When students become the experts and teachers!

Video call snapshot 65

A recent mystery skype linkup, connected year 7 ICT class with a YouthSpark initiative event in  Seattle, on Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest.The  events connect educators and administrators to resources, programs, and tools to support their students in STEM (USA) and a round of mystery skype is often played to share the incredible digital communication skills students have built by playing it.

An email had come through with the following request:

It would be incredible wonderful if you could have a Mystery Skype session with our group our teachers at 6:15 PM in Seattle, Washington on Wednesday, 05/20.

We hope to meet at 11:15 AM your time on Thursday, 05/21. We would be grateful to have your students join the call. The typical way we play Mystery Skype would include a speaker and camera on both sides.  We also have classes take turns asking Yes or No questions. This game would be your Australian students vs. our American teachers (who have never played before).We like to demonstrate the Skype in the Classroom program to educators through playing a round of Mystery Skype with students.

Year 7 ICT students agreed to play Mystery Skype with them. We gathered up some Australiana, set up my laptop, connected it to a monitor and video called in

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As US classes had finished for the day, our school day was just beginning. Participants had to ask questions that required a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and our students became the experts and teachers!

Comparing money

Comparing money

The highlights

  1. The facilitating leaders in Seattle were experienced players and our students loved their dynamic, animated and enthausiastic approach.
  2. It was an engaging and highly motivating session for all involved.
  3. The Seattle leaders had produced signage eg “Yes”, “No”, “Thinking time”, “Great response” etc which was placed up to the webcam fo
  4. The microphones were left on at all times, so that each side of the world could hear any responses, the general chat and gauge the atsmosphere etc
  5. A quick sharing session of objects that we had on us eg money, school uniform
  6. Sharing of pictures to show what our schools looked like
The school in Puget Soundb

The school in Puget Sound

A wave to say goodbye

A wave to say goodbye

please note that the pics featured were taken within skype.

The Australian Flag flew high above Sparkles Fire House

Australian flag
Australian flag above Sparkles’ Fire House

 The Australian flag flew proudly high above Sparkles’ Clubhouse  but  this Fire House was not in Australia but in  Arkansas, USA. Dayna Hilton  and Molly, one of her Dalmation Fire Dogs visited us  from Arkansas, using skype, to talk about their work in  the Keep Kids Fire Safe™ Foundation‘s “Learning about Fire Safety can be FUN!” program. This program is sponsored by First Alert and State Farm.


Dayna had worked out the distance between us as 9,402 miles! She talked about fahrenheit temperatures and brushfiresn- quite foreign to our students who are into celsius, kilometres and bushfires! We asked what the distance would be in kilometres and techno savvy Dayna said she would quickly work it out. She inmediately pulled out her iphone and quickly asked Siri who calculated it efficiently We could see and hear Siri’s response immediately.


With great expertise, Dayna shared images and videos using her iPad up against the web camera for us to see.

sharing pics on ipad with uis

Sharing pics on ipad with us

Dayna was teaching my year 8 ICT class which is a challenging one with a number of highly disengaged students. However, she engaged them fully with her appealing manner,  interacting with the students, asking questions and showing us Molly her beautiful dalmation. Animals are always winners! The background set was just delightful – lots of colour, bright red set giving a real theme around fire. Molly kindly obliged us with some of her tricks at the end of the connection!

Dayna and Molly

Two years ago, Dayna and Tango (another Dalmation fire dog) skyped with us. See the video. Next we would love to connect our CFA (Country Fire Authority) elective students with Dayna to share experiences and what we do in Australia.

Thanks Dayna, Lorraine Leo (who introduced us) and Skype in the Classroom where Dayna offers to connect to anyone around the world.

Behind Closed Doors: Sebastian guest educator from Kerala, India

cropped selfieThis week is Education Week in Victoria, Australia. To celebrate teaching and learning, our school opened its doors today on the theme: “Behind Closed Doors”. Grandparents and parents were invited in to the classrooms between 11:30am and 2:30pm.

Year 7 ICT class demonstrated the power that technology can bring in opening up the doors globally. Sebastian Panakal kindly accepted the invitation to play “Mystery Skype” with the students, then show his wife’s Seena’s wonderful samples of origami and and answer any further questions.

whole class with Sebastian

Students had to think of one question to ask Sebastian, that required only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, whilst I solved the many problems I was facing with my laptop. Sebastian waited extremely patiently whilst my laptop rebooted. Students gradually worked out where Sebastian was from, using visuals and accents as ancilliary clues. Hamish actually worked out the name of the city – Kerala! Students had previously asked if he lived in the northern hemisphere, near a tropical forest, near the Pacific Ocean etc. Once they knew it was India, the next questions were

  • Do you live in southern India?
  • Do you live in a big city?
  • Do you live in Kerala?

showing origami

Sebastian proceeded to share the wonderful origami that his wife Seena creates. I hope he could hear the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the students as the webcam beamed them back to us. She shares her work over youtube.

As it was breakfast time for Sebastian he told us he was having Chappati & Daal – further learning as to what this actually looks like. Appam (made of rice) and curry was also part of it. Our students had had toast, toasties or cornflakes with banana!

Then he  invited us to Skype with “Sandesh – Be the Change” learners as part of training of a team of social entrereneurs ready to empower poor at the bottom of the pyramid in Kerala. The Prime Minister is eagerly promoting “Make in India” – Kerala Government is keen on digital democracy, empowering the marginalized. What a fabulous event for us to be involved in.

another origami

Read some of the student blog posts and what they thought about it all:

  1. Kiara’s post
  2. Dominic’s post
  3. Emmerson’s post
  4. Tim’s post
  5. Megan’s post

An amazing visit to Kenya!

Each year our school holds an information evening for prospective parents of year 7 students for 2016. Being a small school, we try to show some of the best aspects of learning at our school. Again, I was asked whether a global connection might be made using skype to demonstrate the ability of technology to break down the barriers of geographical and cultural isolation and take learning beyond the textbook.

Govinda Panthy from Nepal was approached  as the first earthquake was still making headlines in our media.  He was unable to connect as he had an important meeting in Katmandu. Livingstone from Kenya was also asked. Michael Soskil, from the USA.  was visiting with him and they had been actively seeking people to skype with a few days earlier to connect students fom the Cheery School in the biggest slum in Africa but as there was no word from them, Sebastian Panakal, from Kerala, India again kindly consented to skype with us. Just as the first group was about to come into the computer lab, Sebastian warned us that his power may be about to go out and then……. it must have as he immediately went offline!

Video call snapshot 59

Instead, current year 7 students showed some of the global projects that they had been involved in. Fortunately there was a 45 min break as in that time, Livingstone skyped me to say they would be ready for us whenever we were! Student helpers quickly gathered up some objects to share as we were told that the Kenyan students were young and did not speak much English. The Kenyan students attended the HIP academy, a rural school in Kenya.

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As the second group of parents and students entered into the room we called Livingstone on the video camera and commenced with a mystery skype challenge. The prospective students in Hawkesdale posed the following questions that could only have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question :-

  1. Are you south of the equator? Answer = no, our country covers the equator
  2. Do you have a big rainforest? Answer: no
  3. Do you have lions? Answer: yes
  4. Are you in Africa? Answer: yes
  5. Are you from Kenya? Answer: yes

The sight of the dark coloured faces made it reasonably easy for us to work out where they were from. They worked out where we wer from with some visual clues. They had a paper poster world map to refer to, we had online maps on our computers.

Video call snapshot 61

A young Kenyan girl then taught us swahilli by showing us toy animals that Michael had brought with him to Kenya. She spoke the word in English, then Swahilli, we then had to repeat. She did not move onto the next animal until we pronounced it reasonably well. What a brave effort on this girl’s part as none of these students or teachers had used skype before. Then to our delight, the power of the webcamera was shown, when Michael took Livingstone’s laptop outside and showed us the surrounding countryside. One of the school volunteers then explained about the gardens that they were growing to supply food for the children to eat at lunch – corn, pumpkins etc A donkey could be seen in the distance. The picture was crystal clear and it was as if we were actually there!

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Parents came up to us afterwards to say they had no idea we could even do this! What an amazing introduction to the learning that even small country schools can make on a global scale! A fantastic connection – thanks Livingstone and Michael for making this possible!

Read some about our linkup from Michael’s perspective Adventures in Kenya Series – Day 9 – From Mukuyuni to Nakuru

Rollover Pen Pals, eMail and Facebook, there is a new way for students to connect globally!

When I first started teaching international penpals was a popular way of learning about others and forging global friendships. Then came  email, then epals and communication became faster. Katherine Zablatnik, (of Austria) founder of the HLW Skypers group (a global skype group of educators across the world) wanted her students to develop a global learning network.

She created a HLW Skypers group for students on skype and then a facebook group for hers and other global students to join but neither really took off. After discussing the apps that we are now using on mobile devices  on the skype group, Katherine sought interest from others to see whether any of our students would like to use whatsapp with her students. After asking my students, a number indicated interest. My interested students ranged from year 8 (14 year olds) to year 11 (17 year olds).

What we did:

  • students shared phone numbers through their teachers
  • downloaded the free whatsapp on their mobile phones
  • students were given the list of phone numbers to add to their phone contacts and then could add them to their whatsapp.
  • left it to the students to communiate and connect with each other and learn from and with each other.

Whatsapp is a free app that works on wifi and allows text chat, image and video sharing, recorded voice, group chats, shared locations etc

The initial outcomes – this actually worked successfully!:-

  • excited students came up to me to share how they had talked to a number of the Austrian students.
  • asked what they learnt and talked about – school hours (which are different to ours), muscial instruments played (again some different to ours), languages spoken (Austrian students may lear German, Italian, French and English), ours only learn mandarin Chinese (and then not very well) etc
  • students actually thanked me very much for connecting them. If only all classes were like this! Read Kailyn’s blog post

Imagine the possibilites

  1. students develop their own global learning networks that they can call upon when studying different countries, cultures, geography, history etc.
  2. can discuss global events and get the full perspective of view points.
  3. develop empathy
  4. support each other etc etc

Tech Talk Tuesday in Review: Exploring Favourite Apps and Tools

A small group participated in this webinar but it was another amazing sesison with ‘pop up’ presenters, Peggy George (USA) and Shamblesguru (Thailand) contributing some wonderful tools and apps.

From Peggy George

  1. livebinders – link to the engineering tab on the demonstrated livebinder
  2. a site from ccedtech that shares many tools and apps with supportive tips


  1. Favourite apps that he is exploring in the last month or two – periscopeperiscope app and meerkat Live streaming with mobile devices. Read meerkat or persiscope and How to broadcast video live via a mobile Or search within Shamblesguru wonderful site.

Anne Mirtschin

  1. format factory for file conversions on PC

What is a good tool for file converstion on an ios device?

Here is the link to the recording


Favourite Tools and Apps – Tech Talk Tuesdays in review

We had a number of people willing to share their favourite apps and tools and two wonderful ‘pop up’ presenters from the USA, @pgeorge (Peggy George) moderator of Classroom2.0 LIVE webinars and @glovely (Gail Lovely) author of Suddenly It Clicks – both of the USA. Answergarden It started with the demonstration one of my favourite tools (also an app) answergarden. Participants were shown how to create an answergarden with the question “What are your favourite apps and tools?”. The link was shared in the chat of blackboard collaborate. Participants clicked on the link and keyed in their favourite tools or apps. Padlet was a popular choice and was therefore the largest sized word. See the resultant garden answer garden favourite tools and apps Why I like answergarden

  • simple but effective tool
  • No need to register
  • easy to share the resultant link
  • can be moderated
  • embed code provided so can be added to a blog or wiki and students or others can add to the garden from the blog post etc.

Uses – great for brainstorming, exit slips, collaborative writing, reflections etc Doodlemaths a  popular Maths tool app for the iPad (but requires a subscription) Peggy George, one of our ‘pop up’ presenters shared:

  1. Tacck – digital portfolios with tacck See Avra Robinson’s Tackks and
  2. Thinglink – resources for thinglink
  3. photosforclass (personally love this one as it attributes the license to that actual photo. All photos are sourced from flickr.) Tips: search for the photos in photosforclass, open them in flickr and download them, the downloaded file comes complete with the attributions.
  4. As Peggy had just been in a recent thinglink webinar, she shared what the group had done via a group padlet. or try this one.

Padlet Gail quickly showed us how to create a padlet and participants shared the last food we had eaten on her padlet wall. See the interactive padlet wall
Other:- TeleStory & Toontastic are now free from google. What are your favourite tools and apps? Add them as a comment here or put your answers into the garden by clicking on the appropriate link above.

What are your favourite apps and tools?

Listen to the recording of this webinar by clicking on this link.