Tag Archives: skype

An in-classroom interpreter!

Our school was culturally and geographically isolated. However, the cultural isolation is diminishing over the last few years, as many of the large local farms that are owned by corporations employ people from overseas. These different cultures come into Australia via a variety of visas.

The result is that we have a number of students of Philippine, Sri Lankan, African and Thai origins. Some have been Australia for a very short time so that very little English may be spoken. Our Education Department have a language school in Melbourne to help students, such as these, with their understanding and effective speaking of English. As we are 3.5 hours from Melbourne, technology has enabled students to learn English via videoconferencing with the Language School.

However, the tables were turned on a recent Mystery Skype session with a school in Thailand. Questions were asked of each other, that required only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. The students in Thailand worked out we were from  Australia well before we worked out their country. The teacher, Thitaree Chanthawat, stated that her students were shy as English is not their first language. My students are also shy and English is their first language.

As there was time left, we started to show each other  cultural objects – our country flags, money, the time (on our mobile phones) and my students showed some sheep’s wool. One of their students showed a toy buffalo to the webcamera. In amongst the sharing, I asked Rapeeporn (or Cheer as we call her) to come forward and share her native Thai language with the Thai class. It was wonderful to see her immediately become confident, her obvious delight in being able to converse in her native tongue and to hear another language spoken fluently. However, before introducing herself, Rapeeporn, pressed her palms together and bowed to the Thai class. We later learned that this is wai.

If either class did not quite understand the other, then Rapeeporn interpreted. There was discussion about the use of buffalo on their farms. There were similarities – both schools were set in rural settings and small towns. However, there were 40-50 students in their class compared to our class of 22. There were no walls or oceans between us. It was if we were in the same classroom sharing conversations.

When my students were asked to reflect on the class, they stated that one of the highlights was hearing the Thai  language being spoken.

Some teachers ask me how I make the global connections. The teacher from Thailand found me on Skype in the Classroom and requested a Mystery Skype connection with me and my class.

 

Open Night – Open Classrooms

It was ‘Open Night’ at Hawkesdale P12 College . Families with students who are in year 6 are invited to come to our school, experience our friendly and welcoming community, take part in some classes and listen to stories from our students. These stories share what it is like for them to be at our school and it is hoped that the grade 6 students will come to us in year 7 – our first year of formal secondary schooling.

The science lab is converted into a wonderland of experiments, robotics are on display, cupcakes are decorated in the home economics centre, ceramic pots are quickly moulded and in the computer lab there are interactive connections to Russia and South Africa using skype.

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Parents and students were split into two groups. The first group were to play mystery skype with Tatyana Chernova from Moscow, Russia. First, Tatyana gave some clues as to where she lived. She had stacker or Matryoshka dolls to share over the web camera. She then showed us two wooden dolls in traditional costume. One parent immediately identified where Tatyana was from, based on her name!

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The amazing veiws from Tatyana’s home (as seen through the webcameera)

We hung up on the skype call. Tatyana swapped from her home computer to her mobile phone, walked outside and showed us the amazing views from her home. We could see the expansive artificial lake, with the River Moksva to the right, the tall buildings of Moscow centre in the distance and even more fascinating the football stadium where the world cup will be played next year. What  amazing sights to see. Thanks Tatyana! If time permitted, Tatyana was going to share a presentation with us. If the call failed, I would have been able to share this with the group.

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The second group had a different mystery skype educator – Steve Sherman who was at a Science Fair near Durban, South Africa. He had found a quiet spot with wifi to connect with us. Students asked many questions (only with a yes/no answer) and finally worked out where he was from. He then proceeded to give them some maths brain teasers, by sharing his screen and the prepared slides. Students had to think of  a number between 1 and 63.

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By following a number of slides, stating whether the number could be seen, Steve worked out the number that Layla had thought of. As we applauded Steve, the pictures he took of us started to come through in the skype chat.

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It was wonderful to work with these two educators and parents were amazed with the connections that are possible. It is easy to take for granted the wonderful outcomes that technology can bring to learning!

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Group photo that Steve Sherman took of us from Sth Africa!

Sea turtle research and conservation at Gnaraloo, Western Australia

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Sometimes it is difficult to get expert speakers into my classrooms, as my Australian time zone means that while we are at school, the USA schools and many businesses, museums etc are closed.  So, it was with delight that I was alerted to a Sea Turtle research and conservation program at Gnaraloo, Western Australia, offering presentations through Skype in the Classroom.

I booked their Skype LessonSea turtle conservation where the outback meets the sea: Gnaraloo, Western Australia“.through the Skype in the Classroom website. Received a prompt reply confirming that they were able to present on the day and time requested.

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We added each other to our contact in skype. Did a test skype videoconference call, one hour prior, then direct called when the year 7 ICT class was in session.  Alistair Green was the presenter and he did a fabulous job, by introducing himself and effectively displaying his desktop so we could see the images and the video clips that he had added.

He made the lesson interactive by asking questions of the students, his pictures were colourful and engaging and the short video clips enabled us to see the turtles in action. The videos played in real time. Even though students would answer softly at times, it was surprising how well Alistair could hear us.

If you are looking for an expert speaker on conservation Alistair and the Gnaralaoo Research comes highly recommended for students of any age.

images of turtles

 

When Learning is Evident outside the Classroom

vesna-and-the-virtual-tour-of-shangha1One of the joys of teaching is when student learning from one classroom becomes evident in other subjects or classrooms or better still beyond the classroom.

It has given some self fulfillment to have students return to me to double check how to use moviemaking software for an English class or some other tools/apps that have been taught in the ICT classroom to be transferred to other classes, but when on a recent school trip to China, I was so proud to see one of my ICT students use the skills learnt from videoconferencing in skype with both global and local classrooms, to using skype with her family back home, taking them on virtual tours of the places and attractions that we were visiting and the places we were staying. Although many sites are blocked, including google, skype was not.

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Fortunately, there was free wifi at many of the tourist attractions eg our restaurant at the base of the Great Wall of China, our hotels and much more. But, the most memorable use of Vesna’s use of skype with her family was with her family all gathered around in Hawkesdale as she capably used skype to walk her family around the lookout on the 90th floor of the World Financial Centre (Bottle Opener) in Shanghai.

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Her family included primary students, secondary students through to university students and her parents. They were able to ask her questions on what we all could see and she could share the Bund and other wonderful sights of Shanghai.

Where have you seen evidence of classroom learning in your students outside of the classrom?

Skypeathon

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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!

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Mystery Animal

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As our school teaches mandarin Chinese, any connection with a school in China is of special interest. The assistant principal of an Bozhouu International School in China found me on the Skype in the Classroom website.

As we had already completed a mystery skype connection, Richard suggested that we do a mystery animal game this time, using skype as the videoconferencing tool. He had prepared a wonderful sheet to share with the students bearing images of African animals complete with the names in both English and Chinese.
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Following is how it looked:-

  • Each class had previously chosen an animal from the sheet.
  • My students  had printed off their names on an A4 sheet for clearer understanding.
  • Boxhou rang us on skype. There were technical difficulties on their end but all was resolved within 10 mins.
  • Students played paper rock scissors over the camera to see who was to start first. Hawkesdale, Australia won.
  • Students had to ask questions only with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. eg Is your animal grey? Is your animal a carnivore?, does it have a long nose or trunk?  etc.
  • They took it in turns to ask questions and each student would introduce themselves one at a time.

There was much laughter in the classroom on both sides as we tried to understand each other’s accents, names etc. It took approximately 20 mins for each side to actually determine the other’s animals. All the Chinese students stayed in over their recess period to complete the  a second mystery animal.

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Student reflections on their individual blogs:-