Collaboration across continents - Education Matters Magazine

Collaboration across continents

An ANZ Promethean grant has aided students in Coffs Harbour to partner with their peers in Bali, Indonesia.

Since 1999, schools in Coffs Harbour, based in sunny New South Wales, have pioneered an exciting and unique language learning program in partnership with five schools in Bali, Indonesia. The scheme promotes authentic communication between students from the school and its sister schools. As well as regular contact, a student and teacher exchange program for the senior years students provides the opportunity to meet the children they have built relationships with.

There are approximately 1200 students actively involved in the Bali Buddies program across the two campuses, which positions Coffs Harbour as a centre of excellence for the Indonesian language. Coffs Harbour Christian Community Junior School has students from ages five to 11 and its middle and senior schools are situated in Bonville, approximately 15 kilometres south.

Coffs Harbour contacts its ‘buddy classes’ via conference call up to twice a term and also tries to connect as a whole at an assembly or presentation once a term. The sessions are planned to enable maximum learning opportunities. Historically, the schools have communicated by writing letters, create drawings, artwork, crafts and cards, but recently the school is realising the potential of interactive technology to collaborate in real time.

In 2017, Coffs Harbour Junior School submitted a video to the ANZ Promethean Grant competition, with students presenting the reasons why its Android-based, interactive display ActivPanel would be perfect for the unique program. The successful video communicated how the technology had potential to provide clearer interaction with their friends and Coffs Harbour became one of only 11 schools in ANZ to be awarded a Promethean Grant.

Speaking about the success of the Bali Buddies sessions, program coordinator and Coffs Harbour teacher Andrew Pratley said: “Having access to an ActivPanel is such an exciting development for the future of our Bali Buddies program as we strongly believe in learning language through relationships.

“The ActivPanel has assisted the development of our joint learning both here in Australia and in Indonesia, as aside from the endless collaborative opportunities that this now provides us with, the biggest benefit is having direct access to native speakers of Indonesian (and Balinese), while our partners in Bali get direct access to native English speakers. The bene ts work in both directions.

“Students are able to put a face to their buddy’s name, which means they are more motivated to communicate and learn Indonesian, Balinese or English. We have even found that new enrolments tend to pick up the language quickly through their exposure in a ‘live’ context.”

The ActivPanel has enabled spontaneity in learning and communication with teachers and students alike having immediate access to maps, and the ability to search topics or questions as they arise, meaning that the children are much more engaged in their learning. Activity is planned and varied according to the age group, with the younger students enjoying whole class games. Mr Pratley explained: “Games are great as the kids don’t realise they are using a different language and they learn through osmosis. We have played games like ‘International Twister’ and Bingo, all on different topics or themes, with great success.”

Part of the collaboration has been the ability to harness the ActivPanel’s android capabilities with apps such as OneDrive, Google Docs, Dropbox, Messenger, WhatsApp, Rocketbook and video- conferencing, helping Coffs Harbour to communicate quickly and ef ciently. As students move through the school the format of the conference calls
slowly change until students are having one to one conversations. Critically, the interactive calls allow the children to show their buddies that they have received their letters, postcards and artworks, with teachers from both schools helping to shape conversations.

“We wanted to be using cutting edge technology that compliments what we do and is easy to use,” Mr Pratley said. “Being online and interactive helps to research and understand the world around us, across all subjects. The greatest success of our program has been this development of personal relationships between students. Through these relationships we hope to foster greater cultural understanding of our nearest neighbours.”

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