Using Skype in the Classroom

Mel organised for us to have a blackboard collaborate session with Anne Mirtschin, which was amazing. Anne told us about the many IT tools she uses and one of those was Skype in the Classroom. While she was talking about it I could immediately see how I could start using this straight away. I signed up and registered for some lessons that fitted into our theme of Natural Disasters. There are so many lessons you can do on any topic you can think of! Time differences can make things difficult, but teachers are keen to make it work. For our Kansas class, we started our day early as the children all arrived at 8.15 and the Kansas children came back to school at 5pm their time. Every single one of my 26 children arrived early as they were very excited!

We have so far had 3 fabulous Skype sessions, each going for 30 – 40 minutes. We talked to a class in Kansas about living in Tornado Alley. The children in their class wanted to know about bushfires and how we prepare for them and the safety procedures. My children asked them similar questions. We brainstormed our questions beforehand using Padlet and we asked our questions and different children from the Kansas class answered and vice versa. My students loved talking to the Kansas students and got so much out of that interaction.

We had a lesson run by a ranger from Yellowstone Park. She spoke for about 15 minutes about the park, with emphasis on the volcano and geysers there. Whenever she saw a hand go up, she would get the students to ask their question and then we had a long time to ask questions. Each child in my class had the opportunity to ask a question.

This term we have been studying oceans and we had a lesson with a marine biologist in the USA who specialises in sharks, particularly hammerheads. She told the students all about sharks, using props and her experiences swimming with them and studying them. The children all got to ask their questions and were totally fascinated. In each of our sessions the children have happily sat for the whole session, totally engaged. I haven’t yet set up my own lesson, but have been contacted by a teacher in England to talk with her class about Natural disasters. I also want to do a Mystery Skype session.

I also registered with the Winter Olympic ‘Chat to a Champ’ program. We were lucky enough to be allocated Jana Pittman. My class had a Google Hangout with Jana and 2 other classes, one in NSW and one in Queensland. Jana was very engaging and the children were able to ask her lots of questions. We were lucky and got to ask more than our share as the other schools had technology issues! We will also be having a Google Hangout with Jana in February when she is in Sochi, Russia which should be really interesting.

After our intial day in Melbourne, I was interested in learning more about Project Based Learning and contacted Rich Lambert through the community to ask him a couple of questions. A phone call helped me to sort out some thoughts and Rich was extremely helpful. As a result of this, my class has worked on group projects to plan a fundraising activity for our school fair. And they are blogging about what they are doing on our new class blog! You can check it out at

So, while I haven’t done anything amazing, I feel that I am becoming more ‘connected’ and my class has benefitted hugely from the experiences we have had.

Josh’s world!

Last week I was fortunate enough to introduce to my class a set of iPads. Our plan is to share iPads between the two P/1 classes at the school instead of using netbooks as our primary device.  We have already faced challenges with getting the iPad’s into the classroom as we weren’t sure of the best ways to set up accounts, manage apps etc. If anyone knows of any ‘must have’ apps for using P/1 – please comment below! So far we have mainly used the cameras on the ipads to take photos of their work, especially when using materials and then scribe over it it a doodling apps. Our class ‘photographers’ have also begun to use the ipad to video or photograph particular aspects of their learning during ‘Investigations’.

We have also been continuing with our work using Google Apps for Education. Our whole school has made a move to using Google Apps to produce work both individually and collaboratively. We have noticed many benefits in working this way so far, with the greatest challenge being reliable access to wifi. As staff we have been using Google Docs to produce planning documents, limiting double handling and allowing several of us to work on the same thing at the same time. We are also using the Google calendar as a staff calendar and have begun to use a private Google website as a place to store common staff documents and information.

My other ongoing ICT project is to get our class blog going. I would like it to showcase what we are doing in class and also provide a space for reflective comment, and parental involvement. Our early attempts should happen over the coming weeks!



What Does Innovation Actually Mean?

Innovation is certainly one of those buzz words we hear a lot in education at the moment.  We talk about 21 century learning and innovation along with entrepreneurial and creative but what do we actually mean by these words?

For me it used to mean something new.  But like creativity being more than art, innovation is so much more.  But how important is it for us to all have the same understanding of the language we use?  Is it more about the doing or the words we use to explain it.  Does it matter if innovation has a different meaning for me than for you?

Recently on a study tour to Copenhagen I was talking to a vocational teacher about the students introduction to the vocational college through an innovation camp.  The students explained it as a camp to learn to “nut crack,” or to problem solve collaboratively.  Benny sees innovation as improving the workplace rather than inventions.  The new in innovation is building on something else, rather than something new altogether.

I have recently read “And what do YOU mean by learning?” by Seymour Sarason.  He talks about how many have difficulty defining what learning actually means and I am sure if I was to ask everyone reading this blog it would have a different meaning to each of us.  But he also talks of difficulty of making educational reform when there is no clear definition to learning.

I am interested to know what innovation means to you.  Do you think innovation is understood by everyone, and does it matter if we have different understandings of innovation?