I had been scrolling idly through my Twitter timeline one evening and stumbled across a tweet from Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) using the #culturebox with a link which I duly followed as it had perked my curiosity.
The link led me here: http://cheneyagilitytoolkit.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/culturebox.html
(or somewhere close!)
An opportunity to link with another school somewhere in the world?
That sounded exciting and I signed myself up immediately!
Time passed and I eventually discovered that I was unlucky – the odd man out so to speak, the only teacher not to be paired up with another school (to be fair, my potential partner school had pulled out.) I was disappointed but happy to wait until the next opportunity…until I received a Tweet from Amjad, offering me a pairing with Brett Salakas (@MRsalakas), one of the top names in #aussieED, the massive Sunday morning twitter chat… I was delighted to accept!
I honestly don’t think I could have been paired with anyone better.
It has already opened my eyes to new technologies. I had my first ever Google Hangout chat with Brett, and spend an hour laughing and chatting about our schools, jobs, different contexts, sharing information about our classes, teaching philosophies and more. Brett came across as an eminently likable and engaging character, who I not only shared a great deal in common with but we also look ever so slightly similar!
Perhaps the biggest lesson for Brett was what was to become our catchphrase “Don’t say Bloody!”
In Australia, an innocent word used by teachers, adults, pupils and children alike, in the UK a swear word, albeit a very mild one. That one gave us a giggle!
Speak No Evil!
We realised that the only disadvantage of our pairing was the timezone difference: 9-10 hours (depending on daylight savings). It was highly unlikely that the children in each school will ever get to meet each other. The UK school day starts at around 6pm for Australia and the Australian day starts at 11pm.
We decided that this shouldn’t stop us as we were too excited to get started and do some live broadcasts to each others schools. Especially Brett – he was literally buzzing with excitement and to be fair it was infectious. If the children couldn’t meet each other, they could certainly meet us!
I set my class a piece of homework: #CultureBox
This got them thinking about their own culture and that of another country – the children were as excited as we were.
I put a display in a shared area of school:
We set a date and time to have Brett link up to our school, but the time zones cursed us and unfortunately he missed the call.
He may or may not have been asleep! (Curses Time Zones!)
After a stream of apologetic DMs on Twitter, Brett was forgiven and we tried again a few days later this time at the start of our day.
Brett was fantastic!
We chatted for a bit and spoke of time zones, animals, Aboriginal history, British Colonization, Christmas tradition in Australia, as many children in my class thought the whole of Australia go to the beach!
#AussieEd Blog – Brett’s reflections on the 1st CultureBox meeting
It was a great experience for me and for them.
When it ended they wanted to know when we would be doing it again!
It wasn’t long.
My class had been learning about traditional tales and fables and other short stories, so we used another live link for Brett to share a ‘Dream Time’ story about Tiddalick the frog:
What a great experience – tales shared from another country, literally as far away from them as you can go without leaving the planet!
Even more exciting this time was that the Hangout was recorded live and streamed to YouTube – Brett felt his nerves let him down and he removed the video – he shouldn’t have.
#AussieED blog – Brett’s reflections on our 2nd CultureBox meeting
My turn followed a week or so later once the Aussie kids had returned to school.
It was my turn for a late night!
At 11pm Hangout went live into Brett’s classroom – delightful children – we had a great chat and a laugh too. The conversation and questions that came at me were almost identical in content to the questions my class had asked – if Culture Box teaches me nothing else it is that children are the same wherever you are!
WatsEd Live to Sydney
It is not often I find myself without something to say, but I was genuinely lost for words when the link up started – such a cool thing to do. The children nursed me through and by the end we were mimicking each others accents and discussing farming, weather, food, hobbies, all sorts of stuff.
I with my ‘cultural’ cup of tea and digestive biscuit in hand!
a) The children didn’t know what a Badger was
b) The children didn’t know what a Yorkshire Pudding was (!)
c) I sound weird to them. (Fair enough – I sound weird to everyone!)
The chat ended with me being left with a challenge… share and traditional english poem, and discuss the features and why I chose it.
That’s going to be a tough one… but I am looking forward to it!
Oh, and the class told me they “had a bloody great time!”
I told them I had done too, and that if I said that to my own class I’d be in LOTS of trouble – they thought that was bizarre!
Now we are in discussions with our children to think what we can put into a parcel to send to Mr Salakas and his class that sums up ‘Being British’, their homework activity gave a few thoughts. It will be great to share a real life #CultureBox!
To those who dreamed the idea up Amjad and Maggie @madgiemgEDU – thank you. You have opened a window on the world to my class and hopefully a class in Australia.
You have linked me with a teacher who is an all round nice bloke and given the children I teach a chance to meet him too.
I can’t wait to keep the project moving!