I was so very impressed with my first session at the ACCE conference last week. Anne Mirshint spoke about video conferencing in the classroom…this is something that I’ve read all the books on years ago, have been to sessions before, and have used things like google hangout in the classroom to access experts. Highlight of my video conferencing was last year skyping a NASA scientist who spoke about the work that was being done on the international space station and why it would be done there and not on earth. It was pretty cool, and kids were really excited about the whole thing. Even just the idea of talking to a (Real) scientist was a great opportunity for students. So, I thought I was all over this video conferencing thing.
I was so impressed with not only the work that Anne had done with this in her classroom K-12, but also the deep understanding that she has as to why this was important. Anne works in a rural area and as we know, as you get more rural in Australia, as you move away from the capital cities, there is less diversity in terms of culture. And she spoke very well about the richness that this provided students in their understanding of other cultures. But, we also have this in the middle of the city.
One of the things that I was very lucky with in my own high school education was that my high school was failing (it was really really bad)….but in doing so, had opened up as an intensive english centre and an adult education centre at the same time (in order to fill a class). This meant that half of my classes were made up of students who were newly arrived into the country and spoke no english, to 60 year olds that had decided to go back to school to do their HSC. So my high school education was very, very diverse. However, even in schools in the middle of Western Sydney, where I’ve spent most of my life (Moved from Greystanes to Greystanes) this isn’t the case all of the time. Sometimes, what looks like diversity is masking a mono or duo-culture that is not anglo-european. And as our filter bubbles provide us continually with information that we expect to see, you could argue that diversity of opinions, cultures and conversations are ways to ensure that we are avoiding self fullfilling ideas.
I was very impressed with Anne’s creating connections to people overseas through the use of video conferencing where even just having a shared breakfast with people allowed them to discuss the differences between the types of food they were having for breakfast…but this exposes them to different cultures, different accents, different writing styles. In quite a serendipitous moment, I just finished reviewing the new NESA syllabus docs for languages, (Yep, I read 8 lots of 180 page language documents….some of them (well one) quite literally in greek, I found myself looking at the opportunities that video conferencing as an opportunity for students to look at difference and diversity, to communicate, access and respond. When looking at plans for languages for next year as to giving students choice of a language for the year, this gives a good opportunity for students to communicate with native speakers in different accents for different languages. Also, looking how this can be structured, Anne re-introduced me to some long forgotten presentation tools, like Voicethread, where students can interact and discuss verbally over multimedia…video, images, text. I saw this used years ago (in around 2011) in a history project, where students had to grow their discussions and respond to different students in a group based on an original image prompt. It’s one of those great tools that you just forget about over the years.
Anne was also generous enough to provide a plethora of links of ways to connect to people online to allow this to happen. For the short list, check these four out. For more, check out Anne’s list.…and follow her on twitter.