Last Friday, I turned skype on, on Thursday and Friday. Sometimes, I do not logon as there is so much work to be done and it can be a distraction. This semester, my classes are all at senior level, so I don’t quite have the leverage to experiment with spontaneous learning
However, Endang wanted a class to skype in on Friday with a school from Western Java that had not used videoconferencing before. Friday morning is a double session of Information Technology. This can be too long for some of my students. Logging on, we were immediately connected with Govinda from Nepal. The video was stable and Govinda came through clearly. My students were fascinated with the fact they were speaking to someone from Nepal and soon Govinda was joined by his curious neighbours’ children. School does not start until 10am and it was till early morning.
During the second lesson, Endang and her school connected. They showed us their beautiful shadow puppets, flag and a heavily decorated sword. The students were able to come up to the laptop screen and chat with the Indonesian students. I deliberately left the room for 5 mins to see how they would survive without me there and was thrilled to see them still trying to converse when I returned. I one could not understand or be understood, another student stepped in to help interpret and communicate. The linkup went through their lunch hour. As my students were eating their sandwiches, the Indonesian students were fascinated with our lunches.
As I packed up my gear at the end of the day, another skype message came through. This time from one of my virtual students who I had taught accounting to that morning, to say he was now in hospital and had been taken by ambulance there.! The immediacy of learning and knowledge!
Why we do this?
- pushes my students way outside their comfort zones – it is really difficult to communicate with others from countries where English is the second, third or fourth language.
- Students need to work out how to communicate when there are massive language barriers – including accents etc They soon work out to type their names in the chat so that the other country can attempt to pronounce their names.
- an opportunity to learn about other cultures from a ‘living’ textbook!
- share experiences, cultural objects
- to break down racism which can exist in our small rural community where there are no other cultures but anglo saxon and some maori people from new Zealand.
- to extend their learning networks
- prepare them for the global world that is and increasingly will be theirs.
- expand their knowledge of geography
- extend their knowledge of the Islamic faith and other religions.
- engage them in activities that they love to participate in, once they get over their shyness.
- there is something exciting about real life linkups
- the mystery of the unknown outcomes can be captivating.