Office 365 and Skype make International Collaboration Possible
by Jean-Luc Richter and Anjuli Ahooja
Bios of the authors
Jean-Luc Richter is a K-12 physics and Chemistry Teacher at Collège J.J.Waltz in Marckolsheim, France. He is project coordinator for Science on Stage Europe, member of the working group for connected classroom at the French Institut for Education (ifé – ENS Lyon) and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. Some of his favorite Microsoft Tools include OneNote and PowerPoint.
Anjuli Ahooja is the AP physics teacher at Appleby College, Oakville, Ontario, Canada. She is the Vice President of Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario and a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. Anjuli’s favourite MS tools/applications/platform are MS Office, OneNote Class Notebook, Skype, OneDrive, SharePoint (LinkedIn/anjuliahooja | Twitter: @anjuliahooja)
During the 2015 -16 school year, fifty four students from College J.J.Waltz, Alsace, France, and Appleby College, Oakville, Ontario, Canada, participated in an international collaboration project using OneNote Class Notebook, PowerPoint, and Skype. The aim of the project was to learn about various methods of production of electrical energy in Canada and France. The students also compared the usage and cost of electricity in both countries. The student body of Appleby College is international, and as they communicated with the French students via Skype, Facebook, and other social media platforms, they learned about the cultures in the respective countries.
The Genesis of the project
Anjuli Ahooja and Jean-Luc Richter the two physics teachers who organized this project, met through Science on Stage Europe festival June 2015 in London, UK (http://www.science-on-stage.eu/page/display/4/14/0/festival-2015), an independent non-profit association with 25 member countries. Anjuli Ahooja was presenting online teaching tools, including OneNote and Skype, using Microsoft Office 365; and Jean-Luc was presenting iStage 2, a booklet about using Smartphones in Science Teaching and acceleration measurement in amusement parks. During discussions, they found out that this project could be developed.
During the summer holiday of 2015, Anjuli and Jen-Luc met virtually several times using Skype, to develop, plan, and organize the content of this collaborative project. After comparing the curricula and timelines, they agreed to work on electrical power production and properties: energy, power, uses and costs.
At the beginning of the new school year, they choose motivated students. For France it was a double challenge because the students had to overcome the language barrier to be able to communicate with English speaking Ontario students. For France, it was a great opportunity to involve an English teacher, Erki Russac and an IT teacher, Jean-Charles Mayon. On Canadian side, Anjuli Ahooja involved Appleby’s College, Calvin Armstrong, Director, Learning Technologies and Innovation, and IT’s Jason Llorin to set-up the OneNote class Notebook.
Starting with a class skype session
To start the project with the students, the teacher organized a class to class skype session in school on Tuesday 6 October 2015. 27 students from each country presented themselves, in English and French, shortly telling about their hobbies and favorite teaching subjects. With the « magic » of skype, they were able to shorten the 6400 km distance between their two classrooms!
Every student had prepared his short presentation and all went in front of the camera to talk to their partners. All the student where very excited and where eager to start the real work as soon as possible.
Using laptops to establish communication on both sides did not give a great sound and image quality, but using projectors and having the students talk just in front of the laptops did the job.
Setting up the working environments
The whole project was supposed to be done through Microsoft Office 365, but a suitable working environment had to be setup. In Appleby College, Calvin Armstrong already knew how to create a collaboration platform and all the students where already equipped with the required software. But for the French Collège J.J.Waltz it was a first time and a lack of credits forced Jean-Charles Mayon to rely on the free online educational version of Office 365, with it’s limitations in terms of software interactions.
Both IT managed to connect the schools together and to create students account through Appleby’s Microsoft Sharepoint so student could begin to communicate together by end of November.
Students working in international teams
As soon as the online environment was ready, students from both schools used OneNote to present themselves. Anjuli Ahooja and Jean-Luc Richter used this presentation to pair them by interest.
At the same time, these two physic teachers where introducing the necessary scientific background based on the curriculum: how electrical energy is produced in their country, how it is transported to the homes, what relation there is between the voltage, the current, the power, the time of use and the consumed energy and how much it cost.
During the Christmas break, the student had to check how long their family where using electrical appliance to cook the meal, and what their power was. While communicating with their peer, they gain knowledge of the difference in traditions of both countries and learned to better take account of electrical energy to minimize the waste of energy and the ecological impact of this use.
Some of the students were more interested in leisure and video games than in cooking and focused their study on the power and energy use of computer and television connected game consoles.
In January both teacher organized a live chat session during school hours: afternoon for France and early morning for Canada! This was a great moment for the students who usually communicated in asynchronous way and could boost their personal work by working together at the same time on the same documents online.
Their final task was to make a PowerPoint presentation including all the documents they had already produced: OneNote personal presentation, Excel files with appliance costs related to power, duration and energy cost, how energy was produced in both countries and a feedback on the project.
End of January the students had to present their work to their teachers and go marked for their work. Both teacher decided to allow the willing students to present their work in from of their class and to share their experience on the project. The quality of their PowerPoint presentation was great, knowing how little time they had to work on it and all the technical difficulties they had to overcome.
For the French students, the fact they could only work with Office 365 online forced them to work a lot with OneDrive and to learn how to recover embedded files in OneNote, save them on their computer and upload them in OneDrive to be able to edit them in the other Office 365 apps. When the first students presented their work it was a great opportunity for them to share a lot of tips and trick they had learned along the way.
Almost half of the French students insisted on presenting their work in English, combine three disciplines in the same work: languages, IT and Science!
A nice and very satisfying surprise came from three disadvantaged French students from underprivileged backgrounds, one of them originating from Turkey and having trouble with foreign languages (French and English). These students where very excited by the project and took it as a way to show they where able to perform outside of the traditional class work. The use of computers, almost natural for our young students, gave them an opportunity to get on the same level as the best students of the French class.
And “magic” operated as the other students, seeing how their comrades really wanted to participate despite their difficulties, helped them by showing them tips and trick on Office 365. A great collaboration between the students leaded these disadvantage students to present a very decent final work document, including slides in English and various multimedia documents. The fact that they could show they where “able” to produce a complicated work was a great motivation for them and changed the way they look at themselves, bringing self-confidence, showing them that good work was rewarded and opening new perspective for their future.
All student agreed it was a great project and most of them want to keep in touch with their foreign peer and some already made plans to meet physically during the next summer holiday. Their biggest regret was that the project timeline was too short and they where a bit sad that it was already over! Their commitment in the project was very intense and they never gave up on the many technical difficulties they faced along the way.
Both Anjuli Ahooja and Jean-Luc Richter are very proud of what their students managed to do and very happy of the success of this project. They already agreed to start it again next school year and to keep improving it with what they learned this year.