What an amazing week we’ve just had here in Sydney for the Bridge Project. While we sit at the airport waiting for our flight, doing a last minute catch up with Erin and Mel who are also hosting 2 partner teachers from Medan, I’ll try to give you a brief picture of our full on 4 day training and development.
Marg & I first met our partner teachers, Pak Pahot & Bu Elizawati, in the breakfast queue at the Novatel. Pak Pahot is a year 2 teacher and Bu Elizawati is a year 6 teacher at a school called SDN 025443 Medan Barat which apparently is rated number 1 in Medan. Of the 400 odd students who apply to enrol each year, only 100 are selected!
Over the past 4 days there has been a strong emphasis on collaboration, planning and communication. Presenters recommended a variety of ways in which we can achieve all 3 successfully with our partner schools and time was provided to not only make a start on them but also so that we could familiarise each other with our school calendars, so that any planned projects avoid school holidays, religious festivals and national exams.
We also spent time discussing cultural differences. Our partner teachers have already noticed differences with punctuality, environmental pride, traffic and the differences between Indonesia and Australia with the use of right hands to pass items.
Thursday afternoon, we were given a challenge:
Another fun outing was lunch at the local Giants stadium.
After lunch, 2 of the stalwarts (proud muslims) explained about the various programs they run which target disengaged youth and promote education. Very impressive. Afterwards, we enjoyed a tour through the facilities:
Presenters over the 4 days included Mike Bartlett & Danielle Leggo, education officers from from Sydney Olympic Park (SOP). The program they run there is truly amazing and caters towards both local and distance students. It largely focuses on sport, agriculture & sustainability and can be accessed either face to face or by video conferencing. Thirty thousand students annually access the ranger led Australian curriculum aligned activities learning about the local wetlands and other local habitats and there is also an online Koori classroom! One great suggestion from Michael was to set up a collaborative project to study the migratory birds that fly from Siberia to Australia, transiting Indonesia! For further information about SOP, regardless where you are globally, check out their website and youtube channel. They are currently searching for non Australian classrooms interested in an international 2015 netball challenge.
Joedy Wallis from AEF, divided the group so that the Australian teachers and the Indonesian teachers could each focus on their own curriculums to identify areas compatible for collaboration as well as identifying goals and outcomes for student learning. She pointed out the areas of the curriculum covered by the bridge project include:
critical and creative thinking
personal and social capability
ICL (Intercultural Understanding)
which together create successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active informed citizens.
Joedy outlined some history behind the inclusion of the ‘Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia’ priority in the new Australian curriculum. The global shift which has lead to policy changes and the Melbourne Declaration, first signed in 2008 (changes advocated by AEF) provided the impetuous behind our Bridge partnership meeting this week. This promotes student acquisition of 21st century skills. all beneficial for Australia; socially, culturally and economically.
Joedy promoted twitter to all, encouraging all teachers to sign up and discover just how amazing it is for professional learning and sharing. She also promoted the AEF website (which is currently undergoing a huge update to become even bigger and better), the AEF newsletter and #AEFchat on twitter (details on the website) which currently run monthly but will happen more frequently if the number of teachers on twitter increases.
Julie Lindsay from Flat Connections presented on Thursday for 2/3 of our day focusing on the challenges connected with our partnership schools beyond face to face and how to sustain global connections and collaborations. She raised an important point about the need for deep global learning and the importance of constructing a legacy. Encouraging teachers to think deeply and creatively so that whatever project our students create, it will be their legacy.
Julie suggested a variety of online tools through which this could be achieved:
1. Ning.com (not free) which is a multimedia networking tool was recommended highly by Julie for asynchronis communication if both schools can not be online at the same time.
2. voicethread.com – highly recommended. students can record their voices along a given video/photo
3. Wikispacess – where students and teachers can collaborate on projects
4. blackboard collaborate – students present for 1-2 minutes about their learning to an international audience.
5. globalyouthdebates.com asynchronous global debates between classrooms
8. Edmodo – private; great tool for creating discussions)
11. Padlet – a private forum for groups to share
Before any actual planning, it is critical all teachers agree on a cyber safety policy and have in place an agreement to monitor all students.
Projects could be based on a range of activities:
problem solving – kerja sama tentang kebanjiran?? find something in common and explore issues!! eg rivers, sea,
artifact and co-creating (eg making video alone or by collaborating with partner students)
Most of the suggested project ideas would be entirely undertaken in English which would create opportunities for deep ICL for classroom teachers. Julie suggested students take the learning home (al la flipped classroom style although she didn’t name it!) which gave me the idea of tasking students to record themselves teaching their parents ‘siapa nama’ & ‘nama saya”. Could create a funny yet educations video about specific target language!
Other flipped ideas that arose over the 4 days included a flat Stanley project whereby students make a puppet of themselves and then send it to their partner school who then takes it with them in their every day life photographing everything and creating a journal which is then returned to their partner school either digitally or by snail mail. Another idea I really love which would be perfect for a look and discuss activity is called, A View From Your Window. Tasking students to take a photo from a window at home and then writing a caption about it.
Julie’s presentation was chocker block full of suggestions with little time to fully explore and trouble shoot. Most teachers felt totally overwhelmed and this confirmed for me just how fortunate we are at PEPS to not only have had a ICT Coordinator for the past 3 years but to have someone of Kathy’s high expertise and dedication in the position. Teachers were also concerned about poor tech support on return to their schools, which again for Marg & I, is rarely an issue!! Our highly capable tech team of Darryn & Kathy is second to none! What they don’t know isn’t worth knowing!! One principal told us about a class set of computers still in boxes at their school because they only get 2 hours of tech support per week!!
The second part of Julie’s time with us was task based. We had to create a digital story with our partner teachers. I quickly wrote a script which I then typed up in Pages and emailed to Marg, Pak Pahot & Bu Eliza. Using Puppet Pals, we quickly made a film entirely in Indonesian about the transport we used in Sydney yesterday which Pak spiced up with some evil laughs!! We uploaded it to Youtube and then pasted the link on the Bridge Padlet to share with everyone.
Pak Donny, the Indonesian translator and coordinator, constantly stressed in his translations, that the partnership is all about our students and should benefit them not the teachers and that all projects must keep that in mind! There was also a huge push to encourage Indonesian teachers to review their learning style (methodology) so as to adopt more western aspects. I can see that encouraging students to ask questions, to be more confident in exchanging opinions has benefits but it is a huge cultural shift and with it comes other aspects of western culture. Other factors which must be considered is that class sizes at our partner school are enormous. Classes range from 34 to 46, Class rooms too are not large and school furniture is also not conducive to more ‘creative’ styles of learning. I can see benefits in encouraging a methodology shift but would like to explore ways in which it can be done that are more sympathetic culturally. It makes me feel like a missionary rather than an educator.
It had been an amazing week, meeting teachers from almost every state. We have swapped email addresses and Skype handles as well as following each other on twitter so that we can keep in contact and help each other with any upcoming challenges this year as well as sharing our successes. Marg in particular was brilliant with this. She has already arranged a Skype call with Mel & Erin this coming Friday!! Another teacher has offered to set up a Facebook page for us all and Aaron will create another Padlet too. The September study tour will be a reunion for those of us who sign up for it!