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




7 thoughts on “When is a Mouse not a Mouse?

    • Thanks Janet, I also find that in tools like blogging, the students are more careful with editing, but when it comes to chat and a backchannel, they just get in there and use their txt ing language. Unfortunately, some of my students are poor spellers. I often wonder how much impact that might have on citizens from other countries whose second or third language might be English. However, they seem to able to make themselves understood.

  1. I find it wonderful how we can use technology to enrich teaching and learning experiences for students. I grew up in a small rural community. At that time there were not many ways to make connections outside of our community. It never fails to amaze me how this generation of students have the benefit of the whole world as their classroom. Lucky students working with teachers who embrace technology to help their student learn. Keep writing about your experiences!

    • Hi Tasha, I agree whole heartedly with you. I wish I was not nearing the end of teaching career but was actually just starting. Technology opens so many doors to so many classrooms and learning spaces.

  2. This is a wonderful story of collaboration and misspelled words. It brought a a smile to my face as I read the encounter of the mouse and returned my thoughts to my one teacher, isolated school back in 1981/2.

    My old school started with 12 children K-6 the first year and built to 20, one short of the magic 21 needed for an additional teacher. I helped introduce an Apple II computer to the school but the internet was well off in the future, television was only available on one channel if the weather conditions allowed and the phone was a party line where you picked it up then replaced it if no one was on the line, cranked the handle, picked it up and asked for the operator to connect you to a number. These days, they have standard phones and satellite connection.

    How much wider their world would have been back then if they had the access students have now. The ability to collaborate with classes around the world will help promote understanding which will only benefit the children’s ability to empathise with others in our shrinking real and virtual world.

    Thank you for sharing this encounter.
    Teacher, NSW, Australia

    • Ross, I loved reading your recollections of days that many have not experienced. I started teaching on typewriters and then was given the role of teaching computers when I had never seen one. I shall never forget walking into that classroom. The students were tolerant of my ignorance and together we learned and continue to learn. I love the fact that technology can overcome all remoteness and isolation.

      • I had a slight advantage when desktop computers became available for schools. My hobby had been electronics and I had used and programmed computers in university from 1975. I’ve been hooked since then so this is my 37th year of computer use. Needless to say, I have seen an amazing growth in the capability of technology. 🙂

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