Tag Archives: videoconferencing in education

Lights, camera, action!

An excited but rather nervous audience gathered together sharing conversations whilst waiting for the TV camera team to enter the classroom and commence filming. A newspaper reporter waited in the wings to catch the news in print. One team member made sure his hair was done neatly. Others completed tasks on their computer while they waited. I was introduced to the key teachers and students involved whilst we waited for the camera crew to arrive.

This was no normal audience as it was not local but global in nature. Katherine from Austria had put a skype text into the group chat looking for people to be online with her for her first class of the day. A TV camera team was coming in to film her class using skype to  videoconference with other countries. In the wings waiting, were educators from England, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Lithuania, Peru and me from Australia online ready to be part of the action.

The newspaper reporter with Veronica in Malaysia

Veronica and Evon of Malaysia had a news reporter from Ipoh with them.  While we waited they interveiwed me and shared their plans for promoting their local region, called Perak in 2012. Using the webcam, they shared brochures and promotional material using the webcam and talked of the exciting places to visit in Perak.

The Austrian students

Soon it was time for me to come online with the students in Austria. Skype started to falter, so the Austrian classroom switched off their video. This meant that I could not see or feel what was going on the other end of the world but the connection was then stable enough to allow my webcam to project my image.

We chatted about:-

  • the weather and seasons
  • school
  • holidays
  • food and meals
  • Australian culture and icons – I showed vegemite, the Australian flag and some of the beautiful Australian native flowers that are currently flowering in our spring season. They talked about eidelweiss.

Sharing Australian spring flowers

How amazing is this!  A global group all waiting in the wings to share the exciting learning and sharing that technology can bring to the classroom. My local media rarely feature the fantastic work that can be done with technology and yet we can be featured on TV on the other side of the world and be part of a newspaper report in Malaysia, both events occurring within 30 mins of each other.
What experiences have you had with media? What can you share about videoconferencing with skype?

The real life participants in this drama:-

  • the teacher combing his hair was from the UK, waiting with his class.

What if?

What if? This question was posed frequently at the recent Innovations Showcase. What if……..?

  • Innovations Showcase participants could be shown what a connected classroom  looks, feels and sounds like, using videoconferencing to raise cultural awareness.
  • cultural understanding and awareness can be increased in real time with students who come from other cultures/countries/schools.
  • students could text chat one on one and share conversations, in real time, with each other from other countries.
  • students could share their learning with others across cultures/countries
  • students are able to study the subjects of their choice independent of class sizes, teacher availability etc
  • the use of videoconferencing and web conferencing could be spread across many more classrooms in Victoria and Australia?
  • students who are home for some reason, can attend classes virtually.

What if? This question was posed at the recent, highly successful Innovations Showcase enabled more than 1200 participants to come together to share in innovation in education. One of the themes was of high interest to me – “Inter Cultural Understanding”. As our school is a small rural, remote prep to year 12 school – isolated both geographically and culturally, it has been important to use technology to expose, integrate and associate with other cultures.  As such, “Little Big Classrooms” was the theme of my presentation.

To demonstrate what a connected classroom looks, feels and sounds like, my dear online colleague from Malaysia, Veronica Woo at teacher at SMJK Poi Lam School in Ipoh, Malaysia, agreed to linkup her class with the presentation. Her years 9 and 10 students performed an entertaining and professional capella based on the Lion King and a choral reading. (58 students in total). Here is some feedback from Veronica after the event:-

Well, it is definitely the power of Skype connection, you and the audience that have immensely helped in motivating our students, who are learning English in a very challenging situation where they rarely speak English among themselves, but it’s only with us that they have got no choice but to speak English!  All this, plus the realisation on their part, that they have actually performed in front of a native English speaking audience of educators that have also helped in a way!  Thanks to the event organiser and of course, you, Anne, for making this possible! Hopefully, the other students will also be motivated to see their peers’ achievement and change their attitudes and perception towards learning English.

Read more in this post Malaysian Students in a Real time Performance for the Innovations Showcase Please take time to read the comments where the conversations re cultural understanding continue.

Teaching my Year 11 IT class!

Other What if’s that  became reality at Innovations Showcase

  • In the morning, I taught my accounting class from Melbourne. This consisted of 10 of my own school students, two from a city school and another student from a small country school. They can study accounting despite their school not being able to offer the subject. Here is the link to the recording of this class.
  • A second demonstration involved teaching my year 11 IT class from the huge foyer of the Melbourne Entertainment and Convention Centre back at school, to find a student logged in from home (as they were not able to get to school) and my replacement teacher also listening to the instructions. As the students faced a deadline for uploading their video in the Flat Classroom Projects, students mentored and helped each other in the chat. Elluminate, virtual conference software was used for the virtual classroom. Here is the link to the recording of this class.
  • SRC students who were at the Showcase entered the virtual classroom and chatted to my students back at school.

It is not what if?

…….Technology allows all this but ………

What next?

An SRC student rep chats to my year 11 class

Lost in Malaysia!

Last week, I ” lost” two students for a whole double ie two lessons of Information Technology, in Malaysia (1000s of kms and another continent away). Renee and Ellie  had gone to the meeting room at school, where it was nice and quiet in order to  talk to, and videoconference with Veronica Woo, my teaching colleague from Malaysia. They were using my laptop and skype. This followed the succes of our linkup the week before with Lorraine Leo from Boston.

Lost in Malaysia

As I would have loved to connect the whole class,  I tried to fix up my data projector setup in the computer lab, but as it is time consuming to setup my laptop and speakers, and things werent working easily on Friday, I found that  Ellie and Renee were keen to work with Veronica.

The Principal of SMJK Poi Lam School in Ipoh,  Malaysia, was about to retire. This is where our cultural differences really show!  They had mutliple  ceremonies and performances, representing their mutlicultural school – Chinese, Malay and Indian. In our school, we would have whole school assembly, with some speeches from staff and the school captains. As Veronica had her laptop with her, she used skype to videoconference the events for us.

The girls were in for a treat, as Veronica

  • showed them around external section of the school,
  • introduced the girls to a Malay school principal
  • introduced them to three of the Chinese students who were to make up the Lion in the Lion Dance ceremony
  • used her laptop to show the girls the actual Lion Dance, Malay Drumming and Indian dancers – all part of the farewell ceremonies
  • When the ceremony had finished, Veronica walked the girls through the school canteen where they watched the chefs make Indian roti or flat breads. The girls thought they were pancakes!

As our school bell went, the two girls returned to gather their books etc,  after a fabulous virtual ceremony and tour of the school  –  100 mins  after they had left me.  A double can be a ‘long’ lesson, where a variety of activities need to be undertaken to ensure interest, engagement etc. However, the fact that the girls were ‘lost’ or fully immersed in Malaysia  must surely show, the engagement that videoconferencing and online learning can provide! Thanks Veronica for being their teacher and host for the day.

What the girls had to achieve:-

  • independent work ethic, as I only walked in and out to check on them several times during the double lesson.
  • complex communications skills – working online with videoconferencing, understanding different accents, learning how to talk to students/teachers/principals (as all these people came up and talked to the girls). In turn they had to speak articulately in order to be understood.
  • Learn quickly their geography – where is Malaysia?
  • Acknowledge the range of cultures within the one school – a completely different approach to farewelling a Principal compared to Western Society. (We may have a formal school assembly!)
  • Exposure to three different cultures, all within the one school – Chinese, Malay, Indian! (Our school is mono-culture)
  • Learnt about different foods, costumes, instruments, dancing styles etc.
  • Independent learning that will extend beyond that lesson as the girls’ curiousity makes them explore the internet further for more information.

The Outcomes: The girls want to take Veronica and students on a virtual tour of our school soon.

nb. I wish I would have taken the time to set up my equipment, so that my whole IT class would have benefited!

Working with Shamblesguru

Several weeks ago, on twitter, I saw a request from Shamblesguru to connect via videoconferencing via skype. Thinking it was right now, that he wanted to connect, I volunteered via a tweet. However, I soon got a direct message asking for more information about me and the skype linkup was to take place in a month’s time with a staff PD that he was organising. He wanted a primary school teacher who had used online technology in their classes. Although I am a secondary teacher,  I  have taught primary classes and so planning for the 30 minute video conferencing event took place. It was great to work with Chris Smith and see his professional approach to Professional Development for staff and learn from it.

Procedures prior to linkup:-

  • tested skype videoconferencing and screen sharing applications, whilst Chris (Shamblesguru) was in Thailand.
  • discussed the procedures and expectations.
  • Chris had set up a voicethread and asked teachers from the school in Singapore to add audio or text messages as to their technological learning requirements.
  • Chris set up a titan pad online page, shared the url. This set out the procedures for the day and I knew in advance what was expected of me.

During the session

  • linked up using skype
  • spoke and answered audio questions
  • shared my screen and spoke to a brief powerpoint presentation
  • the 60 teachers had been divided into groups of 4 or 5, with a designated leader for each group. The leader for each group added content to the main page with any questions directed at me. 
  • I watched the chat in the titan pad and answered questions that appeared there.

Thanks Chris, for letting me work with you.

Link to the video on my skype linkup with Singapore

5 Ways to Use Videoconferencing in Education – eT@lking

Carol Skyring a global expert on videoconferencing due to her work with Learntel and Polycom videoconferencing equipment gave us an interesting insight into some of the most valuable uses that can be made for videoconferencing in education. Thanks Carol for sharing your knowledge and giving up your time. Listen to the recording, read Carol’s blog post and join Carol’s newly formed Visual Communication ning.

Here are  5 ways to use Videoconferencing in Education:-

  1. Extends the availability of more courses/subjects eg specialist maths, physics etc to remote rural schools.
  2. Collaborating with other students, teachers – locally, nationally, globally. Make sure you look at the surgical lesson.
  3. Virtual excursions, field trips – the zoo, museum, art gallery etc
  4. Linking to experts – authors, scientists etc
  5. Professional Development – locally, nationally, globally

From the chat, came comments from teachers who have experienced some of the above uses.

  • Gary Schultz, using polycom equipment has just linked a large group of students at a Water Conference in Horsham, Victoria, Australia, to New Zealand and Malaysia.  See blog post
  • My students think that videoconferencing with other global students is one of the best things that they can do in education.
  • Global nomads group
  • Why would you use videoconferencing to connect with experts for my PD cf eg elluminate.
  • Good Professional Development could be done at 4pm in Melbourne by videoconference.
  • We need FREE servcies that teachers can use for collaborative learning – it becomes political -it is a hard job pursuing all these links.
  • The Wimmera Virtual school has 16 classes operating via videoconferencing in Senior School area.

Racial Harmony Day in Singapore

Students from Singapore show their costumes

Students from Singapore show their costumes

Chinese costumes
Chinese costumes

Tuesday 21st July was “Racial Harmony Day’ in Singapore.  My e-colleague Aini, who I met on classroom2.0 and I connected via video conferencing on the weekend. Aini asked if we would like to see her students in their national costumes which they wore to school as part of Racial Harmony Day. Delighted, I agreed.

Our grade 2 to 4 students and year 7 students gathered in the library and listened to the grade 5s from Singapore speak about ‘what racial harmony means to them.’ They spoke confidently and fluently in clear English. Students who were dressed in traditional costume came up to the web camera and showed us the Malay, Indian and Chinese traditional costumes. These are the three main cultures in Singapore. We heard of their traditional games and the other activities that were taking place on this day. The parents were holding food stalls in the canteen.

We viewed photos of the recent national parades which took place on National Day last week and witnessed their celebrations. Skype was used for this webcast and the audio and video were quite clear from our end. However, our audio was not clear in Singapore.

Aini had used her laptop when we first tested, but then set up external speakers so that her class of 47 students could hear. Skype seems to require tweaking when a new setup is used so it was necessary to goto tools>audio setup and choose the external speakers.

On Wednesday, my year 8 students were to show the class in Singapore images of our school and area. To our dismay, the latest version of skype was not on the library interactive white board. Therefore it was impossible to share our screen through skype. A quick reshuffle, meant that we quickly found objects eg meat pie and sauce and toy koala that played “Waltzing Matilda” were placed up to the web camera.

Learning outcomes

Increased Knowledge

  • Learnt that Singapore has 4 cultures
  • Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian
  • Costumes and correct names
  • Importance of lions in Singapore and their impact in the parade
  • Defence forces – age entry, compulsory, 2 years
  • Viewed the location of the new Disneyworld site

Communication skills

  • the need for clear diction and correct positioning of both web camera and microphone.
  • Students must be skilled up in these areas


Virtual supper anyone!

Our virtual supper music

Our virtual supper music

We were guests to supper. There were at least seven menu options, complete with dinner music and a dance show. A jovial atmosphere and comraderie added to the event. However, for us in Australia, it was really too early as it was 11:30am our time. Supper was with the students from collaborationnation in the USA. They came back to their school in out of hours time, to share with us examples of their supper (which we would call tea or dinner in Australia). There was broccoli, steak, pumpkin cheese cake (leftovers from Thanksgiving) etc

Turns were then taken to share a virtual gift with each other. From the USA came ice hockey boots, baseball, softball, reindeer toy, scout badge, coin collectionand a US one dollar note. We had a wonderful demonstration of guitar playing and dancing from two US students. From Australia, came a toy koala, a footy, a netball, vegemite, scout shirt, $20 note etc. Skype was the software used for videoconferencing as it is so user friendly – a live blog was the backup option. A basic desktop microphone, web camera and the library interactive whiteboard were used.  My students have nagged me for more ever since!

A virtual gift - a toy reindeer from the USA

 A virtual gift toy reindeer, indicative that Christmas is coming soon.