I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before but since 2012 I have been helping with the Granny Cloud – connecting English-speaking adults (“Cloud Grannies”) with groups of children around the world via Skype. The children are mostly in India but could be in Colombia or Cambodia. They’re often in disadvantaged locations. And, of course, the adults could be anywhere on the globe! I’m a member of the core team and work in the background, just lending support for technical issues. Although I don’t work with the children, and some of the issues are extremely frustrating, I really enjoy the huge friendship within the team.
One of the countries we work with is Greenland, a fascinating country – vast, with a minute population and challenging environment. We have four Grannies who connect from Hong Kong, Canada, South Africa and England to children in Atammik Nuka and Kangaamiut. It is a very successful arrangement!
I have mentioned to my contact that perhaps they’d like to try something outside the Granny Cloud – perhaps connecting to children in another classroom somewhere in the world. I know many teachers on Twitter so it shouldn’t be impossible. Yesterday she emailed me, asking if I might be able to introduce a classroom in Maniitsoq to another elsewhere. Her proposal was that the classes don’t share a native language but are both English language learners of similar abilities. Interacting with children on a level playing field should help boost both of their language skills. That’s the theory – I have no idea if it’ll work in practice but reckon it’s worth a try!
So I’m seeking a classroom to Skype with. The Greenlandic class plans regular sessions on Thursdays, 10:00 to 11:00 their time. They’re on UTC-2 until 29th October and then UTC-3 until 25th March 2017. They’re a class of fifth-graders, aged 10 to 11.
We would probably be looking for a classroom in a similar timezone so that suggests Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay… but could be anywhere if the times work out.
I have in front of me a photo of a little girl from El Salvador, a real little cutie. She’s eight years old and Plan-uk are suggesting I sponsor her now that my previous little girl is eighteen. Plan is a children’s charity, working with some of the world’s poorest, and not connected to any religious organisation, political party or extreme ideology. Just protection and ‘building a better future’: health, education, equality, empowerment.
When I sponsor her my money goes to her community, not directly to her family, so there’s no bitterness or rivalry between sponsored and not. I get a personal connection with her – we’ll exchange a few photos, drawings and letters which, I can tell you, are absolutely wonderful to receive.
The details tell me that she is one of three girls, living in a house made of adobe with a shingle roof and an earth floor. Water comes from a river, they use a pit latrine and the nearest health clinic is thirty minutes away. But she doesn’t go to school “because she has an impairment”. “She is suffering an impairment that affects communication”.
I look at her smiley face, hands thrust into pockets of her skirt, skinny legs ending in shoes much too big, and just think “how could I not?”
David Truss writes an excellent blog (David Truss :: Pair-a-dimes for Your Thoughts). In a recent post he supports the Keep It Simple principle. He takes Ramsey Musallam’s “three rules to spark learning” and proposes his own Rule #4:
Rule #1 – Curiosity comes first.
Rule #2 – Embrace the mess. (It’s ok to try and fail, spend time in beta.)
Rule #3 – Practice reflection.
Rule #4 – Remember that learning should be a fun!
What do you think? Do you need fun?
My knee-jerk reaction was of total agreement but hang on, wait a second…
We’ve strayed from the path of “simplicity” and “sparking learning”.
To spark learning you actually need only one thing: Curiosity.
Curiosity drives the messiness of experimentation which feeds the cogitation of reflection from which we learn. The mess and the reflection are the process but only curiosity is the spark.
As for fun, that’s in the process. I’m wary of adding extra fun; sometimes all it does is get in the way.
Of course this is only my observation – I have no research for this opinion, but I wonder what YOU think?
“Be a teacher! Even if you’re not a teacher, be a teacher!”
Tim Minchin’s speech on occasion of his award of honorary doctorate by The University of Western Australia, 2013
Extract of the original, from UWA’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/universitywa
Well, I had told Shelly Terrell that I have no time to be involved in this year’s RSCON conference but, now that it’s getting close and the excitement is beginning to build, I find that I can’t not help out! It’s going to be HUGE this year! Something like 115 presenters and 10 keynote speakers will be there, and the audience will be massive now that Steve Hargadon is involved. Just have to hope it doesn’t slow my house renovation work too much!
I helped out at RSCON3 in August 2011. I worked on the scheduling and other behind-the-scenes stuff. I reckon I put in about 300 hours but who knows how many more hours Shelly put in! This time Shelly is using Steve Hargadon’s tried-and-tested procedures which will help hugely – he is an old hand at organising big online events. People will be able to schedule themselves which will cut a big part of the effort, hopefully.
It’s the end of the school year here in the UK and I’ve taken the last of my blogging classes with my little groups of Year 4’s, 5’s and 6’s. What I haven’t mentioned before is that I also started an after-school club a while back, for an hour every Friday – so that’s now come to an end too. Thursday was the last opportunity to see all my kids and so I made the most of it – spending time chatting, out on the playing field at lunchtime, saying cheerio. I shall miss them all and I think some of them will miss me too. One little sausage got quite upset when I told her I wouldn’t be back. I tried to console her and asked her to think about things she is grateful for and to perhaps blog about them. This is the result, written today, Sunday: “I am Grateful For…” with, first on the list, “I am grateful for Mr.Elsmore and his teaching because without him I wouldn’t know how to blog” That makes me very happy!
Some children asked where I was going. I told them India, Nepal or maybe Cambodia. They wondered how I could afford to do that (kids can be so wonderfully direct!) When I told them my plan to rent out my house I could see the cogs whirring as they made sense of it. They were quite intrigued.
In the afternoon I stayed for the Key Stage 2 “Performance” for parents, with stringed instruments and songs. All of the children were involved with playing something – an achievement which the school is rightly proud of. The programme ended with one of those songs which just grows and grows and tugs at the old heart strings. And I had done so well… until that point. Oh well, only human after all!
It’s Friday and I’ll shortly be heading to school to help out. Reading with one otherwise-disruptive lad for half-an-hour, then a 45-minute session with six Year 4 and then another with six Year 5/6 children.
With the groups of six I’ll be doing some blogging-related work. I haven’t yet decided whether it’ll be writing new posts, commenting on each others’ posts or visiting Dare Elementary’s blogs, a US school who we Skyped with, and leaving comments there.
A couple of days ago I read a post by Josette LeBlanc in which she mentioned something she’s been doing for the last year – daily listing five things she’s grateful for, and sharing it with a friend, as a means of not getting bogged down in everyday worries. See Connections and Influences – Josette, iTDi.Pro.
What would my little bloggers make of that? I feel grateful that …? I feel grateful for …? It would be interesting to see what thoughts they come up with. It might be a fun challenge.
But then it strikes me – “fun for whom?” What would they learn from it? What would I learn? What’s the purpose of this activity? Some will surely struggle – is it worth the fight if they get nothing out of it? “Fun” on its own is not enough.
I’m doing all this blogging and Skyping, using Voki and so on, and they’re learning to use the technology and to connect, but it all seems back-to-front. Shouldn’t what we do be driven by what we want to achieve? Or do the tools open our eyes to what can be achieved, enticing us to use them and to explore? Should I be particularly concerned that it’s all a bit whim-led at the moment? Today I’ll probably just let the children choose.
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On a separate note, I plan to turn up at school early and spend lunchtime out on the field, chatting with anyone who wanders up. For me this is a real delight – one of the best things about what I do.
Today, on Twitter, I mentioned that I work at a nuclear fusion research centre and wondered if a Skype session with an expert would be of interest to anyone. This was on the monthly #globalclassroom chat, the focus of which was “How can we transform Science education through the integration of ICT and real world connections?”
I am proud to say that I work on the Joint European Torus project at Culham, near Oxford. The site is managed by CCFE (Culham Centre for Fusion Energy) and, to explain the research, I’ll quote their website: “Nuclear fusion, the process that powers the Sun, can play a big part in our carbon-free energy future. Culham is one of the world’s leading fusion research laboratories. Our scientists and engineers are working with partners around the globe to develop fusion as a new source of clean energy for tomorrow’s power stations.”
I don’t think that I’m overstating the fact when I say that the research here is of absolute global significance. I am a general electronics design engineer but we have many brilliant minds exploring science and expanding human knowledge in this very worthwhile endeavour. I know that many of these scientists would be keen to share their knowledge, to explain their work and so encourage future generations of engineers, scientists, physicists, designers, planners and more.
CCFE has a Pubic Information department which welcomes visits from secondary schools, colleges, universities and the pubic – anyone with an interest in what we do. It also has a very active outreach program for primary school ages upwards. However, the department is small and, as it is a working research centre with a very busy experimental programme, it is not always possible or convenient to have visitor groups being shown around. It strikes me that there is a low-cost, readily accessible opportunity here to connect interested learners to willing experts through the medium of Skype.
The focus of a Skype chat could perhaps be (but not limited to) science in general, women in science, technology, energy or the environment. I haven’t yet discussed this with the PI department (there seemed little point if there was no demand) but if you have some students who might be interested in “Skyping an Expert” then please contact me and I’ll do my best to convince them and get a rewarding connection set up.
Why not make a Chrismassy one with my kids at school? So that’s what I did! This now adorns the front of the school website – works pretty well, don’t you think?!
I also made 3:2 versions for photo-printing. (Two photos – the last two images were combined.) They turned out brilliantly too, if I say so myself! The school’s now had them printed for making into Christmas cards for friends and families. I’m dead chuffed 🙂
Thank you, Cristina!