Breaking down the barriers of language

connected classroom

One of the biggest barriers to global connections can be language! Students from different countries may be very shy and reluctant to communicate when they do they either do not speak the language at all or only minimally. Here is an idea, games or activity that can be fun to use in Skype and may be well suited for those classes connecting who speak a different language.


Memory Game

  1. Collect 10 objects and place them in a bag or box (eg scissors, newspaper, mug, ruler, flag, cultural objects, food etc)
  2. Remove objects from the bag, one at a time, share the object over the webcamera  to the distant class using videoconferencing eg skype
  3. Say the name of the object, hold a sign up to show how it is spelt
  4. Hide the objects back in the bag
  5. Students have to come up to the webcam, name each of the 10 objects in their language and then the language of the initiating class.
  6. The other class repeats.

sharing vegemite

Extending the learning – use skype translator, signs in the written language, google or bing translator or use one of the teachers as a translator etc.

Imagine if you connected with a class from a country

  • that speaks the second language taught at your school!
  • does not speak English at all!

What could the students learn from this? Why should we even try do this?

learning the language

There could be a number of variations on this game. What other games could we play when a common language is a barrier?

ISTE 2015

At the beginning…

At the first ISTE attended (four years ago), I filled in my day from start to end with sessions to attend. I closely perused the app and the paper copy of the program, asterisked those I wanted to attend, read the twitter feed and blog recommendations, joined queues at the conference centre, sometimes missed out due to the queue and then found an alternative session to attend. It was a very passive attendance where I soaked up knowledge, advice and resources like a sponge.

Conference days were filled, active and busy. Sometimes I would bump into online colleagues and spend time with them. On the last day I was walking  from one building to another when a pirate approached me to see what videoconferencing was about and the programs that could be offered over video conferencing. That introduced me to a whole new dimension – playgrounds, where I could actively play, interact with experts and mentors and get customized learning.

iste 2015

Fast forward to 2015

2015 ISTE was just as busy but in some ways less planned, where I ensured that I attended some sessions of favourite presenters and attended as many playgrounds and poster sessions as possible. It was a  time to ‘give back’ or ‘pay forward’ to others through my involvement with the Global Education Conference, ISTE Global PLN and Skype in the Classroom.

The Bloggers Cafe

The Bloggers Cafe

ISTE global pln poster session

ISTE global pln poster session

The Highlights

Julie Lindsay and Pernille Ripp who won the Global PLN award

Julie Lindsay and Pernille Ripp who won the Global PLN award

Networking: Being on the leadership of the global ISTE PLN, newly formed in 2014, meant a portion of the time was spent in meetings, poster sessions and a birds of a feather session. The network adds a powerful dimension to an educator and such opportunities provide time to broaden the network further on a global basis.  So much can be learnt by sharing with others, engaging in conversations, ensuring ongoing contact  and learning continue to take place once home and back in the classroom. It was great to catch up with Flat Connections, Global Classroom, Master Skype Educators and many other online colleagues.

Skype in the Classroom poster session

Skype in the Classroom poster session

The playgrounds and poster sessions: These included the mobile learning playground, the interactive videoconferencing and the early years playground. It was fun to be actively part of the iste global pln and Skype: Collaborating and Connecting Beyond Classroom Walls poster sessions. There was a lot to be learnt from the interactions with interested persons who stopped to chat and ask questions. It is always great to see what individuals and groups are doing with their classsrooms in the poster sessions.

Interactive videoconferencing playground

Interactive videoconferencing playground

Playing Mystery Skype

Playing Mystery Skype


The social opportunities provided outside of formal hours  – catching up with, and meeting flat connections and global classroom  colleagues for a meal or coffee or in the bloggers cafe to share further conversations.

The Global Education Summit on the Sunday

This is always a highlight listening to the ignite type sessions, participating in the round table discussions and furthering the learning and professional network. A great online document of crowdsourced materials can be found at Global Education  Day documents

Global Collaboration Birds of a Feather session

Julie Lindsay organised a successful BOF session and encouraged us to meet each other by writing 3 words that reflect on who we are on a screen or paper, then walking around the room viewing the other participants outcomes. Meet some of the participants by perusing the crowd sourced padlet.

Student involvement

Increasing evidence of student attendance and participation. Students could be found in the playgrounds and poster sessions and they shared their learning with passion. There were so many ideas to be gained eg in the robotics and coding playground, students helped me make a bracelet that featured the computer coding for the initials of my name. The robotics featured and actual examples of student robots in action drew crowds of people to watch.

A coded bracelet

A coded bracelet

Was this a first! In our global PLN Birds of a Feather session, we had a year 11 student who was interested in connecting globally. She had helped in the poster session, been given a conference tag and a program and continued to attend conference sessions that were of high interest to her. Thanks @varietygirl1 for bringing your experiences and ideas!

Personal Involvement – life was busy with global PLN and global education involvment, presentations involving poster sessions and a group presentation on ‘Magic of Mystery Skype‘.

The Buzz Words

  • Maker spaces
  • Passion Projects
  • Connected learning – a lot more talk about global collaboration and connections.
  • Games Based Learning
  • Coding


Some great resources that I have kept to look at later.

What resources have you seen being shared from ISTE2015 that should be taken note of? What were your highlights or if you did not go, what questions do you have.

Mystery Skype OneNote Book – a great free resource

Vesna and student

A Mystery Skype OneNote Book has been released full of resources, advice and tutorials and it is free.  You can read my blog post on Learning Adventures with Mystery Skype. There is something for everyone – both newbies and experienced. It includes video tutorials, tips, time zone convertors and advice on using the Bing Maps app to record where you and your students or class have skyped and best of all it is free. If you have MS Office 365 you can also get student NoteBooks all set up with proformas for your class to record, reflect and evaluate. This can develop into a great digital portfolio for them and is fully customizable.

Download the Mystery Skype Note book or if you live in the USA, you can text a message “mysteryskype” (without the talking marks) to 41411 You will be given a url for the website where you can download the Mystery Skype Notebook. It is best not to download it from your phone but to access that link from your computer or mobile device to download it. The book comes with lots of links found in sections and pages. Have fun exploring it all.

Have you downloaded it yet? What are your impressions?

mystery skype one note

Simple tools make for empowered learning

online timersI have recently presented on some of my favourite tools on a number of occasions. One very simple but effective tool that I often use is the online stopwatch or timer. The countdown timer was most frequently used but advertisements have started to appear. The site does have now have a free fun range of classroom timers which are ad free, fun and colourful. It was with some interest that I received an email from one of the participants in the online webinar to say that of the many tools shared, she tried the online timer the next day with her year 11 Business Management class.

Thank you for your webinar yesterday, it was very useful. I actually used the count down timer (bomb) this morning with year 12 accounting. That was the only technology involved in that activity. I had them playing Megabucks, the board game, to try and differentiate between cash and profit. They had thirty minutes to play the game and the timer worked to keep the game going at a faster rate and changed the nature of the play.

How can such a simple tool enhance learning:

  • gives students a time frame to work toward
  • keeps them on task (less likely to be bored)
  • forces them to work quickly
  • less chance of boredom and distractions as they know there is a time limit to the activity and there will be a a variety of activities following
  • gives realistic real life work skills – tasks have to be done within a time frame once out in the workforce
  • forces them to plan and work out strategies for completion

What would your answers be? Do you use a manual timer in class or an online timer? If so, why?

The World is My Classroom

Bob Greenberg invited a number of participants at ISTE 2015 to be videoed for his series called The Brainwaves Video Anthology. He produces this series and interviews ‘the thinkers, dreamers and innovators’ of education.

Please check out some of the amazing people he has captured in video. (Not sure how or why I fit in with many of these!! But was certainly proud to be part of the series.)

The instructions were to speak for 5 mins on a topic that I am passionate about in relation to education. It is not so easy to speak off the cuff and fortunately, the editing software removed my coughing fits, and many of my umms and aaahhs.! Below is the video.

Some other interviewed guests at ISTE involve the following. These people have similar interests and passions re global education

  1. Michael Soskil  Global Service Learning
  2. David Potter Make Learning Global
  3. Michael Graffin The Global Education Project
  4. Brandon Wiley Global Education
  5. David Young Global Education for All

Global Communication – Global Etiquette

Participating in a number of global ISTE PLN sessions and meetings has made me even more aware of the nature of appropriate communication when connecting with the world. Discussions took place around the timing of certain events and the words ‘in the fall’ were used. Julie Lindsay  reminded us that we were not to refer to seasons but rather use months.

Appropriate etiquette that needs to be considered includes:

  • seasons eg  as countries experience different seasons wet/dry; summer/autumn/winter/spring, some use different names eg fall/autumn and are hemisphere dependent.
  • certain festival times of years eg Christmas (as many celebrate different festivals. Russian and Greek orthodox celebrate it at different times, other cultures/religions do not celebrate it at all), New Year (which one? – English, Chinese, Vietnamese, Nepal as these all celebrate different times for New Year and will have different calendar months)
  • Time clock – use a global time reference eg gmt +10 or utc +10 and not a local or national time for global connections

    global communication time zones1

  • Acronyms – should not be used or if they are need to be explained in full as only local citizens will know what they mean.
  • If there is no common language, then other forms of communication should be considered eg miming, music, images, sounds, lots of body language, translator etc

What have I forgotten? What would you add in here?

Mystery Skype -ISTE session with MIE

Please note that these are rough notes taken during the ISTE15 conference

Wendy Norman started the morning introducing Mystery Skype

The amazing capacity of Skype and videoconferencing (in the words of students)

  • gives emotional attachment to connections and learning.
  • Ultimate field trip – can travel to the other side of the world
  • Live learning – not textbook
  • Allows access to different viewpoints’
  • Get all kids especially girls in school
  • Social learning
  • Learning through conversations
  • Can do something about bettering the world
  • Making a difference in the world
  • Make for better global citizens

Mark Wood

mark wood

Mystery skype to find out where Mark Wood is going on his next expedition

Questions asked

  • In the northern hemisphere? -no
  • Is the ecosytem tundra – yes
  • Is there ocean on any part of the country – yes
  • Does the name of the country have 2 syllabus – no but are we really talking about country
  • Will you be visiting one of the US? – no
  • Will you need cold weather gear? – yes
  • Does the country belong to no-one? – second part of that is right but the first part of country?
  • Do you need a boat – no, but we might need a boatd
  • Are you going to where Santa lives? Santa lives in Lapland, so no, not going to Lapland

Answer – Russia across the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole

What I see and what I smell inspires me and I want to inspire others through technology, students can relate to us. Get students to look at what we are doing – think about our planet in a new way. Re -look at our planet. and like it on facebook


Join skype in education to take learning into the future

Skype Translator

Mystery Skype OneNote Book – full of resources for teachers

Hashtags:  #msftedu, #MIEEpert15, #edtech, #@NCCEchat, #ISTE2015, #edu

Teacherslifeforme: Mike Soskil, Kenya schools update

KEGODE  #Livingstone@ISTE  Twitter or FB

Shannon Miller:  Connect–examples of connecting with authors, Rainbow lo


LKEGODE  #Livingstone@ISTE  Twitter or FB

Shannon Miller:  Connect–examples of connecting with authors, Rainbow loom

Hashtags:  #msftedu, #MIEEpert15, #edtech, #@NCCEchat, #ISTE2015, #edu

Teacherslifeforme: Mike Soskil, Kenya schools update