Tag Archives: sebastian panakal

Technology – an amazing connector

As a member of HLW Skypers, notifications will come through at any time on the skype group chat. One such message appeared 2 hours 30 mins before a special event in India from Sebastian Panakal asking for members to send a video message offering thanks and congratulations to Mr. Hibi Eden, Member of Legislative Assembly of Kerala, Sujathambika, Staff, Students and Parent Teacher Association of S.R.V. School.

I am at the inauguration of SMART CLASSROOM at SRV School, today 2 hours 30 minutes from now. A message from my PLN will go a long way in helping the poor students in Public Schools in Kerala, India.

A quick decision had to be made! What should I use to send a video message. Skype video message on my laptop, was one option as was creating a video using my iphone and uploading to youtube. However, the quickest was a skype video message sent through the group chat. However, the internet in Kerala is not always robust so there is always a chance that it will not work at the appointed time. However, the skype video can be downloaded and shown while offline as long as it had fully uploaded by the appointed time in India. I followed a suggested script from Sebastian, made sure the lighting was okay behind me and found a quiet place away from the noise of the grandchildren who were staying. I usually produce an Australian flag when I introduce myself but in my haste could not find one.

Even though the request came through 2.5 hours before the event,  I only read the feed 30 mins before the due time so there was not time to perfect the video msessage. Soon after sending it through, a group call came through from the Kerala location so I was able to share my congratulations in real time with those in Kerala, together with Tracy Hanson in USA (of Next Generation Global Education) and another teacher from India. The teacher in India had prepared some slides to share with us all by using screen share on skype. (Note to myself: I need a short presentation, sharing where I am from and my school!)

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The skype group video call can be seen in the image above. This is rather incredible to think that one of the poorest schools of Kerala, India can connect to so many different educators and classes in Australia.and even more amazing that the Member of their Parliament could witness this.

Watch the following video of one of the other participants.

A message sent by Steve Sherman from Cape Town

The thing that always amazes me is that dedicated educators like Sebastian Panakal can use technology to great effect for poor schools in underdeveloped countries – imagine what all of us could do if we connect further!

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International Aids Day

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December 1st was World Aids Day. World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
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My dear colleague in Kerala, India, Sebastian Panakal continues his social leadership, through involvement in further events such “Learners Teach Learners”. CLASS (Connected Learning Activities through Social Service). Participants across the world were encouraged to  send a 3 minutes or less video message delivered by teachers/students/children commemorating people who have died of AIDs.
Students, Parents and Teachers of Lady of Mount Carmel Boys Lower Primary School AND Sri Rama Varma Upper Primary School, in India, are commemorating the people who have died of AIDs. The messages will be shown to Academic Leaders, Media and Participants at this meet. Both schools will create their School Wiki showcasing the connected learning event.
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The grandmother of one of my students passed away due to AIDs. She wears her grandmothers brooch on International Aids Day each year. As our school day times do not coincide, the students sent a video message via skype to Sebastian to be shared.

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However, I was able to connect synchronously, once home with the teacher and students involved in Kerala India. I could see the Christmas cake that Sebastian shared with them and meet the students from very poor background.s

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Open Night at Hawkesdale College

in the library
Each year, our school holds an Open Night inviting interested  families of year 7 students in 2017, to come and visit, see and hear what is offered and be immersed in a number of activities including science, wood technology, sport, technology and cookery.

science room

I was asked to provide a virtual connection with teachers and/or students from other countries so that parents and students could experience the wonderful learning that can occur. Two special colleagues, Sebastian Panakal, from Kerala India and Lin-lin Tan from Taiwan kindly agreed to connect with the groups at the appointed time. As the families were held up, the five students who were helping me, had a special time with Sebastian and Lin-lin asking questions and interacting in conversations. Vesna is studying mandarin Chinese and practiced her Chinese with Lin-lin. The other students also conversed in simple phrases. Skype was the tool used to connect.

vesna and linlin

boys and sebastian

It started with mystery skype. The students had helped set up online maps in the computer room and families were grouped around them, trying to determine the country they were from. Sebastian went on to show his wife, Sheena’s beautiful origami which she had learnt to do from youtube. Families found it more difficult to determine where Lin-lin was from, despite her showing puppets, chopsticks and a video as clues. It was a great experience and many thanks go to the Sebastian and Lin-lin for giving up their time to show the learning that technology can bring.

puppet

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sebastian and swan

Behind Closed Doors: Sebastian guest educator from Kerala, India

cropped selfieThis week is Education Week in Victoria, Australia. To celebrate teaching and learning, our school opened its doors today on the theme: “Behind Closed Doors”. Grandparents and parents were invited in to the classrooms between 11:30am and 2:30pm.

Year 7 ICT class demonstrated the power that technology can bring in opening up the doors globally. Sebastian Panakal kindly accepted the invitation to play “Mystery Skype” with the students, then show his wife’s Seena’s wonderful samples of origami and and answer any further questions.

whole class with Sebastian

Students had to think of one question to ask Sebastian, that required only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, whilst I solved the many problems I was facing with my laptop. Sebastian waited extremely patiently whilst my laptop rebooted. Students gradually worked out where Sebastian was from, using visuals and accents as ancilliary clues. Hamish actually worked out the name of the city – Kerala! Students had previously asked if he lived in the northern hemisphere, near a tropical forest, near the Pacific Ocean etc. Once they knew it was India, the next questions were

  • Do you live in southern India?
  • Do you live in a big city?
  • Do you live in Kerala?

showing origami

Sebastian proceeded to share the wonderful origami that his wife Seena creates. I hope he could hear the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the students as the webcam beamed them back to us. She shares her work over youtube.

As it was breakfast time for Sebastian he told us he was having Chappati & Daal – further learning as to what this actually looks like. Appam (made of rice) and curry was also part of it. Our students had had toast, toasties or cornflakes with banana!

Then he  invited us to Skype with “Sandesh – Be the Change” learners as part of training of a team of social entrereneurs ready to empower poor at the bottom of the pyramid in Kerala. The Prime Minister is eagerly promoting “Make in India” – Kerala Government is keen on digital democracy, empowering the marginalized. What a fabulous event for us to be involved in.

another origami

Read some of the student blog posts and what they thought about it all:

  1. Kiara’s post
  2. Dominic’s post
  3. Emmerson’s post
  4. Tim’s post
  5. Megan’s post

Children’s Day: The first time I heard the National Anthem of India

Singing the National Anthem

Singing the National Anthem

Today is Children’s Day in India. What a wonderful day to celebrate and acknowledge our young and make them feel very special. To mark the occasion, my dear friend, Sebastian Panakal from Kerala, India asked whether I could arrange students to link up with his.
childrens day

 

Sebastian and children

Unfortunately the time was right on our school closing time, so our students were unable to videoconference, but I was happy to be their audience. Teachers and students of varying ages came up, said hello and asked some questions of me. The children were delightful, appeared extremely interested well mannered and spoke clearly.  Balloons were evident in the classroom – a sign of the celebrations.

girl and children

At the end of our 20 minute linkup, the students, teachers and Sebastian sang me their National Anthem with great pride and gusto. And I hate to admit it, it was the first time that I ever remember hearing the National Anthem of India.

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Independence Day India – Friday August 15th

A skype message alerted me to the fact that it was Independence Day in India.

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It came from my good online friend, Sebastian Panakal and he asked:-

When may I call you? Today is Indian Independence Day and I would like to celebrate it together with you and your students, share my happiness with you

sebastian and quill earingsWishing that I had a class of middle school students whom I could connect him with, I in fact had a VCE accounting at that time (which is a subject not so easy to interrupt, due to the tight curriculum timeline). Wanting to make the most of this opportunity, I  asked whether he might wait until the last 5 mins of that class for us to connect. The students were rather shy about greeting Sebastian, but they soon rallied around and wished him a “Happy Independence Day”. In turn, Sebastian showed us the beautiful paper quill earings that his wife had made in the tri-colours of their national flag. They were to be distributed to local school girls.

 We learnt that India celebrated it as s a public holiday. Schools, clubs and associations celebrate by hosting the National Flag  (flag:in) and distribute sweets. Thereafter they sing, dance, party etc. Schools have the same fun and frolic, but a march past in the morning.

Sebastian was hoping to connect with as many of his virtual global friends to share this Independence Day. You can see his linkup with another online colleague, Katherine Zablatnik from Austria.From this linkup, Sebastian shared the following statement:-

As I shared my happiness on Indian Independence Day, an opportunity for promoting Health Tourism evolved.

As I hung up on skype, one of Sebastian’s friends also called me. As I was speaking to him, his mobile phone rang. Fascinated, I was party to a conversation in an Indian dialect as he quickly dealt with the phone call.. Not understanding a word of it, I still felt part of the connection!

Sebastian's friend

Does it matter that we interrupt senior classes for short connections like this, running the risk of falling behind the curriculum. Not at all in my opinion. Students are highly interested in what happens in other countries, they develop confidence in themselves and their communication ability and left my class in a happy frame of mind. Thank you Sebastian for saying hello to us on this day and sharing your celebrations!

A great “Open Night”

sebastian and origami

Although we are not even halfway through our school year, schools in our area are holding Open nights and Information Evenings in an effort to ‘sell’ their school to parents and encourage students to come to their school to complete their secondary schooling.

As such our open night was held tonight. After a few brief formal presentations, the visitors are split into two groups, guided around the school and undertake a number of activities. The science lab is converted into a whizbang mix of experiments where amazing light shows and loud ‘bangs’ can be heard, the home economics centre hosts the decoration of cupcakes into a wonderfully cute little pig and students make simple sanded wooden products in the Wood Technology room. I was asked to do something in the computer lab and as such wanted to show the power of technology to engage and connect us beyond classroom walls.

So, I turned to my wonderful colleague in Kerala, India, Sebastian Panakal and asked whether he would have the time to speak to two different groups of parents and students. Instead of just talking to each other, it was decided to put family groups in front of a computer with a map of the world and play Mystery Skype. They came to the webcam and asked questions of Sebastian that could only have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Both parents and students particpated in the questioning and finally worked out he was from India.

Then Sebastian shared the fabulous origami that his wife Seena has made. She learnt the skills through youtube and they are now teaching women in their area this craft so that they can market the product online and make precious and much needed funds from their sale. This was a ‘wow’ session when the intricately made products eg swan, peacock etc were shown. The gasps of delight could be heard! Thanks you Sebastian and Seena for giving up your precious time.

Whilst waiting for the second group to arrive, Sebastian made this little youtube clip and shared it via a link in the skype message. It shows the same wonderful origami. It is now shared on our school facebook page for all the school community to see.

The highlights:

  • families working together on a computer to solve the mystery location
  • plucking up courage to come up to the webcam and ask the question
  • trying to fathom each other’s accents
  • hearing Sebastian talk to his wife in their local dialect when she did not quite understand the Aussie twang
  • seeing the intricate creations that can be called origami and inspiring us to consider going beyond the simple paper folding
  • being able to ask questions of each other
  • but best of all, showing how a small country school that is rurally and culturally isolated can learn beyond classroom walls and the textbook.