Connecting classrooms for global learning via Skype

Hafieeszath Abdul Malik (left) and Tabitha Anne Ramesh (right) showcasing how to cook fried rice to Microsoft Education vice president Anthony Salcito (on screen) while being joined by Isaac Jeremiah from home.

Sekolah Kebangsaan Tiara Permai, Kuala Lumpur Year Four pupil Isaac Jeremiah has been missing out on school since the beginning of the year. He is constantly hospitalised due to lungs malfunction.

Despite ongoing treatments and long stays at the hospital, learning does not stop for Isaac. He has joined lessons via Skype in the Classroom by Microsoft with his other classmates from home with the help of his teacher, Basir Wahab.

“By leveraging Skype, Isaac is able to meet his friend and be a part of the class virtually.

“I usually informed his parents earlier on before setting up the class to include Isaac in the PdPc (teaching and facilitation). His friends have been missing his presence in class and we know that he misses going to school as well,” said Basir.

SK Tiara Permai started using Skype as part of learning and teaching tools in 2015 spearheaded by teacher Fadzillah Mohamed Osman.

It has become a platform for pupils to go on virtual field trips, experience new cultures, hear from guest speakers and learn from other students, educators and experts from around the world.

The school recently selected to have a livestream with Microsoft Education vice president Anthony Salcito in a Skype session in conjunction with Microsoft Global Learning Connection formerly known as Skype-A-Thon.

Thmed “Open hearts. Open Minds”, the annual event makes it possible for students to virtually travel around the world and connect beyond the classroom.

During the session, the kids demonstrated how to cook nasi goreng, a local dish of fried rice, before proceeding to have a chat with Salcito about Malaysian culture and their experience using technology in education. Appearing alongside his mother on Skype, Isaac also had the opportunity to join the session from his home.

Chatty twelve year old Hafieeszath Abdul Malik clammed up when Salcito appeared on the screen during the livestream.

“Despite many practices we had for the demonstration, I still get butterflies in my stomach going live on Skype. After a while, I eased my nervousness and started talking calmly.

“I am proud that we were able to show Anthony how to make fried rice with my friends,” he said.

Fadzillah Mohamed Osman (sitting, second from right) with the pupils during the Microsoft Global Learning Connection.

Another Year Six student Tabitha Anne Ramesh said she enjoys interacting with friends all over the world via Skype.

“I remember when I had my first Skype session, it was overwhelming. A lot of us refused to talk but now, we can’t wait to have more interactions with friends from other countries.

“Speaking to my international friends, I have improved my confidence and English proficiency. I believe my classmates feel the same way. It was a truly enjoyable learning experience for all of us.

“It is exciting as we get to learn about others’ cultures and traditions while showing them our own. Our Skype friends from South Korea mailed us a box full of souvenirs and ‘ramen’. Now we are preparing our gifts for them,” she said.

Fadzillah explained that she utilises Skype in embracing the 21st century learning.

“My first Skype session was with a primary music school in Balatonboglar, Hungary. They introduced our students with Hungarian children’s songs – Suss Fel Nap and we also taught them to sing Rasa Sayang song.

“It is not only about fun learning. The sessions have piqued students’ interest in learning Geography. They became curious about the countries we were Skyping with so they started to ask about their capital cities and attractions,” said the Music, Visual Arts and Moral education teacher.

Other than collaborating with schools across the globe, Fadzillah added that the school also had a chance to connect with the local fire and rescue department.

“Instead of inviting the firefighters to our school, we took a virtual tour to the fire department which gave the pupils a more holistic exposure. It was a good session to teach the topic of occupation as we saw some pupils were inspired to be firefighters,” she explained.

To date, Fadzilah has held close to 200 Skype sessions. Previously, Fadzillah utilised the school library for their sessions but the school renovated an empty room and turned it into an exclusive Skype classroom.

On top of Skype, Microsoft provides other online learning platforms — Teams and Flipgrid. Teams is a hub for collaboration where students and teachers can share files and communicate. Meanwhile, Flipgrid enables students to share their voice via short videos allowing them to reflect, discuss and showcase what they are learning.

By Murniati Abu Karim.

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