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International Student Collaboration February 20, 2009

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By MELANIE VERRAN - East And Bays Courier | Friday, 20 February 2009

Following on from the success of our assembly this week we held our mufti day today to raise money for the victims of the recent bush fires in Australia.  The biggest irony of the day was reserved for the weather, it rained heavily all day!

Our endeavours last week made it onto the front page of the local paper here in Auckland.  Today was intended as a right of reply for the students at Serpell to join in with our assembly.  The staff at Serpell have been battling all week with, what seems from this distance, draconian filtration rules for access to the Internet.  It seems that these rules are non negotiable  and are centrally set. My experiences this last two weeks with the Victorian web filters have left me with the view that I am glad not to be working in Australia as an ICT specialist, as it seems that  the vast majority of the Internet tools that I consider to be crucial to integration, collaboration and relevant to student learning are barred from my colleagues over there.  Just how does Education Victoria think that its students are going to collaborate with students beyond its boundaries when Skype and Mogulus are barred?  How does it expect its teachers to be innovative, connected and collaborative with e-mail and MS office as their primary tools? How are students to research current events and scrutinise them from local, national and international perspectives when You Tube and Google Images are universally blocked?  The pen pal method of communication is passe and even if it is with e-mail, it is still a forced and distant form of communication when compared to the immediacy of video and audio.  I know that the Victorian Government does have a good video conferencing network , but as I have said before, video conferencing requires two sets of equipment and limits partnerships to those that have the expensive equipment in the first place.  With a $50 webcam today I broadcast our assembly live to our online tv station and recorded for offline viewing, however this video will not be able to be viewed by those that it was intended for, because Mogulus is blocked from Victorian Schools.

It had been our intention to set up a video call via Skype so that the students in Serpell could be seen and see us in the school hall as they shared their views. I am assured that a tech has been working on getting Skype installed and working on one machine in Serpell, he has been at it for over a week and can not get past the Victorian firewall…  Video was off today.  In the end we were sent a slideshow that the students had created, and through my Skype out account we called their land line and via our PA system we could hear each other and they talked us through their presentation and video.  The most powerful part of the whole assembly was at the end of the presentation when students from the Supertanker were questioning their peers in Australia.  With such valuable exchanges being experienced by both sets of students, it still leads me to question why the Victorian government would want to make this so difficult to achieve?  Do I want to continue to build a collaborative e-bridge between Serpell and the Supertanker?  The answer is unequivocally yes, but I am painfully aware that if it were someone else trying to bully their way around these draconian filtration decisions to get students to collaborate, they would have given up long ago and to the detriment of the students.

Our mufti day raised $1900 for the Red Cross appeal in Australia a phenomenal amount for a mufti day and especially one that has taken place so early in the term, with all the associated expenses of the start of the year and the current financial climate.

You can see the assembly from our perspective by visiting the Supertankers own TV station (http://mogulus.com/mpstv) and clicking on the “On Demand'” button at the bottom of the viewer and you will be able to select the Assembly video.

You can also see the interviews conducted by the Serpell students here.

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Comments»

1. sfrack - February 23, 2009

I enjoyed your radio station soooo much!!! Bravo Meadowbank!

2. Dave - February 23, 2009

A very good article, well written


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