Advent, Christmas and New Year across the Globe

The class from India

The class from India

“Advent, Christmas and New Year” was the title of a google hangout organised by Reinhard Marx of Germany. Five countries were involved:- Germany, Sweden, France, India and Australia. As school was still in for the other four countries, students from classes there presented on the theme. As students have finished school in Victoria, I shared what Christmas and New Year looks like here. Although we are increasingly becoming a multi-cultural country, Christmas is still our major festival and a special time for family gatherings.

It is rather surreal to sit in the classrooms of students across the world, from different countries and cultures. It was winter over in Europe so students were warmly dressed. It was hot in Hawkesdale – 38 degrees so I was dressed appropriately. The French students wore their Santa hats, some classes sang carols in their own language most shared presentations and enabled us to see how it was similar and different in our own countries. We may use different names for Santa Claus, Father Christmas, St Nicholas etc and we may celebrate Christmas and New Year on different dates, but many of us eat the same traditional foods, follow similar customs and the same carols.

The French Class

The French Class

Of most interest was the class from India whom many would associate with the Hindu religion but there are areas of India, (where the British predominantly settled) that are Christian in nature. Their different religions and cultures tend to be quite tolerant of each other, with Hindu and Muslim people wishing Christians a “Happy Christmas”.

I strongly feel that we need to hold on to our culture, celebrate our traditions, maintain the stories over the generations and share with others. We can develop empathy and understanding, tolerance and develop a culture of peace. Many governments and departments are trying to stay politically correct and ban or prevent the Christmas traditions in school, the work place and community in case it should offend others. However, all cultures should be able to celebrate their festival days and share with their fellow country people without fear!

The Swedish class

The Swedish class

Thank you Reinhard for this wonderful event. I learned so much about the history behind Advent, Christmas and New Year and the celebrations in other countries.

What major festivals do you celebrate? How do you celebrate them? Watch this video on Christmas in Australia, put together by a year 7 student last year.

Celebrate Learning without Borders – results of a 2 day Skypeathon!

Celebrate Learning without Borders was a 2 day Skypethon event organised by Skype. During these two days, teachers and classes were encouraged to connect with others locally and globally. Students in our school were given the opportunity to connect with Anthony Salcito, who is Vice President of Education globally for Microsoft. See the video created to share snippets.

Anthony called into 33 classrooms non-stop on December 3rd, starting at 4pm in Seattle with a call to Auckland, New Zealand, and finishing with a classroom in Microsoft’s backyard, Bellevue Washington. During the 24 hours he called into classrooms in New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, Korea, Sri Lanka, Egypt, India, South Africa, Kenya, Macedonia, Norway, Austria, Russia, Ireland, UK, Finland, Canada, Argentina, Puerto Rico and the USA.


As our school is nearing the end of the year, classes were mixed and we were able to connect directly with Anthony Salcito and Redfields School, in India. But another post will cover this. Did you participate in the skypeathon? What were your experiences in learning?

The Hour of Code


This week celebrates the Hour of Code #hourofcode across the world – December 7th -13th. On day one of this week, lesson one at school, I had a combined year 7-9 class. They were highly engaged in completing challenges for the Hour of Code, using drag and drop blocks by  Building a Galaxy in Star Wars followed by Minecraft. The more competent or experienced students used the javascript tutorials.

girls on code

The Code to Learn tutorials are great because:

  1. small video clips feature people across the world explaining what the students are to do.
  2. The challenges feature topical animations and games that students are familiar with.
  3. The graphics are great
  4. Students were able to follow the user friendly instructions.
  5. A certificate is given once the challenge is completed.
  6. the amazing part was that three students who struggle with literacy and maths etc in the classroom were the fastest at completing the challenges!!!

lachie on code

Here is what we did:

  • Discussed ways technology impacts our lives, with examples both boys and girls will care about (Talk about saving lives, helping people, connecting people, etc.).
  • As a class, listed things that use code in everyday life
  • Watched the following videos as an introduction

Students then wrote down instructions the actions that need to be taken to leave the classroom for lunch time eg logoff computer, stand up, push in chair, turn right, take 5 steps, turn right, take 15 steps, open door, turn left, take 30 steps to lockers to pack books away etc etc. Then discussed how this would look in code.

Student tasks:

  • Signed up for the hour of code
  • Spent an hour learning how to code by accessing an online tutorial using ‘drag and drop’ blocks of code in Star Wars and Minecraft.
  • Saved a copy of their certificates (given to them on completion)
  • Added the certificate to a post on their blog
  • Printed a copy of their certificate to take home

Teacher Resources

  1. Start here
  2. How to do the Hour of Code
  3. Check out these teaching tips
  4.  Calling all teachers and learners of code
  5. Making webpages with the Khan Academy

bailey on code.jpg

Further videos, if time permits

  1. What most schools dont teach
  2. Anybody can Learn code
  3. The Hour of Code is Here


Join the global Skypeathon Dec 3 and 4

the girls1.jpg

Skype has always been one of my favourite tools as it is user friendly, capable of being used across all cultures and countries, is free and it just works! It works both at school and at home on our often poorer bandwidth.

Skype are encouraging educators across the world to get involved in a 2 day skypeathon to celebrate learning across borders on Dec 3rd and 4th. They hope to travel 1 million virtual miles in that time and encourage classrooms to get connected and enjoy the learning that can come by being connected.

Our first connection will be with Anthony Salcito, vice president of World Wide Education at Microsoft in Washington, USA. This will be at our lunchtime tomorrow Dec 3rd but Anthony will still be enjoying Dec 2nd. We hope to share objects and images that reflect the Australian culture and the place where we live. This will add 10,180 miles to the 1 million miles tally!

@SkypeClassroom tweeted:


Are you taking part in this? Who are you connecting with? Simply tweet your connections with the hashtag #skypeathon and the miles will be added.

The Global Education Conference – from a moderator’s point of view

There is something surreal about moderating and leading  a Global Education Conference presentation with representatives from across the globe including Bolivia, India, China, Korea, Vietnam, USA, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Somalia etc However it is not just any conference but a virtual one which is free, online, runs 24 hours a day over four days. There were participants whose names I could not pronounce, nor did I know which was the first name or last name, nor the gender attached to the name. The title of the session was Tools and Apps for the Global Educator. You can view the presentation.

Participants came from all levels of education – from teaching the very young through to tertiary and beyond. They came from a variety of languages including Chinese, Korean, Sinhalese, Filipino. Yet our interest in global education led us to develop a list of apps and tools that global educators might find valuable.

As the US participants went to sleep, it was time to take over the moderation of the conference. The Australian evenings and late afternoons were certainly quieter than the frenzy of the US day times. Sessions always had participants, unlike previous years where there was sometimes just the presenter and moderator. It was pleasing to have a good number of sessions with presenters from the Philippines. The background sounds changed with dogs barking in the background, roosters crowing and motor bikes on the road nearby. Technology rarely failed. The last night of the conference was the busiest with four concurrent sessions sometimes running. Maizie from Israel, Sue Wyatt from Tasmania and I were able to handle these busy times until the US once again started their day.

The Spanish conference presentations are always a challenge as I cannot speak Spanish and many of them cannot speak English. Google translate and Bing translate come into their own in these circumstances. Trying both tools, I think that Bing was more successful in translation than google. But often, the full meaning had to be guesstimated. There is also something surreal about being a participant in a Spanish session, listening to the speed, the intonation and the flow of the language!

steve being translated in spanish

I was able to attend one session during my daytime – that of keynote presenters Will Piper and Pedro Aparicio Engaging in Learning Beyond Borders. These two guys met each other in the Global Education Conference five years ago, struck up a connection and have worked together ever since. It was multilingual (which I personally loved with Pedro sometimes speaking in Spanish and then translating back into English). They had a great sense of fun as can be seen by Will’s quick costume change at the end!

having fun with will and pedro

This is a truly amazing conference when the world is involved and that shared passion for global education evident. It is highly recommended that you watch some of the recordings of presentations. The keynotes are a great place to start. Did you participate in any sessions? Which would you recommend?

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!

My journey to work in pictures

For the first two days of this week I am in Melbourne for one of my favourite conferences – Comview, organised by the Victorian Commercial Teachers Association.

Melbourne is being decked out for Christmas, one of our biggest traditional festivals. The Myer Christmas windows are now open for viewing, the Town Square and Federation Square is being decorated and many of the arcades and laneways feature ornaments. Here is what my journey to work looks like:-


Starting from Victoria Market

Starting from Victoria Market

Bourke Street decorations

Bourke Street decorations

Stopping by the Myer Christmas windows

Stopping by the Myer Christmas windows

 A little dog lost amongst the trams in Myer windows

A little dog lost amongst the trams in Myer windows

myer windows tram

Down the Royal Arcade

Down the Royal Arcade

Breakfast in the laneways

The Block Arcade

The Block Arcade

toy soldier in collins street

Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Station

Destination Comview Conference Flinders Street

Destination Comview Conference Flinders Street