When technology makes the impossible, possible!


Picture this –

  1. a class of students in a slum/ghetto of Kenya – the largest slum in Africa by both size and population See Boomtown Slum: A Day in the Economic Life of Africa’s Biggest Shanty Town
  2. students who are orphaned and many of whom have lost their parents to AIDS.
  3. visible holes in the decaying walls
  4. no power in the classroom
  5. no visible seats or chairs for the students to sit on
  6. no sign of books and resources
  7. volunteer teachers who care passionately about and for these students

Despite all this:

  • the teacher is amazingly innovative, creative, connected and active with the use of his laptop and mobile wifi
  • uses skype to connect his students to others across the world
  • the children are confident and seem happy, singing with gusto and rhythm
  • the children are given opportunities to learn at the Cheery School – “a place for nurturing students for their better lives”.

Technology makes these connections that were previously impossible, possible. Children from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya can learn from others around the world in real time, when they cannot afford books, education or even food etc!This week is multicultural week in Victoria, Australia and Friday 21st is National Harmony Day, which makes even more precious the story that now unfolds.

the girls1

Last night it was my great privilege to connect with this class of young children aged 5-7 from The Cheery School, Kibera slums, Nairobi, Kenya. Their passionate and caring teacher, Livingstone organised them to individually ask questions of me. They were confident, well mannered and at times shared objects with me to show their culture and the wild animals of Africa. In fact, I thought they had a real snake to show but it was a toy! To complete the connection, the students sang a wonderful song to me in an enthusiastic and joyful manner, showing rhythm and unity.

A toy snake is shared to show some of the local wild animals.

A toy snake is shared to show some of the local wild animals.

How can we help classes such as these? Will technology provide the ability to learn with and from the world, help them break out of their cycle of poverty? The impossible, may just become possible!

Below are some videos that share more about the Cheery School:-


#GlobalEd13 Sessions You May Have Missed

Over the course of the Global Education Conference 2013, I was lucky enough to attend several fascinating sessions and keynotes which helped me better understand the work I do … As a global educator, I learn within, from, and with a wider community, and I am a passionate believer in the power of story as a means of sharing best practice in education.

This selection of presentations is a personal one, but I think the ideas and stories they present are worth exploring, and worth sharing with a wider audience. ¬†And if you think I missed something brilliant, please let me know in the comments! I’m happy to add to the list ūüôā

Julie Lindsay – “Live, Learn, League”

“Going Global is a mindset, not a plane ticket”

As someone contemplating doing a future research project in the field of online communities and global collaboration, I particularly enjoyed Julie’s exploration of “teacherpreneur”, which is a helpful way of describing my work with #globalclassroom.

Tatyana Chernaya РA glimpse into the life of a connected EFL Teacher

I have been chatting with Tatyana for some years in Hello Little World Skypers, and her students participated in my World Water Day side project earlier this year. I knew she was an English as a Foreign Language teacher, and that she worked with children with special needs; however, I had NO idea just what a truly AMAZING job she has been doing for all of these years.

This session was a revelation – please take a few moments to watch the recording. You won’t regret it.

Heidi Hutchinson – The #Malala Project: An Attempt at a Global PBL

Heidi came to us a year or so ago with an idea. Little did we know that she was about to create an extraordinary global action project, empowering students around the world to come together to support Malala and girls’ right to an education. A somewhat controversial issue in some parts of the world, this project made quite an impact on the students and teachers involved, and we are proud to have supported it.

Stories from Hello Little World Skypers

I am indebted to Stefan Nielsen for introducing me to HLW Skypers some years ago, because this little Skype community has completely transformed my personal and professional life.

Through the conversations I’ve had with this group, I have developed very close friendships with teachers literally spread out across the globe. Signing into Skype each morning / evening, there’s usually upwards of 100 messages to scroll through, and there’s almost always someone online to chat / Skype with, or to (literally) help you teach your class. These are our stories …

There’s a Frog in My Classroom

frog in the classroom
frogs are

Globalclassroom tweetchats are a great way to converse with others on a specified topic and ¬†meet a network of educators who live in a similar time zone. They are held once a month for one hour over three days and times to suit all time zones.. @Warwick_Languages and I co-moderated one of the December sessions.The topic of conversation was “Eat that Frog!” A great topic discussion suggested by¬†David Potter (@iearnusa) in California. See the globalclassroom post “Eat that Frog“.

frogs in Indonesia

This topic was of high intrigue. Frogs! Рwe are not allowed to eat frogs in Australia, yet they are a prized dish in other countries Рprimarily Asia.  Would we offend anyone?

frogs in Aus

As the chat progressed a number of experienced global classroom tweeters came on board and many more were lured into the conversation with this great topic teaser! It became one of the most amazing chats that I have participated in – participants from across the world – some great sharing, honesty, laced with humour and many wonderful experiences to learn about. The hour did not let us do justice to the questions – we ran out of time!

Please take time to peruse the¬†chatfeed¬†which @CliveSir kindly puts together. There is a wealth of advice, resources and experience to be found there.¬†One experience that fascinated participants was that of Jenny Ashby and her 24 hour skype-a-thon, where Australia students went to school with others across the world in their school class time. Read Jenny’s account of their¬†24 Hour Skype

What frogs do you have in your classoom? Have you been involved in tweethchats? If so, which ones?  What tweet chats do you enjoy?

Processes Involved in Global Collaboration

Global education is a personal passion. Tonight’s #globalclassroom twitter chat looked at “Scaffolding learning from class to world” – a fascinating topic that Laurie Renton in a blog post What is Global Taxonomy¬†teased apart for us with a number of questions. One question that sticks out firmly in my mind is “Is there a progression of global collaboration?”

I experienced one step in that progression today – talking to a class of students through an interpreter. My friend, Lorraine Leo was the main presenter from Boston, USA and the class of students were in Japan. This was my first experience of working through an interpreter and an interesting one.

How it looked!

  1. Professor Yoshiro Miyata, who I met through Lorraine, and creator of the World Museum Project, invited me to speak to some students along with Lorraine, using skype or google hangout. However, google hangouts are heavy on bandwidth, so I asked for skype. Unfortunately, I could not use my video due to poor sound quality
  2. Lorraine shared her screen with Japan and talked about her use of Scratch with her class and beyond by sharing images. This included our collaboration recently on the World Dot Project.
  3. Lorraine would speak a few sentences and then pause for Yoshiro to interpret.
  4. Then, it was my turn. I spoke a little, paused and could hear Yoshiro interpret. When I felt he had finished I started speaking again. I have no knowledge of Japanese, so it was very much a guessing game, especially as I spoke to a blank screen.

Up until now, I have found always connected with classes where teachers have some grasp of the English language – at least enough to get by with simple communication. However, this was the first time that English was not generally spoken.

Teachers who are interested in genuine global collaboration, will need to learn how to work with an interpreter and how to do so in all situations – virtual and face to face! Another competency for us to work on!

Have you ever worked in a situation that as a teacher you required an interpreter? What challenges did you face? What advice would you give?

When is a Mouse not a Mouse?

The question was posed “What is your favourite food?” to a combined class of students from La Lima Cortes, Honduras and Hawkesdale, Australia. These students were in a virtual classroom using Blackboard Collaborate software. Most of my students, in Australia, added expected responses in the chat or on the whiteboard: “pizza, pasta, roast etc” and then I saw the word ‘mouse’. Spinning around to my class, I ¬†wondered who the smart alec was! Almost in that same breath, Jose Popoff, the teacher from Honduras, middle America, questioned Australians eating ‘mouse’ as a food. I spun around to my students, who could sense my wrath and mounting anger and was ready to vent myself at the student who was making fun of this linkup!

A quiet voice in my physical room replied saying “it is chocolate mousse”! To correct his spelling, the student then put ‘moose’ into the chat. That made us all laugh!

But…. how important is spelling and the presence of typos that might occur in the chat when students from two different countries get together in a virtual room or backchannel?

A wonderful interactive connection of 45 mins with Jose and his students was quickly over. It started as a mystery session where my students had to work out what country Jose and his students, were from. Jose shared some photos of where they lived and students asked questions of each other. They were all 15 or 16 years of age – all curious and wanting to know more of each other. It was Thursday 2pm in Australia and 10pm Wednesday night in Honduras.

Here are some student reflections on the linkup:-

  1. Indi:- Linkup with Honduras
  2. Rachel’s:-¬†Linkup with Honduras

The previous day, Jose and I tried a linkup using spreecast – a new software tool to me. Several students from our school came in during morning recess to talk to Jose’s students but bad weather in Honduras meant that we dropped out after 15 minutes, although Jose and one of his students managed to logon. Spreecast is free and allows social networking.

The importance of connections such as this for my classes:-

  • I teach in a small rural school
  • Students are geographically and culturally isolated
  • My students tend to be shy and lack an element of confidence especially at public speaking.
  • They are learning far more about geography and culture by direct linkups than they often do through their textbooks.
  • It motivates them to explore beyond the direct linkup
  • The chat and interactive whiteboard enable students to ask questions of each other
  • It is highly engaging etc
  • They are learning global skills which will increasingly gain in importance as our commerce, workforce, issues become global
  • Students reflect back on these interactions using their blogs – a positive digital footprint

Why I enjoy working with Jose!

Jose and I met through the Hello Little World Skypers group and although we teach different subjects, we teach similar age groups. I collaborate with many educationalists online but most of the active skyping teachers tend to teach the younger (or primary) aged students. Jose is an innovative teacher who loves to experiment with technology Рjust like I do and my class and I are looking forward to further connections with Jose and his students.



Blends in a Global Classroom

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This week, I was fully reminded of the fact that I should never, ever doubt the ability of students and what they can achieve when highly motivated and engaged. Thinking it would be great to blend two classes – one in Boston, USA and mine in Hawkesdale Australia in a virtual classroom, it was suggested to Lorraine Leo, my great colleague in USA. Lorraine suggested Friday 16th our time, or Thurs night 15h March, their time. Yikes! That was only two days away and we had nothing organised.

The challenges

  • That was only two days notice.
  • the interesting mixed collection of students in my year 9/10 ICT elective class
  • the student mixed ability levels
  • lack of time to practise, rehearse etc.
  • our continuing problems with sound on the student netbooks (they had just been reghosted and handed back to students)

As there was one single, precious lesson prior to the online session, we tested sound/audio/access/application sharing/use of web camera etc to Blackboard Collaborate, the webconferencing software tool to be used and also brainstormed some ideas on a wallwisher. However, the time was not long enough. Students were then told to bring their photos and scripts with them on Friday ready to share with their global counterparts.

Feeling quite nervous on Friday about whether:-

  • anyone had brought photos and more importantly how many had not done anything
  • they had anything to talk about and would they stutter, stumble and take frights (as many of these students are extremely shy)
  • they would behave online
  • ¬†the webcam would be used to good effect
  • ¬†the application sharing of pivot and some stored photos on student computers work etc…
  • sound/audio would all work

I was surprised to find all of them were all organised. They had taken time consuming, fascinating photos at home and on their farm, had brought products into share and wanted to come in at recess to get organised. Some of these are students who rarely complete homework! Here is what it all looked like.

  • an opening comment by Lorraine :¬†Thank you for inviting us to Australia to visit your students.
  • Problems as always with sound – most students had to come to my laptop to speak and demonstrate
  • in my nervousness, I forgot to go through the tool bars and elements of Blackboard Collaborate at the beginning, but most seemed to work it out as we went a long.
  • A classroom of 21 participants, including Mrs Leo, the teacher from USA, 5 of her students, logging on from home (as it was 7:30pm at night for them),¬†two adults from Japan – one ¬†a university professor who is creating great globalprojects with Scratch eg World Friends, the other a parent; a student teacher from Saskatchewan Canada,¬†a parent of one of my students and¬†Mrs Leo’s mother, an amazing 86 year old lady in blackboard collaborate for the first time. Such a blended classroom, made possible with technology.
  • my students presenting on topics such as:- Hawkesdale, my farm, my pets,our school, my interests, pivot and demonstrating sample student work, including quilting.
  • Once the initial nervousness dispersed, the obvious pride that my students took in sharing their passions, how well spoken they actually were and that they were all organised!
  • the support that students gave each other
  • the fast paced nature of the chat, where participants asked questions, gave feedback and generally shared across the globe.
  • interacting on the collaborative whiteboard to share names, farewells, favourite technology.
Despite being  pushed outside their comfort zones, students really enjoy interactions such as this. They find it fun and engaging and are curious about each other. Each person has a voice and is able to interact in the chat. A big thank you to our global participants for coming to learn about us and to Mrs Leo for her work in making it possible.

Read the student reflections

  1. Georgia
  2. Rachael
  3. Sean
  4. Tamiko
  5. Kim
  6. Jess
  7. Ivy
  8. Aza
  9. Nathan

Have you used blends in a global classroom? Have you worked synchronously with classes in other countries? If so, how? What are your reflections?

(Guest post by Anne Mirtschin, an educator in a small rural Australian school, prep to year 12, that is geographically and culturally isolated.)