Tag Archives: 21st century learning

The global classroom continues

Talking with an Indonesian maths teacher

Talking with an Indonesian maths teacher

On Wednesday, half of my year 9/10 Information Communications Technology class had gone to Warrnambool to a VET taster day. As I only had a small group and as this was a new group for this semester, I had flexible lesson activities worked out for the doule session. As the students settled at their desks, one of my boys asked if we were going to do any videoconferencing as per last year with Connecticut USA. My response was “I hope so!” These were to be famous last words. As the students settled to their work, skype flicked up on my laptop and it was my teacher contact from Indonesia wondering whether she could talk to me. My response was that I was in class and then I thought that this could be a teachable moment. Speakers and data projector were quickly connected to my laptop.

Soon, we were being introduced to the staff in the staff room as students were not in class at that stage. The staff were keen to talk to my students one at a time, and ask them many questions. The most common question being “how old are you?” and “where are you from?” Amidst much laughter with misunderstandings and some sound problems, we settled to our virtual tour of the staffroom and eventually outside into their attractive yard, even to the point where a student said hello whilst seated in the verandah outside.  It was hot in Indonesia and cold in Australia.

Indonesian speakers talk to us

I was proud of my students who perservered and repeated words, trying to improve their diction and overcome the communication problems. They found they had to be extremely phonetic and break their names up into syllables.

Learning outcomes

  • How to communicate with people on a one to one basis when their English is not very strong.
  • What a staffroom looks like in a rural Indonesian school!
  • Fascinated by the fact that their internet access and laptop camera were strong enough to show us outside into their yard (see below)
  • Absolute admiration for a teacher who in an isolated rural location in a developing country, has been able to achieve far more technologically wise than many of my Australian counterparts. She is determined to bring her students in contact with English speaking countries to help her students improve their English. Their infrastructure is poor, computer access nil but with her own personal resources, Endang is making a difference.
In the school yard

In the school yard

Racial Harmony Day in Singapore

Students from Singapore show their costumes

Students from Singapore show their costumes

Chinese costumes
Chinese costumes

Tuesday 21st July was “Racial Harmony Day’ in Singapore.  My e-colleague Aini, who I met on classroom2.0 and I connected via video conferencing on the weekend. Aini asked if we would like to see her students in their national costumes which they wore to school as part of Racial Harmony Day. Delighted, I agreed.

Our grade 2 to 4 students and year 7 students gathered in the library and listened to the grade 5s from Singapore speak about ‘what racial harmony means to them.’ They spoke confidently and fluently in clear English. Students who were dressed in traditional costume came up to the web camera and showed us the Malay, Indian and Chinese traditional costumes. These are the three main cultures in Singapore. We heard of their traditional games and the other activities that were taking place on this day. The parents were holding food stalls in the canteen.

We viewed photos of the recent national parades which took place on National Day last week and witnessed their celebrations. Skype was used for this webcast and the audio and video were quite clear from our end. However, our audio was not clear in Singapore.

Aini had used her laptop when we first tested, but then set up external speakers so that her class of 47 students could hear. Skype seems to require tweaking when a new setup is used so it was necessary to goto tools>audio setup and choose the external speakers.

On Wednesday, my year 8 students were to show the class in Singapore images of our school and area. To our dismay, the latest version of skype was not on the library interactive white board. Therefore it was impossible to share our screen through skype. A quick reshuffle, meant that we quickly found objects eg meat pie and sauce and toy koala that played “Waltzing Matilda” were placed up to the web camera.

Learning outcomes

Increased Knowledge

  • Learnt that Singapore has 4 cultures
  • Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian
  • Costumes and correct names
  • Importance of lions in Singapore and their impact in the parade
  • Defence forces – age entry, compulsory, 2 years
  • Viewed the location of the new Disneyworld site

Communication skills

  • the need for clear diction and correct positioning of both web camera and microphone.
  • Students must be skilled up in these areas


Reflections on Ping – 21st century education

In the elluminate classroom
In the elluminate classroom

Two thirds of the way through 2008, my principal came to me with mention of a proposed music project with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I promptly forgot all about it until towards the end of the final two weeks of term, I was told that a representative was going to come and speak with me and our secondary classroom music teacher. Not wishing to be rude, but being so busy with end of year functions and other exciting online projects that I was involved in, I reluctantly attended the meeting with the full intention of being honest and saying that I really was not interested.

However, 5 minutes into the meeting with Ajax I was ‘hooked’. This was exactly the type of activity I wanted to try out in 2009 and the type of classroom that I was working toward! The answer was:-‘Yes, please! We will be part of it!”

The project:  This pilot project   explored new ways of delivering music education to year 6 and 7 students from 4 rural Victorian schools, using in-house teaching artists, blogging and online virtual classroom workshops with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra  (MSO)and Orchestra Victoria. Students  composed short compositions/sound stories and uploaded them to the  website, as well as participating in online video conference workshops with MSO and Orchestra Victoria musicians.

The classes: As I did not want any of the year 7 students to miss out on this project, 28 students crammed into our computer lab. This meant we had to borrow 5 netbooks to ensure that they all had computer access. Joseph Abou Zeid, a resident artist from the Song Room, worked in the classroom with us. For 50 minutes we would listen to an instrumentalist from MSO or Orchestra Victoria. For the next 50 minutes students would learn how to use audacity and compose their own musical stories. These stories used pre-recorded music clips uploaded onto the Ping blog by the instrumentalists. Students then uploaded their stories back onto the blog.

Learning about the trombone

Learning about the trombone

Engagement in Ping

Engagement in Ping

The highlights

  • Always exciting to be involved in a pilot project – love the challenge, new adventures and the constant learning.
  • Working with the amazingly well connected, Ajax McKerrall, whose innovative idea this project was – a former digital productions manager with the London Symphony Orchestrata – gifted and talented user of multimedia and web 2.0 tools. I learnt so much more by working with him, about blogging, using multimedia and the elluminate room to fuller potential. He capably and professionally led the elluminate class sessions, ensuring that we had the best quality sound from the 3mbs radio studio in Melbourne.
  • The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra came into our classroom, when our students would rarely attend any of their concerts, as Melbourne is 3 ½ hours drive and Warrnambool, our closest regional city centre is 30 mins away. (MSO may visit Warrnambool once a year) To have our students learn about the wonderful classical instruments, their physics, their sounds etc and then to be able to use their recorded clips and mash them together into their own personal musical stories – the impact cannot be justified in words.
  • Having an artist in residence from the Song Room, Joseph Abou Zeid, to teach the students about muscial composition through the free software audacity.
  • The sheer engagement of the students in the elluminate classroom. This was an unexpected outcome. The learning for me, as a teacher, to see each student at their own desktop, interacting with the musicians, chatting, offering feedback, using a range of emoticons to convey feelings, was enlightening. Students would readily state in the chat section that they did not understand the instructions. This rarely occurs in the normal classroom. Students are reluctant to state that they do not understand, they are rarely given the opportunity to offer feedback  or evaluate what the teacher or instructor is saying and are not given the opportunity to interact as individuals.
  • The student outcomes. Their musical stories developed from ‘basic sound grabs thrown together’ that challenged the musical ear, to musical stories that actually reflected animals, soundscapes and ‘stories without words and pictures’.
  • Many of the students who struggle with usual classroom work in the generalist classrooms, were able to excel in this environment. Literacy no longer became an issue as they could work with music and creativity.
  • The collaboration with the students and teachers from the three other rural schools who share similar experiences and characteristics, threats and challenges working on a common and shared blog site . This is an area though, that could be further developed. 
  • Witnessing the increased confidence in all students, especially those who do not normally achieve to a high degree in generalist classrooms.
  • Ovbserving the improvement in student listening skills.
  • Having a chat option when outside the elluminate classroom and when just working on the blog or in the normal IT classroom.

The challenges

  • Lack of Experience: This project started in the first full week of term 1, when 30% of the year 7 class was new to our school, some with little computer expertise and few of the new ones knowing what a blog was and it was their first time in our computer lab. None of the students had been in elluminate before. The rehearsal was done with my year 9/10 class as they were my class at that time.
  • Lack of a computer technician: We were on our own, with many technical hitches getting the audio – microphone/headsets working. The class was noisy trying to work it all out. It took more than 20 minutes for us all to be logged into elluminate. Students had to get used to an online classroom and use the tools there to communicate. Frequently they were vocally calling out for help.
  • The Chat: Initially the chat was being abused, students discovered the private messaging function, but strangely, they did not fiddle with the white board tools. Students tended to ‘bully’ one of the students, but interestingly, other students told them to stop it. A couple of swear words came through and spamming was frequent (where students type 20 smiley faces in one sentence etc.) We worked together to formulate a code of conduct when using online chat. That code now rests on my  class blog and the school blog.
  • The web cameras It was vital that we had the video image on our computer screens, but as we worked in a basic lab, it was difficult to get our webcamera in a position that was useful to our instructors. Being able to see the class was essential for them, but it was an issue that was never really resolved.
  • The time delay The streaming was often delayed between desktops and netbooks in the classroom and this could be annoying.
  • Student curiousity Students will fiddle and check out everything. So hands will be raised for prolonged periods, the white board will be covered with graffiti and private messaging will run rampant. To overcome this, students need time to play and explore and the first lesson should do just this.

After two lessons, I was ready to say that it was not working and we would remove ourselves from the project, but…..

….after 10 mins into the third lesson, I could have heard a pin drop. Students were engaged, listening intently and had sorted out any technical issues by themselves. The tapping of keys would break the silence as students happily chatted away, made use of the range of emoticons and tools  and interacted with the guest musician. They would provide feedback on what they heard, interact and ask questions. They learned to work the chat and asked questions of me through it as well. At times, a student would hum along, oblivious to their surroundings.

And so, I was led into the classroom of the 21st century.

On behalf of the year 7 students and I, I would like to sincerely thank Ajax McKerrall, Joseph Abou Zeid, and the  Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria, The Song Room, and Country Education Project. In particular to our generous sponsors  – the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Innovation Division.


Learning outcomes

  • improved listening skills (students were able to interact, use various emoticons and tools to keep them engaged and listening.
  • Appropriate behaviour and codes of conduct in a virtual classroom – (learnt by experiencing)
  • how to tweak the audio controls in elluminate
  • Learnt how to use audacity and many of its finer features to create muscial stories and mp3 files
  • how to grab flk files from the Ping blog to import into audacity
  • how to embed musical stories in mp3 format with a player into a blog
  • how to blog (this was especially so for some of my new students who had never blogged before)

How proud to be a teacher!

Students back at school logon to elluminate

Students back at school logon to elluminate

As a teacher there often few proud moments ,but last Friday was a very proud day for me. Removed from my year 7 class by a 3 ½ drive, I watched them logon to the computers in the lab at school and noted one of my challenging year 11 boys, patiently fixing the audio problems. That class of mine was in  video capture from elluminate on a big screen at the Crown Casino Palladium in Melbourne. Back home, Marg Murnane and our principal bravely supervised the class whilst, I, for a change was with their normal instructor Ajax, from the Ping project.  Jason, a Melbourne Symphony Orchestra member, was waiting to play the saxophone and clarinet, teaching the students about this instrument.

My class was to be presented to the Minister for Education, the hon Bronwyn Pike, as a forerunner to Education Week and the Innovations Showcase, held at the Crown Casino, Melbourne. Nerves were running rather strong as there were technical issues but they were soon overcome. So, as if by remote control I watched 13 of my year 7 students set up, logon and test elluminate. The class began, as the Minister entered and I was so proud to see my students interacting, working the chat and asking questions of the musician. The Minister, in turn, was watching the chat and ensured that questions were answered. After 15 minutes or so, a photo shoot was set up with the Minister against the screen projecting my class at work with pictures taken of Ajax, Jason and me.

The Minister with my online class

The Minister with my online class of students on the Melbourne screen

Teaching my students from Melbourne

Teaching my students from Melbourne

Later in the morning it was my turn to present to an interested audience on my “Flat classroom walls”. either of two scheduled “Tell Me”sessions or to one of the 10 “Show Me” sessions.  This presentation involved working with an online and a face to face audience simultaneously – an innovative addition to the Innovations Showcase. Carole McCulloch, from Mildura, was my moderator and again I had some of my year 11 and 7 students in the chat, plus a parent and fellow staff members, adding rich content and answering questions from the online audience.

Here is how it worked:-

  • Organised  9 students and a parent to be in the school computer lab, logged on to answer the questions in the chat for the virtual audience.
  • Prepare 55 MS Powerpoint slides to engage the two audiences, so that they both could catch a glimpse of what a 21st century classroom looks like.
  • My voice had to reflect as much emotion as possible for the online audience who could not see my body language.
  • It was important to keep informing by microphone, my moderator, Carole McCulloch, who was in Mildura co-ordinating it all.
  • Stopped for questions half way through and at the end. These came from both the f2f and the online audience. Had to repeat questions for the online audience.
  • An onscreen timer reminded me of how much time I had left.


Reflections:- There were several choices for the presentation. I wanted a movie playing in the background but that could not be worked, despite the presence of three screens. I had too many slides and went over time. The slides will be uploaded up onto the innovations ning. Carol downloaded a copy of my MS Powerpoint slides and sent them to my online participants. Presenter needs to multi task with elluminate and I had to remember to switch on my microphone in the elluminate room before talking.

Ping Session

Ajax conducted the session after mine. I had offered to have the year 7 students on with him so that they could add rich content and give an idea of how elluminate works in the classroom. Ajax had asked me to speak as well with him, so I logged onto a computer set up in the pod area and joined the chat alongside my students (who were 300kms away!) Again, how proud I was to see them following the appropriate code of conduct in a chat room, yet adding to comments, asking questions and responsibly working in an online classroom. (I am convinced that this is the classroom of the future.)

Further observations…

The venue was magnificent with views across the Yara river from the River room. Food kept being constantly replenished when it came to lunchtime. All presenters had participants supporting them. Technical help was quickly at hand. Well organised – like the postcard handouts reflecting some othe emerging technology grants Well attended with approximately 500 in attendance. Computer hub was good idea and the RILO staff did a great job, helping participants to sign up for the ning. It would be great to have wireless internet access available for future conferences.

My pride continued as I attended the magnificent dinner for the Excellence Awards, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Holding my curriculum innovation finalist award

Holding my curriculum innovation finalist award

Although I did not win the Innovative Curriculum award, I was proud to be one of three finalists up on the stage.

And to my dear friends on twitter, thank you for your shoutouts and joining me in the online session.

My dear twitter friends shoutouts

My dear twitter friends shoutouts

twitter Innovations conference

Connections with a capital C

Working in discoverE

Working in discoverE

Over the last 18 months of this e-journey, I have been so fortunate in making some wonderful connections. One really valuable e-colleague of mine is Lorraine Leo, who has some amazing connections.

My classes have benefited so much. One of my aims this year is to try and give students the chance to work ‘one on one’ with students across the globe, or at least in small groups. It was also one of Lorraine’s, so on Monday, one of our grade 6 students logged onto discoverE virtual classroom software to join two students from China, one from Bangkok, Thailand and one from Boston, USA. This small group met with Lorraine and Geoff an optician. Geoff spoke to the students about the eye, using a presentation in the discoverE room. The whiteboard allowed sketches to be added. When questions were asked,  students responded via the chat. How fortunate are we, in a small country school to be able to connect to experts like this.

DiscoverE loads quickly at our school as it has been developed to operate over a slower broadband network. By pressing the CTRL key, a particpant can talk to the class with a video of their image, projected onto the monitor.

Read simmo’s post on this activity. 21st century education certainly has exciting prospects!