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.
- 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.
Read the student reflections
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.)