Going Global in Korea with Skype

This article originally appeared in the May issue of BiBimBap magazine, an online journal for EFL teachers in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. You can view the ISSUU version here

Going Global

In 2012 the Korean Education ministry announced it’s ‘SMART Education’ plan, the ‘T’ of which stands for technology. In an effort to create an education system which is less passive, more creative and more adaptive, the plan called for wide scale integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). In fact, the plan set 2015 as the deadline for digitizing the entire school curriculum to make it more accessible to 21st Century learners. Yet in spite of the reported 67% of Korean youth ages 5-19 that have smartphones and the widely touted high-speed broadband access in Korea, ICT is not leveraged for learning in most classrooms yet.

This is where Skype in the Classroom comes in. Most of us have a broadband internet connection, a computer connected to a classroom monitor, a classroom document camera, headphones with a microphone, or, if you are an online “J-Distance” teacher, you have a webcam with a built-in microphone. This is all it takes to get started and begin using the ICT in your classroom to connect your EFL students with native English speakers the world over.

 

Where To Start

If you do not have a Skype account, you should start there. If you already have a Skype account, you can use that as your login for Skype Education. You can create a distinct teacherly profile name, like Mr. Short, add a professional profile pic, enter your location in the world and give a brief description of your aims for using Skype in your classroom.

Next, you can ‘find a lesson’ or ‘find a teacher’. There is a really cool map with classes and teachers pinned all over the world. You can zoom in and out and see more or less teacher pins appear as a result. If you click on a pin it will automatically scroll down to that teacher’s Skype Education profile and from there you can select that person and message them directly.

My suggestion is to ‘find a teacher’ first. I spent some time searching to ‘find a lesson’, I signed up for lessons, and did not get any responses from those teachers. However, when I started searching for teachers in our general timezone, for example, classroom teachers in Australia and New Zealand or International School teachers in Japan and China, I had much more success messaging them directly and proposing a Skype classroom collaboration.

 

A Global Lesson

The trending Skype lesson on Twitter is #MysterySkype. This is billed as a “global guessing game” where students in each class prepare questions, hints, show and tell items, etc. that allow the other class to guess their location. Skype Education recommends that #MysterySkype beginner classes start off playing 20 questions, preparing that set of questions and a few hints to give to the other class. This is ideal for our EFL students because it allows us to pre-teach the target language; questioning, locations, directions, place specific vocabulary and more. You can scaffold the whole process and interaction for your timid Korean students by helping them fully prepare before so they know what language to expect once you are in the Skype call.

There are many more ways that innovative teachers are using this all over the world to support a wide range of content learning. Students are brainstorming conflict resolution strategies via recorded Skype messages across the world and teachers are designing standards-based social studies lessons to compare and contrast their own customs and traditions with that of a foreign culture. The tool can be used as simply as a 21st century version of penpals or as complex as a collaborative research and writing project.

 

My Plan

I am currently planning my first #MysterySkype lesson with a 6th grade teacher in Hobart, Tasmania. For my first lesson I want to give my students the best shot at success, so we have agreed to limit the lesson to the Australian class guessing our location through questioning. This will allow my students to answer questions concerning basic facts about Korea, which they will know. And those questions and answers can be more easily supported by a bilingual Korean co-teacher. I suspect that the creation and translation of questions from Korean to English in order for my students to figure out where in Australia those students are would be very time consuming and possibly discouraging for both parties. At least this first time, I want to be able to scaffold this process so that both parties walk away feeling successful and encouraged.

The other way you can use Skype in your classroom is via a recorded message exchange with another class, similar to the old school pen pal programs. This allows for classes to have an exchange or do #MysterySkype in spite of impossible time zone differences. So, for those of you who know a teacher back home in Canada or the U.S., there is a way to connect with them even though they are in school there while we are asleep here.

I am working with two teachers right now to set up this kind of recorded message exchange, one classroom is located in Florida, U.S.A. and is interested in doing a basic show and tell cultural exchange, while the other classroom is in northern China and wants to do a #MysterySkype lesson over the long-term. In both cases we are planning on recording one short message per week.


Our first message from Ms. Hart’s class in China.

Final Tips

As you can imagine, considering the timidity of many of our Korean students to produce authentic language on demand, planning, preparing and practicing a recorded lesson might lead to a more fruitful exchange than a live Skype lesson. However, there are ways to prepare students for the live chat as well, introducing key vocabulary, sentence stems and making it completely clear in Korean the purpose and goal of the Skype exchange.

The planning and preparation will generally require significant buy-in from your Korean co-teacher, which I know may be a tall order for many of you. You may have to put significant effort into identifying your curriculum’s target language that will be used authentically in the Skype lesson. You may also need to start with a baby step like recording a simple message for another class one time, and then checking in with the co-teacher about the possibility of an ongoing exchange. It is probably obvious to you that the value of the lesson and the time it will take to schedule and plan it may not be immediately understood and committed to by your co-teacher.

Lastly, it is important to strategically choose a class you feel has the makeup to do well and get something out of this kind of global live lesson. You know your students best and you know the ones who are outgoing and who try and chat in English with you all the time. The first few times you experiment with this kind of lesson, you should lean on those students and those classes, if you have them.

I will check back in with more info and tips once I get a few Skype lessons under my belt.

Links:

https://education.skype.com/

https://education.skype.com/collections/skype-guides?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_2015_jan_literacy

https://www.edsurge.com/n/2014-12-11-how-you-can-actually-teach-beyond-your-classroom-s-walls

http://genproedu.com/paper/2013-01/full_003-009.pdf

Twitter:

@mysteryskype

@SkypeClassroom

#skype2learn

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Ed Interview: Craig Seasholes

Craig is a teacher-librarian at Sanislo Elementary in Seattle. I had the pleasure of collaborating with Craig on multiple occasions when I was working as a bilingual instructional assistant at a school in the same region of the school district. Craig brings a lot of energy, passion and innovation to his work as a librarian, but his work as an educator definitely extends beyond the classroom, participating on many district committees and involving himself in many education policy discussions. I count myself lucky to have Craig in my Personal Learning Network!

This interview was conducted by email. I want to thank Craig for taking time out of his busy schedule to thoughtfully respond to my questions.

1) Can you briefly describe your background in education and what your current position is?

My teaching started with ten years teaching mountaineering and everything you need to know to enjoy a month in the mountains of Wyoming, Washington or Alaska. From mountaintop to teaching Kindergarten was a short step, as children’s absorption in the adventure of learning is a wonder to behold. After completing a master’s thesis for Pacific Oaks College on “Growing Diversity” in a small independent school in Seattle, I switched my teaching to the library and technology program where I can impact students of all ages, including teachers and parents. Now I happily serve as teacher-librarian in a small, and deliciously diverse public elementary school in southwest Seattle.

 

2) What is one technology integrated lesson that you have done with your students recently?

Gearing up for a 11/17 presentation for the #globaled14 conference on the topic of connected environmental education I recently had 5th graders watch and respond online to a short video a local environmentalist prepared for them. Talking about doggy doo may not be highbrow science, but picking up pet waste before it runs into Puget Sound is a tangible effort. Likewise helping students learning to respond constructively and appropriately to online conversation is an important info-tech skill. The next step, connecting our students with other classes concerned about their local water quality issues. Contact me @craigseasholes on Twitter if you’ve know of some!

 

3) Can you share a story from your first year of teaching that illustrates an important lesson or skill you think all first year teachers should know or have?

I was walking down the sidewalk in Seattle’s Central District with Kindergarteners, happily leading them from tree to tree with “run to the cherry tree” and “stop at the laurels.” “eeeeeewwwww” came the call from kids gathered around something under the laurel, “It’s a dead cat!” Being the “teachable moment” idealistic first year teacher, my intent was clear when I asked, “That is so sad. What do you think happened to the cat?” Expecting a traffic safety lesson to emerge I was instead the one getting the lesson when one boy spoke out, “The police shot it. They shot my cousin.”

Welcome to the real world, Mr Teacher man.

 

4) How do you continue to develop as a professional? Where do you see your professional growth taking you?

The collaborative community of teacher-librarians presents a dizzying array of opportunities to connect and grow as an engaged professional. #tlchat, #globaltl, @WLMALIT @aasl and associates like @JoyceValenza, @ShannonMiller and @readerdavid have opened doors to communities of engaged learners who all call the library “home.”

 

5) What kind of learning culture do you try to establish within your classroom and among your colleagues?

I aim to build and sustain a culture of adventure and possibility to ensure that all students are effective users and producers of ideas and information.

 

6) What are you currently reading for personal enjoyment? And what book would you recommend for a first year teacher?

Later today I’m eagerly finishing Christopher Paul Curtis’ newest book “The Madman of Piney Woods” for school-review, but personal reading stack is topped by U of Syracuse iSchool Dean R.David Lankes’ “The Boring Patient” a brilliant response to undergoing extensive treatment for Hodgkins Lymphoma. Jump online and view his “The Community is the Collection” video address http://quartz.syr.edu/blog/?p=5137 to get a quick sense of how inspiring “The Boring Patient” is.

First year elementary teachers should definitely read Vivian Paley’s “The Kindness of Children”  from Harvard University Press.

Secondary teachers might want to jump ahead and read a current-issue book like Jesse Hagopian’s “More than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing,” due out next month from Haymarket Books. I blogged it just yesterday and do think new teachers may find strength and inspiration in the test-defying push back against high-stakes, standardized testing. http://bookmansbytes.blogspot.com/2014/11/more-than-score-movement.html

The Global Education Conference 2014

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I have signed up as a member of the Global Education Conference (GEC), which will take place completely online during International Education week (November 17-21). I have also registered my beloved cause of choice, Long Way Home, as an official partner organization.

On the GEC website they state the following as their mission:

The Global Education Conference is a collaborative, world-wide community initiative involving students, educators, and organizations at all levels. It is designed to significantly increase opportunities for building education-related connections around the globe while supporting cultural awareness, recognition of diversity, and educational access for all.
The conference seeks to present ideas, examples, and projects related to connecting educators and classrooms with a strong emphasis on promoting global awareness, fostering global competency, and inspiring action towards solving real–world problems. Through this event, it is our hope that attendees will challenge themselves and others to become more active citizens of the world. Let us learn, question, create, and engage in meaningful, authentic opportunities within a global context!

My goals are two-fold; as an educator teaching internationally I am interested in connecting with other educators around the world and learn from them. I am particularly interested in learning how teachers are connecting their classrooms in one country or region with another to create a meaningful inter-cultural exchange and cultivate global competencies in their students. This is a goal I have for my professional practice.

As a representative of Long Way Home, I am eager to spread the word of the good work we are doing in Guatemala building a sustainable green school, integrating environmental education, and designing a future green vocational school. I would like to expand our network and potentially find some professional development opportunities for our teaching staff in Guatemala (in Spanish).

But really, I am new to this kind of online conference format and am just trying to get my feet wet. I am interested to see how to make this a useful yearly learning and networking experience.

If you are interested in participating here are a GEC resources you should look at right away:

  1. Sessions & Speaker Schedule
  2. Keynote & Distinguished Speakers
  3. The Twitter Tagboard for the latest GEC updates and discussions
  4. Time Zone Scheduler – After all it is a global conference!

I am particularly interested in the following speakers:

  • Vicky Colbert, Executive Director of Fundación Escuela Nueva Volvamos a la Gente
  • Paul Salopek, journalist and founder of the iEarn program
  • Emily Havens of OpenIDEO
  • John Mergendoller of the Buck Institute for Education