Tag Archives: skype in the classroom

Mark Wood – Extreme Adventurer

mark wood

It was World Book Day. To celebrate this day schools across the world were given a rare opportunity to Skype with Mark Wood – a Cold Extremes Adventurer. He has trekked across the North Pole and the South Pole and led an expedition to climb Mt Everest, taking millions of students across the world with him, by using Skype webconference in.

boy asking question

I was asked whether our school would be interested in connecting with him as there were still some time slots available.Not to miss any of these wonderful opportunities, I invited the school.  For Mark, it was Thursday night at 10pm and Friday, 9am our time. We were the last school of the day. He had already been to schools in England, India, Croatia and 3 times to the USA.

Approximately 120 students from years 4-11 gathered in the library to hear Mark speak. He shared his stories, especially of his adventures to Mt Everest. His engaging speaking style, sense of humour and easy going manner endeared him to all who listened. Mark was motivating and inspiring. Unfortunately the Mt Everest expedition was called off just as they got to the death zone 200 metres from the top. One of the sherpas fell critically ill and the doctor experienced frozen feet. They made their way down and all survived.

dakota asking question

We see people attempting Mt Everest on the television news, read of it in the magazines or newspapers but here we were listening and interacting with someone who had actually been there. We caught the emotions, excitement, the extra details in stories and felt we experienced the adventure with him. Mark humanized the expeditions.

After 15 mins of story  telling , Mark handed over to the students to ask him questions. This was a wonderful interactivity that satisfied student curiosity and made us think of more questions.The young ones were less shy and asked most of them.

Some of their questions:

  1. What inspired you to be an explorer?
  2. How old were you when you had your first adventure?
  3. What was your favourite thing about climbing Mt Everest?
  4. Have you ever had a life threatening experience?
  5. How do you go and who do you go with?
  6. Was it cold at the North Pole?
  7. Have you ever forgotten anything?
  8. Have you had frostbite?
  9. What food and provisions do you take?

Our literacy teacher wrote new and key words on the whiteboard for discussion later. the older students immediately returned to class and wrote up some of what they learnt. When all the student stories were put together, there is almost  a complete script or picture of Mark’s presentation.

charlotte

His parting sentences reminded students that everything comes from education – if you think differently you will have a better life. The only thing preventing you is yourself. Earth will look after itself, but Mark wants to look after the human race.

Our school will continue to follow Mark on his second venture to conquer Mt Everest and be part of the new emerging stories. If you ever get an opportunity to hear Mark present, do no miss out. He was fantastic.

Introducing parents to videoconferencng

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Hawkesdale P12 College is prep to year 12 school (students are aged 5 to 18 years of age.) This year we had a big intake of year 7 students from our feeder schools. Most of these students live in small rural towns or come from farms. It was decided to hold a welcome afternoon tea, primarily for the new parents, welcoming them to our school, enabling them to get to know each other and encouraging them to stay connected, get involved with the Parents Club and volunteering for canteen duty.

This was organised at quite short notice and as I have year 7 for ICT (Information and Communications Technology ie computers) for the last lesson of the day, I was asked to organise a skype linkup after the afternoon tea. The time of the lesson was 2:50pm which meant most of the USA were asleep. Our school teaches mandarin Chinese, so I made contact with one of my colleagues, Richard Howgate, hoping that we could connect. However, he is in the process of organising a new school, Guiyang Prime International School which does not open until August.

I approached some of my other network, but it is early in the morning for Russia and other colleagues were busy with other matters. It was with relief that Richard messaged me back to say he had arranged for his former school, Bozhou International School to connect with us. By this time it was the Tuesday, the day before our connection. However, I was now working with educationalists new to videoconferencing with skype.

Initial communications

Some of the questions they needed answered were:

  • what will the connection look like ( I suggested mystery animal) and was asked to explain the basic premise of this game and what was required of the Buzhou students
  • You mention that your students are learning mandarin. Does this mean that the focus of the class will be on their mandarin or a mix of English and mandarin? (The new students have only been learning mandarin for 2 weeks so it had to be predominantly in English – a brave effort on the part of the Chinese students to speak English)
  • Could you give me a list of language structures and key vocab that are likely to be used in the class? The mystery animal sheets that Richard had set up were emailed through to Rick so the key vocab and nature of questions that could only have a yes/no answer was demonstrated.

Prior to the lesson (remember time was now the essence!)

  1. A copy of the mystery animal sheets were emailed through with a set of instructions on how to play mystery animal
  2. Setup my laptop in the room attached to the library where the afternoon tea would take place, testing the audio, video  using tools>options>audio settings.
  3. The external webcamera had to be placed in a position where the Chinese students could see the majority of the gathering. It was put on top of the whiteboard.
  4. Unfortunately, there was no cable to plug my laptop into and get the best possible bandwidth, so I also logged onto the whiteboard in the actual library where it was too hot (we had a 36 degree autumn day) to really hold the afternoon tea but the desktop computer was cabled in.
  5. We gathered up some Australiana – a meat pie, cricket bat, some wool from a sheep to share at the end of the Mystery Animal
  6. A quick test call was made 45 mins before the connection with Bozhou. Their video did not work but the audio was good. I explained that Rick had to go to Tools>Options>video and choose the option for the external webcam that was attached to the laptop. I laughed when he said he now needed someone who could speak Chinese as the options were in Chinese! Next I could hear students in clear mandarin explaining which option it was. I hung up as I was in class as they assured me they could work on that.

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The actual lesson

  1. Many of the class had not used skype or videoconferencing before, so some basic instructions were given in effective webcam use, clear speaking of questions.
  2.  Everyone was given  a handout with the animals on it and we discussed some possible questions that we could ask each other.
  3. We  chose our animal (which was a gorilla) The Chinese students chose their African animal.
  4. A large Australian flag was got and students at the back of the room held it upright. We were delighted to see the Australian flag against the front tables in the Chinese school.
  5. Connection was made and a student from each country played paper rock scissors to see who would ask the first question. We won the right to ask the first question.
  6. If we got one affirmative answer to our questions, we had the right to ask another. Some of the questions asked were: “does it have 2 legs”, “does it have patterns?”, does it live in the jungle”, “does it have fur?”‘ “does it eat meat”. The Chinese students worked out our animal first and we finally worked out theirs – an antelope!
  7. Students would introduce themselves first, then ask the question.
  8. 10 mins was left to share a little of where we live and our culture. One of their questions was regarding the weather. Mobile phones were produced to the webamera to show the temperature. Ours showed up at 34 degrees, and there were verbal reactions from our students when they showed their 12 degrees.
  9. When the boys produced a cricket bat, they wanted to know if it was a baseball bat. The did not know of cricket – one of our favourite summer sports.

We had fun, learnt to cope with Chinese accents, used a webcamera effectively, formulated questions that required a yes/no answer and understood more about Chinese students, culture and schools.

And the feedback from China was

It’s great to work with you together for the Skype class today. It does accelerate a better understanding between cultures and establish a deep friendship between students.  We all  have a good experience and wonderful time and we are looking forward to running the class often in the future.

We are greatly indebted to Rick and Buzhou International School for connecting at such late notice, providing a class of the same age group and allowing us to get to know them further.

 

 

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!

Skypeathon

skypeathon_certificate-completed

The recent 2016 Skypeathon was fun. There was a lot of learning completed during this time. Some of the connections made will be ongoing.

We travelled 35545 miles. Our first connection was with Japan. This was a direct connection. The next connection could not be completed in synchronous time, so a group of girls produced a skype video message to send to Kerala, India for International Aids Day.

At night time, a connection was made with a class in Nigeria and another young class from Scotland. Overall, those involved in the Skypeathon travelled nearly 10 million miles. Just imagine the learning!

 

 

 

Today I met a girl…..

Today, I met a young girl who wants to be an obstetrician.

But she was no ordinary girl because she :-

  • was only 10 years old
  • lived in one of the most poverty stricken countries in the world
  • was from Nigeria and part of a large classroom of students

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She spoke articulately and when asked what career she hoped to follow, came back with the response that she wanted to be an obstetrician. I wished her all the best with her studies and ambitions. She was one of the students in HAMMED ABDULAZEEZ’ class.

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We had connected as part of the worldwide 2 day skypeathon. It was late at night for me and early afternoon for them. I shared a little about our “Farm in Australia” sharing my screen and showing pictures of the farm. Students from the class shared information about their country and culture and asked me questions about the culture of Australia, who was our president (we have a Prime Minister) and any major festivals that we celebrate. Their knowledge of the world was quite sound (and that surprised me as I am not sure how much my students would know in comparison.)

video-call-snapshot-225

Collaboratively “Inking the Thinking”

In December, 2015, year 8 students from Hawkesdale P12 College, Victoria Australia connected with a rural school in Japan using Skype. Students at Hawkesdale are isolated geographically and culturally but were fortunate to be part of a research project on “Inking the Thinking” with the Victorian Department of Education and Microsoft. This meant that each student in year 7 and 8 had a windows surface device with a digital pen.

Months had been spent planning this connection with Japan. A virtual visit to the classroom with our Japanese contact Mariko was provided using skype. My students could see inside the Japanese classroom, learn a little of school life and ask her questions so that they had some knowledge before seeing the Japanese students – it was simply a “taster”. A fully structured lesson plan, complete with timed tasks was put in place by Mariko prior to the live connection. Students in my class were surveyed about their existing knowledge of Japan. To my horror many knew nothing or very little!

Our formal connection was just prior to Christmas time in Australia. Our primary classrooms were decked out with Christmas decorations, the staff had a special morning tea with lots of Christmas baking and goodies, staff and students were in festive spirits and the students had organized a Kriskringle for the second part of the double lesson. (Names had been drawn out of a hat a week before and $5 presents purchased for their Krisringle). Skype was used to connect the two classrooms. 5 mins prior to the video conference 5 minutes prior to the videoconference,  a quick skype message to Mariko, asked if the Japanese students might like to see our Kriskringle in action, to which she replied ‘yes’.

That ended any formality and structure to our fastidiously planned lesson. The whole lesson became learning on ‘the fly’ with students using the 50 mins with complete ownership of the learning. One girl had disappeared at the beginning and returned dressed up as Santa, complete with a sack of Kriskringle gifts. Japanese students viewed the gifts up close via the web camera. Their curiousity was aroused and an interpreter had to be used to ensure understanding of questions and answers. Some of the staff morning tea came in for show – Christmas fruit cake, a Christmas pudding in muslin cloth, Christmas biscuits etc. My students were curious about the masks that the Japanese were wearing in the classroom and the kitty blankets that donned their knees. It was hot summer time here but snowing over there.

santa-and-pics-good-one

In order to collaboratively document our learning by connecting with this rural school in Japan, students logged into their surface devices, created a shared OneNote and used a mix of pen and text to synchronously build the learning that took place. Our principal was able to login from his office and pose questions, add content etc. The full story and results can be found below. The stylus was used for highlighting, writing, adding colour and generating new ideas. Students chose the medium they preferred.

summary-of-brainstorming

Students used a mix of keyboard and stylus. The stylus was often used to explore, annotate, highlight and draw attention to questions or their thoughts, to express their thinking, focus on areas that required responses and produce a multimodal and colourful, visual and engaging outcome. As student thinking and brainstorming evolved as a group, they added images, shapes, structured blocks of text, diagrams, shading, colour etc The stylus helped  create a more effective, beneficial and engaging product, pushing their learning reflections further.  They were not constrained by their speed and skill on a keyboard and mouse. If students had used a keyboard alone, then the result would not have been as rich. It would have taken too long to draw diagrams and lines for highlighting, text comments would not have not aligned well and it would have been too hard to add text or shapes over any existing text etc. Imagine the outcome if the Japanese students could also have collaborated on that document.

brainstorming

Following on from the documentation, the students decided to create a collaborative Christmas calendar for the month of December to share with the Japanese students. A snapshot of their  synchronously built calendar can be seen in the imageabove. Students drew their own images using the stylus. It encouraged originality, creativity, imagination and resourcefulness. The calendar was rendered digital immediately for online sharing.

christmas-calendar

When students have a stylus, they can explore, think, express, collaborate and record their newfound knowledge and experiences in new and meaningful ways. They don’t waste time using a keyboard and mouse to effectively brainstorm, highlight and reflect on their learning. This means more thinking time and best of all more learning time.

Student Learning – MS Skypeathon with Anthony Salcito

Many people ask why they should bother using skype or videoconferencing in the classroom. What do students actually learn?

Some year 7 and 8 students were involved in the recent 24 hour skypeathon with Anthony Salcito. As part of this skype, each class was asked to pose a question of the next global class that Anthony was to connect with. Sri Lanka was straight after us, so students asked them “what was their favourite food and pastime?” The response came back in a tweet from Anthony:-

Immediately, we were learning about different foods and hobbies as singing is not high on our list. Below are some of the responses from the girls, when queried about what:-

  •  they enjoyed in the skype linkup
  •  they learnt.

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Sophie: The best part was telling Anthony about what we have in Australia. I liked being able to interact with another country. I liked the whole thing and learning everything about it. I like being able to talk to the person far away from here which is much better than reading a textbook. They don’t know about Australia and I can teach them something.

Santa pays a visit

Santa pays a visit

Brooke (who played the role of Santa complete with costume and gift): I loved being Santa because I wanted to show different people what Santa does and how he looks as people are normally asleep when he is at work. I also liked Anthony talking about his hobbies – rugby. I liked him describing the US flag – like all the stars. I didn’t know what the US flag looked like till then. I like meeting new people around the globe and seeing their faces and best of all it helps me build confidence around other people.

Abbey: My favourite part was when Anthony talked about the different types of farm animals that they had to us – wineries, apples, grapes, chicken farms. We have sheep, cattle and dairy in our area. We got to talk about our country and find about their country – the similarities and differences. I liked it when Terri showed him the vegemite, Anthony hadn’t tried it. They cant find Cadbury Marvellous Creations in USA. We have it everywhere here.

Wool from the sheep farm

Wool from the sheep farm

Kiara: I enjoyed the skype linkup as it is fun seeing people from other countries and what they have to show us. It tells us more about other countries and what life is like there. It helps me make up my mind whether I want to go there. It also helps me to talk better in front of other people.

the blue tongued lizards on the kinder girls

Sophie:  My  favourite part was me being able to speak to Anthony. I liked the lizards best as they kept showing their blue tongues. I liked learning that lollies are not called that, they are called candy.  I could see what Anthony was like, how he looked and how he spoke and could work out whether I liked him. I liked him because he was so nice and interested in what we had to say
from aus to usa

 

Terri: It was really fun because we got to speak to people who live in the USA and ask them all kinds of questions. We got to show them all sorts of things from Australia so they get to know us as well. I learnt that lots of people grow up in completely environments to us, they don’t see animals everyday like we do eg blue tongue lizards, farm animals etc

Vesna:- “I enjoyed it because we were able to connect very clearly  and speak and understand the audio. It was good to be able to setup the gifts and interact with other people so we could make it eventful and engaging for both Anthony, Leigh and for us. We could change it on ‘the fly’ for Anthony so it wasn’t boring hearing the same questions, playing the same role.  He thought it would be normal questioning and answering from us but we had pre-organised props so he could learn more about us and make it interesting for him. I learn to speak clearly and slowly and can add another country to the  list of virtual visits I have made.”

Jess: I enjoyed it because I liked being a part of their challenge to try to reach a million miles. I like a challenge. I learnt to help people out and how to do that.

A gift of Tim Tams

A gift of Tim Tams

Bethany:  I liked it because I loved Anthony’s accent like “Wow look at those candies (lollies), getting spoilt!” I was impressed talking to someone from another country.

Megan: My favourite part was knowing how many miles we have gone, (we talk kms). I liked Anthony opening up the presents and telling us about the US flag.


the class with santa