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Remote lessons with Dimdim and Skype March 4, 2009

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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After a break of over 6 months, the tohatoha collaboration has gone live again. The break has been forced upon us because of a series of events beyond our control. Helen’s class had their summer vacation and no sooner had they come back in September, when Helen had a car crash that ensured that she was at home recuperating for the majority of term 1 in the UK, then it was our southern hemisphere summer holidays and the rest they say is history! So after a long break we are back.

Last night was the first time that Helen and I have put into action something that we have been working on for a long time. We used a free meeting service called dimdim. This little tool is fantastic, it not only enables each member of the chat to see and hear the meeting organiser, up to three other members of the meeting can also be audio contributors too. However the particular features of dimdim that I like are that a whole class of students can log in to my meeting or lesson and I can not only see who has logged on I can chat with each one of them either publically or privately via the text message options. Better yet I can also share my desktop with the entire meeting, so that I can demonstrate how to use any program that is on my computer and in this particular instance from a distance of 12 000 miles away!

Last night we used Skype as the audio and video bridge and dimdim as the “interactive whiteboard.” I ran two lessons with two different classes and the final lesson ended at 00:14 NZDST. Today I am pretty tired! In one of the lessons there were 33 individual students plus Helen all logged into the same meeting and although there was a short delay between my actions on the screen turning up on the screens in front of the students, the delay was not long enough to affect the lesson flow. At this great distance I was able to teach students how to import live data into Excel with ease. Lesson two is next Wednesday starting at 22:00 NZDST so if you wish to join the meeting/lesson and see how dimdim could work for you, let me know. You can see how the lesson looked from a UK perspective at the tohatoha blog.


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.

Virtual Music Teacher July 22, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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Sandi has taken the plunge and has set herself up as a virtual piano teacher, she is initially doing this via Skype.  She has set up a blog and is raring to go.  I have been trying to set up a teaching session with her so that I can teach her how to manage her blog, not that she needs it, it is just that I want to test some new software that I have found that does the work of Elluminate, but for free!  More on this later.

Well done Sandi, hope that it goes well.  I know that Sandi is hoping to be able to teach piano lessons in New Zealand from her home in New York.  Anyone interested in giving it a try?  You can find her blog here, I am sure that she would welcome the opportunity to iron out the wrinkles with some New Zealand teachers.  More to the point anyone else willing to add their name to the dial an expert initiative and share their expertise in certain areas beyond the four walls of the box they call class!


International Education Week – day 3 November 15, 2007

Posted by davidit in Education 2.0, ICT Integration, International Education Week, mission, Skrbl, Skype, thinking skills, Web 2.0.
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Well I have done my planned input for International Education Week.  Last night I did my second lesson with another class from Woodford Primary School.  And as on Monday, there were a whole load of others watching the proceedings, there were representatives from the local education authority and the head of international liaison for the Plymouth LEA.  To a man they were all impressed, even awed, by the use of technology to remotely teach students.  One even noted that:

They (the students)  seem to just accept there is someone teaching them that is half way around the world and 13 hours ahead – I find it absolutely amazing – must be my age!!

This sentiment epitomises the dichotomy at the heart of the wholesale integration of ICT into our classrooms.  The kids are ready and waiting, the adults of a certain age don’t believe it is possible.  Now look at the average age of teachers in education and you start to see the scale of the problem. 

For the record, from my point of view, the session was a dog!  Skype was playing up really badly, my call kept being dropped or if I was connected then my voice was intermittently not being transmitted or sound from the classroom was not getting back to me.  However, through all of this, the kids sailed on, they achieved more than the previous class on Monday.  The students were asking me questions, but were not quite brave enough to come up to the web cam and ask 1:1, they will though.  So, even though I knew that my virtual classroom would be clunky and it was just electronic ‘chalk and talk’ the project has proved that it can be done.  It has worked so well that Woodford want more and I will be back next Monday and Wednesday nights to continue with the module until it is completed.  Helen has just informed me that the Headteacher of her school is considering using me and this method to teach her staff how to use blogs, wikis and all manner of web 2.0 tools. Once demonstrated, people start to see the benefit, it is all good!  Timing will be an issue for me, staff meetings in the UK would mean an early start for me, but maybe sleep is over rated!  The press article as a result of Monday night’s lesson can be read here.

Another sleepless night ensued as I chewed over the technical glitches, how to resolve them?  How to improve on what we already have?  I know that my virtual classroom is built on technological sand and one of my solutions added another layer of complexity, that would work, but add another clunk to the project.  Using CamStudio you can either elect to record from the microphone or from the speakers, but not both.  What this means is that the completed video will have either me speaking and no feed back from Plymouth, or the other way around.  Not exactly elegant, but workable.  So my additional layer of clunk is to have Audacity running to record the incoming audio and have CamStudio record the outgoing audio and then when I edit the movie, I will splice the two together.  Clunky in the extreme!

So this has set me thinking and I have the kernel of an idea that needs exploring, developing and financing (probably).  However, if it does work it will offer a genuine synchronous virtual classroom to any teacher that wishes to peer tutor other colleagues or take classes like I have been doing this week.  If you are a programmer, financier, teacher and are interested in knowing more and exploring the possibilities, let me know.  Oh, by the way this service would be free in true web 2.0 style!