Testing our new Polycom Videoconferencing Equipment

Hawkesdale P12 College was one of many rural schools across Victoria that were given a polycom conferencing unit. Prior to this week, the equipment has been used as a projection monitor and for videoconferencing with skype. The image and sound is crystal clear on this high quality equipment.

This week an email from Rod, the acting principal at Cowwarr Primary School was received. Their staff and students  had been affected by the recent flooding in vast areas of Gippslang south eastern Australia.  Here is part of the email:-

Are you in class today? We were affected by the floods yesterday with 50% of the kids ( grand total of 11) unable to get in due to road closures.

This morning I find my other staff member is on the other side of the river as she stayed out last night and the river has risen overnight!

The next question was “Would you like to test our videoconferencing equipment?”. Delighted to be able to work with someone who could step us through it, we agreed.

The equipment  was tested in the morning and a quick linkup was trialled, after Cowwarr students had walked to see the nearby river – now a raging torrent spilling over 10 metres on either side. Year 9/10 students had ICT after lunch. As they entered, the call  from Rod was answered and they were catapulted into their classroom via videoconferencing. Cowwarr is a small rural school with students from prep to year 6. However, a year 7 and year 9 student were present due to the flooding. Rod taught us how to use the remote controls. The photo below shows how clear the connection was – felt like they were in the same room.

Introductions were made and questions posed of each other. We were intrigued by the flooding and the impact it had on them – one girl had lost her 6 week old poddy calf. Others had had to shift  their livestock to higher ground the day before. Some had water coming into their homes. The students at this small school study Chinese without  a Chinese language teacher. Our school is fortunate to have Wung-Li for 12 months on an exchange program helping with our Chinese program in our school Wung was introduced to the students who quickly asked many, many questions of her.

This may be the start of a sharing relationship with Cowwarr, as Wung can teach remotely using this equipment. Technology empowers learning and supports a comprehensive syllabus in rural schools that would normally not have access to specialist subjects.

This equipment will provide a powerful aid to empower learning, enabling schools to provide a comprehensive curriculum despite rurality and isolation.

listen2learners – "It's just what we do"

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Tara, Emily and Dhugan took part in the listen2learners forum at the Melbourne State Library, on Monday 11th October. This forum was an opportunity for teachers, education department leaders, software designers, business leaders and other interested parties, to listen to learners. I was blown away by the maturity, independence, collaboration, problem solving and confidence which was evident in each of the 12 school groups who spent the day talking to the adults.

Several things impressed me at the forum. The technology savvy students was the first stand out impression, but another fabulous “take away” for me was the genuine interest those attending the forum, actually invested in really listening to these students. This was not just a token forum where innovative projects were show cased. The “listeners” were really listening. They were really interested in what the students had to say, what they were doing, what they were thinking and where they were going.

Another thing I will never forget, is the comment Tara gave in response to a question from one “listener” who asked the students, “so what is e-learning?” For a moment, they said nothing. They did a lot of looking at each other without coming up with an answer. Finally Tara shrugged and replied “it’s just what we do.” The man who had asked the question, grinned broadly and said “yay!”. He went on to explain that as a dinosaur, he had a tag for what it was the students were doing, because it was so different to how he had learnt at school. The fact that our students don’t see it as “using computers”, the fact that they see it as “just what we do” was exactly the response he was seeking.

I came home from this amazing forum with the confirmation that tomorrow’s leaders are indeed in our schools today and that the skills they are developing as collaborators, communicators, innovators and problem solvers can only be further developed if we continue to listen to what they have to say. We need to be less “sage on the stage” and much more “guide on the side” (INTEL Teach to the Future.) We need to let go of the reins and give them the opportunity to lead. We have got to learn to listen!

Read another blog post about the day.
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Students being interviewed and filmed about the Flat Classroom Project.

So you think you've got talent? – Hawkesdale's answer to the X Factor

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This afternoon, students from year 8G staged a talent show in the stadium, for students in years Prep – 8. Wow! Have we got some talent! Apart from a fairly annoying sound glitch, the show went off without a hitch. We were entertained with singing, dancing, jokes, poems, gymnastics, karate and Trev and his amazing abs of steel. We laughed and clapped and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was nearly moved to tears, when our youngest performer stood on that stage in her sweet little costume and sang like an angel. I am sooooooooo very proud firstly, of the talented students we have here at school, and secondly, of the 8G students (and Jack) who planned, organised and staged this successful event. I wish we could have bottled the enthusiasm, the excitement and the energy of today’s event. It was really very special.

Art Journals

Last year I made a contact through Twitter to Quinn McDonald (www.raw-art-journals.com) in America. She was kind enough to involve our school Year 7 class in her traveling journal project. Quinn sent us some beautiful, tough and durable paper which was given to the students to decorate and make into a journal page. The pages will be sent back to Quinn and she will then bind them into a journal. This journal will be used to foster a connection to the students in a local school nearby her home. They in turn will be making a journal to send to us. Below is one of the beautiful pages made by one of my students to be sent to Quinn.

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Skyping with Darwin

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On Tuesday 8th September, students in prep to year 3 from Hawkesdale,  had a skype link up with students in years 1 and 2 at a school in Darwin. The students in Darwin told us about cane toads, breakfast club, crocodiles, their 8.00 am start to the school day and what they do after school. The Hawkesdale students shared information about life in the country, our cooler climate and introduced the Darwin students to Cookie, our Picasso cow. (pictured below)  We hope to visit Darwin again next term, for a shared activity.

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G'day to Perth, Boston and Manila from Hawkesdale!

Good morning to Geoff Kaye, a contact with the DiscoverE classroom in WA… and good evening to Lorraine Leo of Boston USA …. and good morning to Rox Cosico from Manila in the Phillipines. Today three countries from four distinct areas connected in one virtual classroom!!! They were Boston, USA, Manila, Phillipines and Hawkesdale and Perth, Australia.

How exciting is this!!! to actually meet someone who teaches a class of a similar age group at the same time that I do and speaks good English as well ……. and comes from Asia. The Phillipines class consisted of 43 boys of ages 12 to 13. Rox emailed us and said that “The Philippines have English as their second language, Tagalog or Filipino is their primary language, all my students know how to speak English, but the accent that they know are American or Filipino English so they might not be able to pick up immediately some of the British or Australian accent. We would love to hear your voices from Australia.” My class consisted of 16 students from year 7, Hawkesdale, Australia

After some technical difficulties (from the Manila end), and just as our morning recess bell was about to go, we connected fully with audio and video on all but the Manila front. Our students had prepared a powerpoint presentation that showed features of our school. Each year 7 student spoke to a slide and explained the nature of the image.

Our students were fascinated with the fact that it was an all boys school. When queried why, the response was that it was an elite school. The Phillipine students came online asking us to slow down our speech when relating to non-English speaking people. However, excitement was paramount on both sides of the classroom and another journey and steep learning curve begins!!

Thank you Lorraine for organising this for us!! And some suggestions from Lorraine:-

“I remind my students that they are ambassadors representing their class, school, state, country, continent and hemisphere ….This is especially helpful when doing a recording since it’s sort of like ‘live t.v.’
It was fun to see the smiles from the kids in Hawksdale when they realized that the students in Claret were in the audience! Students love working with students……no matter what continent they are on.”

View the recording of our session.

The International Lunch Box Project

Here is an introduction to the Lunch Box Project that I started a little while ago. It has taken a little while to get going, but we are up and away now! There are three classes involved in this project so far – one from Australia (here at Hawkesdale of course!), China and Turkey. Here is the introduction PowerPoint that I uploaded to Slideshare so that I could embed it here in my blog.