Three years ago I met Veronica Woo, a TESL teacher at SMJK Poi Lan online. We started corresponding but then contact ceased, until several weeks ago, when Veronica contacted me on LinkedIn and asked if I was interested in videoconferencing with her. Veronica was about to link up with a school in NZ. Her students were to sing a concert number and the school in NZ was to demonstrate the haka. My classes did not get involved, but I, personally, was fortunate to practise skype as a videoconferencing linkup and witness the concert rehearsal.
As I was going to Malaysia to meet the class from Taman Gukit Maluri school that had connected with us in elluminate, Veronica asked if I could also visit her school and conduct some professional development for her teachers and some of the students. Rather excited, I agreed. I feel I already know Veronica and her teaching colleague Yvonne. Skype has allowed us to know each other. Yvonne will be our host and accommodate my husband and myself. Skype has been used to:-
- show us the house that we will stay in
- introduced us to her family members including her daughter
- her daughter has played the Chinese keyboard in preparation for her music exam
- discussed our dietary needs and likes/dislikes
- introduced some of the teachers who I will work with
- meet some of the students who I will work with
Further technologies used to prepare for my visit to Malaysia, including Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur
- planning itineraries and places to visit with tripadvisor and its forums
- wotif for cheap accommodation in Kuala Lumpur
- airasia for cheap flights
Finally, we are working through all our technical issues on both sides. Students from both schools, Hawkesdale P12, Australia and Taman Burkitt Maluri School, Kuala Lumpur entered the virtual elluminate online classroom a lot earlier for the third session. We were thrilled to welcome Lindy Stirling, the State Advisor for Asian Studies to our joint class today. Zainuddin, our teacher from Malaysia asked students three questions:-
- Do you prefer the city or the country? Why?
- What do you look for in a friend?
- What skill is important to learn?
Here are the whiteboard screen dumps:-
City or country?
What do you look for in a friend?
Lindy then asked what symbol best describes their country. This took a little explaining but here are the responses as written in text on the whiteboard:-
- Tiger represents our beautiful country and not forgetting the hibiscus flower that represents the 5 pledges
- Tiger because it represents bravery, wisdom and one Malaysia
- Because I am happy to live here
- Opera House because it is iconic
- Kangaroo because it is on our coat of arms
- The outback
- The emu because it cant walk backwards, and to use it as the Australian’s symbol because it is important that Australia does not take backwards steps.
- Uluru and the outback as it represents Australia’s most beautiful land
Explainingwhy they are iconic was more challenging. Can you work which are the Australian responses and which are the Malaysian?
Final outcome: The next day, Melissa, excitedly approached me in the corridor to say that two students from Malaysia had added her on facebook. Now, where could that lead to, I wonder!
How different it is to see the more mature students of our schools link up together on videoconferencing. The conversations hold greater content and depth. The demonstrations are more complex, realistic and therefore the learning deeper. Zainuddin and I both teach computer studies to year 11 at the same time on a Thursday.
As it was our first linkup, we decided to simply share cultures in a form of show and tell. But this time, the show and tell took on the form of full demonstrations.
Watching Malaysia we saw:-
- Demonstrations of their traditional drink (Teh tarik) and how to make it
- A traditional game and how to actually play it (involved marbles and a wooden playing structure – congkak
- Their traditional costumes for the Malay and the Chinese cultures, including their evening or ‘best’ dress
- We were also treated to viewing the various ways of tying sarongs.
Demonstrating from Hawkesdale we:
- Showed ‘footy’ and how to handball and kick it
- Demonstrated cricket and how to play it
- Displayed an aussie meat pie, talked about the contents, showed the addition of sauce
But, it was the grand finale from Malaysia that was the absolute highlight. They treated us to a demonstration of street dancing. We looked on with amazement and wonder as they danced to the music that our students love to listen to and the style of dancing that we would love to learn.
- Working with a country who learn English and speak it well
- Watching demonstrations, not just listening to a speaker
- One of my students who usually ‘hides’ in the corner and refuses to come up and speak over the microphone and skype, actually going way outside his comfort zone and taking part this time.
- Trying to adjust to each other’s accents
- Manipulating the camera and mic for maximum and effective connection .
- Experiencing the full value of demonstrations
- Wishing that we had been more organized with a better display of Australiana as the Malays had put so much time and effort into theirs
Possible future connections
- Could the Malay students teach mine how to street dance
- Can we share what we are learning in ICT and use peer to peer mentoring?
- Could we effectively team teach?
- Are we both following a similar course outline?