An opportunity arose for the students in our school, to participate in a virtual field trip with an Aquanaut, based in an undersea laboratory near Florida, USA – the Aquarius Reef Base, using Skype. This is one of only 3 undersea laboratories dedicated to education and science in the world. A group Skype call allowed classes and students from Asia, Pacifica and USA to connect. As it was a late afternoon call from Florida, it was our first lesson of the day. Usually Australian time zones are difficult to cater for. Our years 4 to 7 went to the library to view the linkup.
Some of the group participants from other countries
It was another amazing experience, learning from an Aquanaut, watching his tour in real time, viewing the cramped conditions, facilities and gear, and even seeing sealife swimming outside the window as he took the camera up to the window. We got a ‘real life view’ of what life in the laboratory is like.
We were all given an opportunity to ask questions. At first, we had difficulty seeing his image and tour but despite that students were highly engaged just listening. Then the full image projected on our screens which made it more special.
Read what students have posted to discover some of their learning and opinions. They have written blog posts on the connection.
What a fabulous opportunity this was for us.
We could even see the fish swimming outside their windows
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!
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.
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 :-
- Are you south of the equator? Answer = no, our country covers the equator
- Do you have a big rainforest? Answer: no
- Do you have lions? Answer: yes
- Are you in Africa? Answer: yes
- 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.
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!
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