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Today I met a girl…..

Today, I met a young girl who wants to be an obstetrician.

But she was no ordinary girl because she :-

  • was only 10 years old
  • lived in one of the most poverty stricken countries in the world
  • was from Nigeria and part of a large classroom of students

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She spoke articulately and when asked what career she hoped to follow, came back with the response that she wanted to be an obstetrician. I wished her all the best with her studies and ambitions. She was one of the students in HAMMED ABDULAZEEZ’ class.

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We had connected as part of the worldwide 2 day skypeathon. It was late at night for me and early afternoon for them. I shared a little about our “Farm in Australia” sharing my screen and showing pictures of the farm. Students from the class shared information about their country and culture and asked me questions about the culture of Australia, who was our president (we have a Prime Minister) and any major festivals that we celebrate. Their knowledge of the world was quite sound (and that surprised me as I am not sure how much my students would know in comparison.)


Expert Games Developer speaks to remote classroom with skype


This year, my teaching load involves secondary students from years 7-12. One of the year 9/10 electives that I run this semester is called “Gaming”.

In my other ICT classes we often connect to other global classrooms or teachers using skype. These contacts have been found on twitter, Skype in the Classroom website or through other professional learning networks.  It is not  easy finding expert speakers for my senior classes, as many are directed at the younger age groups. Upon searching the Skype in the Classroom site, I came across Bharathwaj Nandakumar, a video game developer working with Activision in Santa Monica, CA. He is one of the core members of the Call of Duty team for the last 8 years.

Knowing that Call of Duty is a favourite video game being played by the students, I was thrilled to know that, despite being in California, he was available at the very time that I have my students. A quick request to connect, came up with confirmation that he was available. My prime concern was that they are a shy group and reluctant to engage in conversations readily on a public scale.

The students were excited when they found out who they were to connect with, and listened with interest as Bharathwaj spoke and shared his screen with us over skype, showing mystery screen grabs of the games that he has found influential in designing  games he is involved in. Students had to tell him the names of the games. Some they knew, some they did not. This broke the ice with them and helped them overcome their shyness and reticence to talk to him.

He continued on and talked about the work he is involved in, what a typical day’s work looked like, how he and fellow workers are encouraged to play games and how important maths is if any of the students wished to pursue a similar career.

His presentation was well set out, with lots of images. Bharathwaj was at home with Call of Duty posters visible everywhere behind him. (Students liked this feature). They were intrigued with the fact that 200 people worked on developing Call of Duty and that it took 2-3 years to develop each game. He encouraged them to create their own games with programs like GameMaker using video tutorials to help them. After the session he shared links with us and offered to stay in touch and continue to answer any questions for them. The following were resources suggested by him:

  1.  yoyogamesfor great video tutorials to get started.
  2. Make your first game
  3. Make a platformer game  

How amazing that students in our rural remote school in south eastern Australia, could link up with a games developer in California and learn in real time with him about one of their favourite video games. Technology certainly breaks down the barriers of cost, distance and borders!

I am off to explore the site again for further speakers. Have you used any experts to come in virtually to your classroom?

Temple of Heaven/Summer Palace

Day 8 of our school trip to China involved a visit to both the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace.

A large park is adjacent to the Temple of Heaven. As it was still early morning, the older Chinese people were using the exercise park, singing in groups and generally enjoying the outdoors. Students joined them on the exercise equipment.

In another part of the park, we were fascinated to see what appeared to be a dating service. Parents were patiently filling in the morning with a photograph, the age and other details of their son or daughter. The details were on paper laid in front of them. The crowd would walk through perusing the information with parents hoping that one of them would be a future match for their child.

A short walk took us to the entry of the Temple of Heaven – another fascinating site of historical significance. Ming and Qing Emporers would worship their god and pray for a good harvest. This is an interesting site that should be on any itinerary if visiting Beijing.

The Summer Palace is another beautiful historical site and one of my personal favourites. As the Empress would spend summer here, it is more ornate and colourful than the Forbidden City. The lake, the beautiful gardens, ornate buildings, marble boat and the ornate long corridor mean that its beauty leaves a lasting impression in visitors’ minds.

Prior to the visit to the Summer Palace, it is the usual custom of tour guides to try to get tourists to visit a silk factory. First an explanation and demonstration of where silk comes from, then on to the factory floor to tempt us to purchase silk quilts or other silk apparel.





Day 7 China -The Great Wall

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Day 6 in Beijing involved a visit to the Great Wall of China – always a highlight of any tour of China and an essential part of an itinerary. Our tour guide took us to Mutianyu entry point. The wall is set in picturesque mountainous country but is a steep climb.


The students and some adults made the climb to the wall but there was a cable car to take the adults who were not so fit to the wall. The option of a toboggan ride down appealed to the students but unfortunately, rain forced that activity to be closed. It is certainly awe inspiring to look at the nature of and the great length of the wall from the many guard towers. Tower number 1 was the furthest point that could be walked to as it then reverted to the original and wild wall.

Lunch was in a restaurant near the bus carpark. It had lovely views down the mountain. The afternoon was spent driving to a traditional tea house and tasting a variety of Chinese teas.


Day 5 School Trip to China

On day 5 of our stay in Beijing, students said farewell to their host families and resumed touring with their teachers and the adult members of our party. We had our own 18 seater bus, complete with driver and Lisa, our tour guide.


The day was hot and humid and our first stop was two of Beijing’s biggest attractions – Tiananmen Square Square and the Forbidden City.


A rickshaw ride through the hutong, a visit to a Chinese home in the hutong and some hard bargaining with determined hawkers selling watches, fans, souvenirs etc completed the afternoon.

Day 4 China Trip

As today marked the start of the Mid-Autumn festival for the Chinese people, it was a public holiday and would be over a 3 day period. Students would spend the full day with host families. This caused even more angst with some than the first night spent with the families. There was no relief from coming to school to be with familiar friends and teachers during the daytime. They had to survive 2 nights and a whole day in a completely different space and culture.

Yet, all enjoyed their time. Some went shopping, some visited tourist attractions, some dined in restaurants and some just stayed home. Several host families combined activities much to the relief of our students.

The adults and Hawkesdale staff were treated to an action packed day tour provided by Beijing no 27 school We were given  a driver and a tour guide for the day and visited the Beijing Museum, walked through the hutong and along the Grand Canal, visited the Drum Tower and heard the drumming demonstrations, visited Peking University and as night fell walked through Olympic Park which was a magnificent sight as darkness fell and the lighting on the buildings came into effect.

The moon was resplendent for the mid-autumn festival.

Lunch was in a local Chinese restaurant where one of our dishes was the traditional Beijing noodles. The evening meal was in another wonderful restaurant featuring Peking Duck amongst many other dishes.

A third day of learning with Beijing no 27


greeting students at the gate.jpgOur last full day at Beijing no 27 started again with breakfast in the school dining hall. Each day two students welcome and monitor people who enter the school.

The Chinese students are extremely studious. Many were studying or completing homework while we waited for breakfast to be served. Many go home at night time and put in a further 3 to 4 hours or more. This was an eye opener for our students.



One of our student’s breakfast trays

Instead of attending classes in the morning, we walked through the hutongs with Therese, the organising staff member, past one of the gates of the Forbidden City and on to Jingshan Park.


The weather was humid and hot but the pollution was thick. Some of us donned masks.


However, the gardens were cooling. It was fascinating to see the older Chinese citizens practicing tai chi, dancing, playing chess, voice shouting, singing, participating in clapping classes etc. Several older people were using water and brushes to write Chinese characters on the pathways.We climbed to the top of the hill to  see the Buddhist temples. A number of students and the adults enjoyed dressing in traditional costumes having their formal pictures taken.

As it was close to 11:00am we returned to the school to have lunch. At the end of lunch, one of the boys brought his hand made drone out into the school yard for students to have a go at flying. This was followed by a calligraphy class. Students were then given a test on their knowledge of Beijing geography, spoken language and chop stick skills.

The principal came in just before the test to bid us a formal farewell and to give our school a special gift – a beautiful handcrafted fan. John and I were taken into her office while students completed their test and again were given individual gifts – tea for John and a beautiful comb for me. On returning to the classroom, each of our students were given a number of gifts and souvenirs of their time in the school. As there are many after school activities, we congregated in the school yard watching students practice marching, fan dances and basketball. It was great to see our students starting to mingle readily with the Chinese students, practicing English, exchanging wechat id’s etc.

As our days came to a close at Beijing no 27, our students finally looked comfortable, mingled readily with the Chinese students, shared wechat id’s etc.