Tag Archives: Germany

Global Mardi Gras Judging for German Students

the winner

The winner of the Mardi Gras competition – the Penguin!

Reinhard Marx has been an online teaching colleague for many years, and pushes technology use to the boundaries of the world. Each year he organises many activities for his classes and brings other classes and educators in from across the world.


The class from Croatia, as seen through the Hangout!

Last night was one great example of his innovative work and this is what it looked like.

  1. Students in his school came dressed in costume for the Mardi Gras.
  2. Prior to the event he sent out a google spreadsheet seeking classes and teachers from across the globe to be judges. Interested teachers filled in the spreadsheet, with their name, class (if they had one), country and email contact.


    The class from Hungary

  3. Just prior to the class, the link to a Google Hangout was shared

    tereza and her cat

    Tereza – a judge from Croatia

  4. Reinhard creatively set up 2 webcameras, one at the front for students to walk towards, showing their costume and also to act out their costume character.

    back of yellow

    The rear webcam allowed us to see the back of the costumes

  5. Another webcam was set up at the back of the room, so that we could see the detail of the back of the costume.
  6. There were three sessions in total. In my session, there were classes/educators from Hungary, Croatia, Russia and Australia
  7. A link was given to a judging sheet setup in Google Sheets. We gave each student a score for A) their costume itself and B)  for their ability to act out the costume character. Each was scored out of 10
    voting sheet
  8. The winner with the highest total received a chocolate bar!


  • Sitting in on a German classroom virtually and hearing the German instructions and then often the English interpretations of the character’s costume.
  • watching students being pushed outside their comfort zones to try and act out their character
  • watching in real time, the global judges’ scores coming in on the spreadsheet
  • seeing the variety of costumes

The total time taken was approximately 50 mins. Great work, Reinhard on a very successful competition.



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.


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.

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.

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.

A new school year begins and global classrooms connect!

Video call snapshot 1

As Australian schools enter the final weeks of term 3 with still another full term to go, our European and USA counterparts (and others) are starting or about to start their school years. Reinhard Marx is an innovative connected colleague from Germany and someone I really enjoy working with asked whether I could teach a grade 4/5 class about the area I live in. It was one of their first classes for the year.

Tools used and resources accessed:

  1. Skype was used to connect me with his class and to provide a backchannel for reminders and prompts when we were both ready.
  2. A powerpoint presentation was created to show a little of my school and the farm that I live on.
  3. It was uploaded to google presentation, should my bandwidth not allow me to share from my screen.
  4. An Australian flag
  5. A real pet lamb (as we are in the middle of the busy lambing period on the farm)
  6. A fresh bunch of flowers (as this is my hobby to garden and work with flowers)
My grandson and me on the farm bike

My grandson and me on the farm bike

We started with a mystery skype. The students did not take long to work out where I was from. When they worked out my country, I shared my flag to the web camera. Students then volunteered to ask me a number of questions eg “Was it winter where I lived?”. The last 15-20 mins, I shared my screen through skype and talked through the photos of school and our farm. The bandwith was great for a start and images and audio crystal clear. However, after the fourth slide, the size of the images failed to load quickly in Germany, so I shared the link to the google presentation and we walked through the images remotely. To complet the lesson, I brought in one of our pet, bottle fed lambs – always a sure winner!

I like working with Reinhard because he:

  •  actively seeks global connections and lessons. He is a science and maths teacher
  • gave students the choice of mystery skype and a lesson with me or they could continue with their maths. (There was a mix but most of the time, they were intently watching me and the presentation)
  •  introduced the class of 26 clearly to me swivelling the camera so I could understand the teaching space I was in
  • always repeats what the students say, so that I can both hear and understand the comment or question asked
  • always stopped me for a question that a student might have – so their curiousity was satisfied immediatley and not forgotten about
  • ensured the students came up to the camera and could be clearly seen by me
  • interpreted my talk so that all student members could understand what I was sharing


  • bandwidth and sharing images over skype
  • working with an interpreter, remembering to keep my sentences short and concise, pausing to be interpreted and then carrying on
  • the accents and understanding the comment or question – especially understanding the name of the students


It all began with a simple global request

A proposed canteen exchange

A proposed canteen exchange

A request came through our HLW Skypers Group asking for teachers to send in photos of a typical school lunchbox.  A year 7 Science class in Germany was .studying healthy foods. Two lunchbox photos were duly taken and emailed to Mr Reinhard Marx who teaches at Staedtische Realschule Sundern.

Our school vegetable garden

Our school vegetable garden

The next request asked the name and location of our school. The link to our school blog was shared. After reading through some posts, Reinhard noticed the post on our vegetable garden and asked whether I could teach his classes about our canteen and  school garden. Using skype from home then Blackboard Collaborate (as it had a far more stable connection), I shared a presentation on our garden, how it is used and our canteen.

Year 8 students  created a podcast on “Drinking Water in Australia” from a rural perspective for German students’ Radio Rasant. It was then suggested by Reinhard that we have a canteen exchange day, where our canteen would have a German food day and they would have an Australian food day. This required bringing the two canteen managers together but neither could speak each others’ language and as I cannot speak German we required an interpretor. As Reinhard was teaching at the appointed time, the Vice Principal from Staedtische Realschule Sundern agreed to interpret for us.

Our German skype partners

Our German skype partners

At 4pm  my time and 8am German time, we videoconferenced each other using skype. After the introductions, Leanna (our canteen manager) shared some foods that she thought were Australian in flavour that they could cook and their manager in turn shared the recipe suggestions for us. Pauses in conversations had to be made whilst the language had to be translated.

Pausing to interpret

Pausing to interpret

All the time, the German class who were studying English were in the background, working away quietly.

Our demonstration foods

Our demonstration foods

Our suggestions included:-

  • a homemade Aussie meat pie (with sauce) Upon sharing a pie with the webcam, the question was asked as to its filling. Leanna replied meat and gravy but gravy took a bit to interpret.
  • a bread roll with vegemite and cheese (vegemite aroused curiousity as to its texture and use)
  • a recipe for Shepherd’s pie
  • stir fry (as we are a multicultural society and have many Asian countries as our neighbours. However the German canteen manager was not sure whether they could source the ingredients as their school is rural and Chinese people tend to live in the large cities.)
  • a caramel slice with chocolate icing ( a favourite morning recess treat)
  • a coffee scroll
  • recipe for Anzac biscuits
Aussie meat pie

Aussie meat pie

In turn, they

  • suggested a casserole of meatballs topped with mashed potatoes
  • explained a vegetable dish
  • displayed the two different types of German bread rolls that they sell during morning recess and shared the typical toppings.
  • showed a chocolate muffin (very popular with students). We will swap muffin recipes as we also sell them.
Different bread rolls

Different bread rolls

As a handwritten recipe was displayed over the web camera for Shepherd’s Pie, we were asked to write it in full (with no abbreviations). The recipes will be emailed across in English. Their students will be given the task of interpreting the recipes into German for use in the canteen. (Great realistic project!)

I had invited my Principal to be part of the linkup.  He was suitably impressed and will share the videoconference and canteen proposal in our school community newsletter tomorrow to share with the broader community. This reinforces the notion that we share our learning and proposals with leadership, families and community to keep them fully informed and give a feeling of being part of the project.

Our sample foods

Our sample foods

Reinhard also asked how to decorate the tables in the German canteen. We would suggest eucalyptus leaves but do not know if they are available where they live. It is hoped that we can send some Aussie flags, some small souveneirs etc for them to use. What would you suggest?

The highlights

  • an innovative extension of initial skype linkups
  • Spreading connetions and learning beyond actual classrooms and spreading as offshoots into the general school community. This shows the power that technology can bring.
  • speaking through an interpretor
  • Being a  guest in a class of German students, who were in the background and watching them work in their classroom, whilst their teacher and canteen manager  talked to us in the foreground.
  • learning how similar students are across the globe

The challenges

  • skype was flakey and our audio dropped at times an our video was pixellated, despite our German partners being clear with both audio and video. The video was switched off periodically to kick start a clearer connection.

Comparing School Lunches globally!

A senior student lunchbox in summer

A senior student lunchbox in summer

On many occasions I can empathise with those who are part of the digital divide. Internet access can often be poor from my home and mobile phone service is non-existent, unless I go outside to the end of the veranda, face south and the weather conditions are good. This gives me great empathy for those citizens of other countries and schools who experience similar conditions.

An online teaching colleague, Reinhard Marx from Germany asked for a photo of a typical school lunch box as his year 7 student were studying foods in science. He asked the name school that I teach in. As our official website is very bland, I always send the link to the school blog. He read the post on the school vegetable garden and asked whether I had time to share with his students about our foods. There were three classes in all and the presentations spanned a week Europe (excepting Russia) is not time zone friendly for synchronous linkups with our classes, but it is reasonably friendly for teaching on my part, as their school day starts in my early evening and often finishes late at night for me. Two of the classes were at 6:30pm my time and the third was at 10pm, 8:30am and noon respectively in Germany.

Skype for videoconferencing was the tool agreed upon as google hangouts do not work well for me from home, despite being on a cabled computer.  I like skype for the following reasons:-

  • User friendly
  • Globally acceptable
  • Can share my screen for the powerpoint presentation that I prepared on food, the school canteen and the vegetable garden.
  • Send files through
  • Maintain a backchannel for interpretation, ensuring understanding and adding questions in the text chat.

We tried sharing videos from both sides of the world, but the audio was not good. I dropped my video but audio was still poor when I tried to screenshare. The powerpoint presentation was quickly sent through skype and Reinhard displayed my powerpoint on his data projector and I talked through the slides when prompted without video connections.

Our school vegetable garden

Our school vegetable garden

The second lesson started in a similar manner but I had booked a Blackboard Collaborate room as a backup. The sound was perfect in here and the presentation could be shown. However, I had forgotten that many of the images were high in pixellation and the final slides did not load for Reinhard and his class. Again, he had to revert to showing my powerpoint at his end. The third time lucky, it all worked as I ensured that I had resized my images on the presentation.

The challenges:-

  • Bandwidth – found a tool that worked – blackboard collaborate – I can book a room through my Education Department license.
  • Working with a class where English is the second or third language. On occasions I had to pause for Reinhard to interpret
  • To ensure comprehension  – by the third class, I realised I should label the food using the text tool on the whiteboard, use lines etc  whilst I was being interpreted.
  • To ascertain interest of class when there was one class logon. Would be preferable to have students individually logged on in Germany.
  • How to bring my students online next time – share the link and they can logon from home.

The highlights

  • Multimedia tools – audio, text chat, whiteboard, video, labels, lines, shapes, app sharing (through Blackboard Collaborate)
  • Recording – the classes were recorded for future reference or use with other classes and the links to the recordings shared with Mr Marx.
  • The questions from the students, responses to my questions and the sharing of languages and names of foods.
Lunch in the School Canteen

Lunch in the School Canteen

Using the shapes and lines tools in BbC to annotate and ensure understanding.

Using the shapes and lines tools in BbC to annotate and ensure understanding.

Here is the