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The #CultureBox Experience – The story so far…

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:

(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!

Brett Salakas #aussieED

Brett Salakas

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!

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:

#CultureBox Display

#CultureBox Display

Hangout 1:

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.

Hangout 2:

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

Hangout 3:

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

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!

We discovered:

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!

Using Skype in the Classroom by @goodman_ang

This post is taken directly from: by @goodman_ang

Direct Link: Mystery Skype

I found it very interesting and as I had been thinking of ways that I could both use much more tech in my practice and include video calls such as Skype, it was just what I needed to read.

This is the comment I left on Ang’s blog:

“What a genius idea!
This will be something I definitely want to trial next year.
The children in my class have very narrow horizons and this will give them opportunities that will create real awe and wonder.”

I am sure Ang won’t mind me sharing here, I have made copious links back to her original work!

Hopefully like-minded people will find this similarly useful.

If you have any thoughts, please comment either here or back on the original post.


Thanks to @MrLTeachesU I have just signed up to Mystery Skype. Below are the instructions sent to me for how to get started. I’m looking forward to trying this with my class in September. I envisage it will encourage geographical discussion and problem solving. I’ll update on here when we’ve tried it.

Almost all the connections were made through Start by signing in with your Skype username, then click on the magnifying glass (do not enter anything in the search field). From there you can search for Skype in the Classroom lessons by subject, age group, etc.

Here are links to some of our favorite Skype in the Classroom lessons: (Amazon Rain Forest explorers. 2014 National Geographic Explorers of the Year) (Live from Antarctica) (Has designed movie posters, packaging, etc. for Disney, WB, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Nickelodeon. Also designed the back of the California state quarter) (Teacher in Kibera Slums, Nairobi, Kenya. Largest slums in Africa. Due to the time difference we were only able to Skype with the teacher from his 12’x12′ house, but it was live and still very impactful for my students.) (“Night Zoo Keeper.” Story-teller from the UK) (Fun lesson (with music) on telling time)

Most of our connections were made through “Mystery Skype” sessions:



In case you are unfamiliar… Mystery Skype is a game played between two classes where the objective is for each class to deduce the location of the other by asking a series of questions.

I’ve attached a document that pretty much spells out the way we like to run our Mystery Skype sessions when they are live. However, we do not always have the opportunity to do them live due to time zone differences. It’s also a good idea to clear the guidelines ahead of time with the teacher so there’s no confusion.

When we cannot do them live, we have used Skype’s Video Messages (Free, just “right-click” on the person’s username and select “Send Video Message”), YouTube using a private link (Called “Unlisted” in preferences), Vimeo, or just recording a video with a cell phone and emailing it directly. Technically this it is no longer a Mystery “Skype” if Skype is not involved, so some like to call them “Mystery Location.” However, since we did use Skype for about 90% of ours, I just stuck with the Mystery Skype name.

When we do recordings we follow a different format. For these, we use “Clues.” For the Clues format, we give clues about our country. These should not be too easy, but not too difficult either. They should require the person on the other end to do some research, but not extensive. Some examples are: Our country borders 2 oceans. We are the 3rd largest country in the world. We are in the North-Western hemisphere. The puma is a native of our country. Our national bird is the bald eagle. We have a separate list of clues for California as well.

I hope this helps get you started. I did this for the very first time this past school year and we ended up Skyping with people in all 7 continents, 45 different countries, and 18 different states!

Again, please let me know if you have any further questions. I’d be glad to help! And I look forward to Skyping with you and your students in the coming school year!