Combining OneNote & Moodle For Assessment Submissions

OneNoteOne of the great things about Microsoft OneNote is the ease with which teachers can provide feedback to students on their work, helping them to develop their ideas towards the submission of assessment. This was explained in detail by Ms Helaina Coote, our Head of Department for English, in this earlier blog post.

moodleHowever, as the internal assessment season ramps up in 2015 a number of teachers have approached Tom Adams and I about how to “lock” OneNote notebooks to prevent students modifying content after the submission date. Whilst there are some work arounds, such as password protecting sections or moving them to a “read only” section in a teacher’s OneNote notebook, these are not always easy or intuitive as I explained in this post comparing the strengths and weaknesses of Moodle and OneNote.

Together, Tom and I thought about a better workflow for teachers and students to use and settled on the following simple process:

  1. The teacher creates an “Assignment” task in Moodle setting the due date to be when all students need to have the assessment completed and handed in by.
    1. The option to allow “late” submissions exists within Moodle too, clearly showing to the teacher in red how many hours/days overdue the submission was. This could be useful in scenarios where students were away for legitimate reasons.
  2. The student exports either their page, section or entire OneNote Notebook into a PDF file on their local computer.
  3. The student goes to their Moodle course, clicks on the assignment and then drag ‘n’ drops the PDF file for upload and submission.
    1. The teacher can optionally include to have all students “sign” the authenticity agreement by clicking the “accept” each time they submit an assessment.
  4. Once the due date is reached, the teacher can bulk download all of the submissions for offline marking, moderation storage purposes or printing and returning.

The ease of this process is outlined in this six minute video showing all of the above:

By using this process, a number of things can happen:

  • There can be no dispute about when the assignment was submitted
  • There can be no “losing” the submission because it’s stored on Moodle
  • All assignments are stored in one place with a single click to download all assignments into a folder for marking / moderation.
    • This also reduces the need for the Teacher to “harvest” the submissions from a variety of sources that students may have submitted by e.g. email, printed and left at the teacher’s desk or office etc.
  • Students can be required to “sign” the authenticity statement for every assessment they submit within Moodle.
  • Moodle supports the use of http://turnitin.com/ – an online tool for verifying the authenticity and originality of a submission. Whilst this costs, it would allow students to improve their work before a final submission and also support teachers in ensuring the submission is the original work of the student.

turnitinTransBack400pxOn the St Andrew’s College website we share a number of reasons why we use technology in our classrooms, with one of them being preparing students for tertiary study and the workforce. The vast majority of tertiary institutes now require students to submit assessment online – by teaching our students to manage their time and to become accustomed to this form of assessment submission, they are being prepared for life beyond St Andrew’s.

At this stage, there is no formal requirement for students to only submit their assessment via Moodle in this way. However, with the obvious benefits outlined above, along with the potential to include Turn It In to further assist in the originality and authenticity of student work, it is an idea that we presented to the combined Heads of Department meeting this week. There will be further discussion over the coming weeks and it may be something that we trial later this year.

Online Ticketing A Great Success

PatronBaseAt St Andrew’s College there are a lot of ticketed events showcasing student talent and performances, from the annual Preparatory Ballet Show through to the Senior Production. On top of these, there are fundraisers, guest speakers and the upcoming Centenary celebrations in 2017, all of which require ticket design, printing and selling.

Historically, these tickets were designed in-house by our Communications team, bulk printed and then sold via the reception desk in the Secondary School. Whilst this worked, it tended to be inflexible if people wanted to change the night they were attending and it was also time consuming for reception staff showing students and parents what seats were still available and then processing the purchase of tickets.

In 2014 the College re-examined online ticket sales as an option and partnered with PatronBase, a Christchurch based company with customers throughout Australasia, the United Kingdom and Spain. We had some clear goals in mind to improve our sales of tickets to events, including:

  • The ability for students, parents and wider community members to see what events were happening at St Andrew’s, choose their preferred seats (where allocated seating was being used) and to purchase tickets online.
  • The ability to pay for tickets online using Visa or MasterCard.
  • Customers to be able to print their tickets at home and for reception staff to be able to print tickets on a “as needed” basis.
  • Event organisers to be able to see very accurately how many tickets were sold/remaining
  • Accurate reporting at the conclusion of an event for reconciliation of payments and disbursement of funds.

The team at PatronBase worked hard to help create a custom skin that accurately matched our College branding and also supported the technical requirements for connecting with BNZ’s BuyLine product for processing online credit card payments.

The PatronBase hosted solution for online ticketing accurately reflects the St Andrew's College branding.

The PatronBase hosted solution for online ticketing accurately reflects the St Andrew’s College branding.

guys and dollsA decision was made to trial the PatronBase system with the 2014 Senior Production of Guys and Dolls with tickets being available for sale online for the first time ever, as well as via the “Box Office” in the College reception. The ability to sell tickets both online and via the reception was a real advantage over the previous ticket system used and reception staff were confident that tickets were never going to be accidentally sold twice.

Furthermore, because tickets could be re-printed as needed, it did not matter if a customer changed their mind about the night they wished to attend a performance, because the tickets could easily be transferred with new tickets being printed and the original seats being released for other customers to purchase.

The “Box Office” view on the left used by Reception staff to see status of available seats and the corresponding web view to parents at home allowing them to choose their preferred seats.

As can be seen from the above images, the seating layout from the College Theatre could be recreated in PatronBase allowing allocated seating to be selected by students and parents. However, after the initial success of online sales for Guys and Dolls other events in different venues were also sold via the new ticketing system, including:

Parent response to the new system has been incredibly positive, such as this unsolicited feedback we received:

The new ticketing system is really great. It is great to be able to purchase with a credit card and to have a choice of whether to print or collect tickets.

When booking shows in the theatrette it was fantastic to be able to choose your own seats and it was very easy to use. It really was great to be able to see exactly where you would be sitting.

Keeping the self print tickets simple is good. I have had to print out tickets from other places before and they have wasted so much ink printing fancy pictures. 

Your ticketing system is excellent.

A selection of shows through PatronBase with the online sales clearly proving popular

A selection of shows through PatronBase with the online sales clearly proving popular

The ease and convenience of purchasing tickets online is evident from the table on the right, and this encouraged the College to explore other possibilities with PatronBase such as sales of the fundraising recipe book “Recipes From The Tartan Kitchen“. This book, sold to raise funds for the new College Chapel, was launched in late 2014 with the accompanying promotional video:

Since then, 150 copies of the book have been sold through the PatronBase system, often by Old Collegians overseas who wish to have the book couriered directly to them.

A more recent form of fundraising online came after the devastating Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu. A full blog was written about this that you can read here, and at the time of writing donations during the sale of tickets to UrineTown and Style at StAC are approaching $1000 for Onesua Presbyterian College in north-east Efate,Vanuatu.

Finally, the Old Collegians Association of St Andrew’s College, having seen the value of online ticket sales, will soon be using PatronBase as well for all their ticketed events and reunions. A custom theme is being developed to match the branding of the Old Collegians and then tickets will be available for all events.

With an eye to the future, having run over 15 ticketed events through PatronBase over the last 12 months, the system will definitely be used for managing ticket sales for the 2017 St Andrew’s College Centenary. It is pleasing to be able to deliver an improved service to students and parents that makes the purchase and attendance of ticketed events at the College so much simpler and easier.

Students Catch The Blogging Bug

Isla Evison and Harrison Cooper (creator of the blog for the trip) at Brockenhurst

Isla Evison and Harrison Cooper (creator of the WW1 European Tour blog for the trip) at Brockenhurst

The StAC eLearning Blog is now over 18 months old, something that I find amazing when I pause to reflect on all the incredible stories we have been able to tell about innovative and engaging eLearning happening around the College. One thing that I am especially pleased about is the increasing number of “tip offs” I get from teachers – suggestions to go and chat with other teachers they know that are doing amazing things in their classrooms with their students. Additionally, more teachers are now telling me they regularly check out the posts and find they are motivated and challenged to try new things in their classrooms too.

In the last week of Term 1, Mr Simon Williams (Head of Television and Media) mentioned that he had been sharing this blog with some senior students who were about to head away on a WW1 Commemorative Tour of Europe in the holidays and he asked if I could help them set up a blog to record their journey. Excited by both the nature of the trip and also the possibilities of students engaging with their co-curricular learning via blogging I met with Harrison Cooper to discover more of what he was hoping to achieve.

Together, we settled on using a WordPress blog (similar to this blog) and we discussed the various themes and how some would potentially engage the readers more than others. We agreed that whilst some of the fancier themes were very cool, with menus that minimised completely to avoid distractions, some of the readers of the blog might not be able to navigate as easily around the blog. This was going to be important, because I taught Harrison how to use category pages within his menu structure, so that posts could be dynamically filtered based on the different locations they visited e.g. Gallipoli, France, Belgium etc. Here is the end result:

Note the names of locations under the main image - these are dynamic pages filtering and displaying blog posts only from those locations.

Note the names of locations under the main image – these are dynamic pages filtering and displaying blog posts only from those locations (click the image to visit the blog).

The other conversation we had was around image ownership – whilst there are many photos on the internet from WW1 that would serve as an excellent banner image, most were copyright and could not be used. This was an excellent chance to discuss Digital Citizenship and link back to one of the three core values in our Digital Citizenship policy:

Respecting the ownership and intellectual property of content they find online by accurately referencing the owner or site they obtained content from and by not engaging in piracy of software or other digital media

creative commons licenseTogether, Harrison and I did a quick google for images that were licensed by Creative Commons and quickly found websites such as the Wiki Commons WW1 Images and a Flickr WW1 Gallery from Oxford University that was licensed under the CC BY meaning the images could be shared or adapted provided appropriate credit was given. I left it up to Harrison to find the final images that he wanted for the blog, along with showing him how to use tags to help label each blog post by author and topic. I mentioned to him that once his blog was ready, I would put it on the front of the College Moodle site to increase the visibility amongst the students at St Andrew’s.

A number of students have contributed blog posts whilst the trip has been ongoing and even our Rector, Christine Leighton, has written a reflection on the trip as well as thoughts on the moving memorial at Brockenhurst a site in south east England where 21,000 wounded New Zealand soldiers were cared for during WW1. This visit was picked up by TV3 News and you can read the full story here and see a video of this here:

Click the image to load the TV3 news site and video

Click the image to load the TV3 news site and video

The WW1 tour blog quickly gained over 80 followers, who would receive an email update each time a blog was posted, and showing just how engaging the content was for readers, it has received a number of comments for the various posts. This one shows how appreciative readers are of the student’s blogging about their trip:

Thank you for the various articles and photos. It is a great way to follow the trip and also share your travels and observations with my family and friends. We are all very impressed by the way your group is representing our country and remembering those brave men and women who fought in WW1.

The WW1 European Trip blog is not the only blogging that has been happening by students at St Andrew’s College over the Term 1 holiday break. Twice a year, students head to Cambodia as part of the College’s commitment to community service and for the last few trips, students have been blogging about their time in Cambodia:

Cambodia

The students take turns co-authoring a blog post in pairs, providing an overview of what activities they have participated in and seen as well as personal reflections – some of which are very moving, an example being reflections from the trip to the Orphanage:

The orphanage was one of the biggest highlights of the trip, and a day that has been highly anticipated by the group … During the day, we as a group witnessed how little we had to do, to make one of these kids smile … As we said our goodbyes and headed onto the bus, hugs, handshakes, presents and tears were exchanged through the windows. The experience was amazing, tiring, emotional and rewarding. The only downside was that we didn’t get to spend more time with them.

It is pleasing to see these two examples of student-led blogs reaching a wide and authentic audience, providing a platform for students to meaningfully reflect on their experiences. There are other teachers who are encouraging their students to blog as well and based on the success of these two, I anticipate more teachers may explore this as an option for student writing as well.

Fundraising For Vanuatu – New & Old Approaches

Damages from Cyclone Pam, Vanuatu. Creative Commons: UNICEF Pacific, 2015

Damages from Cyclone Pam, Vanuatu. Creative Commons: UNICEF Pacific, 2015

UPDATE March 30th: New photos have been supplied from Onesua College – scroll down to see them.

Over the weekend of 14-15th March 2015 a Category 5 cyclone cut a path of devastation across the Pacific, with the island nation of Vanuatu experiencing some of the worst damage from this massive storm.

St Andrew’s College has a strong relationship with Onesua Presbyterian College located on the north-eastern side of the main island of Efate, having sent annual Community Service trips there for over a decade. Onesua is a boarding school with around 350 students and suffered extensive damage from the storm:

With the 2015 Community Service Trip to Onesua College scheduled to depart in the first week of the Term 1 holiday break, the timing of this Cyclone resulted in the cancellation of this trip. The leadership team at St Andrew’s College reached out to Onesua immediately to see where we could help and heard from their Principal, Mr Kalmar a week after the storm:

Onesua is badly hid by the cyclone, a lot of classrooms lost their roofs and also staff houses. My office and house roof also flew away. The students are all out of school. Water and food will be a problem. I thank God that not even a single soul was lost during the cyclone at Onesua. We were all safe.

At the moment the school is out of telephone and internet services. I am emailing from Port Vila.

We immediately explored how we could channel existing fundraising approaches to help our sister school in Vanuatu.

UPDATE March 30th: new photos from Onesua College:

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Online Donations:

We setup an online donation option through our existing ticketing and donation platform from PatronBase.com which allowed our community members to make a credit card payment directly to the funds being collected for Onesua:

Online credit card donations for Onesua College via PatronBase.com

Online credit card donations for Onesua College via PatronBase.com

Online Ticket Sale Top-ups:

St Andrew’s has been selling tickets to College events online for 12 months now, and currently both the Senior Production (Urinetown – The Musical) and Style At StAC have tickets selling fast. We were able to include the opportunity for our community to “top up” their ticket payment with a donation for Onesua College:

An option donate to Onesua is provided during the checkout process with ticket sales for St Andrew's College events

An option donate to Onesua is provided during the checkout process with ticket sales for St Andrew’s College events

Mufti Day & Disco:

More traditional approaches to fundraising were also undertaken which included:

  • A mufti-day where students in the Secondary School could come in tidy non-uniform attire. For this event, the College encouraged students to go beyond the usual gold coin donation, and instead gift “folding money” towards Onesua College.
  • Preparatory School Disco. This is the annual fundraiser organised and run by the students going on the annual Community Service Trip, and aimed at students in Years 4-8 to attend a tropical themed disco.
  • Collection raised at the Middle School Chapel service

Total Donations So Far:

By combining both new and old ways of collecting donations, particularly with the ease of online credit card payments, we have been able to reach a wider section of our College community who have been incredibly generous.  Today, St Andrew’s College was able to transfer NZD$10,000 to Onesua Presbyterian College to help them rebuild their damaged school and replace their destroyed teaching resources.

With a number of remaining smaller fund raising activities running into Term 2, there will be a second payment of the remaining funds raised gifted to Onesua.

A huge thank you to our entire community for contributing so generously. In his latest email Mr Aldo, Principal of Onesua, said:

Thank you very much for this much needed support. I thank God that Onesua has build a relationship with STAC.

The Onesua community has set up a working group  consisting of teachers and ancillary staff and carrying out rapid response operations in the college.

This means that they are putting up temporary classrooms and staff houses and dorms to gather for the classes next week. We are all eager to begin classes though we lost a lot of materials.

We will start with what we have available hoping that support will definitely come. Please thank all your community for your support sincerely.

Staying Connected With Ultra Fast BroadBand

In my first post of 2015 I mentioned that St Andrew’s College had recently invested in a second fibre optic internet connection. A number of people have asked me what that actually means and so I thought I would write a brief blog post to cover this.

In the world of IT, huge effort is often expended trying to remove “single points of failure” within a network. This can be defined as:

A part of a system that, if it fails, will stop the entire system from working. SPOFs are undesirable in any system with a goal of high availability or reliability.

An example of a Single Point Of Failure (SPOF)

An example of a Single Point Of Failure (SPOF)

Many businesses and schools invest significant resources and efforts to build “redundancy” into their networks to reduce the risk of a SPOF and this can take many forms, for example:

  • Having spare hardware such as network switches / servers to replace a faulty unit (this is known as hot/cold because one unit is running, whilst the other is off and waiting to be used if required).
  • Having multiple units running together at the same time in what is known as a High Availability pair (HA). Whilst these can be configured in different ways, it typically means limited manual intervention is required (if any), to switch over to the backup hardware in the event of a systems failure.
  • Having alternative power supplies, such as generators, to keep critical network systems running in the event of a wider power outage.
  • Replicating critical systems to off site locations (for example, our Student Management System (SMS) database replicates changes every 15 minutes to a server in a data centre in Auckland)

The one area where schools and businesses have typically had difficulty eliminating dependency on a single system is around internet connections. Historically, there has usually been only one available internet feed accessible, or the cost of additional connections was prohibitive. As eLearning has increased at St Andrew’s, and with the introduction of the 1:1 Computer Programme in 2014 for all Year 9 students, the need for a dependable, reliable and fast internet connection has become paramount.

StACNot only is it our teachers and students that rely on this, but also our support and administrative staff with more and more communications, financial transactions and payroll taking place via the internet. St Andrew’s College is geographically located on a corner of the busy Papanui Road and Normans Road, resulting in the option to have diverse fibre feeds becoming available in late 2014. Previously, no fibre existed in Normans Road, but as part of Enable Networks fibre roll out, we were able to explore removing our internet connection as a Single Point of Failure.

I looked at  various options with different Internet Service Providers (ISP) and in the end remained with Snap Internet who have provided good service over a number of years to the College.

A typical morning of bandwidth usage at StAC

A typical morning of bandwidth usage at StAC

Whilst our existing fibre connection remained largely unchanged, coming off Papanui Road and terminating in a building on the eastern side of our campus, a new, second fibre from Normans Road was connected into our Preparatory School on the western side of the campus. Both of these follow a diverse pathway to different termination points within the Enable / Snap networks:

Red is the existing fibre on Papanui Road. Blue is the pathway of the new fibre down Normans Road

Red is the existing fibre on Papanui Road. Blue is the pathway of the new fibre down Normans Road

The IT team at St Andrew’s have carried out testing in conjunction with Snap network engineers and the “fail over” time from one fibre connection to the other is less than 5 seconds.

So what does this mean in reality? In the event of something like a contractor’s digger cutting through the fibre on Papanui Road, our internet connection will automatically fail over to route down Normans Road. Conversely, when that connection is repaired and back online, our network will automatically “fail back” to the primary connection (this is managed by BGP routing). The speed of this failover should in all likelihood be transparent to our students and staff – they won’t even know it has happened.

By having the fibre termination points at different locations on our campus we have further tried to reduce the points of failure e.g. if a building was closed / rendered unsafe for any reason. This has allowed us to have multiple fibre pathways around our campus, connecting most buildings in at least two points:

Black lines represent the various ducts that fibre exists in, connecting our buildings  around the campus

Black lines represent the various ducts that fibre exists in, connecting our buildings around the campus

More work is to be done to continue to remove all Single Points Of Failure, however this step towards ensuring high availability Ultra Fast Broadband is a significant step forward for the College.

Mystery Skype With Russia Extends Students’ Borders

 Today the Year 6 students at St Andrew’s College had a unique experience, engaging in a game of Mystery Skype with students from a school in the very remote location of Sakhalin Island International School, off the east coast of Russia and north of Japan.

This was arranged by Mr Wilj Dekkers who happened to know the classroom teacher in the International School run by Shell Oil. In fact, the Skype session happened over two days, with the initial session struggling for consistent internet connectivity (they had experienced a massive snow dump the night before which may have contributed to the problem). If anything, this taster added to the suspense for the students and also allowed Mr Dekkers to coach the the students on formulating effective questions, listening carefully to the responses given from the students and using the various atlases and computers to research more effectively:

Students talking to a class on Sakhalin Island, Russia via Skype.

Students talking to a class on Sakhalin Island, Russia via Skype.

When the students managed to reconnect, the quality of the call was significantly better, allowing the two classes to freely ask questions back and forth with these having a strong focus on geographical locations such as

Students in the the school in Sakhalin Island

Students in the the school in Sakhalin Island

  • Are you north of the equator?
  • Is your country land locked?
  • Does it snow often in your country?
  • Do you use the Euro as a currency?

The students were required to ask closed questions that could be answered as “Yes” or “No” and quickly realised from this that there was a real skill in being able to formulate a useful closed question.

In the end the students from St Andrew’s College managed to guess the capital city of “Moscow” leading to the inevitable question of “Are you in Russia?”, whereby our new friends followed with “Are you kiwis?” They then shared some interesting facts about their school, including:

  • It’s an international school with all of them being there because their parents are connected with the Oil Industry
  • There are ~140 students in their school, made up of 33 nationalities
  • They were about to head outside and play in the snow and it was -10 Celsius (it has to get to -20 to -25 degrees Celsius before it’s too cold outside to play.

The St Andrew’s students then performed a rousing waiata to finish off the very enjoyable Skype session:

Guest Post: Year 6 Mystery Skype With Alabama School

This post was written by a student in Year 6SD after a Mystery Skype session in Term 4.

On November 21st 6SD was involved in a mystery skype with another Year 6 class.

As soon as they spoke we knew that they were in America, so we had to guess what State they were in. To make it more interesting and more challenging, we were only to ask yes, no questions. We were allowed to use our devices to check information and it didn’t take long for us to ask if their State had a starting letter between A and L.  We asked if their capital city was Montgomery and they replied yes. We found out on our devices that they were in Alabama.  Ben played on his electric guitar, Sweet home Alabama and they told us we were right!

They found out we were in New Zealand. After we both knew what Country/City each other was in, we asked them questions about Alabama, like what their favourite sports teams were. We found out some very cool facts about Alabama like that they get to wear mufti every day while we had to wear uniforms all the time and also that at 9.10am on Friday morning it was only 2.10pm on Thursday for them.

Overall it was a great experience and we would love to do it again.

By Henry

This post was also displayed for students to see on the College Moodle site

Culture Connecting Classrooms: Kapa Haka Via Skype

A student from Avondale Grammar in Singapore asking a question of Year 4 students at St Andrew's College via Skype

A student from Avondale Grammar in Singapore asking a question of Year 4 students at St Andrew’s College via Skype

On Friday last week our two Year 4 classes in the Preparatory school engaged in their first ever Mystery Skype, something other classes have done before with schools in Singapore and Australia. For those unsure of what a Mystery Skype is, here is a good explanation:

Mystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions.

This Mystery Skype was again with Avondale Grammar in Singapore, but with different classes, neither sets of students knew where in the world the other class was. It was terrific seeing the students asking intelligent questions, using atlases, globes and trusty Google to try and locate where the other school was. I was impressed with the students from St Andrew’s asking questions such as “Are you an island?” and also picking up clues such as the names on the school uniforms of the students from Avondale.

This culminated in our Year 4 students being the first to correctly guess the country and the school which was a very exciting “win” for them. To help out the Avondale students, the St Andrew’s College students decided to perform the school haka:

Year 4 students from St Andrew’s deliver a passionate haka over Skype to students in Singapore.

Mr Craig Kemp, the teacher at Avondale Grammar that helped co-ordinate the Mystery Skype was really impressed with the haka from our students, sending out a tweet with a photo of how it looked via Skype from their end.

It was quickly decided at this point that a followup Skype between the two classes should happen, as Mr Kemp was keen for his students, who had been learning some Kapa Haka themselves, to see more from the St Andrew’s College students. This happened today and we again captured the action as the two classes shared performances with each other:

Year 4 students from St Andrew’s College and Avondale Grammar exchange kapa haka performances via Skype.

I was really thrilled to see this “re-connect” between the two classrooms as it builds on the connection established via the original Mystery Skype and allows both classes to share cultural performances they have been practicing, in this case, kapa haka. It’s awesome to see that New Zealand teachers around the world are taking aspects of tikanga Māori with them into their classrooms and sharing it with their students.

A view from the St Andrew’s College classroom as Year 4 students perform the classic waiata “Toia mai te waka nei”

It’s incredible that technology such as Skype allows this sort of cultural exchange to take place so easily and I am pleased that teachers like Mr Kemp from Avondale Grammar in Singapore, and our own Year 4 teachers Mrs Penny Munro-Foster and Mrs Anneke Kamo are open to making these sorts of connections.

Mr Kemp noted at the end of the performances that former All Black rugby captain Tana Umaga was coming to visit the school only an hour after the Skype session and this was a great warm up for his students who were going to perform the haka for Tana.

Students from Avondale Grammar practice their kapa haka via Skype before a visit from former All Black rugby captain Tana Umaga

This connection creates an awesome example for other classes at St Andrew’s College to take up the challenge and try Mystery Skyping for themselves!

Guest Post: Yr8 Mystery Skype

MysterySkype

This post was guest written by Noah, Harry and Angus from Year 8C

Last Thursday, 8C was part of a ‘Mystery Skype’ with another unknown school in the world. We didn’t know what to expect because we had never experienced this before. A ‘Mystery Skype’ is an activity where a random class or school in the world Skype us in order to find out our location and our school name. It is a competition between the two schools to identify each other first.

A day in advance, we had to prepare. We had to split into different groups, consisting of questioners, answerers, atlas mappers, poster mappers, Google mappers, note takers and photographers. Every group had 2-4 people working on it.

Firstly, we had to have Mr McNeill (our school Director of ICT) set up the webcam and project the Skype video onto the classroom interactive whiteboard. Once that was all ready, we were prepared to make the call. Just before we made it though, Mrs Preston told us some heartbreaking news: the teacher from the mystery class had told his class that we are in New Zealand. This made it so much easier for the opposition to find where we are. Anyway, there was no looking back. We made the call. The teacher from the other school greeted us warmly. But, they also greeted us with a very well known accent. The teacher had a classic, Aussie twang to his voice. As well the students had their school logo on their jerseys

As our first question we asked ‘Are you from Australia?’ as it was obvious from the accents. The reply was yes and then they asked ‘Are you in the South Island?’ The answer was yes.

[tweet https://twitter.com/samuelmcneill/status/509882183171837952 align=’right’ width=’275′]

After a few questions they asked ‘Are you in Wellington?’ we had a bit of a laugh while replying ‘No.’

As we closed in, we found out that they were from Tasmania, Hobart and that they were only aged 8-9 years old [which helped us knowledge wise].

We managed to successfully guess they were from St Virgil’s College in Hobart

Then as we started to wrap up the Skype call they started to talk about their sport and the Tasmanian tiger and devils. Then the Skype call ended. As a class we talked about the pros and cons and what we could we improve on.

In conclusion, our class enjoyed this experience and would like to do it with another class one time but would hope for older, more experienced classes our age.

Noah, Harry and Angus.

Full video of our Mystery Skype with St Virgil’s College

Exploring St Andrew’s College Through Virtual Tours

The desire to showcase the beautiful St Andrew’s College campus and facilities was behind the initiative by Francesca Eathorne (Head of Communications / Strategic Analyst) to engage with Google Photographers to create a number of virtual tours.

With a strong tradition of boarding at St Andrew’s, along with growing numbers of international students, not all parents or prospective students could come for a tour on site with the College Registrar. These tours helped bridge that gap in ways traditional printed media could not. By clicking on the images below, you can navigate through the new Boarding Houses opened by John Key in 2013:

Thompson & Rutherford Boarding Houses:

Additionally, the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-11 impacted significantly on many schools, with various rebuilding projects underway.  The new Preparatory School buildings had actually been completed just before the earthquakes, and were officially opened by the Governor General Sir Jerry Mataparae in early 2012. This building had survived the quakes very well and can be virtually “walked through” here:

The Preparatory School:

Whilst St Andrew’s College has students from Years 1-13, the Preparatory School and Pre-School are quite self-contained, separate from the older students whilst still being part of the same campus. Choosing to have a Google walkthrough for the Pre-School helped highlight the special environments these students enjoy:

The Pre-School:

Some of the factors that influenced the decision to go with Google included:

  • Their standard of work was very high, and the initial tours they had done in the Boarding Houses were excellent.
  • We could embed the tours directly into our online platforms (as I have done in this blog post) so they were very accessible to our community.
  • They are dynamic – the user can choose where they wish to navigate to and are not restrained by a rotating 360 degree view only – this encourages them to interact with the tour, as if they were actually walking around the campus and exploring the buildings.
  • The ability to split the tours into different sections, rather than have one long tour you had to navigate around. This way you can easily go straight to the area or building of interest.

Strowan House & The Quad:

One of the decisions Ms Eathorne had to make was whether to include students in the tours. Case studies had suggested that virtual tours should include members of the school population to make it more realistic, but in the end she decided not to as it was more in keeping with the College policy of managing student image consent.

These tours are a great example of using technology to promote the College to a wider audience. Perhaps less formal ways to explore the campus have been created by our Prefects over the last two years, including the Giant Thistle:

This was inspired by the hugely successful “This is Us” lipdup video that toured the majority of the campus and involved hundreds of students performing in various ways: