Working together 2 make a difference finds its way into print

Buffalo_News_Life_-_Newspaper_article

What a nice surprise greeeted me via Skype this morning. Angela Stockman sent me the link to the above newspaper article about her daughter Laura and Working together 2 make a difference.

It was written by Sarah Hanson, a freshman at Alden High who is a member of the site. Sarah has captured the motivation of the site very well in her article and I want to thank her for identifying it as something worthy of sharing with a wider audience. My students are going to be thrilled to see some of their comments highlighted in the article.

Mike Fisher created a Wordle of the article and noted that it captured the intentions of the site really well in its representation. I couldn’t agree more.

Wordle_working_together_2_make_a_difference

If there is something that I hope is lasting from my foray into this online world, then I hope it is Working together 2 make a difference. I like the space; it is welcoming, supportive and has good intentions. If you haven’t been there, please visit and consider joining. You’ll find there passionate educators who have a desire to impart the value of service learning to their students.

Thank you Sarah for giving Working together 2 make a difference a profile that’s a little higher than what it had yesterday. It is very much appreciated.

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Sleepout for Schools

We had a great meeting with some of our Yr 9 students during the week to see if there was enough interest to get a fundraising activity organised to support Daraja Academy in Kenya (see Mark Lukach’s page here and blog posts as well as Jabiz Raisdana’s) and the Bal Ashram in India.

(View of the Daraja Academy campus)

Well support there is! Our students were enthusiastic and buzzing with ideas. What they’ve decided to do is to hold a Sleepout for Schools. The night will be Friday May 22nd. The idea is to sleep overnight at school and seek sponsorship for doing so. On the night it’s anticipated we will run some activities for both parents and students that will probably have a fundraising component too.

We’d love to see other school communities get involved. If they do, we would love to Skype with them so that we can gain an appreciation of what could be the global nature of this effort. If you want to get involved post a comment here and we’ll start making some connections. Join Working together 2 make a difference and you can post your experiences there.  This could be exciting for all of us.

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Gone Skypin’

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Wow. We had an amazing couple of days last week at my school using Skype to connect our students to the world.

First stop was Buffalo, New York, when Laura Stockman skyped into our Grade 5 class. They were learning about her good works because they have been doing some themselves . Our Junior School last week raised $2,700 to help victims of the bushfires. I was just going to refer to Laura’s site and Working together 2 make a difference, but Angela Stockman was on Twitter and suggested that Laura could Skype in.

The Grade 5 students were amazed that someone from New York State was looking at them and answering their questions. It has given them a real boost as they think about what they may be able to do to make a difference. Glenn, their teacher was thrilled and went on to discuss it with his staff at their staff meeting.

Stop 2. Hiram Cuevas organised for his school, St. Christopher’s in Virginia, to Skype with our students and staff about the bushfire situation here in Victoria. This was initiated because St. Christopher’s has committed to doing something in response to the crisis. We set up the call and arranged for student and staff representatives to take part with both of us using webcams to enable us to see one another. It was a great connection (thank goodness!) and a very powerful half an hour that we spent together. Hiram wanted his students to have a connection with people living in the State of Victoria so that his students could have some sense of the tragedy.  Our school receptionist, Chantal, lost a house in the Kinglake fire and was able to convey her sense of loss and resulting experiences.

Hiram ustreamed the session and apparently we had 71 viewers at one stage. Amazing. All parties benefited enormously from this connection. Our staff and students were touched by the care and compassion reaching our from a school thousands of miles away. Hiram’s school is a member of our international PLP cohort; the learning is proving to be a rich experience for us all.

Stop 3: Same day, different time. Amanda Ritter organised for our students to participate in Matt Montagne’s student run podcast, Gator Radio. Matt put out a call on Twitter for Australian schools who could skype in for a question/answer session about the Victorian Bushfires.  Our students were thrilled to be ‘on air’ and were marvelling at the end of the day about how great these experiences were.

Next stop is Tuesday morning for me. I’m skyping into Lisa Parisi’s Global Awareness Club. This is a group of Grade 5 students and the question I’m dealing with is ‘Why is it important to have a global perspective?’ or words to that effect. I’m looking forward to it.

Skype is such a powerful tool for making connections. With a webcam you can really enable your students to feel like they’re somewhere else. Who knows how this kind of connective experience will look in the future? Something like Cisco’s Telepresence technology could really make us feel like we are in the same room. I’d love to give that a go. If you’re listening Cisco, I’m willing and able and I bet I could line a few students up who’d be in like a shot too!

    

 

  

   

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Need to get info to parents overseas – try Skype!

Tonight we had a parent information evening for our Yr 9 and 10 students. A parent was not in the country and wanted to listen to the presentation. I decided to have a go at using ustream or mogulus (I have channels on both) to stream the presentation. I was going to direct the parent to the URL so that he could tune in. Tried to set things up this afternoon and discovered school filters were preventing me from doing so. Grrrrr – filters are such a pain.

So, what to next. Rang the parent to see if he was on Skype. He was. I added him as a contact, he added me and I arranged to ring him later in the evening. Rocked up at the info night with my webcam and made the call. He could hear and see the presentation.  Winners all round I figure. Great for the parent who wants to be involved in his child’s life despite distance. Great for the school – it’s probably won a few brownie points in a PR sense for facilitating this for the parent. Great all round. This is one way schools with international students can help to have their parent body feel more connected to the lives of their children while they are boarding.  

This is the way of the future. We can communicate via a variety of means. It’s not difficult and can make a marked difference to the experiences of many. People just have to think outside the square a bit until this type of communication becomes standard practice across the board. I’m sure this is how business operates now -schools are going to have to follow the lead.

Skyping with Laura.

Today in my Yr 7 class we were involved in a Skype call with the inspirational Laura Stockman from Buffalo, New York. That’s Laura above with the special care packs she has put together for Cheerful Givers, one of the charities she has been supporting. (I hope you don’t mind me using your picture Laura – if you do please let me know and I’ll take it off) It wasn’t all smooth going – our connection was a little scratchy and it dropped out a couple of times but we ended up with a pretty good link towards the end. We were using a webcam but I don’t think Laura could see us. We couldn’t see her either, but no mind. My students asked questions about her blogging experiences and a lot of general ones as well. It’s fascinating to see them react when they realise that they have the same tastes in music and leisure activities in spite of the distance between us. This global platform is a chance for us all to understand that we probably share more in common than we would otherwise realise.

A standout moment was when my students sang our National Anthem, Advance Australia Fair, to Laura and her mum Angela who was helping her with the call. They both got a kick out of it but declined to sing theirs for us! We did have a large chorus and there was only the two of them – perfectly understandable!

Hopefully we’ll be able to maintain the connection and work with Laura towards raising money for a global cause. This to me is a fabulous learning opportunity for my students. We have the ability to learn from an inspirational 11 yr old who is a role model for us all, we can make meaningful connections with a global partner and we can do good along the way.  All positives as far as I can see!  

Laura Stockman – inspiring others across the waves.

Sunday morning I was grazing through my Google reader, kicking back and hoping I’d find something that would inspire me to write. I found something better than that, I found something that inspired me to act. 

I checked out Will Richardson’s latest post and discovered Laura Stockman, an 11yr old from New York who has been writing a blog called Twenty five days to make a difference.  Laura’s mother Angela was involved with Will and Sheryl Nussbaum Beach’s PLP cohort and Laura was inspired to write a blog as a result of this. Her blog was written in honour of her grandfather and Laura has set about performing good deeds with the resulting donations going toward charity.  Laura’s blog has moved beyond the initial 25 day target, largely because Laura has felt empowered by what this experience has meant for her.

Angela has written a very moving post about Laura’s presentation to the PLP cohort last week. Here’s what she said about her discussion with Laura when she decided to continue beyond 25 days;

You know, when Laura decided her blog was going to be more than a twenty five day experience, I questioned her decision.

“There are all sorts of things that we haven’t thought about. This is going to require a ton of effort on your part. It’s going to require a huge commitment,” I said. “It might not work.”

“Oh, it’ll work fine,” she told me. “It’ll work because I want it to work. “

Laura gets it. She already knows that it’s self motivation and belief that can drive you forward. Some of us don’t get this until we’ve had a fair bit of life experience, if we ever get it at all. Here’s an 11 yr old teaching us how to navigate life.

I went to Laura’s blog and read through quite a bit of it. I was so impressed by the essential good in what she was doing. She wasn’t raising millions, but she was performing simple, honest tasks that were contributing to the greater good. She’d recently Skyped into a classroom in Florida and was disappointed that the kids couldn’t see her as she didn’t have a webcam.  In a blog post that followed she recounted how Skype had sent her a webcam so that others would be able to see her when she made calls. She posed this question in her post;

Is anyone else out there interested in doing this? I really enjoy blogging and Skyping about blogging and ways that kids can make a difference. This is really cool. 

This was my answer;

Hi Laura,
The students at my school in Melbourne, Australia would love to have you Skype into our classroom. Time differences between our countries is a bit of a problem. It may well be you would have to Skype in in the evening. If you are interested you can email me at jenny.luca1@gmail.com. We raise money for local and international charities at the end of our school year and your story would be inspirational for them.

Laura replied with enthusism;

Hi Ms. Luca!

I would LOVE to do a skype chat with you! My dad and mom are really excited about this too! I’ve never met anyone from Australia before! I can definitely do this in the evening. Please just let me know what works for you and your class. Thank you so much for this invitation!!!!

My class is responding with just as much enthusiasm as Laura. They’re posting comments on her blog and already we’ve been discussing what we can do to help Laura and her charitable efforts. She is going to Skype into our classroom next Wednesday morning our time (evening her time) and my class can hardly wait. Already Laura ia extending her reach globally and her 25 days project looks set to ignite action all the way to Australia.

I’ve been in email contact with Angela and we both feel that this has potential to become a global project. Will’s post has drawn people to Laura’s blog, and other educators from differing countries are keen to learn from Laura. Maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to work together to make an impact for a global cause. What a potential learning experience for our students this could be. Angela’s words from her post are important here;

If I’ve learned nothing else this year, it’s been precisely that: when we are truly committed to making something happen, it happens. It doesn’t matter who or what might be standing in our way. If the goal means something to us in the end, we don’t let our fear or our lack of resources or the politics of a situation or our bruised egos stand in the way. We just make things work. Because it matters, this work that we do, and it’s bigger than the credit that anyone could receive or the mistakes that might be made along the way.

What an amazing affirmation for a young girl with a desire to make a difference in honour of her grandfather.   

Thanks Laura. You are an inspiration. 

Maximise your use of Skype.

We’ve been trying out a new way to move our staff forward with adoption of new technologies that they can apply to learning. We’ve called it ‘Maximise your Mondays’ and run a session for 45mins at the end of a school day. It’s been running for only a few weeks and we haven’t had big turn ups but it’s not going to stop us making a go of shifting our school. Last week Skype was the topic for discussion. Four staff came along and all were surprised at how easy it was to use. Over the weekend I was contacted by two of them who were trying things out; one of them was using a webcam and had already been in contact with people in the U.S.A and South Africa.

I’ve just been reading about how Skype is launching an unlimited international calling plan  (PC to landlines)- this is going to excite some of these people. One of them has family in New Zealand and friends in other countries – some of whom don’t have internet access. The fact that she will be able to ring them from her PC to their landline for $12.95 a month will still save her a considerable amount of money. If you want to make calls in from your PC to landlines in Australia only it’s $5.95. Looking at my phone bill, it could be a smart way to go for me too!!