Tag Archives: skype in education

The Australian Flag flew high above Sparkles Fire House

Australian flag
Australian flag above Sparkles’ Fire House

 The Australian flag flew proudly high above Sparkles’ Clubhouse  but  this Fire House was not in Australia but in  Arkansas, USA. Dayna Hilton  and Molly, one of her Dalmation Fire Dogs visited us  from Arkansas, using skype, to talk about their work in  the Keep Kids Fire Safe™ Foundation‘s “Learning about Fire Safety can be FUN!” program. This program is sponsored by First Alert and State Farm.

dayna

Dayna had worked out the distance between us as 9,402 miles! She talked about fahrenheit temperatures and brushfiresn- quite foreign to our students who are into celsius, kilometres and bushfires! We asked what the distance would be in kilometres and techno savvy Dayna said she would quickly work it out. She inmediately pulled out her iphone and quickly asked Siri who calculated it efficiently We could see and hear Siri’s response immediately.

IMG_5249

With great expertise, Dayna shared images and videos using her iPad up against the web camera for us to see.

sharing pics on ipad with uis

Sharing pics on ipad with us

Dayna was teaching my year 8 ICT class which is a challenging one with a number of highly disengaged students. However, she engaged them fully with her appealing manner,  interacting with the students, asking questions and showing us Molly her beautiful dalmation. Animals are always winners! The background set was just delightful – lots of colour, bright red set giving a real theme around fire. Molly kindly obliged us with some of her tricks at the end of the connection!

Dayna and Molly

Two years ago, Dayna and Tango (another Dalmation fire dog) skyped with us. See the video. Next we would love to connect our CFA (Country Fire Authority) elective students with Dayna to share experiences and what we do in Australia.

Thanks Dayna, Lorraine Leo (who introduced us) and Skype in the Classroom where Dayna offers to connect to anyone around the world.

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An amazing visit to Kenya!

Each year our school holds an information evening for prospective parents of year 7 students for 2016. Being a small school, we try to show some of the best aspects of learning at our school. Again, I was asked whether a global connection might be made using skype to demonstrate the ability of technology to break down the barriers of geographical and cultural isolation and take learning beyond the textbook.

Govinda Panthy from Nepal was approached  as the first earthquake was still making headlines in our media.  He was unable to connect as he had an important meeting in Katmandu. Livingstone from Kenya was also asked. Michael Soskil, from the USA.  was visiting with him and they had been actively seeking people to skype with a few days earlier to connect students fom the Cheery School in the biggest slum in Africa but as there was no word from them, Sebastian Panakal, from Kerala, India again kindly consented to skype with us. Just as the first group was about to come into the computer lab, Sebastian warned us that his power may be about to go out and then……. it must have as he immediately went offline!

Video call snapshot 59

Instead, current year 7 students showed some of the global projects that they had been involved in. Fortunately there was a 45 min break as in that time, Livingstone skyped me to say they would be ready for us whenever we were! Student helpers quickly gathered up some objects to share as we were told that the Kenyan students were young and did not speak much English. The Kenyan students attended the HIP academy, a rural school in Kenya.

Video call snapshot 60

As the second group of parents and students entered into the room we called Livingstone on the video camera and commenced with a mystery skype challenge. The prospective students in Hawkesdale posed the following questions that could only have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question :-

  1. Are you south of the equator? Answer = no, our country covers the equator
  2. Do you have a big rainforest? Answer: no
  3. Do you have lions? Answer: yes
  4. Are you in Africa? Answer: yes
  5. Are you from Kenya? Answer: yes

The sight of the dark coloured faces made it reasonably easy for us to work out where they were from. They worked out where we wer from with some visual clues. They had a paper poster world map to refer to, we had online maps on our computers.

Video call snapshot 61

A young Kenyan girl then taught us swahilli by showing us toy animals that Michael had brought with him to Kenya. She spoke the word in English, then Swahilli, we then had to repeat. She did not move onto the next animal until we pronounced it reasonably well. What a brave effort on this girl’s part as none of these students or teachers had used skype before. Then to our delight, the power of the webcamera was shown, when Michael took Livingstone’s laptop outside and showed us the surrounding countryside. One of the school volunteers then explained about the gardens that they were growing to supply food for the children to eat at lunch – corn, pumpkins etc A donkey could be seen in the distance. The picture was crystal clear and it was as if we were actually there!

Video call snapshot 62

Parents came up to us afterwards to say they had no idea we could even do this! What an amazing introduction to the learning that even small country schools can make on a global scale! A fantastic connection – thanks Livingstone and Michael for making this possible!

Read some about our linkup from Michael’s perspective Adventures in Kenya Series – Day 9 – From Mukuyuni to Nakuru

24 hours in the Life of a Connected Educator

Please note that this post is cross-posted aSmartBlog on Education

A virtual classroom of engaged students

A virtual classroom of engaged students

As it is connected educator month, it is interesting to take note of what life can be like in 24 hours as a connected educator! Following are the sequence of events one 24 hour period last week!

6:30am Perused my emails – mostly content sent whilst the rest of the world was awake. Responded to the most pressing emails. Checked  twitter for any interesting updates, especially those tweets directed to me. Checked for any comments to moderate on my blog posts and respond to them, enabling further conversations and connections. Looked at the day’s statistics. (It is always motivating to know that people may have read posts or that keyword searches have found my blog posts. The search terms added give an idea for further posts that may be of interest to many.)

7:30am Last minute preparations for the day’s classes

8:15am Depart for school, turn on laptop proxy settings and check for any skype group updates

9am       Coach a potential moderator online,  in the use of Blackboard Collaborate (virtual classroom software. Our Education Department provides teachers with a statewide license for PD, meeting and classroom use.)

11am     Activated the school polycom videoconferencing equipment to connect with a teaching colleague in Melbourne  who was with the executive committee of  Parents Victoria.  We demonstrated the potential it has for effective and easy connections via high quality videoconferencing. Discussed various uses of this equipment and other  tools  may have for connecting  eg bringing statewide parents in to virtual meetings from their homes, virtual parent/teacher/school  information evenings, virtual school assemblies

1pm       Noted the emailed link to the virtual room for my year 8 ICT class linkup with Gio and Port Phillip EcoCentre. Gio, a year 11 student in Melbourne, is to share his work on the Nest Box Forum with my students. My class is to be a champion class for Gio to learn how to make effective use of blackboard collaborate as a teaching/learning tool. My students will have the chance to interact with Gio, learning netiquette and appropriate online behaviour and finding answers to their curiosity.

2pm       Year 8 students individually logon and enter the virtual room. Surprisingly, Gio was not there yet. An email alerted us to the problems they were having with their technology back in Melbourne. While we waited, students drew pictures on the whiteboard to share something of where we live. Wondering how long this would keep them engaged, I tried to think of a plan B. However, a skype pop-up window, alerted me to  a request from Lin-lin in Taiwan, looking  for a class to do a mystery skype with her students now!  Thinking this could be a life saver, I immediately said we would – at least until Gio was able to connect with us. Just as I set up skype to display on a bigger monitor, Gio appeared. Not wanting to offend either party, I got two girls to take my laptop in to the backroom to do the mystery skype with the Taiwanese school, allowing me to work with the majority of students. I fleetingly and periodically checked on the two girls, but they seemed to be able to make themselves understood, looked like they were having fun as they communicated and connected, using the chat when there was misunderstanding with the spoken language. At one stage the Taiwanese class could be heard singing a song to the girls. Meanwhile my main class was highly engaged listening to and learning of the bats, possums and birds that used the nesting boxes.  Gio shared some delightful images with them on the whiteboard.

Two countries,two cultures, two languages learn over skype

Two countries,two cultures, two languages learn over skype

3:45pm Staff meeting. Got a viber alert on my ipad  –  a new healthy granddaughter, was just  born in Johannesburg, Sth Africa!

8pm       Checked emails, skype updates, viber messages, twitter feed and wrote a blog post  An Unpredictable Class to share the impact of connectedness!

What does your typical ‘connected’ day involve?  How important is it for educators to be connected? What impact has being connected had on your teaching/learning?

An unpredictable class!

majority of class
Today was day 1, term 4. Period 5,  my year 8 ICT class were to link up with Port Phillip EcoCentre, St Kilda Botanical Gardens and Gio to learn about the nesting boxes that are being placed around St Kilda ensuring the survival of a number of birds and animals. Blackboard Collaborate was the software to be used. My class all successfully logged in. We talked about appropriate online behaviour and netiquette whilst we waited.

However technical issues in Melbourne prevented Gio and Jill from coming online at the appointed time. Whilst they were solving their problems, an online colleague from Taiwan – Lin-lin was asking over our HLW skype group for someone to connect with her students so that they could do a mystery skype linkup and then sing a song to another teacher or class.

rachel grace and taiwan students

Thinking this would be good filler and stop my students ‘hanging from the rafters’, I offered my class. However, just as we connected over skype, Gio entered the virtual classroom. How could we be part of both activities? I did not want to offend either of our virtual connections.

Two of my girls said that they would videoconference with Taiwan, whilst the rest of the class learnt about the nesting boxes.  I was a little nervous about this as those two same students would not ask questions over mystery skype a couple of weeks prior – due to shyness. The girls retired to the small store room adjacent to the computer lab, with no instruction from me, whilst I then had to give full attention to the rest of the class.

rach and grace from linlin

Periodically I checked on the two girls but they appeared to be going well, took some photos for me and asked questions of Lin-lin by microphone and used the chat to ensure understanding. This could have been very messy as there was no backup plan for the class. But all students were engaged in either of the two activities. The photos display this engagement.

What I learnt

  • splitting students into groups can work well – each group having their own virtual learning activity with a different tool
  • images such as those that Gio shared can be powerful for learning and engagement. He shared a number of pics of the nesting boxes and the tiny animals who inhabited them.
  • the backchannel is great! Every students can ask questions, share experiences and feelings
  • it is often better for me, the teacher, to get right out of the way and just leave a small group of students to themselves when videoconferencing over eg skype so that they are forced to learn how to communicate with others who may not speak English as their first language.

This could have been a very messy class but instead turned out to be highly successful for all students.

class engaged

Mystery Skype

great one of sean and davie

Online colleagues from HLW Skypers group introduced me to Mystery Skype. (Thanks Steve Sherman (@coolmaths) from Sth Africa and David Karnoscak from USA. It has been used on many occasions with many classes and countries and each time it has been fun, engaging yet full of learning. A suggested learning activity is outlined below:

Video skype calls are made to a teacher/class in an unknown destination – either  local, national or global! Students determine the location through questions. Ideal  for introducing partner global project classes.

linlin and students

Suggested Uses:

  • Engaging one off lessons that are fun!
  • As an introduction to a class or teacher involved in a collaborative global project
  • “Around the world in Mystery Skype” in as many countries as possible over the school year!
  • The world is your limit!

Prerequisites

  • A large screen for viewing or a white wall/board
  • Laptop or desktop computer
  • a data projector, speakers and microphone
  • A mystery partner!

Preparation

  • Join skype in education,   join the mystery skype group or find one through other social networks eg
  • Find a partner(s) to connect with from your own country or other country
  • Connect and communicate with the mystery teacher, get to know each other
  • Test the skype connection prior to the linkup
  • Set up a collaborative online document for students to share the questions asked, the answers given and add a heading for exit slips or reflection  – eg what did they find challenging, three things they learnt, one thing they are still curious about. Add  a world map to the document together with the rules.
  • Ensure the country is hidden in the skype profile of the mystery teacher/class
  • If this is the first skype call, allow practise time for students to use a webcamera and microphone effectively. Practise with the school librarian or other teacher

The Rules

  • Students are to ask questions that will only allow a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer
  • They have one lesson to complete it in
  • Class is to be on their best global behaviour! Discuss what this means with the class
  • They document their questions and answers on the collaborative document

The lesson

Prerequisites

  • Atlases or paper maps and/or access to online maps
  • Camera

Test and double check everything 10 mins or so before linkup. Use the chat to your connecting teacher/class before ringing to ensure they are ready. Make sure you have a camera.  Ensure every student has access to an atlas or online maps. Ensure that the country is hidden or removed in the teacher profile.

Make the video call when both parties are ready. If the linkup is not strong, hang up and ring again. Students come to the web camera and ask their question that require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.  Students continue on until they find the exact location of the mystery skyper. (If students are very young, it may be sufficient to determine the country.)

If time permits!

  • Nominated students might take the connecting teacher or class on a virtual tour of the school.
  • Small groups may wish to ask more questions
  • Further research on the mystery skypers’ location – weather, time zone, culture etc

Celebrate and share

  • with others in your social network. Use hashtag #mysteryskype on tweets.
  • with parents and community via school website, newsletters etc
  • keep a poster on the wall or digital file with pins showing the locations that have been skyped

Modifications for different age groups and abilities

  • Set up a standard set of questions prior to class. Assign a student to each question
  • Assign  roles to students  eg some ask questions, some record the questions/answers, some take photos/vidoes etc
  • Connect with a class in a school that speaks the second language taught in your school as their native language Get students to ask questions in the other language.

Beyond the initial linkup/

Making the connections richer and the learning stronger try regular skype  linkups and/or collaborate on a global project together. Make sure you follow @skypeclassroom and @mysteryskype to keep up with the latest on twitter!

Here is a video on Mystery Skype sharing what  it looks and sounds like, together with sample student feedback. Never underestimate how easy it is for students, especially the first time(s) round.

What variations have you used on this theme? Some use mystery book reader and ???? Would love your feedback in a comment below.

mystery skype with her class

What does it look like?

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.

Global challenges – “Lunch with our author 2013”


School can be a really busy place, with many interruptions to a timetable and routine experienced almost on a weekly basis. Christopher Herz, our author from New York has kindly offered to run further lunchtime classes with those students who are interested in further developing their writing skills.

Here are the challenges we face when working cross hemisphere, cross continent, time zones:-

  • Timing of session with a school’s busy  curriculum: the need to meet at lunchtime, as students come from across year levels – year 6 through to year 10. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if students could be released from their class for one lesson to do this? Sigh! but that is there is this perceived need that the curriculum must be covered in individual timetabled subjects)
  • Suitable times: finding a suitable time for both sides – Hawkesdale and New York. Our early school morning coincides with late night before New York. Our lunchtime pre-daylight saving is 11pm New York time. Too late to expect anyone to link up with us on a regular basis, when there is work the next day.
  • The School Year: The timing of the school year – the need, therefore, to wait for daylight saving, to start which is into term 4 – a crazy time of year for schools in Australia as we this is our last term and senior students finish early, school camps are on etc
  • Finding a suitable day, knowing that our today is Christopher’s tomorrow
  • Achievable time span: the need to keep the number of lunchtime meets to an achievable time span
  • Student commitment: getting an ongoing commitment from students to complete tasks given within the week
  • Extra curricula school activities that can interrupt student attendance
  • Achievable outcomes: Working out the best approach to the writing activities – getting achievable outcomes within a limited time span. Christopher is doing this for free, so we do not want to encroach too much on his precious time.

Attempting to overcome the challenges:-

    • Offer the weekly lunchtime class to years 6 to 10. Students come on a volunteer basis but must be committed to completing the tasks given by Christopher
    • Avoid extra curricula school activities
    • Agreeing to a 5 week program to avoid end of year activities
    • Christopher came up with great idea of “Writing through the Senses”. Each week, he will use a different sense to inspire students to think beyond their imagination and create plausible characters, scenes and stories that will be engaging and captivating to their audiences.
    • Christopher told students that they must write for 15 mins everyday and carry pen and paper with them at all times, jotting down notes when they can.

Notebooks and mobile device ready for note taking

    And so, we have now completed two weeks of linkups – each one offering further challenges (which will be written about in further posts) but also some wonderful  inspiration provided for the students and their writing, sheer engagement on the part of students and Christopher’s obvious passion coming through.