An online magazine of news and opinions from the Asia New Zealand Foundation
School kids connecting with Asia on Skype
Frasertown School in Hawke's Bay has been developing a “living 21st century curriculum document” that has seen its students using technology – such as Skype – to communicate with school children in Asia.
In November, 2013, one of the school’s senior teachers, Joni Hoek, led Skype sessions between her Year 3/4 class and children from Sekinami Elementary School in Kitaibaraki, Japan. The sessions came about after a Japanese education facilitator visited Wairoa College and Frasertown School.
Frasertown principal Ricardo Fox says after the first two Skype sessions there was a real interest generated about his school’s Skype initiative in Japan, including a photo of his students being shown on the news there.
“This type of programme in their education system is very unusual. Our students and staff were taken aback when we received a photo of our programme on the news in Japan.”
The school’s curriculum has been developed to reflect changes in how people access knowledge and the shifting social and technological landscape – particularly in the past five years. Each of the school’s 125 students has been provided with an iPad and teachers have been given extensive training to help them merge the new technology with the school’s older technology.
The concept of wall-less classrooms has been embraced – where students can use the internet to access global information. Access to information is no longer limited to within the classroom, Fox says.
“The wireless network allows our students to take their work outside and use our external environment – underneath trees, on the veranda, in the fort, in the playground. They are not limited to a desk or mat inside four walls.”
The technology has helped the students communicate and learn about other cultures in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. They are able to receive chinese lessons from a teacher living in China and talk with students in Japan.
Connecting with Asia is important because “it’s part of where we’re heading”, Fox says.
Asia’s business growth in the last decade has been rapid and it’s geographically close to New Zealand – within a 15 hour flight from Auckland.
During the Skype sessions with Sekinami Elementary the students shared pictures of family members, and talked about weather, hobbies, origins of names and television shows. The students have shared national songs and the Frasertown students have performed kapa haka.
“The language barrier is overcome by my basic Japanese language and an English language assistant there … who is attached to this project.”
An “Asia-equipped school”, Fox says, delivers the intercultural competencies that students need to live and work in Asia and with Asian people in New Zealand.
"Young New Zealanders need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to take advantage of the opportunities to live, work and interact with the Asian communities in New Zealand and with the peoples and countries of Asia."
Fox’s students learn Asian language skills and about cultural values and diversity. As technology skills are developed further the school is looking to build on what it has achieved.
“Our journey is only a year and a half old but what we have accomplished with connecting with Asia has been a delicious entrée to what we will be able to incorporate in 2014 to springboard us into 2015. We will continue to build the [Skype] project and let it grow naturally into whatever it matures into, which is exciting.”