rang out but started up again. I could see it was my daughter trying to ring us and assuming that one of the grandchildren had taken ill, I answered it. However, Katherine was trying to tell us that there was grass fire headed to Hawkesdale and that Hawkesdale was being evacuated. In fact, most people had left at 11:00pm. (We are 8kms south of Hawkesdale). Her snapchat was going wild with people’s photos and updates regarding the extent of th evacuation.

This was hard to believe, as we could not smell smoke or see any fire. Fortunately, our power was still on, so I started up our computer to check out Facebook and the Victorian Emergency website. To my horror, there were fire alerts over much of Western Victoria.

The other puzzling factor, was the fact that our pager had not gone off. My husband is a volunteer firefighter with Warrong which is just south of Hawkesdale and in cases of serious fires in our local area, his pager would have gone off.  Then….. the pager did go off! I quickly threw some things together, including our passports, a sleeping bag and pillow, jumped in the car to evacuate to my daughter’s house in Warrnambool, whilst my husband donned his CFA firefighting uniform and went to Hawkesdale to help fight the fires.

evacuate now

However, 5 minutes down the road, I remembered my iPad which I desperately needed to keep up to date with the VicEmergency app. I quickly went back inside the house, got my iPad and drove down our drive for the second time. When I reached the end of our driveway, a car had pulled up. It was our neighbours who were coming back to check on us for the second time. They had been to our place an hour earlier and banged and banged on our door trying to wake us up and alert us of the approaching fire. Unfortunately, we had slept right through this. I thanked them and proceeded onto Warrnambool.

It was eerie driving to Warrnambool. There were no other cars on the road (as everyone else had most likely evacuated and reached their destination.)  I had the radio on and could hear all the bushfire warnings. Finally I reached Warrnambool and Katherine’s house. There was little sleep to be had as we listened to the radio and watched the app for the latest updates. Facebook updates provided information from those who had evacuated and from some who decided to stay at Hawkesdale. (They evacuated to the recreation reserve at Hawkesdale or to the Hall). From their updates we knew that Hawkesdale had still not been taken. However, I had no idea where my husband Bruce was. He finally messaged me via viber to say he was okay, had been trying to mop up the fires where they had hit on the farms in Greens Lane and put out some of the fires in the windbreaks and trees.

By morning, we were able to watch some of it on the television news. At 10am I decided to drive home and see what of my garden I could water (to save both the garden and our house, should the fire proceed once more). Winds were still fierce and it was still quite warm. At 4pm there was meeting organised by the CFA for community members in our school library. The library was full of community members and representatives from a wide variety of groups. We were briefed on the extent of the fire and some of the options for financial and hardship relief.

community meeting at hawkesdale

The significant role of social media in all this.

Without social media, we may not have known of the impending fire until it was too late as we had no mobile phone service and our landline was out of order.

Snapchat: my daughter’s snapchat feed alerted her to the fires in the district including Terang, Camperdown and Gazette and then to the evacuation of Hawkesdale and the sheer numbers from Hawkesdale who had left. Watching the feed closely she realised she needed to urgently contact us using viber. Fortunately our power was still on for wifi to work. In real time, she was getting photos from people who could see the fierce fires nearby.

Facebook: updates here, enabled us to keep in contact with others who had evacuated and who had stayed in Hawkesdale. A site setup with the sponsorship of the Red Cross allowed us to mark that we were safe.

The Vic Emergency website: kept updating every 2 hours with the latest alerts, incidents and warnings.

 

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 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

 

Global Mardi Gras Judging for German Students

the winner

The winner of the Mardi Gras competition – the Penguin!

Reinhard Marx has been an online teaching colleague for many years, and pushes technology use to the boundaries of the world. Each year he organises many activities for his classes and brings other classes and educators in from across the world.

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The class from Croatia, as seen through the Hangout!

Last night was one great example of his innovative work and this is what it looked like.

  1. Students in his school came dressed in costume for the Mardi Gras.
  2. Prior to the event he sent out a google spreadsheet seeking classes and teachers from across the globe to be judges. Interested teachers filled in the spreadsheet, with their name, class (if they had one), country and email contact.

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    The class from Hungary

  3. Just prior to the class, the link to a Google Hangout was shared

    tereza and her cat

    Tereza – a judge from Croatia

  4. Reinhard creatively set up 2 webcameras, one at the front for students to walk towards, showing their costume and also to act out their costume character.

    back of yellow

    The rear webcam allowed us to see the back of the costumes

  5. Another webcam was set up at the back of the room, so that we could see the detail of the back of the costume.
  6. There were three sessions in total. In my session, there were classes/educators from Hungary, Croatia, Russia and Australia
  7. A link was given to a judging sheet setup in Google Sheets. We gave each student a score for A) their costume itself and B)  for their ability to act out the costume character. Each was scored out of 10
    voting sheet
  8. The winner with the highest total received a chocolate bar!

Highlights

  • Sitting in on a German classroom virtually and hearing the German instructions and then often the English interpretations of the character’s costume.
  • watching students being pushed outside their comfort zones to try and act out their character
  • watching in real time, the global judges’ scores coming in on the spreadsheet
  • seeing the variety of costumes

The total time taken was approximately 50 mins. Great work, Reinhard on a very successful competition.

 

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.

Video call snapshot 444

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.

Video call snapshot 446

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.

 

 

Transforming Education for Humanity Conference – Vizag, India

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“There is something culturally humbling about sitting down to a hot lunch, in a foreign country, having intense educational discussions with a fellow teacher who eats with his fingers whilst I use cutlery and serviette.”

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The UNESCO_MGIEP inaugural conference took place in Visakhapatnam, Inda and was organised by UNESCO Mahatma Ghandi Institute of Education for Peace (MGIEP). The aim of the conference was to

provide a unique platform for learners and experts from across the globe including Ministers of education, information & communications technology and youth as well as senior policy makers, entrepreneurs, education technology providers, teachers, teacher educators, education psychologists, researchers and neuroscientists to collaborate, innovate and work towards transforming education for humanity.

The conference was brought to my attention when I was invited to a brunch for global educators at ISTE in June this year. Brochures promoting the conference were placed on the tables.  ISTE supported the conference.

“The World is Our Classroom” was the topic of my presentation submitted for approval. It was accepted, so plans were made for travel; and time release, in the form of long service leave from school, was requested.

The conference was inspiring.  For the first time in a face to face environment, fair complexioned skins were the minority and often a novelty. Despite my age, people approached me for selfies!!! The biggest proportion of attendees were from the Indian community, representing many different schooling types, languages/dialects and districts. There were more than 55 countries represented and 1400+registered attendees.

mixed participants in session

Highlights:- There were many but following are some of them:

    • Immersing with so many different cultures, languages, backgrounds and religions.
    • Attending sessions that involved interpreters. It was fascinating to hear the different languages.
    • slides which featured both English and one of the Indian languages – Hindi, Tamil etc.

multi langage slide2

  • being reminded of the poverty and trying conditions that many teachers in India, Bangladesh, Africa etc work under. Many schools do not have electricity. Many parents are illiterate but still want the best for their children.
  • panel discussions from some of the world experts in a many fields involving technology eg gaming, robotics, AV and VR, Makerspaces etc
  • Being a participant in a session that involved both Chinese and Russian presenters. The Russian presenters were sharing their research and experience in Artificial Intelligence.

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  • The conference had a mix of Ministers of Education, ICT administrators, entrepreneurs, researchers, neuroscientists, policy makers, educators and best of all quite a number of students – some quite young as participants.
  • Ability to collaborate, innovate and work towards transforming education for humanity with many of the above participants.
  • The mix of topics and choices available to participants.
  • a tour of Vizag on the conference buses with a multicultural mix – Indians, Filipinos, a teacher from Azerbaijan – all eager to learn more about each other as we rode on the bus and stopped at the tourist attractions.
  • The Novotel conference centre is situated on Beach road, with only the road separating it from the sea  and its beautiful views.
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  • Meeting people who were also staying in my hotel, Winsar Park hotel, opposite the King George Hospital. Many of these people were also attendees or presenters at the conference.

Staying in hotel that had been highly recommended by Indian people on Trip Advisor. It was clean, had complementary breakfast (predominantly delicious Indian food). kind and helpful staff and a restaurant that stayed open until 11pm at night. (This was useful as sometimes I did not get back until 10pm)

Challenges

  • coping with the different accents even though the common language was English and trying to make sure each of us understood each other.
  • the queues were long at lunchtime – often 1 hour or more, queues. However,  this did provide an opportunity to meet others and continue conversations on education and backgrounds.
  • determining what name I call people. The name tags showed a first name and last name but sometimes the culture they were from, reversed the sequence of names.
  • working our way around the Novotel conference centre. However, there were many volunteers who did a great job to guide us. Some sessions had to be rescheduled due to inability of participants to find the correct room.
  • overcoming my fears-of getting lost,missing my flights,  making myself understood, suffering gastro from a changed diet, how trustworthy are my drivers (uber, cab and tuc tuc drivers) etc

Cultural differences:

  • hearing a variety of native languages being spoken around the conference centre
  • evidence of tight security. The conference was officially opened by the Chief Honourable Minister for Andhra Pradesh. Numerous police, security guards and the army equipped with large guns were everywhere inside and outside during this time. The volunteers and workers for the conference, formed a human chain as he walked through the exit near the conference participants.
  • Women were clothed in saris, with legs covered either by the saris or leggings. There was little evidence of Western style dresses.
  • Getting to the conference in the local transport – autocabs (or I would call them tuc tucs) and trying to make the driver know where I needed to go.
  • Working out the meaning of the horizontal head nods – was it yes or no or something else?
  • The spicy foods – I was told by those who lived in India that Andhra Pradesh food was amongst the most spicy of foods in India. I did enjoy their food but avoided any that obviously had red chilies in them and I drank lots of water!!!!

 

25 years since the first txt msg

text message

It is now 25 years since the first text message. Read the article on 25 years since txt messaging

This was a great trigger for learning and to get students to share how they now use text, spelling and grammar for messaging. Here is what the lesson looked like:-

  • I spoke about my experiences in getting a television for the first time, and seeing a computer for the first time.
  • Students had to guess what the very first message actually was.
  • We read the Herald Sun article on 25 years since txt messaging as a class.
  • Students discussed some of the points raised in this article.
  • They then proceeded to follow the instructions below.

Student tasks:-

  1. Create at least 6 elements of a txt conversation, including emojis, images or whatever else you would use when you txt each other
  2. Insert speech bubbles into word to share each element of the conversation
  3. Use the snipping tool to create an image of the conversations>save in your folder
  4. Add your snipped etxt to this padlet. Double click on the wall, add your first name in the header
  5. Click the + button and upload your images

It can be seen that the snipped text did not create a clear image. Students have been asked to do it again, increase the text and take another snapshot. If you are reading this post and have students it would be great if they could add them to this wall as well.