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:-
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.
- 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 – just like I do and my class and I are looking forward to further connections with Jose and his students.