Kate Leeming -Virtual Stories from an Australian Adventurer

Kate Leeming     is an Australian explorer/adventurer, who has cycled the equivalent distance of twice around the world at the Equator.

Rarely do we get the opportunity to listen to motivational and educational people of Kate’s calibre. It costs too much to bring them into our school face to face and the distance from Melbourne is great. How wonderful it was that my year 9/10 ICT class could listen to her via polycom videoconferencing equipment  in a session set up by Digital Learning, Department of Education and Training.

Prior to the connection:

  • Websites of potential interest to learn more about Kate were emailed out
  • The access number for the session was also shared.
  • A test call was required before the actual day to ensure the equipment worked.
  • Students were given a short time to look at Kates blog set up especially for them.
  • A backchannel was set up for students to add questions, experiences or general sharing as Kate was presenting

The Connection

  • Kate was formally introduced, explained a little what motivated her to do what she does, what she has done and how she hopes to cycle across Antarctica in 2018
  • Kate shared her screen showing some of the amazing photographs that she took on her journey of being the first person to ride from East to West Africa.
  • Students added questions into the backchannel as she spoke

The engagement factor

  • Her presentation style was excellent and the images captivating.
  • Her stories and experiences were interesting and inspiring
  • Some of my most disengaged students weer active in the chat with questions, so she certainly held their interest

After the event

  • The event was recorded Year 6 in our school will watch that as they were absent during this session.
  • We can continue to follow her journey through her blog
  • Students will be encouraged to subscribe to her blog and add comments on her posts.
  • As we had to leave early, Kate kindly answered all our questions from the TodaysMeet backchannel and the document was emailed through to us.
  • Students will write a blog post and add a link to Kate’s blog

Some follow up activities and further research include:-

Learning Resources

  1. Level 5,6,7 Unit of Work – Climate Change and the Environment –   –
  2. Take the Online Quiz – What is your Ecological Footprint?
  3. Taking actionOrganise your own Expedition or Fundraiser
  4. Communicate with Kate – There is a Blog Post from Kate

What wonderful opportunities for students to get involved in? Why werent more schools in attendance for the session?

Introducing parents to videoconferencng

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Hawkesdale P12 College is prep to year 12 school (students are aged 5 to 18 years of age.) This year we had a big intake of year 7 students from our feeder schools. Most of these students live in small rural towns or come from farms. It was decided to hold a welcome afternoon tea, primarily for the new parents, welcoming them to our school, enabling them to get to know each other and encouraging them to stay connected, get involved with the Parents Club and volunteering for canteen duty.

This was organised at quite short notice and as I have year 7 for ICT (Information and Communications Technology ie computers) for the last lesson of the day, I was asked to organise a skype linkup after the afternoon tea. The time of the lesson was 2:50pm which meant most of the USA were asleep. Our school teaches mandarin Chinese, so I made contact with one of my colleagues, Richard Howgate, hoping that we could connect. However, he is in the process of organising a new school, Guiyang Prime International School which does not open until August.

I approached some of my other network, but it is early in the morning for Russia and other colleagues were busy with other matters. It was with relief that Richard messaged me back to say he had arranged for his former school, Bozhou International School to connect with us. By this time it was the Tuesday, the day before our connection. However, I was now working with educationalists new to videoconferencing with skype.

Initial communications

Some of the questions they needed answered were:

  • what will the connection look like ( I suggested mystery animal) and was asked to explain the basic premise of this game and what was required of the Buzhou students
  • You mention that your students are learning mandarin. Does this mean that the focus of the class will be on their mandarin or a mix of English and mandarin? (The new students have only been learning mandarin for 2 weeks so it had to be predominantly in English – a brave effort on the part of the Chinese students to speak English)
  • Could you give me a list of language structures and key vocab that are likely to be used in the class? The mystery animal sheets that Richard had set up were emailed through to Rick so the key vocab and nature of questions that could only have a yes/no answer was demonstrated.

Prior to the lesson (remember time was now the essence!)

  1. A copy of the mystery animal sheets were emailed through with a set of instructions on how to play mystery animal
  2. Setup my laptop in the room attached to the library where the afternoon tea would take place, testing the audio, video  using tools>options>audio settings.
  3. The external webcamera had to be placed in a position where the Chinese students could see the majority of the gathering. It was put on top of the whiteboard.
  4. Unfortunately, there was no cable to plug my laptop into and get the best possible bandwidth, so I also logged onto the whiteboard in the actual library where it was too hot (we had a 36 degree autumn day) to really hold the afternoon tea but the desktop computer was cabled in.
  5. We gathered up some Australiana – a meat pie, cricket bat, some wool from a sheep to share at the end of the Mystery Animal
  6. A quick test call was made 45 mins before the connection with Bozhou. Their video did not work but the audio was good. I explained that Rick had to go to Tools>Options>video and choose the option for the external webcam that was attached to the laptop. I laughed when he said he now needed someone who could speak Chinese as the options were in Chinese! Next I could hear students in clear mandarin explaining which option it was. I hung up as I was in class as they assured me they could work on that.

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The actual lesson

  1. Many of the class had not used skype or videoconferencing before, so some basic instructions were given in effective webcam use, clear speaking of questions.
  2.  Everyone was given  a handout with the animals on it and we discussed some possible questions that we could ask each other.
  3. We  chose our animal (which was a gorilla) The Chinese students chose their African animal.
  4. A large Australian flag was got and students at the back of the room held it upright. We were delighted to see the Australian flag against the front tables in the Chinese school.
  5. Connection was made and a student from each country played paper rock scissors to see who would ask the first question. We won the right to ask the first question.
  6. If we got one affirmative answer to our questions, we had the right to ask another. Some of the questions asked were: “does it have 2 legs”, “does it have patterns?”, does it live in the jungle”, “does it have fur?”‘ “does it eat meat”. The Chinese students worked out our animal first and we finally worked out theirs – an antelope!
  7. Students would introduce themselves first, then ask the question.
  8. 10 mins was left to share a little of where we live and our culture. One of their questions was regarding the weather. Mobile phones were produced to the webamera to show the temperature. Ours showed up at 34 degrees, and there were verbal reactions from our students when they showed their 12 degrees.
  9. When the boys produced a cricket bat, they wanted to know if it was a baseball bat. The did not know of cricket – one of our favourite summer sports.

We had fun, learnt to cope with Chinese accents, used a webcamera effectively, formulated questions that required a yes/no answer and understood more about Chinese students, culture and schools.

And the feedback from China was

It’s great to work with you together for the Skype class today. It does accelerate a better understanding between cultures and establish a deep friendship between students.  We all  have a good experience and wonderful time and we are looking forward to running the class often in the future.

We are greatly indebted to Rick and Buzhou International School for connecting at such late notice, providing a class of the same age group and allowing us to get to know them further.

 

 

Learning journey in Introduction to the Arabic Language

My year 11 Business Management students primarily come from farms. The produce from their farms – lamb and beef can be sold for export to the Middle East. When dealing commerically it is essential to understand the culture, so when we were given the opportunity to learn some Arabic language and more about the culture, I thought this was a fantastic opportunity for them.

Year 11 students learnt Arabic, initially with a fluent speaker from the USA, Sophia Aron of Critical Language Service who has devised a series of flipped learning activities where students can learn vocabulary at home using apps at home which provides a fun and engaging way to learn. Then students practise during face to face time with Sophia using videoconferencing tools like skype.

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In our second class with Sophia, she setup a 3 way skype call, where a couple of young American children spoke to us in Arabic and showed us how they would greet each other if they were in Egypt. This was a great demonstration showing my older students what should be done.

Students enjoyed using the apps either individually, in pairs or in small groups. There was mixed reaction as to which they preferred – Quizlet, Memrise. or Flashcards by NKO.

Some of my Business Management class had learnt mandarin Chinese last year and queried why they would want to learn Arabic. However, I reminded them that they lived on farms and some of their beef and lamb would be exported to the Middle East. In fact when I travelled to Qatar many years ago, I saw Midfields vacuum packed lamb in the freezers in a local supermarket. Midfields is our local abattoir.

To supplement the language development, Sophie had added videos into the Memrise app. Students watched some of these to gain a better cultural understanding of the people – another important skill when dealing with global markets.

What a wonderful opportunity my students were given!

Lessons learnt:

  • the importance of hearing accents prior to dealing with them when connecting virtually
  • class room setup. My computer lab is a great setup for normal classes but when connecting online with videoconferencing, it is not ideal. Straight rows in front of the webcamera would ensure better engagement for both sides.
  • how effective videoconferencing can be for learning – and the abolute need for chat, video, audio, screen sharing and recording possibilites etc
  • greater impact of  a charismatic engaging teacher for learning
  • importance of getting to know each other on a simple basis before getting into the nitty gritty of learning.

 

 

 

Global Judging for German school of Madi Gras Event

Although I have been involved in many special and almost unbelievable global projects and events for many years now, and feel that nothing would surprise me anymore, last night’s experience, organised by Reinhard Marx and online teaching colleague from Germany,  did amaze me.

It was the start of Mardi Gras in Germany and students were encouraged to attend school in costume. In the weeks prior to this event, Reinhard sought global support for teachers and classes across the world to join three classes, view the German students in costume, watch them act out what they were wearing and vote on a shared google sheet. Teachers and classes registered on another shared google sheet and at least 5 or 6 registered as judges for each group.

I helped judge the third group together with students and teachers from France, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia and Hungary.  It was 8pm my time so I was without students.

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How it looked:

  • Participants were given a link to a google document with the rules and procedures clearly explained and links to the voting sheets  in google sheet
  • One day prior we were given the option to test the connections, audio and video
  • Google hangouts was chosen to connect us all
  • The same link was used for each of the three German classes.
  • Even though the class may not have been in the room, the webcam was on the empty classroom, so that we could see when the students walked in and know that we were in the right place. The back of the room featured flags from across the world.
  • I entered 20 mins early to make sure I could logon and was surprised to see so many other judges/classes in the room already. Some were a little confused over the times and when it was going to star (one of my biggest challenges is time zones).  We were able to introduce ourselves and get to know each other through the chat.
  • Reinhard and his class entered at the appointed time. Students were obviously dressed in costumes, some hired, some made at home.
  • Students came up one at a time to the webcam, showed their costume, tried to act out in costume and answer any questions. There was a wide variety of costumes – a police girl, Snow White, a zebra, a Unicorn, a martial arts person etc Some were too shy to come up to the webcamera.
  • As they finished, the global judges would add their votes to the online voting sheet.

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What a wonderful innovative global event. We all had a great time and the chat was to support those when they did not understand. Great work, Reinhard and thanks for organising the event.

Recording: Twitter for Professional learning

Lucy Gray recorded the session for her NLU class. There were two presenters – myself and Mike Muir, Maine Learning Through Technology Policy Director. Mike gave an overview of MLTI and his state’s work on proficiency-based professional development. Follow me on twitter @murcha You can see the recording on youtube at

Using Twitter for Professional Learning

Tomorrow I will informally present to a group of Lucy Gray’s students who have been studying different ways of gaining professional learning (PD). My topic will be using Twitter and Twitter Chats for PD.

The following online resources will be shared

  1.  Twitter Chats – a list of resources that that can be accessed during and after the session.
  2. All Things Twitter – a previous presentation of mine that has general tips on using Twitter.

Twitter can be used for PD:-

  1. As a general search engine on topics of interest
  2. Following hashtags of interest
  3. Creating lists of tweeters who have common educational interests
  4. Through subscriptions to existing lists – tweeters who have common interests in education eg global education, games in learning etc
  5. Twitter chats

I like the idea of Lucy calling on her extensive global network to present on topics that they are familiar and passionate with, in regard to PD.

What have I missed? What would you share with a group of trainee teachers?

Learning Arabic Online

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Year 11 Business Management students will learn basic Arabic in 1.5-2 hours  using a mix of online tools. As businesses become more global in nature and outreach, cultural understanding and ability to interact with other languages is essential for success. Most of my class live on farms and  their beef and lamb may be exported to the Middle East.

We have been offered the opportunity to learn Arabic, initially with a Sophia Aron of  Critical Language Service  in the USA and then, finally with an Arabic native speaker in Egypt. They will initially learn basic language and also view a number of cultural videos. This is to support Sophia with her request for sample videos of students learning Arabic and will be recorded. Skype was used to connect with Sophia for each of our classes with her. She was able to speak to us, be on standby for any questions and share her screen with us so we could be stepped through some of the tools. The skype chat was used for sharing codes required for some of the tools.

The time allocation:-

  • 45 minutes: studying the vocabulary and materials that would be used in the lesson on the platforms Quizlet, Memrise. and Flashcards by NKO.
  • 30 minutes actual class
  • 15 minutes: student reaction and question time.

Tasks Prior to Learning eArabic

Students will obtain a username and password login for the following sites. Use your login code for computer access as your username.

Pre – session

Sophia was online on skype, she helped us  walk the students through the process live of setting up accounts using screen share.  The classes work on a Flipped Classroom/Blended learning model so Sophia pre- teaches the material via online tools and then the face-to- face time with the Egyptian teacher serves as a chance to practice implementing what they already learned.

Here are Sophia’s notes to us

I plan to use 2 platforms to pre-teach materials:

1. Memrise http://www.memrise.com/group/9115/

Memrise is the main platform.The class was divided up into 3 groups.  Inside the group, there are 2 courses. We will focus on the first course; Arabic for All Ages. The second course is simply an FYI about the Arabic alphabet. If  students do study that, then the Egyptian teacher will incorporate writing into her live lesson with them, if not then she will not use any Arabic letters. Inside the course “Arabic for All Ages” there are 4 levels. Level 1 is a video level. The first video in Level 1 is the vocabulary video. It is a section of a cartoon and most of the words we will use in the live lesson are in this short clip. The videos below the cartoon video offer English explanations of basic Arabic expressions and grammar. Level 2 is the where the studying begins. This level is spaced repetition flashcards of the vocabulary words. Students study the flashcards in small chunks. They can opt to take breaks between studying chunks to go back and watch the cartoon video from Level 1. The goal is for Memrise to determine that they have mastered all of the vocabulary words in the list; though due to time constraints this will not likely happen. Level 3 is not relevant for this class. Level 4 is culture videos. These videos will help the students to perform culturally appropriate role plays during the live class. They only need to be watched once.

2. Quizlet https://quizlet.com/_psu61

Sinbad Sets 1 and 2 Transliteration w/D…

Quizlet is used for its games. After the students have been studying the vocabulary for a while its useful to have competitions between groups and individuals using Quizlet Live and the various games built into the platform.

The problems we faced-

  • Logging in to some of the platforms and gaining user registrations.
  • Downloading some of the apps. Bandwidth at home was not strong enough in our rural areas to download the apps on to their smart phones.
  • Student smart phones to not have wireless access at school nor is there mobile phone service.
  • One student did not have a smart phone
  • Finding common times that would suit all time zones. However, amazingly our Egyptian teacher only gets home from work at 1am and is willing to connect with the students after that time.
  • Initially finding a class that I could work with easily. But on reflection, it was easy to ‘tweak’ Business Studies curriculum and fit it in there as it is a small class and I have them 5 times a week This made it possible to work in with Sophia’s time zone.girls-and-sophia1