Tag Archives: videoconferencing in the classroom

Skyping on a whim with Ipoh, Malaysia

@kidworldcitizen tweeted a question as to what was “your favourite tool to teach students about the world” and below is my response which was retweeted by @durff

My classes and I have enjoyed many teachable moments that have been completely unplanned, but just happened at times when I had a class or was free to be able to speak to other global classes. One such event was a recent linkup with my friend Veronica Woo from Ipoh, Malaysia. Veronica had visitors who she was showing around her school and she hoped that I and my classes might skype in to show them the power of videoconferencing. Unfortunately, I was too late noticing the request, but as we both had classes at the same time, we were able to link up the students. I have a small group of girls who enjoy communicating with others. Small groups work well as they have support from each other, can share the interpretation of communication and are in an intimate environment where they have ownership over their learning and questioning.

See Rachel’s reflective post for the student point of view. Note that our school teaches mandarin Chinese as a second language but these girls in year 10 no longer study it. The Malaysian students tried to teach some word isn mandarin, as they attend a Chinese school. The conversation was more relaxed when our girls started to show and share objects over the camera. Curiousity then overtook any shyness.

Learning on a whim is one reason why videoconferencing with tools like skype can be so engaging.

The image below was sent to us from Veronica. This is how we look from the other end of the web camera.


Putting the magic into skype videoconferencing – sound and sight (but no smells)!

On Tuesday last week, I received a request from @shamblesguru (alias Chris Smith) to linkup with skype for one of his professional development sessions, at a school in Singapore, on the use of skype for learning. Fortunately it was after school hours and I was able to oblige (it is approaching VCE exams and I am not so adaptable with classes at this time of year).

Rather than simply talk to the teachers, I decided to demonstrate the best features of skype for learning. To ensure best quality conferencing, I cabled in my laptop to the school network and answered the call with video. 10 mins before the session began, Chris and I tested our sound, video quality etc.  Chris set up a todaysmeet as a back channel.

Features of skype used

  1. Audio and chat – Chat was periodically used to ensure full understanding of my accent. Todaysmeet backchannel was also used.
  2. The video – the webcam was used to demonstrate some of my favourite hardware eg flip video, easispeak microphone
  3. Screen sharing for sharing a MS Powerpoint presentation  of the school, students and some of our global connections.
  4. A virtual tour of the school – my laptop was uncabled and I walked the Singapore teachers through parts of our school and the outdoor surrounds. They were shown the Chinese Teahouse (as we teach Chinese mandarin), outdoor totem polls painted by students, our beautiful big gum tree (our school logo), the school canteen etc. Leanne our canteen operator had just baked tasty looking sausage rolls. Pity the smell did not waft through to Singapore!

The virtual tour worked really well and received positive feedback. I personally feel that is one of the most ‘magical’ uses of skype or videoconferencing for learning. Below is some feedback given:-

Following is some of the feedback via Todaysmeet backchannel:-

  • It is interesting how technology can be used to enhance teaching and learning!ifah
  • what a great way to meet an expert from half-way around the world.
  • Skype put to good use-educationally and feeding the young minds to a world of knowledgeangelia
  • Your school looks very beautiful! I like it!!Li Lin

What features of skype do you  like to use? How do you use the web camera? View a video of the session compiled by Chris Smith. Thanks Chris for sharing.

Malaysian students in a real time performance for the Innovations Showcase

37 excited and highly skilled students performed to a captive audience of 100 or so educators and adults interested in education at the The Innovations ShowcaseMelbourne Entertainment and Convention Centre in Melbourne. Immediate feedback was provided via twitter.

However, these students were not actually in the room but came from SMJK Poi Lam School in Ipoh, Malaysia and performed for us over skype (videoconferencing) on the big screen.

Students from SMJK Poi Lam School in Ipoh, Malaysia

“Little Big Classrooms” was the topic of my presentation for the Showcase. As I wanted the participants to see, hear and feel what global cultural connections can bring to the classroom, my dear e-colleague Veronica Woo  might be able to link up for a short video conference during the  presentation. To my delight, Veronica and another English teacher, Yew Yan Koon agreed and offered to provide a student performance. The 37 students were from SMJK Poi Lam School in Ipoh, Malaysia and professionally provided an inspiring, entertaining, visually stimulating Capella of ‘The Circle of Life’. The costumes and sets were beautifully put together and both amazed and delighted their virtual audience. They also included an effective and innovative short choral reading of extracts of the dialogue between the Lion King and his son, Simba.

Performing a Capella from the Lion King

Feedback from Veronica 

Thanks Anne for giving us the opportunity to be part of your presentation.  I could see right after the performance how motivated our students were.  I suppose that’s the reality and impact of having performed in real time to a real audience in another part of the world.  And all this despite the fact that they could not see them, the real audience in the hall!

Short choral reading

Feedback via twitter from the audience:-

  • @suewaters Attending @murcha session at #deecdisc watching Skype connecting with class in another country
  • @kmroyds Experiencing #globaled: @murcha just linked us with Malaysian school group performing the Lion King live on skype #deecdisc
  • @kmroyds: Brilliant ‘Circle of Life’ performance by Malay students for @murcha session #deecdisc
  • @lucybarrow:- Just witnessed gorgeous Lion King performance by students in Malaysia, live on skype with @murcha at #deecdisc
  • @ptoosh #deecdisc loving the Lion King … Connecting, sharing and learning globally – surely this is 21st C learning in practise! Well done @murcha
  • @mr_mitch_hughes: Seriously need to get skype unblocked at my school. @murcha great prezo #deecdisc”

The audience - some tweeting feedback

This outlines some of the amazing capabilities of technology:-

  • the chance to connect and communicate across countries/cultures in real time
  • immediate feedback of a performance via eg twitter, where normally the audience will clap and that is the only response.
  • providing students with a real audience
  • students able to perform to a camera without knowing who their audience is.
Potential impact of similar performance in my classroom
  • inspiring and motivating students to aspire to similar outcomes and push them outside their own comfort zones
  • allows my students who rarely attend cultural/musical performances due to rural isolation to see it from peers of their own age grouping
  • exposes them to Chinese culture and artistry – delightful and beautifully crafted sets, costumes and props
  • imparts a sense of bonding and a sense of admiration for other cultures when often racism exists in small, rural, isolated communities.
The setup from my end was:-
  •  ‘skype’ installed on the laptop for VC (from a USB)
  • a borrowed laptop with inbuilt mic and webcam
  • the laptop was plugged into the conference centre digital setup.
The challenges
  • My laptop ‘died’ during the week and I was left without internet access just as  I was away from home, presenting at a seminar and the Showcase. This made communications with Veronica difficult and prevented us from having an ‘e-dress rehearsal’ two days before to test audio and the webcam.
  • the Malaysian students could not see their audience
What worked well:-
  • the fact that Veronica and I have worked together many times before and have built a confidence and trust in each other to “be there” and know that ‘it will work’!
  • knowing that Veronica is highly skilled in the use of video conferencing
  • the responsiveness of the audience
  • the highly skilled performance of the students
  • the full support of the organisers of the Showcase in helping out when my laptop could not make it!
Thanks Veronica and Yew Yan Koon for demonstrating with us what can be done with the  use of technology to break down cultural barriers and share cultures, experiences, skills and learning. Thanks to the audience for being with us. 
  1. What further benefits do you think that videoconferencing across cultures can have?
  2. How do you use videoconferencing?
  3. How could similar links apply or be used in your classroom?