One of my personal highlights of 2014 was the collaborative introduction of Mystery Skype with Mrs R. in Year 3. Integrating our Skype sessions into Geography, we made some memorable connections with Hello Little World Skypers and Global Classroom teachers from Argentina, India, Nepal, and the United States. We also were able to connect with ‘Flat Addy’, a little girl in Iowa, USA, who had sent us a Flat Stanley earlier in the year.
Mystery Skype proved to be a fantastic introduction for our students, who learnt how to communicate and share with authentic global audiences. As the 2015 school year progresses, I am hoping to introduce videoconferencing and Mystery Skype into more classes, as we work to build our students’ awareness of the world beyond their classroom walls.
Students will use map skills to find the location of the mystery classroom
Students will use communication and critical thinking skills to ask questions to help them find the mystery location.
Classes communicate with other classrooms via Skype or Google+ Hangouts.
Students will learn to respect and appreciate the cultures and customs of others.
Students will be able to see the differences and similarities between themselves and others around the world.
Heading to Sydney for Flat Connections marked an important milestone, namely the first time I have ever visited the East Coast of Australia! Held at the SHORE School, Flat Connections proved to be an amazing conference, where I met many friends, new and old, and discovered leadership and multimedia skills I didn’t know I had 🙂
Flat Connections was a conference involving teachers and students, with some flying from Canada, the United States, and Iran; and saw teachers pitching and presenting to students, and vice versa. I was working with Leadership Team 9, a diverse bunch of Australian high school teachers, and my friend from Iran. Given two days to come up with a multimedia product showcasing a global project or idea, we decided to focus on creating a pitch for secondary teachers to start exploring the power of global connections in their curriculum and learning experiences. While we had our stressful moments, I was extremely impressed with how we bonded as a team, and capitalising on our various strengths, we produced a result we were happy with.
I really appreciated the hands-on focus of this conference. It truly wasn’t a conference where you could turn up and vegetate. You had to make a real, collaborative contribution, and you certainly were never bored – just mentally and physically exhausted! Someone once said that this conference was “hard fun”. They weren’t joking. It was the most challenging, yet most rewarding professional development I have ever participated in; and I would love nothing more than to do it all again in future years!
I was also extremely impressed with the students, aged 10-16, who simply blew me away with their creativity, presentation skills, and ideas. I think the greatest lesson of this conference was never underestimating what students can do when given the time, resources, and opportunity to “think big”, and explore the other story. A case in point is “The Passion Project” student video, which conveys the argument for 20% time so eloquently. Please sign their petition!
On Saturday night, I returned to where it all began, presenting at the fourth Reform Symposium eConference. Considering my global journey started with attending #RSCON11, and presenting for the very first time at #RSCON3, this was a very special occasion, and I was truly taken aback by the response and interest in my session.
With 35 attendees from 6 continents, this is a presentation I will remember for some time to come 🙂 Thankyou to everyone who attended, and thank you to all those wonderful people who’ve sent me feedback on the session. It is greatly appreciated.
I am still coming to terms with the fact that I travelled halfway around the world to share my social media journey and experiences with The Global Classroom Project at #iEARN13.
Qatar was the venue for my first (three!) international presentations, including my first Global Classroom Workshop, and the launch of my first iEARN project.
Here they are, with links to explore further if you wish.
Connecting Globally via Twitter and the #globalclassroom Chats (Workshop)
I still can’t believe that nearly 50 people attended this workshop, which was live translated from English into Arabic. It seemed to make quite an impact, judging by the frequent informal sessions I held with new iEARN twitter teachers over the days which followed!
It was a pleasure to present in front of the @iEARNAustralia management team, who now have a much better understanding of what I’ve been trying to do with our organisation’s Twitter account.
This workshop was also the first time I experimented with a bilingual “Find Someone Who” activity as a brief 5 minute introduction to the ‘essence’ of Twitter – short, rapid fire conversations with global partners around a range of issues.
A huge thank you goes to @rawyashatila in Lebanon, who generously translated the document into Arabic! 🙂
One of the unexpected surprises of the iEARN Conference was the invitation to contribute to the Social Media Panel Keynote, created by Khitham Al-Utaibi (@khitamah) and Rebecca Hodges (@ProfHodges).
Presenting alongside 3 academics, and one of the most globally aware high school students I’ve ever met (@AndrewNasser), was quite an experience. We had around 450 people in the audience, and I received some very positive feedback on my contribution. I suspect I went over my time allocation slightly, but I think this tweet sums it up nicely:
Well done @mgraffin A short, sharp presentation on the relevance of social media that resonated with many.
This turned out to be one of the more productive sessions of the conference, where I took the opportunity to share the story of the #globalclassroom travelling scrapbook project, and discuss plans for an iEARN version.
I took away some hastily scribbled notes / suggestions, and a list of potential partners. I’m hoping to get this project running by September 2013, and will have to try and sort out the planning / organisation approach over the next week or so.
On Wednesday (March 27), I completed my four week stint as the #WLPSict integrator.
I left with mixed emotions … sadness at leaving a position which I loved, but also with a great sense of personal vindication. I left knowing that I’d done my best, and that I’d done it well.
The last week gave me the time to finish what I’d started, wrapping up some projects that I’d been preparing students’ for, as well as laying the seeds for ongoing ICT projects which will continue when I’m gone.
Here’s my final #WLPSict wrap for Week 4 …
World Water Day 2013 (Year 2, and some Year 7s)
I’ve already blogged about this here, so I won’t go into too much more detail – except to say that with comments from 10 countries, and 1000+ hits in a week, I’m proud to say that the third anniversary of my ‘first’ global project was a wonderful success. Well done kids! 🙂
Completing the Asia Google Docs Inquiry (Year 5/6)
I spent my last lesson with the Yr 5/6’s helping students finish their Asia presentations, incorporating the information so kindly shared by students and staff at a variety of international schools throughout Asia. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I was unable to obtain copies of the presentations to share online, as I couldn’t work out where the students had saved them! 🙁
If I’d had more time, I’d have used Google Presentations … which would have allowed students to actually collaborate on their presentations AND easily share them online! (I’ll get off my Google Soapbox now …)
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the staff and students at the following schools for the wonderful support for this experimental project:
I was really pleased with the progress Year 3N (Year 2F, and Year 3C) made with their use of the PuppetPalsHD iPad app.
We used our last lesson in Year 3N to create group PuppetPalsHD presentations on Jungle creatures, tying in with the class theme. With the help of their wonderful classroom teacher, students had planned these presentations, and the final results weren’t too bad. I was able to put a few on the school YouTube channel, and I’ve shared them below.
This little project bore witness to one of the most infuriating moments of my #WLPSict tenure … stay tuned for my upcoming reflections (rant) on (trying to) teach about Creative Commons images.
WordFoto with Year 3C
The Year 3C teacher has exciting plans for using the WordFoto app with her class, and to my great surprise (and pleasure) actually borrowed an iPad, and showed her class how to use it (outside of our ICT time) – a significant leap forward!
So I spent my last lesson with Year 3C roaming the school grounds with a box of iPads and iPods, letting students have a play with the app, and Dropboxing the results. The brief was to create WordFoto partner portraits & school landscapes, so the only one I’m really comfortable sharing is the one they did of me 🙂
Year 4 – Getting Excited about Animoto
In my last week, I introduced the Year 4 students to Animoto. While with hindsight I wouldn’t use a ‘whole-school’ account again, I was really pleased to see how popular (and useful) this tool actually is. The Animoto for Education account wasn’t as fully featured as I’d expected; however, it does allow for the creation of student accounts – In fact, I’ll be recommending WLPS teachers to create their own class accounts in future.
And thus ends my stint at #WLPS … for now at least. This is one of remarkably few schools where I have truly felt ‘at home’, and the first where I’ve been able to really share my passion for all things ICT and global education. I hope that this #WLPSict journey marks the beginning of a fruitful long-term relationship over the years to come. Time will tell.
Despite some initial technical hurdles, including the fact that Skype was blocked at the school, the presentation was a great success.
We managed to Skype with Julie Lindsay, the co-founder of Flat Classroom Projects; and shared our global collaboration stories with a large local audience, and a small group of teachers in Taiwan, India, and the United States via UStream,
I hope you will take some time to explore our slides, and watch our UStream recording.
You can access, and contribute to our presentation notes here.
Over the past year, an extraordinary bunch of international educators transformed a vision of global collaboration community, dreamt up right here in Western Australia, into a real world reality. The Global Classroom Project has been an extraordinary experience, and we thought this was something worth celebrating.
Chapter 9: Celebration, in Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, filled in the missing piece of the #globalclassroom puzzle; bringing home the need for an official closure and celebration of our 2011-12 project.
We needed to provide a space and opportunity for our teachers and students to celebrate and share their experiences with the world. So on July 1, 2012, we held our Looking Forwards, Looking Back webinars, inviting our teachers to contribute to an international showcase of our projects, learning experiences, and achievements through Global Classroom 2011-12.
Due to terrible technical problems, the morning (Americas) webinar turned into an impromptu Google+ Hangout; however, the evening Australia / Europe webinar was an incredible success, with speakers from India, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Romania, and the USA.
The closing webinars also provided an opportunity to share the first pictures of the #globalclassroom memento scrapbooks, which are traveling to classrooms around the world. These scrapbooks provide our students with the opportunity to share their voices, cultures, and learning with the wider world, and will continue on their journeys for at least another year to come.
Book Club Reflections …
I found Chapter 9 of the #flatclass book a very relevant, informative chapter; one which had a significant impact on the #globalclassroom community. While the way we acknowledge and celebrate learning is somewhat different to the #flatclass model, that’s the way I like it.
We’re building on the work of those that come before us, and are exploring new ways to learn, connect, and collaborate globally. As they say, life is always more interesting when you’re a pioneer …
Chapter 4, Communication, focuses on the need to develop the “techno-personal skills”, the online habits, which sustain online collaboration and networking. For me, some key ideas from this chapter relate to the nature of online communication tools, and some handy ideas for efficient, inclusive communication between teachers and students involved in global collaboration.
While I was originally going to focus this post on ways we could improve the #globalclassroom handshakes, I’m going to jump ahead a little, and write about something I learned today (relating to Chapters 4 and 5).
Today, I invited a teacher from the Middle East to join an upcoming #globalclassroom project. A little later, I became concerned that involvement in this project might inadvertently place this teacher in a difficult situation … relating to the volatile political situation in the region.
Sadly, I was correct.
We talked about the issue, and our teacher decided to decline the invitation.
I was disappointed, but relieved that I hadn’t put my friend at potential risk.
I had learned a valuable lesson
When we collaborate globally, our ignorance of cultural and religious differences can have dramatic, unintended consequences in the lives of real people, in the real world.
We need to learn about, and be sensitive to difference. Yes, this seems obvious, but is so much harder in practice – as we “don’t know what we don’t know”.
This is why I believe it so critical to have open, public and private communication channels for global collaborative projects, and why it is so essential to build trusting, respectful relationships with the teachers you work with.
We need to create the space for people to talk and get to know each-other. I have personally learned so much about other people through mindless conversations about our lives and families – via Skype IM and Twitter conversations. These conversations usually occur in private mediums, and help to build mutual trust and respect. This means that when potential issues arise, when we are not sure about something, we feel more confident in asking for clarification behind the scenes.
As teachers, we can’t teach our students to be ‘culturally aware’ if we don’t understand, and model this awareness ourselves.
You don’t realise what this means until you’ve experienced it first-hand. It truly seems the more I learn, the less I know.
So, looking ahead …
I hope, over time to get to know my friend a little better. If permissible, I’d love to just chat about our work & life from time to time … I know so little about her culture, work, and way of life. If not, I hope she can at least point me in the right direction.
Chapter 3, Connection, is the first installment of “The Seven Steps to Flatten Your Classroom“. It was focussed on ways teachers and students can create their own Personal learning Networks, using push and pull technologies to make the enriching global connections which underpin their learning, sharing, and collaboration.
Despite suffering from severe information overload, there were a few quotes and ideas in this chapter which really stood out, helping me to understand a little more about my own (technology enabled) learning habit, and educational mindset.
“When you know how to connect effectively, you have the power to learn”
Personally, this idea reflects my own experiences over the past year. On March 22, I celebrated the first anniversary of my first-ever global project, the very first time I was able to connect my students with the world.
I couldn’t do the work I do without my wonderful PLN, who support, inspire, and educate me on a daily basis. This is humbling, but it is a fundamental truth.
The Teacherpreneur – My “Ah-ha” Moment
A teacherpreneur is a person who seeks to enrich their classroom learning environment by “forging partnerships with other classrooms with common curricular goals and expectations. They accept the risks and responsibilities for the endeavour, and are accountable for the outcome.” (p. 44).
“Good teacherpreneurs aren’t renegades, they are connectors” (p. 45)
As I frantically scribbled “YES!!” in my notes, I realised that this concept defines what I have become over the past few months. While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to make meaningful, long-term connections within my own school and classroom learning environment, I’m helping to connect teachers around the world
‘Teacherpreneurship” is the idea which underpins the #globalclassroom community – we have created a place where teachers can work together to forge global partnerships, explore ways to extend their curriculum through global connections, and share responsibility for the ultimate success of their projects.
Several months ago, a dear member of my PLN taught me how to use Skype.
Skype is an amazing tool which enables teachers to flatten their classroom walls; opening up windows into other people’s worlds. Yet, for me, it is the informal, sideline discussions about food, language, and everyday life which I treasure the most.
How can I forget my discussions about the English language with Deb Frazier in America? Or the hilarious conversations about family, food, and culture with Lin-lin in Taiwan? And I still pinch myself at the memory of skyping & saying hello to the Indian Finance minister & teachers in Kerala, India
Skype conversations, particularly with Hello Little World & Global Classroom Skypers, have helped me build, connect, share, learn and collaborate; yet, perhaps most importantly, they have transformed how I see and interact with the world.
I now know that Skype helps break down barriers, and helps us discover what we have in common with other people around the world. It leads us to rewarding global friendships … and It teaches us to care.
If Skype does this for me, a teacher, what can it do for our students?
A lesson and question to ponder as I continue on this journey of mine.