Tag Archives: parents and elluminate

Learning Adventures in Blackboard Collaborate

Over the last semester, my classes and school have continued to witness the exciting possibilities of using virtual classroom software. Some of the wonderful adventures that we have experienced are:

  1. Malaysian Connections Connecting in real time with a school in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.
  2. Digital Accounting Linking up my virtual accounting student with my face to face class, once a week, in an elluminate session
  3. Techno Parents Connecting staff and students with our school parent body on a weekly basis, at night time, over a trial period of three weeks.
  4. Student 2.0 Student A university student from the University of Ballarat ran an online session with my year 12 students, giving them encouragement to apply for university, tips/hints pre attending uni, what to expect at uni and generally answering questions from the students.

The options for interactivity and engagement, make elluminate and other virtual classroom software a powerful tool in the learning and teaching process.

First, a little about my school – Hawkesdale P12 College. We are a small rural school in country Victoria, Australia – a school that is prep to year 12, culturally and geographically isolated. This year, I teach year 11 and 12 accounting in one classroom and in amongst that I have an accounting student from another school, 1 ½ hours distant from mine. To give him a more intimate learning environment, I book an elluminate room each week through my Department of Education. Although, we have had many technical issues, most not related to the software tool, when it works, it gives a chance to interact, connect and communicate as ‘one class’.

The Malaysian Connections

For me and my students, this has been the most exciting of all our adventures in elluminate. Having met Zainuddin at a Pacific/Asia MS Innovative Teachers conference in 2008, we were determined to work together and see how we could connect our classes.  His school is Taman Burkitt Maluri School, Kuala Lumpur. For 5 exciting sessions we were able to link up in real time and share our classes in the elluminate environment. Technical issues abounded on their end as the internet access suffers from a lower bandwidth. Skype was used as the back channel. However as the weeks progressed, they overcame their problems and we settled into our class together, sharing our likes, passions, ideas on education, cultures, different foods etc. In fact, in one of our sessions, we were fortunate to have Lindy Stirling, the state advisor for Asia Studies with us. These sessions provide a glimpse into the powerful future, possibilities and direction that education can take. They were the highlight of both schools’ students’ week and utter engagement, excitement and pure concentration were evident as they chatted, shared the whiteboard and attempted to use the microphone. (An evaluation post will be written in the near future) But this blog post from one of the students, immediately after our first session says so much about it. See blog post – dhugsy

For more details see the following:-

Techno Parents was another amazing linkup. Despite fears that most would not be able to connect (due to our rurality and often lack of mobile phone network), each week we had parents, mostly with the students beside them,staff, including our Principal and members of our Leadership Team in the ‘room’ sharing stories about our week in the school and the classroom, and even hobbies/personal pursuits of teachers, connecting in the virtual room. Parents often valiantly used the microphone to ask questions and were happy using the chat feature for questions or feedback. On our first night, a teacher from Darwin, (the top end of Australia and we are the bottom end) came online with us, talking about the teddy bear exchange with us. Many ideas were put forward as to how this might continue and the direction it might take. Further reflective posts will be written but here are links to some blog posts on the previous sessions.

Student2.0 Student   Link to the recording with Hein a final year Education student shares with my year 12 class  – University Life

Parent Partnerships – Final steps in transforming school communities

Techno Parents Online in Elluminate

Our goal

To offer three online elluminate sessions over a three week period to parents of students who are part of our 1:1 netbook program.

Our approach

  • Three weekly sessions were held online, on a Monday evening from 7:30-8:30pm.
  • An initial face to face meeting was held with parents/student and netbooks in the library.
  • Our first online session launch was the first day of Education Week.
  • Notes went home with the 1:1 netbook students, newsletter notices
  • User documentation was sent to those who showed interest.
  • Email contact and phone number backups for the sessions were given. Parents made use of both those means of communication

Initial reaction

  • Strong support from staff and leadership
  • Keen interest from parents, excitement, nervousness but real determination to be part of this.

What worked

  • Amazingly everything did! Parents with the help of their students were able to logon.
  • Having parents, students and staff all in one virtual classroom
  • Icebreakers eg build the snowman, make a pizza that everyone can eat
  • Sharing classroom stories
  • Having our teddy bear linkup teacher from Darwin online with us the first session, talking about how excited her students are to share an exchange with us. They have a large proportion of African students and they think that there are lots of elephants, zebras etc in Victoria. It was really interesting to hear about their mix, technology use (or lack of) etc. Created a lot of interest through the chat
  • Marg M, one of our teachers, talking about their hobby of raising macaw birds and sharing pictures with us. Made everyone relaxed, got questions started in the chat etc.
  • Using images to talk to
  • Staff learning and sharing about we are doing

Topics covered:-

  • The ultranet
  • What’s on this week
  • The maths/science classroom
  • Our biodiversity program
  • The Techno 5 class blog, homework page and asking parents to ‘add their day in a sentence”
  • Mathletics
  • Global connections
  • Cows Create Careers and Horticulture in the middle school
  • From the prep class room! Gorgeous images, great activities (mentors, dance, art etc) and wonderful use of ICT. Some of the preps were online with their parents and pointed out their work.

Faces of the preps

Ideas for further use of connections with parents in elluminate

  • Maths -Parent tutoring Keep the parents up to date with what is being done…especially with the new technologies..ie graphics calculators – Mathletics
  • Good way to train parents on the use of the Ultranet later in the year
  • Online Open day and night?
  • Arts – film, photography and graphic arts exhibitions
  • whole of school approaches to particular social issues such as promoting healthy relationships, positive body image, Aboriginal reconcilitation etc.  Of course student learning and stories would be great too and tuition sessions in a range of subject areas.
  • potential for kids who miss school through illness
  • From school council president
  • As long as it was in addition to in person sessions, not instead of.
  • Could hear from our student teachers
  • Ross Student: About what happens in other schools and presentations from kids
  • Maybe even if you did one/two levels at a time
  • It would be good to hear what Parents Club are doing and how we could get other parents involved

The unexpected results:-

  • Students were happy to come on the mic and talk about their day’s activities
  • The keen interest shown by parents and staff
  • My school staff were able to experience the benefits and potential of working online in a virtual classroom
  • The confidence of parents and willingness to use the chat, whiteboard and microphone.

What could be improved:-

  • advertise the agenda well ahead of time, rather than throw it all together a day or so before
  • Share an online document or encourage comments on the posts that were published on the school blog for feedback and evaluation
  • Evaluation survey needs to be set up
  • Share the responsibility of planning sessions with staff, students and parents
  • Vary the chief moderator when other staff become confident
  • Some parents did have difficulties with java errors  and could not get in – need documentation on that
  • Some parents still have dial up internet access, some have no internet access

The outcome

  • Unanimous agreement that the sessions continue on a regular basis – monthly for a start

How to advertise these sessions!

  • Individual notes to home
  • On the school blog
  • Newsletter
  • Parent buddies,each of us invite a new person each time
  • email groups

Final words from the one of the parents:

Rochelle: Thanks everyone, very elluminating!

Tracey: This is all interesting, even with Em at Prep it is interesting to see what the older kids are doing

Helen S: loved hearing about what’s happening at school and hearing from Rachel in /Darwin

Tracey: Love to hear what they are doing in the classrooms, the different technologies they are using