Tag Archives: India

Guest speaker for International Women’s Day

I received a very special invitation from Seena and Sebastian Panakal to speak to a group of women for International Women’s Day on March 8th. In Australia, the status of women continues to improve and gender equality is increasing in evidence. There is a lot of public attention on treating women with respect but that is still not always the case.

The group of women who I was to present to were from Kerala, India. These are Women of the Wiki, women who wish to become empowered, improve their status in life and the education of their community and to increase employment opportunities for their families. They do not enjoy the same privileges or standard of living that I, as a woman in Australia does. How special to share this International Day with women who lived in another country.

Sebastian and women

My role was to share the power that technology can provide. Accents can always be a problem and English may not be their first language, so I put together a brief Powerpoint presentation with images to help with understanding. I showed where I live  (on a farm in rural south Eastern Australia) and where I teach (a remote rural school of 200 students aged 5 to 18), an area that has no mobile phone service. However, access to the internet and a powerful network has enabled the world to be our classroom, resulting in a number of awards including global awards. Many invitations have now come my way to present at a variety of conferences both in Australia and overseas, including Qatar, Shanghai and USA. It is hoped that these women could see that ordinary women can achieve great things with the innovative use of technology and a strong network.

Skype was used to connect. Screen sharing allowed the Indian audience to see my presentation. Sebastian capably organised the videoconference from his end.

The women of Kerala, India were encouraged to consider tourism, providing homestays (through homestays.com or airbnb or similar) or “meals with strangers” (through apps and sites like VizEat, EatWith) could provide a welcome income for some of these women. Selling their craft work online is another possibility. The internet can open up willing global markets. They could teach their language online for a small fee. What other ideas do you have to help them?

Sebastian Panakal, a valued online teaching colleague, together with his wife Seena organised this event. Other online guest speakers were to follow. It is hoped that these women can think of ways to use technology to full effect and improve their and their family’s station in life.

One of the women asks a question

One of the women asks a question

 

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Transforming Education for Humanity Conference – Vizag, India

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“There is something culturally humbling about sitting down to a hot lunch, in a foreign country, having intense educational discussions with a fellow teacher who eats with his fingers whilst I use cutlery and serviette.”

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The UNESCO_MGIEP inaugural conference took place in Visakhapatnam, Inda and was organised by UNESCO Mahatma Ghandi Institute of Education for Peace (MGIEP). The aim of the conference was to

provide a unique platform for learners and experts from across the globe including Ministers of education, information & communications technology and youth as well as senior policy makers, entrepreneurs, education technology providers, teachers, teacher educators, education psychologists, researchers and neuroscientists to collaborate, innovate and work towards transforming education for humanity.

The conference was brought to my attention when I was invited to a brunch for global educators at ISTE in June this year. Brochures promoting the conference were placed on the tables.  ISTE supported the conference.

“The World is Our Classroom” was the topic of my presentation submitted for approval. It was accepted, so plans were made for travel; and time release, in the form of long service leave from school, was requested.

The conference was inspiring.  For the first time in a face to face environment, fair complexioned skins were the minority and often a novelty. Despite my age, people approached me for selfies!!! The biggest proportion of attendees were from the Indian community, representing many different schooling types, languages/dialects and districts. There were more than 55 countries represented and 1400+registered attendees.

mixed participants in session

Highlights:- There were many but following are some of them:

    • Immersing with so many different cultures, languages, backgrounds and religions.
    • Attending sessions that involved interpreters. It was fascinating to hear the different languages.
    • slides which featured both English and one of the Indian languages – Hindi, Tamil etc.

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  • being reminded of the poverty and trying conditions that many teachers in India, Bangladesh, Africa etc work under. Many schools do not have electricity. Many parents are illiterate but still want the best for their children.
  • panel discussions from some of the world experts in a many fields involving technology eg gaming, robotics, AV and VR, Makerspaces etc
  • Being a participant in a session that involved both Chinese and Russian presenters. The Russian presenters were sharing their research and experience in Artificial Intelligence.

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  • The conference had a mix of Ministers of Education, ICT administrators, entrepreneurs, researchers, neuroscientists, policy makers, educators and best of all quite a number of students – some quite young as participants.
  • Ability to collaborate, innovate and work towards transforming education for humanity with many of the above participants.
  • The mix of topics and choices available to participants.
  • a tour of Vizag on the conference buses with a multicultural mix – Indians, Filipinos, a teacher from Azerbaijan – all eager to learn more about each other as we rode on the bus and stopped at the tourist attractions.
  • The Novotel conference centre is situated on Beach road, with only the road separating it from the sea  and its beautiful views.
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  • Meeting people who were also staying in my hotel, Winsar Park hotel, opposite the King George Hospital. Many of these people were also attendees or presenters at the conference.

Staying in hotel that had been highly recommended by Indian people on Trip Advisor. It was clean, had complementary breakfast (predominantly delicious Indian food). kind and helpful staff and a restaurant that stayed open until 11pm at night. (This was useful as sometimes I did not get back until 10pm)

Challenges

  • coping with the different accents even though the common language was English and trying to make sure each of us understood each other.
  • the queues were long at lunchtime – often 1 hour or more, queues. However,  this did provide an opportunity to meet others and continue conversations on education and backgrounds.
  • determining what name I call people. The name tags showed a first name and last name but sometimes the culture they were from, reversed the sequence of names.
  • working our way around the Novotel conference centre. However, there were many volunteers who did a great job to guide us. Some sessions had to be rescheduled due to inability of participants to find the correct room.
  • overcoming my fears-of getting lost,missing my flights,  making myself understood, suffering gastro from a changed diet, how trustworthy are my drivers (uber, cab and tuc tuc drivers) etc

Cultural differences:

  • hearing a variety of native languages being spoken around the conference centre
  • evidence of tight security. The conference was officially opened by the Chief Honourable Minister for Andhra Pradesh. Numerous police, security guards and the army equipped with large guns were everywhere inside and outside during this time. The volunteers and workers for the conference, formed a human chain as he walked through the exit near the conference participants.
  • Women were clothed in saris, with legs covered either by the saris or leggings. There was little evidence of Western style dresses.
  • Getting to the conference in the local transport – autocabs (or I would call them tuc tucs) and trying to make the driver know where I needed to go.
  • Working out the meaning of the horizontal head nods – was it yes or no or something else?
  • The spicy foods – I was told by those who lived in India that Andhra Pradesh food was amongst the most spicy of foods in India. I did enjoy their food but avoided any that obviously had red chilies in them and I drank lots of water!!!!

 

Skypethon – without students!

Australia is not an easy country to connect due to our time zone. Australia, after New Zealand, is one of the first countries to greet a new date and day across the world.

There were a number of times, when I was able to connect with other classes of students. The first was with Masterwide 10, Kavali near Nellore in South India and it must have been 2am in the morning for them, 7:30am my time. After brief  introductions, we shared conversations, but they had technical issues so the connection was cut short.

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Another visit to India was with Sebastian Panakal at St Mary’s public school, a 5 hour train journey from Kerala. It was interesting to speak with one of the head teachers, Ashik and another younger teacher and compare our education systems. It was fascinating to see one of the women deliver them their morning tea, whilst we spoke.

One of my network, created a Skyeathon group in Messenger. Many impromptu requests were made. One was from Dondi in Hungary where her students were eagerly waiting to share their folk songs with others. One was played on the flute and the other was sung to me.

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Steve Auslander’s class were fascinated with the fact that I lived in their tomorrow. They had 10 minutes to connect before their school day finished and mine was about to start. One of his girls was really keen to come to Australia, so I sent a picture of a koala that had been in our driveway several days earlier.

 

Despite the dates for the Skypeathon having finished in Australia, the USA schools were still in November 29th, so  two calls were made to them  just before my school started and their school day finished.

One was a spontaneous request from Kyle Calderwood and his class who had 10 minutes before their next call. The second call was from Andrea Friend – a call that had been organised via Skype in the Classroom website. Both times I was able to share my screen with them and quickly show them some of our farm and wildlife.

Kyle Calderwood and his class.

Andrea Friend and her class

I love to travel and I love to learn. The Skypeathon provided both opportunities – one day I will try and work out how many miles we covered in total!!

Day 2 Skypeathon: in the morning

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This was a hectic day with many requests having come in from India. As we are in daylight saving, it pushed our times 5.5 hours apart. With only 1.5 of actual synchronous school time with India, it meant the connections were only 15 to 20 minutes in length which was not enough time. This post will describe the morning events.

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First call was with Shiva, from India, who put together some amazing options for people to connect with his school – a cultural extravaganza,  a virtual field visit or mystery skype.  We chose the cultural extravaganza where we were treated to cultural dances, drumming and flute playing. The stage was set beautifully and once we got through the technical issues of not being able to hear the music, my students were treated to an extravaganza or Indian culture. Shiva had paid great attention to detail with colourful cards introducing the connection and a great online site and posters set up to promote it.

class watching

Next stop – Sri Lanka

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flag and class with aussie flag

This was a game of mystery skype with Roshan Kumar. Roshan’s student worked out our country well before we determine his. We eventually asked for clues as students immediately thought India (judging by appearances). One of the clues was that they live on an island, so Taiwan was mentioned but the second clue was that it was to the east of India.

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There was a few minutes for sharing of cultural objects and information. My students were really interested in the description of their flag and the reason for the lion and all its features appear as it did. Roshan’s student asked “What is something unique about Australia” and we responded our animals ie koalas, kangaroos, emus, platypus etc. They responded that hospitality was one of their unique features.

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tim with roshan

Next Up – a busy, busy afternoon

 

Amazing Outcomes from Global PLNs

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One of my special online colleagues, Sebastian Panakal is an educational entrepreneur from Kerala, India, and a tireless worker  who is passionate about his people, their education and their economic future. On many, many occasions he has spoken to students, staff and parents from my school in Australia, using Skype to connect. In turn I have been able to reciprocate and connect with schools, classes, community members etc in Kerala.

Technology enables us to connect in ways never thought previously possible. It’s innovative use is just starting to impact on global education. The ability to learn from others in any country, any time and a variety of ways can help those in lesser developed countries improve their education and expand their learning/knowledge. Nelson Mandela said:

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”.

Last week, Sebastian connected me (over Skype) to Mr Ravindran, of Kerala, India. Initially, I spoke briefly to Sebastian who then introduced me to a retired female Principal who is learning to teach online under Sebastian’s tutelage.

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Next, Mr Ravindran was introduced and he spoke of ways that he may be able to help me and other members of our global network, when visiting India. He spoke of his Commerce degree and background which was of high interest to me as that is my academic background and the area that I teach in. I spoke briefly of what I do but it was only when I had hung up that I realised the importance of this friendly gentleman.

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He is an important community member and his business card reads as follows:-

U. P. Ravandran, M Commerce,  a member of the Prime Minister’s 25 circles (Interaction with the Prime Minister, Indian Defence, Indian Railways, Schwachh Barath Mission, Anti-Corruption, Legal Cell, Women Protection, Consumer Protection, etc).

He has direct access to the Prime Minister’s office to report on what goes on locally here in Kerala. This helps the PM’s office localize and customise their work in Kerala.

Sebastian has a wonderful vision – a project to employ one million people as English Language Coaches – each one teaching one program. Those who are fluent in the language will help those who are not, using Skype for educational purposes, accepting an honorarium, if given.

Sebastian has contact with senior citizens who are eager to use their time productively, empowering people who need a mentor in language learning. Read more at the EldersSole. The idea has been work in progress for two year. See Language Learning Circles   and Speak English for Money. This project is about to be launched to help the people of Kerala learn English. Mr Ravindran is supporting this project.

It would be fabulous if the people of Kerala could offer to teach their native language to others across the world. People in advanced countries could be willing to pay for native speakers to teach them. Courses could be setup, including advanced or basic tourist conversational courses, cultural and heritage lessons. Tools like Skype can used for direct interacting and learning. There are  many options available (and many that have not even been thought of) that innovative entrepreneurs like Sebastian (with a fabulous global professional network) and supportive mentors like Mr Ravindran will be able to use, to advance the learning and financial opportunities for the people of India.

All the best in this innovative adventure in global connection and learning!

Outside their comfort zone

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A plea from one of my colleagues in India, Anamika Jha, for some of my students to videoconference (skype) with hers came at a time when I had my year 9/10 ICT class. She teaches at SD Public School, Delhi. Many of my students were absent and I was not certain that the students who were in my class would be confident  enough or even willing to talk to her students. It would be well outside their comfort zone.

However, I did have two girls who were looking rather disengaged so I asked whether they would connect. As expected, they were reluctant but finally agreed. The skype call came in and I took them up to one of our small meeting rooms. Fortunately, the students from India were super confident, well prepared and surprisingly my girls appeared to understand them. The first question was asking the girls to share something about Australian culture. This flawed them and there was no response! Not to be deterred the Indian students proceeded to talk about their many religions, days of celebration and important people.

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Next question was whether the girls watched Indian movies or knew any of their famous actors – again negative comments! At this point, I disappeared to find some objects of Australian culture – food, animals, sports equipment etc. When I returned the girls had relaxed and were highly engaged in conversations around favourite books, music, school subjects, sports, hobbies, money and the weather. The looks of boredom that I had seen 20 minutes before had changed into engaged, smiling and animated faces as they chatted away.Video call snapshot 307

It reaffirmed that it is often best for the teacher to step right back and let the students work out the accents, speed and clarity of speech and to let them take control of the direction of learning.

Small groups of students connecting cross countries, cross cultures, different accents, speed of speech can have rich learning outcomes.

Feedback from their teacher

thanks maam
for this nice conversation with your students
my students were really excited to have words with your students
tomm.

Read Bridie’s blog post. and Georgia’s post

Celebrating #IWD simultaneously across 3 continents

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Three continents, two different time zones,  two classes from different countries and the guest speaker from a third country/continent for International Women’s Day.

March 8th across the world is International Women’s Day. Our school continued to celebrate it on March 9th, when Canada, USA and others on the other side of the world were still in March 8th . A special lunchtime linkup was organised with Arianne Jones, a Luge Olympic Champion for Canada. Due to time zone confusion, the primary school students became part of a later connection rather than the lunchtime linkup that we were expecting. The fascinating part of the linkup was that a school from Delhi, India became  part of our 3 way connection. The connection was organised through Skype in the Classroom and Classroom Champions.

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Arianne was an inspiring speaker who should never have been a Luge champion. She is thin and far too light in weight. Even her coach had no faith in her and gave her little opportunity initially. However, she persevered and is now the Olympic Luge champion for Canada.
When she finished speaking, Arianne encouraged Hawkesdale students to ask 5 questions, then the students from India asked 5 questions – all really interesting and forcing us to cope with the Indian accent.
She encouraged the students to “dream big and chase your dreams!!!” The response from the Indian teacher was ” our kids are so overwhelmed speaking to you.. you have been a true motivation for them” There are many wonderful opportunities on Skype in the Classroom website, many tailored for special celebatory days
@skypeclassroom @@jonesluge #IWD2017 #IWD

from india