Books for Fijian schools – thanks to Christa Miyoni

In 2014, Christa Miyoni was a third year student in the Bachelor of Education program at QUT. An Australian Government grant enabled Christa and nine of her contemporaries in Education and IT to travel to Taveuni Island and showcase the use of digital technologies at Somosomo District School. As part of the project, the team also setup the school’s library and supported them with other resources.

The experience at Somosomo District had a significant impact on Christa and after graduating from the university, she has remained connected with the SEE Project. As a very successful primary teacher, she has proactively engaged in activities that can positively impact on the quality of education in developing countries. With the support of her former school on the Gold Coast, Christa was able to travel to Mount Hagen in PNG a few years ago to run professional development activities for teachers at Saint Theresia Kuruk Primary School. According to Christa:

My engagement over the years within the SEE Project has made a magnitude of life-changing reverberations throughout my career and personal life. These influential experiences have helped define my identity and supported my personal beliefs. Through the acts of providing service to others using my head, heart, and hands, I’ve been able to grow as a teacher. These experiences have also enabled me to provide unique and interesting perspectives to those who are around me and especially my students.

Christa busy sorting the books

For the past two years, Christa has been employed as a primary school teacher at the John Paul College in Brisbane. Recently, the school was weeding out some library books that were suitable for primary school students and their teachers. These books were in excellent condition. Christa saw this as a great opportunity to help some of the primary school libraries in Fiji. We were very grateful to the school for generously donating the books to the SEE Project.

Books for donation

Selecting, storing and packing the books was a significant exercise. Christa spent a good part of her holidays to package the books for Fiji. My children were also very supportive in this exercise. It was hard to discard the books especially when they were in such good condition. Any good reading material can create opportunities especially in places where library resources are scarce.

Thanks, Christa and Graham for all your hard work

With our small team, we were able to pack more than 3000 books in 78 cartons. We were very grateful to Christa’s uncle Graham who transported the books to the freight forwarder – Gibson Freight in Banyo.

Books offloaded at Gibson Freight

The books are now all ready to go. We have found them new homes in four primary school libraries. These books will go to Nadroga Sangam School, Naidiri Bay Khalsa School, Nabukelevuira Primary School and Tuva Primary School. Sea freight is the only option at present and as a consequence they will arrive in Fiji by the end of the month.

All loaded and ready for the wharf

As they say in Fijian; Vinaka vakalevu (thank you) Christa, John Paul College and everyone else for their support in this venture. According to American writer and producer, the late Sidney Sheldon: 

“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life.”

We wish the children the very best in these schools.

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The SEE Digital Library Books Project

We invite you to support the SEE Digital Books Library Project. The books that you write will be shared at no cost with children throughout the world. More importantly, the books that you write will always remain your property. If you are interested in supporting the project, please read on…

 

Here are some examples of digital books created using Book Creator (Still needs a bit more editing). The target audience in this set of books is children.

 

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The SEE Foundation Fiji

Epeneri Korovakaturaga was a student at QUT on an AusAID scholarship. As a university student, he was closely associated with the SEE Project and was the cultural ambassador on two student outreach projects that were delivered in Fiji. After returning home, he gained employment in an architectural firm.

The opportunity to engage with schools through the SEE Project was an inspiration for him and he wanted “to contribute something back to the local rural and remote communities”. He felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to study abroad. With this background, he felt “duty bound” to step out in the real world as a role model “to inspire and motivate the younger generation of Fiji to aspire for education”. He was clear on why this was necessary but the lingering question and uncertainty in his mind was “how this could be achieved?” Epeneri reasoned the best strategy would be to collaborate and brainstorm ideas with other Fiji students who had studied in Australia and had recently returned home after graduating with degrees in their respective fields.

After an Australia Awards alumni function, he approached a few of his colleagues and outlined his ideas on giving back something to our communities. He was very pleased by the many positive responses from colleagues with expertise in various disciplines. Epi found that their level of enthusiasm was very high, and they were more than willing to contribute in any way they could. After a few formal and informal meetings, the SEE Foundation Fiji was established. Through the assistance and partnership of the SEE Project in Brisbane, they have been able to assist a few schools around Viti Levu with library books and computers. They have also presented at schools to motivate students.

Epeneri’s initiatives could be described as a novel approach to dealing with some of the issues that confront the underprivileged in Fiji. I have not come across any other organisation like the SEE Foundation Fiji, which is steered by a group of young, highly educated people who gained their qualifications in Australia through AusAID scholarships. It is a model that AusAID could promote in other countries. There is no doubt that by founding and affiliating with SEE Foundation Fiji, young people like Epeneri not only become more proactive in supporting meaningful agenda like enhancing the quality of education, but they also develop their professional and social networks. For Epeneri, the SEE Project was an eye-opener. Without his active participation in the project and more importantly in the Sabeto and Somosomo schools, the SEE Foundation Fiji may not have materialised. It is a step in the right direction that will make a difference to the quality of education in developing countries.

Navesau Adventist High School

The Navesau Adventist High School was severely damaged by Cyclone Winston.  The SEE Foundation Fiji together with the SEE Project and its supporters in Brisbane were able to provide the school with a set of desktop computers. One of the IT teachers at the school, Narieta Tanuku worked with Epi to get the resources across.

In one of the reports, Narieta indicated that all the computer lab had been set up and all machines were being utilised. The classes for his department had “notably improved in the last few weeks” and “all students taking the subject are excited that now they can actually perceive what was theoretically taught all this while”. Of significance was the fact that “computer lab has become an educational hotspot”.

Apart from typing assignments, the computers were used to achieve the learning outcomes across a number of subjects which included:

• Year 9- Basic Applications like MS Word, MS PowerPoint etc.

• Year 10- Basic Applications esp. MS Excel, Internet

• Year 11- Basic Applications, Programming and typing Assignments.

• Year 12- Basic Applications, Programming, Researching and typing Assignments.

• Year 13 – Basic Applications, Programming, Web Designing and typing Assignments.

Commendations to all involved and in particular Epi and his team for all their efforts.

To read more about the SEE Foundation Fiji, visit:

https://www.facebook.com/SEEFoundationFiji/

https://www.instagram.com/seefoundationfiji/

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A story of success

Our relationship with Saint Theresia Kuruk Primary School, in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea (PNG), began with Paul Ogil. He used to work as a security guard at our university. One day when he was on duty, he came to open the room so that we could load some of the stored computers for a school in Fiji. As we began our work, Paul became very inquisitive. He wanted to know where the computers were going. We responded to his question and told him more about our project. Almost immediately he said it would be nice if computers were also donated to his former primary school in Mount Hagen. We were buoyed by the interest and enthusiasm that was shown by Paul. He strongly believed that we all lived in “a global village” but the odds for full participation were “were stacked against” many citizens from developing countries.   However, he felt that fluency in digital technologies had the potential to “level the playing field”, particularly in the jobs market. According to Paul, the first-time students got a chance to use technologies in PNG was when they got to university. For the majority of young Papua New Guineans, such an opportunity did not exist because there were no technologies in schools. We agreed in principle to support him, with the proviso that if he could find a way to transport the computers, we would find computers for him. Little did we know that this meeting with Paul would give the SEE Project a new direction and challenge with no grant money or university students. It demonstrates the potential of a good partnership.

Here is a report that was compiled by Paul in late 2017.

Project Progress Report

Project Overview

Commenced in the second half of 2016, three primary schools in Mt Hagen have received used 120 desktop computers supplied by The SEE Project. The three schools are Kuruk Primary (40 computers), Holy Trinity Demonstration Primary School (40) and Kuntumb Primary School (40)

The project incorporates two aspects; supply of hardware and software training for the relevant primary school teachers to enable the teaching of students. The first training, facilitated by Dr Vinesh Chandra and Matthew Brown was conducted in Mt Hagen in late 2016. The second training facilitated by Christa Miyoni was held at Kuruk Primary for all three schools in August 2017.

Community Involvement

The community has taken ownership of the project and is keen to see it work. The project is the first of its kind in PNG. Currently, local students do not have access to computers and relevant training in government schools, a distinct disadvantage for students in both further study and future employment opportunities. The in-country project champion is Andrew Collin, principal of Kuruk Primary who has taken a leadership role in motivating other teachers in the other schools to be involved. Andrew Collin has also driven the construction of a special purpose built two storey library and computer lab at Kuruk Primary School. (Photo attached)

The school and business community have enabled the project by assisting with direct costs, local knowledge and in-kind contribution.

Financial assistance and on-ground support have included:

  • Sponsored transportation by Hastings Deering (PNG) of computers from Brisbane to Lae, organised by Kelly Kerua (Sales Manager – Parts).
  • Payment and arrangement by the respective schools for on-ground transport of computers from Lae to Mt Hagen, (a difficult 12-hour trip).
  • Organisation of first training session with venue and logistics for QUT staff facilitators. Kuruk Primary met with costs for flights and accommodation on the first trip.
  • Trainer Christa Miyoni’s flights and accommodation were paid for by Peter Mughkerhegl (a local businessman) and meals were paid for by the three Primary Schools.
  • Holy Trinity Demonstration Primary School have the support of a local company to run the cables for the computers.

Training Workshops

The first training sessions covered basic use of the computer hardware and how the Edubuntu system worked. They also went through some pre – loaded programs like Tux Math, Tux Typing and Tux Typing to get the teachers started. The teachers were showed how to access programs in Libre office.  This is a powerful office suite that includes: Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Draw (vector graphics and flowcharts), Base (databases) and Math (formula editing).  Most of the time was spend on word processing.  Teachers also had the chance to explore the educational potential of Scratch that can be used to create games and a range of other digital artefacts. A highlight was showing teachers how to access and develop research activities with the SEE box.

The second training block provided a selected number of teachers with the opportunity to learn basic computer skills such as touch typing and work with Office. Teachers went through the process of creating an E-Book in Office, that illustrated the use of text boxes, inserting photographs, and creating a storyline on an issue within their community.

At the conclusion of the two-day development teachers and their classes were challenged to create an E-Book to return to Australia that would help create a long-term international connection with another school and the possibility of a hard copy of their book.

Teachers were given a due date of November to finalise their E-Book and submit to the facilitator Christa Miyoni and the teachers have shown their keenness to participate in this. Follow up support has taken the form of informal contact from time to time via Facebook.

Going forward

Support and monitoring of training to ensure ongoing use and maintenance of the computers is pivotal for the successful longevity and impact of the project. Direct benefit to current and future students is the desired outcome of the project.

There is an opportunity for more schools to be involved with this project, not only in Mt Hagen but in other areas of PNG. If the community support and enthusiasm can be replicated in other areas then this can occur.

Community and business support both in PNG and Australia will be continued to be generated and fostered for maintaining and hopefully expansion of the project. Support from the PNG Government would also assist in the project’s development and sustainability.

Photos

New computer lab and library building nearing completion at Kuruk Primary School

 

Inside New Computer Lab at Kuruk Primary School nearing completion

Current computer lab at Kuruk Primary School (Inside teachers staff room)

Inside the computer lab at Holy Trinity Demonstration Primary School. From L-R: Mr Robinson Bulema, Principal of Holy Trinity Demonstration Primary School, Paul Ogil and Andrew Collin, Principal of Kuruk Primary School.

Computer Professional Development with Christa Miyoni

 

Participating teachers from three schools at the professional develop sessions: Christa Miyoni (Standing -third on the right), Principals from Holy Trinity Demonstration Primary School, Robinson Bulema (Standing – Second on the left), and Kuruk Primary School, Andrew Collin (Standing – fourth on the left).

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MMM – Madeline’s memories of Malaysia

Madeline Seivers is enrolled in a Bachelor of Education course at QUT. At SK Sungai Mas – a primary school in Malaysia, she teamed up with QUT and UPM students to deliver some outstanding activities using ICT. Her work was highly applauded and appreciated by the students and the school community. Here are some of her reflections:   

My time in Malaysia has changed my perspective in many different aspects of my life. Before leaving Australia, I thought it would be an awesome, easy experience. I defiantly got the awesome part right but not so much the easy part. Most days were packed with memorable experiences which deprived me of a decent sleep. When driving through the school gates for the first time, I was excited. The school was so different to the picture I had in my head and far more remote than I thought it would be. I had only been to one country before and had never actually experienced living with a different culture than mine. This experience allowed me to experience the Malaysian culture that no holiday to Malaysia would have.

Above Picture: Driving through the gates at SK Sungai Mas – a primary school in Kuantan, Malaysia

My time teaching there was an eye-opening and completely different than anything I had ever experienced. When returning back to Australia, I had to refrain from taking my shoes off when entering a classroom. The students at SK Sungai Mas were amazing and had the most respect for their school and us. They were also the toughest group of students I have ever met, and they were always engaged. They thoroughly enjoyed playing with the Edison robots and then making their presentations to show the parents who came on the last day. We were even lucky enough to play games with these parents after the students showcased their work. The students did a fantastic job and will hopefully continue their work programming and coding the Edison robots.

Photo: Assisting the students in their creation of the PowerPoint; Playing Simon says in English with parents of my students.

It is important to point out that his trip would not have even been slightly possible without the “wonderfully fantastic” and amazing students from the University of Putra Malaysia (UPM). Mary and I had an excellent experience teaming up with  Raja, Ice, Nurlina, Fatin, Aini, Hasan, Amalina and Hamiza as we delivered activities in our Year 3-4 class. These students from the UPM helped with everything in the classroom. Most importantly they helped with translation. By the end of the week, I also found out that for the Sk Sungai Mas students in my class, English was their 4th language and Malay was their 3rd. For this reason, our stategy of using lots of symbols, demonstrations, and physical gestures when teaching these students did make a difference.

Photo: The wonderful Raja and Hamiza translating from English to Malay for the Sk Sungai Mas Students.

While over there, my teaching partner Mary and I had the chance to explain the function of the Edison robots to teachers from other schools. This explanation will hopefully encourage other schools in Malaysia to become involved in coding and programming with primary students.

Photo: Teachers from other schools in Pahang visiting to see the work the students have done during the week.

This trip not only enhanced my skills to integrate technology into classrooms and teach some brilliant students at SK Sungai Mas, but it also gave me an insight into a whole new culture that I before had very little knowledge about. Before leaving Australia, as a non-Muslim, I was a bit nervous about being in a mostly Muslim country. The reason for this was due to the way practicing Muslims often get portrayed in the media. I was expecting to be disliked everywhere I went. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. The Malaysian university students I met over there were the kindest, funny and lovely people. It didn’t take long for me to develop my friendship with them.

I tried to choose a favorite memory to reflect on however I could write hundreds of them. Every second spent in Malaysia was awesome. I could tell you how I had the best burger of my life – thanks to Nurlina or how Ashlee, Lorna, Safri and I accidently left Fitri in a shop (sorry Fitri, haha) or I could also tell you how on the day before my flight I went bowling with Ice and Raja and lost terribly or how I got to sleep in my classroom and wake up the next day and teach or meeting the Princess of Pahang who had the best sense of humour or playing card games till late at night and sharing  funny similarities and differences between our cultures. However, all these memories would probably just make you envious of my time in Malaysia. I’m not sure whether I was lucky with all the people I met or if it is just the Malaysian way. However, everyone I met in Malaysia was beautiful and kind. I would have to say that sharing time with the UPM students was my most favorite part of my trip to Malaysia. I still talk to a lot of them regularly and hope I can see them again soon. Not only has this trip opened me up to the beautiful Malaysian culture, but it has also opened me up to different teaching experiences. I hope in future years I will be able to teach again overseas.

Photo: Many of the wonderful UPM students (Raja and I in the face swap)

The first few weeks being back in Australia was hard. I had to accept the fact that although this trip was over, I was hopeful that there will be other opportunities like this in the future.  It was also hard trying to explain my experiences to anyone as it was not relatable for many of my friends and family. After sleeping for 16 hours straight, I finally unpacked my suitcase. I now have the beautiful presents and memories next to my bed that reminds me of the wonderful times in Malaysia. Although it was only for 10 days, the beautiful people in Malaysia were so open – it feels like I have known them for ages. I actually miss them all, and I am very grateful for this amazing experience. After this experience, I am also a happier person overall. It has made me so much more appreciative of the things I have every day that I used to take for granted.

Photo: Sad feeling when landing in Goldcoast; Beautiful gifts and souvenirs received in Malaysia.

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Mitchell’s second trip to Malaysia

Mitchell Neill recently completed his Bachelor of Engineering program – majoring in Computer and Software Systems. At university, he was high achieving student and very committed to making a difference to others through technology.  This was his second trip to Malaysia. At SK Sungai Mas, his team introduced and integrated activities in Scratch. 

Our trip to Malaysia was fantastic. Before going on this trip, I had previously gone on holidays – I visited bird parks, tall buildings, and temples.  Perhaps there is nothing more special about Malaysia than it’s people…(Maybe the food).  On our trip, we were lucky to have the students from the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), who partnered with us. In the process, they also shared their culture with us. They showed us what it means to be Malaysian, and shared some of the country’s best-kept secrets in Malaysia. We also reciprocated and shared aspects of our culture as well.

Even though the primary purpose of the trip to volunteer at a local school, I feel that it is appropriate to mention that without the input and the camaraderie of the students from UPM,  the outcomes and the experiences of this outreach project would have been quite different.  In a few words – our contemporaries from UPM were simply amazing.  We all bonded quickly. Laughs and smiles were in abundance, we were so lucky to interact with some the most fun-loving people I’ve ever met.

That’s not to say the students we got to teach weren’t fun loving, nothing could be further from the truth. I was amazed by the huge difference in teaching approaches used between the Australian and the school we visited in Malaysia, Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Mas (SKSM). One fundamental difference that struck me was the flexibility of the curriculum at SKSM. I remember attending “sports carnivals” during my schooling days in Australia. It was not so long ago. The event was more of a rigid contest than a carnival. The competition centred around finding who could run 100m the fastest in time? Who could jump the highest? Who could jump the furthest? While I enjoyed these events, the atmosphere was incomparable to the sporting event we attended at SKSM. Rather than having rigid contests, students completed by playing games. The rules were flexible enough to accommodate more than 30 university students in heavy rain. We never got a chance to find out which one of use could jump the highest, but we did have a lot of fun, and I made memories I’ll never forget.

Oh, and did I mention that everyone was a winner? Yup. No ribbons were awarded, but everyone received items (such as baskets and water bottles) that they could take home. I think this style of teaching really helped us get closer to the students. Their happy faces always spoke a thousand words.

Within the school classroom itself, my team taught programming through Scratch 2.0 and playing games. There was only one computer class in the school. Regrettably,  all the computers were broken, and this had been the case for quite some time. While there was no lack of student interest in developing computer programming skills, it was evident that there was a need for more strategic methods to teach these skills without relying on constant access to computers.

We did a number of activities with the students (both with and without computers). The activity that I liked the most was called “program your teacher”. I liked it because it felt far more like a game than learning to program and required no access to computers. While not strictly necessary for the activity, we started by playing Simon says. This really turned out fantastic as not only did it give us teachers a way to quieten the students when they became too loud (Students began to reflexively respond to “Simon says hands on heads”), but it also served as an excellent ice breaking activity. From there we used a set of scratch blocks we had printed and laminated, to allow students to write commands like “move forward”, “jump” or “turn left”. This allowed the students to write out a set of commands to get their teacher or fellow students to complete the challenges while representing their instructions (just like you would in the scratch programming languag)e. This became a lot of fun, as students would often mistakenly command each other into obstacles rather than around them, and collisions with others became inevitable. It was clear when we started programming that this helped students more quickly grasp the concept of programming.

I, along with everyone else had such an amazing time. If I could change one thing about the trip it would be to make the trip longer so that we could spend more time teaching at the school, and also more time sleeping. Jumpa lagi!!

 

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Student outreach project at SK Sungai Mas

Our recent outreach project was undertaken at Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Sungai Mas in September/October. This is a small rural primary school and it caters for Orang Asli children.  The trip was made possible by the funding received through the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan (NCP).

Ten undergraduate students and two staff  from QUT participated in this project. The students were from the following disciplines: Education (5), IT (1) and Science (4). The project was managed by Graeme Baguley (Manager, International Student Services). Associate Professor Jennifer Firn (Faculty of Science and Engineering) and I were responsible for the students and their activities in our respective areas. We teamed up with Dr Siti Isa and Dr Evelyn Lin and 31 of their students from the Universiti Putra Malaysia(UPM). Like last year, we had excellent support from Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Sharkar Shahbudin (Chairman, Pahang State Tourism) and Dato’ Ahmad Farid Abdul Jalal (Director, Pahang State Museum Authority). We were also very appreciative of the support of other staff members from UPM.  For all of us, the dinner with Her Royal Highness Crown Princess of Pahang, Tunku Hajjah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah was a special and significant moment. This dinner was jointly hosted by Pahang State Tourism and the Pahang State Museum Authority at the Pahang Art Museum in Kuantan.

Her Royal Highness addressing the guests (Photo: Batik and Bubbles http://batikandbubbles.com/)

Her Royal Highness addressing the guests (Photo: Batik and Bubbles http://batikandbubbles.com/)

UPM students performing at the dinner nite for Her Royal Highness (Photo: Batik and Bubbles http://batikandbubbles.com/)

UPM students performing at the dinner evening for Her Royal Highness and other guests (Photo: Batik and Bubbles http://batikandbubbles.com/)

The Australian students had to complete an assessment task as part of this project.  The education students had to design and develop a unit plan that showcased the use of ICT in this Malaysian Primary School. Coding and computational thinking were at the core of these activities. In addition, the activities also had to promote English language development. The delivery of the activities had a trans-disciplinary and trans-national focus. The education students had to communicate and collaborate with other students from QUT and UPM and teachers from the primary school to deliver activities. None of these students had a background in education.

Developing new friendships

Developing new friendships

The Australian team arrived in Malaysia on different days and times. This was due to the fact that all participants had to make their own bookings for their flights. This was a condition of the NCP grant. There are no direct flights between Brisbane and Kuala Lumpur – this added another layer of complication. For this reason, we all had to fly out from the Gold Coast. All overnight flights arrived in Malaysia at about 4.30am. Despite our different and inconvenient arrival times, our counterparts at UPM were very accommodating – as always. The hospitality and the friendliness of our colleagues in Malaysia and their students cannot be expressed in a few words. They were just amazing!!

Some of the amazing students from UPM

Some of the amazing students from UPM (Photo: Mary Cosmo)

For all of us, our trip to Kuantan started on Sunday morning. The weather was relatively pleasant – very different from our previous visit. It was somewhat cooler. This time haze and smoke was not an issue. Last year, the burning of natural forests in Indonesia was causing havoc to people in Malaysia and in other countries. Schools had to close due to pollution. En route to, Kuantan we stopped at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary. This is an interesting place to visit and see the elephants perform to a captive audience. This park seems to be very popular and attracts both the locals and tourists. The audience also gets a chance to bathe the elephants. The body language of these magnificent giants tends to suggest that they enjoy the experience. For most of our students, it was the first time that they got a chance to not only see elephants but also get to give them a bath at such a close distance.

What an experience?

What an experience?

SK Sungai Mas was about 30 minutes from our hotel. However, our coach could not get us to the school. There is a feeder road that connects the school and local community to the main road. While the condition of this road was relatively good, it was only designed for light traffic.It was too narrow for a bus to go through. Walking was possible but not feasible due to time constraints. There was a UPM mini bus that transported some of us to the school.  So we had to find alternative transport locally.  Teachers at the school also transported us to and from the main road to the school from time to time.

Local transport (Photo: Mary Cosmo)

Local transport (Photo: Mary Cosmo)

SK Sungai Mas was a neat and tidy school. It was colourful. Walls throughout the school were peppered with text and images. Most were designed to capture students attention in the hope that it would deliver some positive messages that would add value to their learning. The physical environment spoke volumes about the passion that the staff, students and the community had about the school. These characteristics made the school very welcoming. To me, the school looked very inviting and was an ideal environment for teaching and learning.  The staff and students embraced us very warmly into their school.   On day 1, we were welcomed by Zulfadzli Ismail, the Assistant Head-Teacher. We were shown to our classrooms.

Ashley chatting just before the school assembly

Ashley chatting just before the school assembly

Given the small size of each class, combining Grades 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6 was relatively easy. So we had three groups to work with as planned. Monday was the day for observations for our students. However, the teachers at the school expected our students to start teaching. Instead of whingeing and whining our students from QUT and UPM sprung into action. They all did a brilliant job and it was also a major confidence booster. They knew that with some modifications they could implement what they had planned.

High engagement in the Grade 1/2 class

High engagement in the Grade 1/2 class

Jessica Martin and Ashley Mitchell led the Grade 1 and 2 team. On some days children from the preschool also joined their group. Their activity focused predominantly on Bee-bots. These robots are very popular with younger children in Australia and elsewhere. Mary Cosmo and Madeline Seivers led the Grade 3 and 4 team. They used Edison robots for some of the activities but later modified their plan which enabled their students to create multimedia presentations. Joram Villanueva and Mitchell Neill led the Grade 5 and 6 team. Their focus was on teaching coding and computational thinking using Scratch. I was quite amazed when I found out that Malaysia and already introduced Scratch programming in the curriculum for children in Grade 6. However, it appeared that children were learning about this application for the first time!

Some happy faces in the Grade 3/4 group

Some happy faces in the Grade 3/4 group (Photo: Mary Cosmo)

All teams came across issues and challenges from time to time. But it was very pleasing to see that the team leaders were able to solve the problem through communication, collaboration and application of their knowledge and understanding of the task at hand. We often talk about 21st-century skills and the 4C’s – critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and communication skills. For me, I could see that our students were able to demonstrate the 4C’s by solving curriculum problems that were highly relevant in this unseen and unique context. This is the type of teachers we want to see in all oschoolsols.

Figuring out some instructions in Scratch in Grade 5/6 class

Figuring out some instructions in Scratch in Grade 5/6 class

Our success was largely dependent upon the support provided by the Head Teacher – Humdan Bin Ahmad, his staff and the school community. The school appeared to have an open door policy with the local community. Parents always seem to have been welcomed with open arms. In fact there was a small hut next to the school gate for the members of the community. Perhaps one of my highlights was seeing the parents come of school on the last day and participate with their children in their classrooms. With some certainity I can say that they were seeing robots and programming for the first time.

A parent (in green t-shirt) engaging in a Grade 1-2 class

A parent (in green t-shirt) engaging in a Grade 1-2 class with Bee-bots

Parents (in green t-shirts) listening to Joram and

Parents (in green t-shirts) listening to Joram and Fiazul

One afternoon our group was invited to visit the local village and sample the life of the orang asli people. We tasted some native fruits, saw how sap was drawn from rubber trees, and got a look into their homes to get some appreciation of their life styles.

I love this photo!

At the village. I love this photo!

Homes in the local community

Homes in the local village

The support provided by the Pahang Government, Pahang Tourism and the Pahang State Museum Authority (last year and this year) added another dimension to our Malaysian experience. On this trip, Sri Haji Mohd Sharkar Shahbudin (Chairman, Pahang State Tourism) and Dato’ Ahmad Farid Abdul Jalal (Director, Pahang State Museum Authority) hosted two dinners and a lunch for our students.  The dinner at the Pahang Art Museum in Kuantan with Her Royal Highness Crown Princess of Pahang as the guest of honor with other VIPs represented a once in a lifetime opportunity for us all. It may remain in our memories forever. I felt quite honoured to have addressed the princess on behalf of our two universites and then joined her for dinner at her table. This evening gave us an opportunity to highlight the work we were doing with the orang asli children. In her speech and in the conversations that I had with her, it was obvious that Her Royal Highness was a very compassionate human being. I was truly impressed by the work the princess and the prince were doing for the underprevildged in low socio-economic communities.

Her Royal Highness with some of our team members (Photo courtesy of: http://batikandbubbles.com/)

Her Royal Highness with some of our team members (Photo: Batik and Bubbles http://batikandbubbles.com/)

Dato Farid with Her Royal Highness and some of our team members Photo: Batik and Bubbles )

Dato Farid with Her Royal Highness and some of our team members (Photo: Batik and Bubbles  )

So what is the take home message? I have been involved in outreach projects for the past few years. Such experiences (thanks to all the parties involved) create unseen opportunities for us to view the world and its people through a different pair lens. How we paint the picture of the world depends on how we see it. However, our picture will be based on our experiences and not be based on what someone has tells us. There are far too many people – who think “small” and talk “big”.  The world is the best classroom you can have – so experience it and form your own views!

Time to go home!

Time to go home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 2016, Malaysia_2016, SK Sungai Mas | Leave a comment

Mary Cosmo’s reflections of her trip to Malaysia

Mary Cosmo is a third-year student in the Bachelor of Education (BEd) program at QUT . She is a high achiever, an excellent team leader and communicator who works through problem-solving activities methodologically. On her trip to Malaysia, she teamed up with Madeline Seivers (another student in the BEd primary program) and other colleagues from QUT and UPM to deliver some highly engaging activities (in coding) to children in Years 3 and 4 at SK Sungai Mas – a primary school in Kuantan, Malaysia. This is a reflection of some her experiences…

img_0009I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity. I envisaged that I would learn more than I taught and that was certainly the case. I pride myself in being one to embrace diversity and find the good in most, but this opportunity highlighted to me how I had allowed my viewpoints of the Muslim culture to be socially constructed by the perspectives portrayed in mainstream media. The stereotypical Muslim doesn’t exist. What I discovered was the warmest, most caring, engaging, astute and nurturing group of people I have ever met.

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Whilst our first observation day turned into an unplanned teaching day, I feel this day broke the ice and set the week up to be the success that it was.  Another successful aspect of the class experience was forming groups at the beginning of the week and keeping those small groups together. Team pride and camaraderie flourished and some light-hearted competitiveness was clearly evident. The students from UPM were ‘naturals’ at teaching and motivating the students and it would have been a considerably less engaging experience for all without them.

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I found the Edison Robots frustrating in the class although the students didn’t seem to care too much that they didn’t work consistently. I have researched them since and have discovered that they are light-sensitive which explains their inconsistencies. Although we were continually challenged, I gained a lot of confidence in my ability to adjust to the changing circumstances. If I were to give advice to another student setting off on this experience, it would be to plan lots of games (that promote the use of English language)  and offline activities to support the main objective.


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My favourite time in the classroom was when the parents visited. They were very shy and sat to the edge to start with. We had small gifts that we gave to them and their smiles were priceless. It was extremely heartening to see them then join in our Simple Simon game and their children were so caring and proud.  They were so obviously grateful.

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The trip was well organised. The food was fabulous and plentiful. Collaborating with this group of people was enlightening and rewarding. I would jump at the opportunity to be involved in a project like this again. Thank you!

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Posted in 2016, Malaysia_2016 | Leave a comment

Support for schools in Fiji following Cyclone Winston

We are helping children at this school

We are helping children at this school

With the assistance of family and friends, the SEE Project supported three schools in Rakiraki and Tailevu following the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston in 2016. Children at Ellington Primary and Tatiaya Primary schools who were affected by the cyclone were served cooked lunch over a few weeks to help the families  This program was a partnership between the staff, committee members of the respective schools, and the SEE Project. Mr Pushp Dass  – a community worker who is always willings to help others was instrumental in getting this initiative underway. Many homes in the area – including Mr Dass’s was severely damaged in the recent cyclone.

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Path followed by Cyclone Winston [Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/image/7187114-3×2-940×627.jpg%5D

Lunch was prepared daily by the members of the school community. Groceries for the cooking was obtained from a local store and the SEE Project meets the cost. The rationale for this operation was to ensure that children were well nourished so that they could engage productively in school activities during the day.

Soon after the cyclone hit the islands, a proactive member of the SEE Project team based in Fiji shared some of his thoughts as follows:

“The farmers of western Viti Levu were just coming out of prolonged drought when they were struck by the ‘monster’ cyclone. Many sugarcane farmers were left with nothing as about 80% of the houses in the sugar cane belt were damaged”.

“Many stories and experiences have been shared over the media ranging from ‘magic mats’ that saved lives. Heroic stories of fathers and mothers risking their lives for their children. There was a touching story from Rakiraki where a mother dropped her two daughters (one of them was a two year old) – at an evacuation center and returned home.  After the cyclone had passed, she was found dead at her home clinging to a bag of clothes for her daughters. In another instance, a 70-year woman watched her home blown away as she clung to her husband who has been paralysed for the last 15 years. Later, some able-bodied shameful men took off with their boots and other belongings”.

“It is heartbreaking to hear stories of devastation and knowing that students cannot make it to school. The principal of a school in a devasted area mentioned that following the cyclone less than 50% of students have been coming to school.  Many families have lost their houses, belongings and have no means of cooking. Students are not coming to schools because they have lost all their books, uniform, bags and shoes”.

“One of the reporters from the Fiji Sun mentioned how some students still helped on the farms after school and then get to do some schoolwork. It is still something to think about as there is no electricity and there are rumors that electricity will be fully restored by April – end of first term of school holidays. By then, many schools on the other parts of Fiji would have finished half of their syllabus. Schools are operating without electricity and connectivity is very poor”.

“In the Tavua/Rakraki area most of the students come from families that rely on sugar cane farming. This has been affected by a series of droughts and other problems in the last few years. Farmers that used to harvest 300 tonnes of sugar cane came down to as low as 50 tonnes – meaning a return of $1000 for the year and less if they had purchased fertilizer, rice, etc. Many other students are children of part-time cane harvesters and workers – their situation is even worse.”

“There are many individual case studies of students and parents that we can write about and their experiences during and after the cyclone – but the worry is how these students will come to school, how they will cope and learn during these trying times”.

Accounts such as this were widely shared through the social media. This was one of the reasons why the SEE Project became proactive to make a small difference in bringing normality to the lives of some families.

Posted in 2016, Uncategorized, Winston | Leave a comment

It was the first time I felt like I really experienced the culture of a foreign country…Casey Chamberlain

Casey Chamberlain is a second year Bachelor of Fine Arts student. In this blog she is reflecting on her experiences in Malaysia in October 2015…..

I taught in the grade 5 classroom with my team: Kate and Afiq from QUT and Syu, Ain, Kim, Aishya, Nadhirah and Munirah from UPM.

Pages created by students for their digital story

Pages created by students for their movie clip

Our lesson plan included a combination of the narrative structure of stories, deforestation, and movie making. The result saw the children create their own story based on the theme of deforestation with which they created a movie clip, using drawings, popsicle stick characters and a voice recording. They edited their films with the program Open Shot by syncing the pictures to the voice recording and adding transitions.

When we first entered the class, the children were very shy and reluctant to speak to us in English even though they could understand us. This made the existing language barrier even more of an issue to begin with. But after the second day, the kids opened up and felt so much more comfortable communicating with us. It also made a massive difference to have the UPM students translating to make sure no one was left behind.

The greatest moment for me was seeing the kids use the laptops and learning how to simply use a touch pad. They saw dragging and dropping a file as a game and gasped when the cursor went outside of the file box. It was so rewarding to see the mini movies they created and I felt like they accomplished so much in such a short amount of time.

Although playing with elephants was an all time favorite moment, I would have to say the homestay was the highlight of my experience. At one point I remember sitting at the dinner table, surrounding with piles of dishes of amazing food, with everyone around me speaking a language I didn’t understand and it was the first time I felt like I really experienced the culture of a foreign country.

A photo with the host family and friends from UPM

A photo with the host family and friends from UPM

 

Posted in 2015, Malaysia, SK Temai | Tagged | Leave a comment

Jessica’s reflections of her Malaysia trip

Jessica Davies is enrolled in the Bachelor of Information Technology course at QUT. She is majoring in Computer Science and Mobile Applications. She is very talented and many of her intellectual and personal qualities were evident on this trip.  Here are some of her thoughts about the trip.    

Assisting one of my students

The ten days spent in Malaysia as a part of this project have been one of the highlights of my degree. My particular team focused on teaching the year six students renewable energy concepts in a way that promoted digital literacy and hands-on learning. The day-to-day teaching team consisted of three students from UPM – Hamiza, Zaitun, and Celementina – and three students from QUT – Anthony, Mitchell, and I. Over the three days of teaching, we introduced the students to circuit building using Little Bits, programming using Scratch, and a combination of the two, where Scratch was used to program an Arduino board connected to a Little Bits circuit.

Pleasing to see the change in my students

Pleasing to see the change in my students

Our team encountered many challenges throughout our time teaching at SKT, most of which arose from technological issues. We found that the skills and capabilities of the year six students were far better than we had anticipated, with the students picking up concepts much quicker than we had planned. This was a challenge in itself, as it meant that we were having to come up with increasingly challenging tasks that we hadn’t previously prepared. Overall, things went really well, and we all had a lot of fun learning with the year six students.

Planning with my team

Planning with my team

For me, the absolute highlight of the experience was seeing the year six girls grow in confidence over the course of the week. On the first day I noticed that the female students were very hesitant to ask questions or engage with the hands-on activities, outside of what they had been instructed to do. By the end of the week, they were laughing and asking questions, and playing with the Little Bits in a much more confident and creative way. Something that I’d also like to mention is that I really appreciated everyone being so lovely and welcoming, especially during the homestay and our arrival at the airport.

Moved the hospitality of the Malaysian students

Our warm welcome at KL airport

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Mitchell’s reflections of his trip to Malaysia

Mitchell Neill is enrolled in the Bachelor of Engineering program – majoring in Computer and Software Systems. He is nearing completion of his studies. Mitchell’s team engaged in a range of activities using digital technologies (eg. little bits and Scratch) in Class 6.

Just helping one of my students

Just helping one of my students

A child’s smile is something that transcends the need for language. During my time in Malaysia, I was lucky enough to explore the country, along with working together with my peers to help teach students renewable energy through the use of scratch (A drag and drop programming language) and little bits (Snap together electronics). As cliché as it might be, my favourite moment within the trip, and perhaps as an educator was when the students claimed they didn’t want to go to lunch but would rather stay and keep working on their projects. This was a truly incredible feeling. I was truly amazed at how the students wholeheartedly accepted us into their groups, playing sports with us, playing traditional games with us, and teaching us about their language and culture. Malaysia was amazing.

Some of our groups presenting for parents and the community

Explaining what we did to parents and the school community. with some of our team members (L-R) Syarifah, Anthony, Me, Hamiza

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Kim Dong Hwan’s reflections of his experiences at SK Temai

Kim Dong Hwan is an exchange student at UPM. He is from South Korea. He was a part of our team. Kim is a popular student – very much liked by all students. Kim worked with his team in Class 5 to deliver a very effective activity. Here Kim reflects on some of his experiences at SK Temai.  

I will have long lasting memories of the experiences that I had with my mates from QUT and UPM.  We had a great time from 25 September 2015 till 3 October 2015.

Just reflecting on something here

Enjoying my lunch at SK Temai

I was very excited as we made our trip to Pekan in the Pahang district of Malaysia. On the bust I talked a lot with my class mates and my new friends from Australia. Our first stop was the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary in Pahang.  There were a lot of elephants in the park. We watched an elephant show and gave the elephants a bath. In the process, I also got wet. I liked our hostel at UMP.  I was really looking forward to our stay here till Friday.

Me with the elephants

Me with the elephants

Teaching at SK Temai went on smoothly.  While our QUT counterparts took the lead, we played the role of assistants. To be honest, I did worry a lot before we started teaching. Questions like “can I teach them?”, “how do I communicate with them?”, “I also don’t know English well, can I help my friends?” went through my mind many times. But it wasn’t problem. Our Australian friends prepared the content and other resources that were very user-friendly. This made it very easy for us to follow.  My friends from UPM  were also able to explain the tasks in Malay – this made it very easy for the children to follow.

Our home stay was also memorable experience

Our home stay was also memorable experience

At SK Temai, the children were very kind and honest. In addition, they participated very well. There were no behavior problems – so we could teach them easily. We taught them about making cartoon movies. The message was on the importance of  forests and how it can be protected. I did my best for the children. The children made an excellent cartoon movie, and then we got time to present on Friday. I felt that we achieved a lot and I was proud of my student and our group.

I enjoyed working with these students

I enjoyed working with these students

I wish SK Temai staff, students, and parents the very best in future.  The SEE Project created new opportunities for me to learn and interact with both – people from Malaysia and Australia.

고맙습니다

For more stories visit: https://theseeproject.wordpress.com

Posted in 2015, Malaysia, STOMP | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Nuraain Amalina bt Mokhli reflects on the visit by QUT staff and students

Nuraain Amalina bt Mokhli is a Bachelor of Tourism student at the Universiti Putra Malaysia. In this blog she is reflecting on the visit by QUT students in October 2015.   

Short Term Outward Mobility Program (STOMP) is an outreach project run jointly by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). The project run from 25th September 2015 until 3rd October 2015 in Malaysia. I had joined this program as a student from UPM. I am studying Hospitality in Parks and Recreation under the guidance of my lecturer, Dr. Siti Suriawati Isa.

My STOMP experience began when I arrived at SISFEC on Sunday, 27th September 2015. This was the first face to face meeting with QUT staff and students. Previous to this I met them once through Skype.

We travelled together to Pahang by bus. Our first stop was at Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre. We got the chance to get closer with the elephants by watching them perform their trick, feeding them and also watching them taking a bath. We continued our travel to Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP). This is where we stayed for 5 days and 4 nights.

Here are some of the highlights and memorable moments I experienced during my five days as a participant in this program in Pahang.

SK Temai

I had a lot of fun assisting QUT students to teach pupils at SK Temai. I worked with QUT students Kate, Casey and Afiq to teach Year 5 students. The module was about “Deforestation”. Therefore, I helped them to translate the content and help the Year 5 students to carry out their activities.

As a result of a fire haze blanketing much of the area at SK Temai there was emergency leave for all schools, so we were unable to meet the students on the first day. On the second day at SK Temai, we started to get to know the students. After that, I had my first experience helping the students to understand the stories read by Kate and Afiq. I was glad that the students could understand what we tried to deliver to them. Some of the students impressed me with their ability to read and understand English. Furthermore, I had fun helping students to draw on paper.

The next day, I assisted the Year 5 students with story writing. My group created a story entitled “Homeless Orang Utan. The students read their story aloud in order to record their voices. After that, the students were asked to draw and make puppets using popsicles. Even though it was a bit tiring due to our limited time to finish up the activities, I still had a lot of fun because we succeeded in making drawings with the puppets. In addition, I also had learned on how to tackle the students and organise the works especially when I only have a little time to do so.

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Guiding students with story writing

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Cover page of the story book: “Homeless Orang Utan”

On the fourth day, we started to use ICT. In my opinion, this is the most challenging task because some of the students know nothing about computers. Therefore, it was somewhat hard to make some of them to be interested with the activities. In spite of that, there were some students who were actually good at computers. After I taught them how to make a video using “Openshot” software, they can understand it and started to combine the image and the audio to make a video. However, the computer froze few times and we needed to reboot and redo the video. Athough my students and I were having a hard time at first to redo the video, we finally succeeded in completing the video. I would like to especially thank one of my students in my group, Alis, who was so good with computers that was able to solve the problem we had in order to complete the video. The other students in my group also had taken interest and helped each other to complete the video.

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Teaching students on how to use computer

We had debriefing sessions each day after we finished the day with SK Temai students. I had the chance to give feedback and hopefully my comments enabled QUT students to make any improvements as well as to make them feel more motivated to continue the program at SK Temai during that time. 

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                                                 Group photo with Year 5 students

Foster family

The foster family program was held for one day from Thursday, 1st October 2015 until Friday, 2nd October 2015. On Thursday evening, we had been assigned to different foster families. I got Mrs. Roslaili Abdul Kadir as my foster mother together with Casey and Hamiza. Mrs. Roslaili has two children, Aqil who is a Year 6 student and Yuna, a 4 years old girl.

Our activity started with our visit to Pahang River. I had a lot of fun because the three of us – Casey, Hamiza and I were accompanied by my foster family as well as the other kids who live in that village.


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Casey, Mrs. Roslaili, me and Hamiza at Pahang River

Our dinner for that night was chicken rice and prawn (Udang Galah). This was really delicious. My Mama (my foster mother) is such a good cook. All of us ate well night. We were so lucky because someone was so generous to give us freshly caught prawns from the river for free. We felt very grateful for that.

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Udang Galah (prawn), Chicken Rice and Jimmy Asmara drink for the dinner!

After we had finished our meals, we went to our Mama’s mother’s house. That was when we saw Mama’s mother, siblings and also Yuna, Mama’s child (Aqil’s sister). Mama introduced her family to us. Mama’s mother is such a strong lady at her age because she painted the wall all by herself. Yuna is a dear little girl who loves watching cartoons especially Barbie and Frozen. She is a brilliant kid. Casey taught her some words in English like ‘banana’ and she learnt the word in a split second. I also had fun playing with her and chatting with the family.

It was such a great opportunity to meet my foster family who were very friendly and lovely. Even though the program was only for a day, I had great experience and, we used our time wisely by doing many fun things in that short period of time.

We spent our last two days together at UPM by having a short tour to Putrajaya. On the last day, we went to KLCC and then, we had high tea at the Picknik Restaurant before we bid farewell at the hotel.

I would like to thank our partners from QUT – Mr. Graeme, Dr. Vinesh, Dr. Richard and all QUT students for partnering with us for in the nine days of STOMP program. It was such a great opportunity to be able to meet and work with new people, build new friendships and gain new experience.These whole experience including those that I didn’t mentioned before such as a visit to Permatang Siput Village and many other wonderful moments leave me with bittersweet feelings. It was hard to depart from SK Temai students. It was hard to part from my foster family. It was hard to farewell QUT students and staff. During the entire program, we had many great moments and I will always remember and cherish those moments when all of us went through fun and tough times together.

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Jocelyn’s reflections of her experiences in Malaysia

Jocelyn Tan is a QUT staff. She works in the International Student Services Office. She is a former Malaysian National. Her role in the team was very significant. Her good knowledge of ICT and her fluency in Bhasa Malaysia made her a real asset to her team.  Here Jocelyn is reflecting on her experiences…

I was involved in the Malaysia STOMP/ SEE Project as an accompanying staff member from QUT. I was very excited to be given this opportunity and was even more excited to be involved in one of the teaching groups.

My year 3 team with our students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

My year 3 team with our students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

My group consist of Georgia Catherine and Vicky Jacobs from QUT, and Lorna Minin, Aisamuddin Ahmad, Fatin Umira, Amalina Ferdaus, and Nurlina Gani from UPM. We taught in the Year 3 group and the aim was to introduce ICT through role play and drama. To do this, we incorporated a story from their English text book and replaced the characters with Australian animals. We encouraged the Year 3 students to create a similar story and use masks in their role play. The aim of the week lesson was for them to be able to create a digital story through role play.

Assisting my students with their actvitity

Assisting my students with their actvitity

I think one of the successes was how quickly the Year 3 students grasped and learned ICT. I was impressed at how quickly they learned to navigate and use the laptop to create their digital story through ’One Stop’, even though some of them have never used a laptop before. The lessons planned for the week was taught in the first few days and Georgia our group teacher had to be creative and come up with more lesson plans.

Class 3 students showing off their masks

Class 3 students showing off their finished masks

One of the main challenges I found was the language. Being able to converse in Bahasa Malaysia, I found myself speaking mostly in Malay to the Year 3 students as they had trouble understanding me in English. Some of the students were too shy to response in English even though they may understand some of the questions asked.

Congratulating my students for a job well done!

Congratulating my students for a job well done!

Coming from Malaysia myself, I was very excited to share some of my culture and experiences with the QUT students. One highlight of this trip was how well the QUT students have embraced the Malaysian culture and overcame the challenges faced. The weather, concerns of mosquitoes, and the unfamiliar food were all bravely embraced by the QUT students, and everyone was in good spirits. I felt most moved by the hospitality provided by the UPM students and the teachers at SK Temai, as they have truly gone out of their way to make our stay comfortable. I have gained many new experiences from this trip and found that I have learned many things from our counterparts in Malaysia.

Posted in 2015, Malaysia, SK Temai | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Georgia’s reflections of her Malaysian experience

Georgia Row is a third-year student at QUT. She is enrolled in the Bachelor of Secondary Education course. Her majors are English and English as a Second Language. By working with her team, Georgia played an exceptional role in designing and delivering an engaging activity for her Class 3 students at Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai. In this blog Georgia is reflecting on her experiences:    

Haze filled air enters my lungs one last time as I pass through the airport entrance; homeward bound.

I’m strapped into a seat awaiting lift off. The plane hums alive and a chill runs through my shoulders as iced air enters the cabin. The sound of seatbelts clicking bounces around as the safety video plays – my journey was fast coming to an end. A strange sense of regret fills my eyes as tears pool along my lids and threaten to fall with a sting. My team is spread out on the plane, what began as a group of strangers had become a group of friends, bound by unique memories and experiences. Malaysia had been an adventure, a challenge and would soon be a memory.

Casey and I on the UPM bus

Casey and I on the UPM bus

Walking into this program I had little expectations. I felt I had something to offer and craved a renewed sense of purpose. What I received was an abundance of kindness, a warm hug, new friends and a three-day cold. Malaysia invaded my being, dug a whole and found a special place to exist.

Georgia's Team: (Top row) Ina, Jima, Ais (Middle row) Vicki, Me, Jocelyn (Bottom row) Lorna, Malen and Aini

My Team: (Top row) Ina, Jima, Ais (Middle row) Vicki, Me, Jocelyn (Bottom row) Lorna, Malen and Aini

What my team and I had planned to do was use the computer software One Shot in collaboration with pictures to create a short stop motion storybook. We would introduce the Year 3 students to some Australian culture through art and drama then change a story from their existing English curriculum. In my team I enlisted the help if Vicki and Jocelyn from QUT, and Ina, Aini, Malin, Ais, Lorna and Jims from Universiti of Putra Malaysia (UPM).

Here are some of my most memorable moments.

My team and I stand in front of a sea of alert brown eyes. A chair scraps along the concrete floor and a rosy cheeked boy smiles confidently. “Good morning, teacher!” he prompts and a chorus replies. A hand reaches my shoulder and relief floods my limbs instantaneously, my team and I share a moment of nervous excitement.

A young boy walks up to me after class, he motions for my hand. Offering it to him I attempt to shake it, however he guides it up to his forehead where it lightly makes contact with his skin. Aini (a student from UPM) tells me it is a sign of respect. My mouth stretches into a smile.

The year 3 team with their students

Year 3 team with our students

I’m looking for a photocopier. Blindly walking around, I enter a small classroom and attempt to communicate with wild gestures what I require. A pregnant lady leaves what she is doing to take me where I need to go. As we walk down a flight of stairs I slip, she catches my arm and we share a nervous laugh.

Wafi the model student and Georgia at the final presentaiton

Wafi the model student and I at the final presentation

A young girl named Aliya calls me “Cikgu”. Cikgu means teacher in Malay – I am touched.

I ask for a volunteer to speak at the end of week presentation. Vacant expressions are my answer. My eyes flick to the back left-hand corner as a hand shoots into the air. A boy who was originally quiet and too shy to make a peep was standing on his tippy toes, excitement reflected in his grin. The next day he came to me, Wafi had memorise his script. He would present for Year 3.

A blue floral scarf is placed in my hands. A gift from the UPM students Ina, Aini, Malin, Ais, Lorna and Jims, without whom our lessons at SK Temai would not have been possible. My throat clenches from the nape of my neck and pauses under my chin, I am speechless and unable to relay my gratitude nor face the possibility of never being in their presence again.

My time in Malaysia seems a little hazy – I guess that’s only fitting – none the less, the feelings remain. What I was able to experience means a great deal to me and although I’m not sure if I’ve been able to put it into words, I find it only fitting to say – terima kasih.

The STOMP team

The QUT team with the QUT Alumni

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Thank you for supporting our team!

Our team with

Our team with Dato’ Sri Hj. Sharkar (Chairman for Tourism and Culture for Pahang state) and YB. Dato’ Mokhtar Chairman for Tourism and Culture for Pahang State (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Our team felt quite special when we were honoured at special events hosted by the Pahang State Government, Tourism Pahang and the QUT Alumni in Malaysia. We also had visits to the school by some prominent people from the community. The school community was just fabulous. These are some of the activities that we were privileged to take part in. Collectively they made a significant difference to the overall experience.

Monday (28 September 2015)

Some of our team members enjoying a lovely evening

Some of our team members enjoying a lovely evening

On our team members, together with teachers and parents from SK Temai were honoured at a special dinner hosted by Tourism Pahang. YB. Dato’ Sri Hj. Mohd. Sharkar Hj Shamsudin – Chairman for Tourism and Culture for Pahang state and YB. Dato’ Ishak Mokhtar – Director General of Tourism Pahang welcomed all of us. In his welcoming address,  Dato’ Sri Hj. Sharkar acknowledged the work we were doing at SK Temai. It was interesting to learn that he had played a significant role in setting up Kuala Gandah – the elephant sanctuary which we had visited earlier.

Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

We were also joined by Dato’ Ahmad Farid Abd Jalal – the Director of the Pahang State Museum. The dinner and the welcoming atmosphere were beyond our expectations. However, a special invitation to the Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum by Dato’ Farid was the icing on the cake. He organised a visit to the mosque museum at 10pm after dinner. What we saw was breathtaking. Ingenious design skills and innovation appeared to have been creatively melded in this newly renovated heritage listed building. This mosque was built in 1929. As the population grew, a larger mosque was built later on in Pekan. For the past two years, work has been carried out to convert this mosque to a mosque museum.  YB. Dato’ Ishak and Dato’ Farid showed us around and highlighted some of the main features of the building. The displays and the architecture were remarkable. Strategically positioned lights heightened the workmanship of this great building. As pointed out by Dato’ Farid, when the museum opens its door next year it will be an excellent place to visit for people of all races and religions. It is the first time I saw and visited a mosque museum, and it was a privilege. What a great idea?

Time to capture a great moment (Photo: Richard Medland)

Time to capture a great moment (Photo: Richard Medland)

Afig deep thought at the Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

Afig deep thought at the Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

Wednesday night (30 September)

(L-R) Vinesh Chandra, En. Ali Syahbana Sabaruddin - District Officer of Pekan, Graeme Baguley, Siti

(L-R) Vinesh Chandra, En. Ali Syahbana Sabaruddin – District Officer of Pekan, Graeme Baguley, Siti (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

YAB. Dato’ Sri DiRaja Hj. Adnan Yaakob – Chief Minister of Pahang state hosted a dinner for our team. Teachers and members of the SK Temai school community were invited. Some staff members from the Universiti Malaysia Pahang campus were also invited. En. Ali Syahbana Sabaruddin – District Officer of Pekan, represented the Chief Minister who was unable to attend the function. While En. Syahbana commended our work at SK Temai, he was particularly interested in our focus on integrating ICT in classrooms. He commented that earlier in his career; he was involved with technology integration. On the next day, En. Syahbana made a special trip to the school to see some of the work that the students at SK Temai were doing with our team and was very pleased with what he saw.

Team members enjoying a lovely dinner (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Team members enjoying a lovely dinner (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Thursday afternoon (1 October)

Our visit to an Orang Asli village in Permatang Siput was a unique experience. En. Midun is the Penghulu (headman or chief) of this village. He gave an overview of his community. This was followed by afternoon tea. All of us were given special gifts. The gifts were fruits that were grown locally by the community. Some of us were even more privileged – we were given coconuts that were picked by En. Midun.

(L-R) Siti & Vinesh Chandra with their fruit baskets. (Photo: Richard Medland)

(L-R) Siti & Vinesh Chandra with their fruit baskets. En. Midun in the centre (Photo: Richard Medland)

YB. Mohammed Fakhruddin bin Mohd Ariff, the local member of the state parliament (sub district of Bebar, Pekan) visited the school later in the afternoon. He acknowledged how our initiatives were adding value to his community and invited us to consider other sites in his constituency as the program evolves in coming years. YB. Fakhruddin played a significant role in identifying and organising families who acted as hosts for our team members for a night. This was a significant and memorable aspect of our project.  In reflections to follow, team members will shed light on how these homestays impacted on their experiences.

Friday morning (2 October)

Year 6 students doing their presentations for guests parents, and the school community

Year 6 students doing their presentations for guests parents, and the school community (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

On Friday En Mohamad Haris Mohamad Nor, District Education Officer, visited the school. He was the Chief Guest for the student showcase. He echoed some of the strengths of our project that were highlighted by the visitors earlier.

Well done team, teachers and students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Well done team, teachers and students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

 

Happy children at SK Temai

Happy children at SK Temai (Photo: Richard Medland)

Saturday afternoon (3 October)

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QUT Team with the QUT Alumni in Malaysia (Photo: Dennis Ong)

The Malaysian QUT Alumni chapter invited us to an afternoon tea at the popular Picknik Cafe in Publika (owned by Dato Nik Ezar – a graduate of UQ). Nik’s son – former Masterchef Malaysia finalist Nik Michael Imran heads the team at this cafe. It was a lovely afternoon – with great food and great company. Past students who attended QUT at different times were present. Many stories from the past were shared, and this brought back great memories. Of significance was the role that Graeme Baguley played in the lives of many QUT students from the past. Thank you to the President and Vice-President of the QUT Alumni in Malaysia and their hard working team to make the event a memorable one.

Nik Ezar Nik Bolia welcoming the QUT team and the QUT Alumni to his restaurant

Nik Ezar Nik Bolia welcoming the QUT team and the QUT Alumni to his restaurant

For me, the interest shown by the wider community in Malaysia in our project was heart warming. The education of our children should be everyone’s business. I was very pleased with what I witnessed. Thank you everyone.

“If we are going to live with our deepest differences then we must learn about one another.”
― Deborah J. Levine, Matrix Model Management System: Guide to Cross Cultural Wisdom

For more stories: https://theseeproject.org

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Dr Siti’s reflections on making the inaugural collaboration between QUT and UPM a reality

For the past three years, the SEE Project has enabled students from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to teach in schools in Fiji. A grant from QUT’s Short Term Outward Mobility Program (STOMP) in 2014 created a new opportunity. For the first time, QUT students could work side by side with students from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) in a Malaysian school to deliver classroom activities using ICT. On paper, it looked all good. However, to transform such an idea into reality is a different story. We were very grateful to team up with Dr. Siti Suriawati Isa from the Department of Recreation and Ecotourism in the Faculty of Forestry at UPM. She played a significant role in putting together the Malaysian component of our project. Also, we were on a shoestring budget – Dr. Siti was able to connect with other partners (including UPM and the State Government of Pahang) who were very generous in supporting students from both universities. Here Dr. Siti reflects on some of her initiatives and challenges.        

Dr. Siti Suriawati Isa

Dr. Siti Suriawati Isa

I was very excited when I learned about the proposed outreach project to Malaysia. The prospect of UPM and QUT staff and students working together was exhilarating.  This would be the first time my alma mater would have such program with UPM in Malaysia. As a QUT alumnus, I always wanted to work closely with QUT and connect them with my university. My field of expertise is tourism. It is a multidisciplinary field. The SEE Project adopted a cross-faculty approach in their projects in Fiji with great success. I was convinced that my students and I could add a trans-national dimension to the cross faulty approach. This would enrich the experiences of both the QUT and UPM participants in a unique way.

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Students from my class – their contribution was very significant in this project

The planning of project started as soon as I got a confirmation from Graeme Baguley, QUT International Student Services Manager. Graeme was my former boss at QUT when I worked as a casual staff at the QUT Accommodation Office. We were a good team in those days, and I was looking forward to working with him again.

Choosing the venue for our project was a bit tricky as I had to make sure that all the requirements of the project were addressed. My strong connections with a few people enabled me to choose the right primary school for the project. While gaining approval from the school at Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai, Pekan, Pahang was easy,  I also had to get approval from other parties since all schools in Malaysia are under the jurisdiction of the Malaysian Ministry of Education. I also decided to include the State Government of Pahang in this project since this would be the first time QUT staff and students were coming to their state. I wanted the QUT participants to experience the Malaysian culture and also have the opportunity to visit some interesting tourist attractions. I also wanted these tourism destinations to be different from what Australia offers. Though the arrangements and planning took a lot of my energy and time, I enjoyed doing it because deep down inside I felt that this project would benefit many people and will also provide me with a great experience.

Going through final check list with SK Temai Principal and English teachers - a month before the program started

Going through the final check lists with SK Temai Principal and English teachers – a month before the program started

Community development work has always been very close to my heart. This was probably another reason I was excited about this project. At SK Temai, 60% of the students are Malay and 40% of Orang Asli background. Finding a school with high Orang Asli enrollment was personally satisfying.  The Orang Asli community around the school comes from the Jakun tribe who live at Kampung Permatang Siput, located approximately 15 km from the school. The Jakun tribe are considered to be the most advanced in the Malaysian peninsular.  While they maintain their traditional culture and lifestyle in many ways, they have also been very progressive.This is also reflected in the students at the school. Over the past 20 years, the school has maintained an excellent record of graduates of Orang Asli background. I firmly believe that the Orang Asli children, particularly at SK Temai, have the potential to succeed if they get the right exposure and opportunity. With the mix of university students from Australia and Malaysia – this project had the potential to present some good role models to the children at SK Temai.  

Dealing with school related issues was one challenge. Another significant hurdle was that the budget for the project was limited.  I had to come up with feasible options to ensure that everything was doable at a minimal cost. I was glad that my faculty and university were very supportive and provided financial assistance to cover some of the expenses. A few weeks before the QUT participants arrived I managed to secure two dinners that were sponsored by the Office of the Chief Minister of Pahang, YAB – Dato’ Sri DiRaja Hj Andan Yaakob and the Chairman of Tourism and Culture Pahang – YB. Dato’ Sri Hj. Mohd. Sharkar Hj. Shamsudin. The local representative of Bebar in the Pekan parliament – YB. Mohammad Fakhruddin Mohd. Ariff helped identify between 10-15 families from the local community to be our ‘foster parents’ for one night. Everything was planned and looked good for our QUT guests who were to arrive on the second day of Eidul Adha celebration when most of the Malaysians would be on leave. Nevertheless, my students and I were so excited to become the hosts for the QUT participants that we went through our final checklist two days before their arrival day.

Dr Siti and Graeme at KLIA

Dr Siti and Graeme at KLIA

QUT participants arrived at KLIA on the 25 September via Singapore. In the morning, I was told by the Sultan Idris Shah Forest Education Centre (SISFEC) staff (where all the participants were supposed to stay for two nights) that they had issues with electricity supply in the buildings that were meant to accommodate the participants.  However, they promised that the problem was temporary and would be rectified before the group arrived. The issue was not resolved because most of the staff were still on Eidul Adha leave. My team and I, including our students, had to come up with a quick backup plan. I was quite nervous to inform our guests from QUT about this problem. I knew that they would be tired from their long flight. While my team at SISFEC did their best to deal with this issue, I organized another group to welcome our guests at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport arrival hall. All of our QUT guests finally came out at about 11 pm, and we took them for supper at a “Mamak” Restaurant that was close to SISFEC. One of the reasons I took them for supper was to give time to my team at SISFEC to execute our backup plan for our guests’ accommodation. I could see that our guests had a great time. They seemed to have enjoyed the Malaysian cuisine. I still didn’t tell them about the problem at SISFEC. However, I did share with Graeme the challenge that we were to face in the next step. Both of us agreed to hold back the news until we reached SISFEC. Our solution was to put all the QUT participants in the hall. A temporary wall separated males and females.

My hard working students happily doing their job at wee hours of the night

My hard working students happily doing their job at wee hours of the night

In the morning of the next day, Graeme told me QUT participants were happy sleeping inside the hall because of the air conditioning. There were no mosquitoes either.  So it was like first class camping. They requested to stay there until they checked out the next day which was perfectly fine with us. I smile each time I think about our stay at SISFEC. In a way it made all of us become closer together because we went through this unexpected experience together. Well done to all and I’m so proud of all participants who were so awesome in facing difficult times together and supported each other until the end. We are one great team indeed UPM and QUT.

The meeting room my students transformed to become temporary ‘hotel room’ for our guests. Not bad.

The meeting room my students transformed to become temporary ‘hotel room’ for our guests. Not bad.

 

 

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Our week at SK Temai, Pekan, Malaysia

The view from my room at UMP, Pekan (28 September 2015)

The view from my room at UMP, Pekan (28 September 2015)

Our proposed teaching activities were to start with classroom observations on Monday morning (28 September). As I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was look out of my bedroom window. The haze looked a bit thicker than on previous days. During breakfast, Dr Siti advised us that due to the haze, pollution levels were high. As a consequence, all school children in a number of States were advised to stay at home – in short school was closed for the day in Pahang. While this was a downer, on the upside the teachers at Temai Primary were going to be at the school.

Staff at SK Temai (May 2015) (Photo: Zul Muda)

Staff at SK Temai (May 2015) (Photo: Zul Muda)

As our coach headed to the school, I reflected on a story that Siti shared with some of us the previous day. Sometime last year, Siti talked about the proposed QUT trip with her students at UPM. One of her students, Fadzil Noor Johar approached her and suggested Temai Primary School as a possible project site for QUT students. It was close to his home. His parents – Haji Johar Sulaiman and Hajjah Rozilah also lived here. Siti liked the idea. However, earlier this year parts of Pekan was flooded. Fadzil was crossing the flooded waters just outside his home. In a freak accident, Fadzil drowned. As expected his parents, family and friends were devastated by the loss. Fadzil was a young man with a very bright future. He always extended his hand to help others. So our project at Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai was dedicated to Fadzil.

The head-teacher, Dr Siti and Mohd Faizul Ramli (R-L)

(R-L) Encik Mohd Imeran bin Ibrahim (HT), Dr Siti, and Encik Mohd Faizul Ramli (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the Headmaster – Encik Mohd Imeran bin Ibrahim and his staff. Two of his staff members – Encik Mohd Faizul Ramli and Puan Salina Abd Ghafar gave us an overview of the school. These presentations were very informative. It provided us with a good idea of how we might proceed with the classroom activities. The school as a whole was very clean and tidy. It was also well resourced.

Encik Mohd Faizul Ramli introducing aspects of his school to our team

Encik Mohd Faizul Ramli introducing aspects of his school to our team

From Tuesday through to Thursday the classroom activities flowed well. While students from QUT had spent a few weeks in thinking through their activities, students from UPM were an important part of the jigsaw puzzle. They acted as a bridge between QUT students and the students at SK Temai. This bridge was particularly crucial when there were language barriers. Not all staff and students at the school were fluent in English. This is common in all countries where English (or another language) is not spoken as the first language. In such instances, a mediator can play an important role – one who understands both languages. Thus, the presence of students UPM made a significant difference.

A hive of activity in Class 5

A hive of activity in Class 5. Kim is keeping an eye on his group (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

We were quite fortunate that two primary school teachers – Cik Syarifah Nazurah and Cik Nurhezrin Anuar spent their week with us at SK Temai. Both had attained their degree qualifications in Education from QUT a few years earlier. They drove from Kuala Lumpur to join us – this was truly appreciated, and their presence made a significant difference to our work. Their input and advice were invaluable.

Fatin helping one of the groups in Class

Fitri helping one of the groups in Class 3 (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

By the end of the week, all the teams worked well and attained the desirable learning outcomes as planned. The head teacher and teachers were very supportive throughout and did everything that was possible to ensure that our teams adapted their classroom activities with ease.

Anthony making a point to a student in Class 6 (Photo: Ibnu Isa).

Anthony making a point to a student in Class 6 (Photo: Ibnu Isa).

In Class 3, the students created stop-motion videos using OpenShot. The teaching team included Georgia, Jocelyn, Vicki, Suhaira, Lorna, Zaitun, Fakhira, Shahfizat, Safri, Fitri, and Faizal.

Time for a high five. Jocelyn says well done to some of her students

Time for a high five. Jocelyn says well done to some of her students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

In Class 4, teaching activities were led by Hannah, Elliot, Nadia, Lorna, Amalina, Aini, Ina, Fatin, Umira, Aisamuddin. By the end of the week, the students created a digital storybook using PowerPoint.

Elliott helping one of his students (Class 3)

Elliott helping one of his students (Class 4) (Photo Ibnu Isa)

In Class 5, students created video clips based on their local experiences. Classroom activities were led by Kate, Casey, Afiq, Aisyah, Suyhadah, Ain, Munirah, Nadhirah and Kim.

Nurina explains the details of the activity in Class 3

Nurina explains the details of the activity in Class 3

In Class 6, students got to experience new technologies. They had hands on experiences with littlebits (http://littlebits.cc/). By the end of the week, students were also able to create games using Scratch (scratch.mit.edu). Teaching activities were led by Mitchell, Jessica, Anthony, Zulaikha, Hamiza, Clementina, Fatin, Nornajla with Dr Richard Medland advising the team and troubleshooting.

Jessica assisting her Class 6 students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

On Friday, there was a parent/community showcase where some student groups from SK Temai talked about the products they had created using digital technologies. They explained their experiences with confidence. Well done students! Well done teaching teams! More details on students’ experiences in the classrooms will be uploaded in future blogs.

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Suhaira questioning her students in Class 3 (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

I was able to visit each classroom a number of times each day. There was strong evidence of the teaching teams engaging with their students in a range of rich tasks with their students. Most times, the students were on task and were obviously interested and were enjoying what they were doing. While the incorporation of digital technologies into the activities presented a moderate level of challenge, it was a change from the daily classroom routines.

Happy students at the closing ceremony

Happy students at the closing ceremony

Happy students at the closing ceremony

Happy students at the closing ceremony

We had some feedback sessions during the week. The feedback from the teams was positive. Many acknowledged the ability of the students and how quickly they were applying themselves to the given tasks. In particular, they were very quick in demonstrating their understanding of how the technologies worked. In each of our reflections sessions – students rated their experiences with mean scores of 7.5/10 in day 1 through to 9/10 by day 2.

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Cik Syarifah Nazurah sharing her thoughts in one of the feedback sessions (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Our experiences in classrooms at SK Temai – mirrored what we have seen in other countries. When classroom activities are interesting, enjoyable, challenging, well scaffolded and connected to the real world – learning happens.

This is interesting (Class 3) (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

This is interesting…Class 3 students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

We had a memorable week at SK Temai. We are grateful to the Headmaster -Encik Mohd Imeran bin Ibrahim, his staff, and parents for giving us the opportunity to visit SK Temai and for supporting our teams. We wish the teachers, students, and parents of SK Temai the very best in the future.

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Hasnul Hassan – a teacher at SK Temai helping one of the students in Class 6

 

For more stories: https://theseeproject.wordpress.com

 

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The SEE Project@ Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai : A memorable stop at Kuala Gandah

Sunday morning (27 September) we made our tracks to the Pekan campus of Universiti Malaysia. It is in the district of Pahang and a four-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. This campus was our home for the next four nights. From here we commuted to the Pekan Primary School each day. Universiti Putra Malaysia provided us with a comfortable coach for the week. This coach made a big difference to our travel.

Our coach for the week - thank you UPM

Our coach for the week – thank you UPM

On the way, we stopped at Kuala Gandah – a unique elephant sanctuary in Malaysia. “The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) established National Elephant Conservation Centre in 1989. The centre is the base for the Elephant Unit, which began the elephant translocation programme in 1974”. Read more  Trip advisor has more details about Kuala Gandah.

Getting ready for the show

Getting ready for the show

As we entered the park, we viewed a short documentary that highlighted the challenges faced by a team of dedicated Malaysians to relocate displaced elephants from their habitats and into national parks. This task is no easy feat and I commend all those who are involved in this significant work.

The special partnership between men and elephant on show

The special partnership between men and elephant on show

The elephant show was interesting – many members of our team got a chance to feed the elephants with pawpaws. Some of the tricks that the elephants and their trainers demonstrated was equally interesting.

Part of the audience for the elephant show

Part of the audience for the elephant show

Elephant feeding (with pawpaws)

Elephant feeding (with pawpaws)

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A special moment for Ibnu and Hamiza

Perhaps the highlight was an opportunity to bathe the elephants. As the photos below show – it was an exciting time for those who participated in this activity. It was fun just to seeing the elephants enjoying the moment.

Getting ready for a bath

Getting ready for a bath

Bath time

Bath time

Not finished yet

Not finished yet

Time for a splash

Time for a splash

Ok one more photo and then we will be off!

Ok one more photo and then we will be off!

It was late in the afternoon when we checked into our rooms at the university. For me, it reminded me of the life that I had on campus when I was a student in Fiji. It brought back some good and bad memories. Other than the heat and the possible threat of being bitten by mosquitos carrying the dengue fever virus, all else was good. We were set for a good start at Temai Primary School.

Goodbye friends!

Goodbye friends!

Photos: Ibnu Isa and Richard Medland

For more stories visit: https://theseeproject.org/

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The SEE Project@ Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai: Our Malaysian Welcome!

The QUT Team

The QUT Team

Our trip began with great excitement and on time from the Brisbane International Airport on September 25. There was a rolling border patrol officers strike at the airport. However, passengers were processed relatively quickly through customs and security. The first leg of the flight was from Brisbane to Singapore. We had a stopover at the Singapore Airport for about 5 hours followed by a quick 45-minute flight to Kuala Lumpur. All in all – it was a very long day but our adrenaline levels were high…we did not notice it.

Environmental terrorism
Singapore airport was blanketed in haze and visibility was poor. The haze was the result of bushfires in Indonesia, lit by irresponsible palm oil, paper and pulp companies clearing land to advance further their business ventures. In short this is an act of environmental terrorism. This practice has gone on for years. At this time of the year, fires are lit in parts of Indonesia with little thought on its consequences. It has a serious impact on not just the flora and fauna (including people) in Indonesia but some countries in S.S. Asia including Singapore and Malaysia. According to the Guardian, “tens of thousands of people in Indonesia and Malaysia have sought medical treatment for respiratory problems. The annual burning is decades old, and Indonesia has faced mounting pressure to end the practice. Scientists say the pollution could surpass 1997 levels when the haze created an environmental disaster that cost an estimated US$9 billion in damage”.

Relied on this site for pollution index updates: http://aqicn.org/

Relied on this site for pollution index updates: http://aqicn.org/

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur
Dr Siti and her group of very enthusiastic students greeted us the Kuala Lumpur Airport. It is the first time I experienced a welcome of this sort. About a dozen of Siti’s students were at the airport. Some were holding up a banner to welcome us as we emerged through the doors of customers and immigration processing area. The welcome was very touching – what made it even more meaningful was that this was about 11 pm in the night on a Friday and in the middle of the celebrations for the Eid al-Adha festival. In my mind, this warm welcome was an indicator of the partnership we were going to develop with Dr Siti and her students.

Part of the welcoming team from UPM

Part of the welcoming team from UPM (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

We spent our first two nights at the SISFEC Sultan Idris Shah Forestry Education Centre in Selangor. The centre is a campus of Universiti Putra Malaysia. The trip from the airport to the campus was about 45 minutes. We stopped for supper at an authentic restaurant – where the locals go. In Malaysia, such food outlets are open 24/7. Supper is a very important part of the Malaysian culture. Some of us who were familiar with the local cuisine fell in love with this place at first sight. We had different preferences – for Graeme it was Roti Channai, Fried Rice for Richard and Dosa for Jocelyn. An authentic tandoori and naan oven influenced my decision. So I went for some garlic naan and chicken tandoori. The freshly cooked food was a hit with everyone. My thali cost about nine ringgits (about $3 Aud) – great value and taste.

Supper time!

Supper time! (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

After a well-earned sleep, we woke up to the singing and chirping of birds. No noise of cars, buses, trucks or aeroplanes on this campus was a relief from the everyday hustle and bustle that we have become so used to. In ” 1996, through an agreement, the Selangor state government granted permission to UPM to manage and conduct activities related to education, research and forestry development for 99 years that will only end in 2095….This forest is a home to 430 flowering plant species, 33 fern species, 127 timber species and 99 herb species. It is also a home to five out of 10 large mammal species in Peninsular Malaysia, 208 bird species including 35 endangered species and 30 migratory species, 14 small mammal species including slow loris, 13 bat species, 18 frog species, two reptile species and 10 fish species. This species diversity is an attraction that draws researchers to conduct their multidisciplinary scientific studies here”.

Sultan Idris Shah Forestry Education Centre (Photo: Richard Medland)

Sultan Idris Shah Forestry Education Centre (Photo: Richard Medland)

Deforestation is rapidly becoming a significant global issue. The haze that was evident at the Singapore airport is a product of this. It is a sign of our changing times. Pristine forests are becoming the targets of a quick fix that leads to economic gains in the short term. This forest was a delight to visit.

Part of our team at Sultan Idris Shah Forestry Education Centre (Photo: )

Part of our team at Sultan Idris Shah Forestry Education Centre (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Siti gave us an introduction to the centre and its role at her university. This introduction was followed by a tour of the forest and the surrounds by Siti and her group of enthusiastic students. This area that is not open to the public. Special permission needs to be sought from the University before the public is given access. Schools and various other groups do access the forest for meaningful activities. As we walked in between the trees – some possibly hundreds of years old, it became evident that this unique forest was well managed. Litter was almost non-existent. The tracks were very well maintained. The students guided us to a lovely waterfall – it was the icing on the cake. The water was very clean, cool, crisp and refreshing. The world needs more people like the Sultan Idris Shah who are visionary and have the foresight to see the value of conservation for future generations.

Told you Richard...Richard is ok now (Photo: Ibu Isa)

Told you Richard…Richard is ok now (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

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Time for a quick dip (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Such natural features need to cared for the future. Well done UPM (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Getting into gear

After our forest walk, our students teamed up with their Malaysian university counterparts to go through the activities that they had developed for the SK Temai Primary School. The idea behind this meeting was to review and refine activities where necessary. It was very pleasing to see that the meetings went very well. I also teamed up students in pairs. I asked to do a LIST presentation at the end of next week. L- what did you learn from your partner, I – what was interesting about your partner, S – what was special about your partner, and T – what did you teach your partner.

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Team meeting: Neena getting used to the Little Bits Technology (Photo: Richard Medland)

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Team meeting: Lorna, Georgia, Vicki (Photo: Richard Medland)

The day ended with musical and dance presentations by some very talented students from Universiti Putra Malaysia.

For more posts : Visit https://theseeproject.wordpress.com

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Andrew’s reflections of Toko Sanatan Primary School – July 2015

In June 2015, I was invited to share my past experiences of Fiji with the group who would be travelling to Fiji with The SEE Project in July 2015. I shared pictures and stories, and shared what I had learned about myself and my future as a teacher, and by the end of my 20 minute presentation I had decided that I wanted to return to Fiji, with them, in about a months time. After discussion some different ideas with Vinesh, I developed my own project which aligned with the philosophy of The SEE Project – to Share, Engage and Educate. From our discussions, I discovered that there are not many children’s story books in Fiji, and many stories are still passed on orally. This was really powerful information, because: as a child I loved to read and be read to; as a studying teacher I knew the huge range of benefits for reading from a young age; and with stories predominantly being spoken, there is always the possibility that these important cultural stories could be lost forever – these three reasons underpinned my proposed project. My project was to create digital story books in Australia and Fiji, and then have the schools that participated swap what they had created. The big ideas were that students would enjoy the writing process, because they would be writing about topics that interest them, and their stories would be written with a real purpose, to entertain and educate others.


Before leaving for Fiji, I spent a few days volunteering at Lawnton State School, where the students of 3/4M and 5T created digital story books using iPads. A big thank you to admin, staff and students for participating in the project, and a special thanks to Mrs Crilly and Mrs Fletcher for welcoming me into their classroom’s, and providing this unique opportunity for their students to take part in.


Thanks to the connections I had made while volunteering in February, I was able to organise to spend 4 days teaching at Toko Primay School. In this time 3 classes were able to create digital story books, with grades ranging from 6-8 (equivalent to 5-7 in Australia). For each new class, I asked the same question “Why do people write books?” and the students’ responses were all very similar… “For school”, “to learn from”. I asked the same question to the students in Australia, and their first responses were “for fun”, “for enjoyment” and “to entertain”.

It was very fitting that the next thing that we did was read for enjoyment!! Which we continued to do after every recess and lunch throughout the week.

Everyone enjoying the digital stories from Lawnton State School, Australia.

Everyone enjoyed reading and listening to the digital stories created by the students of Lawnton State School, Australia.

After reading a few stories, the students were inspired and excited to create their own digital stories. The students worked in groups of 2-3 to write, illustrate and create their digital story books.

We did some initial brainstorming on the board, and then it was over to the students.

We did some initial brainstorming on the board…

...and then it was over to the students.

…and then it was over to the students!

While some group members were typing, others were drawing.

While some group members were typing, others were drawing.

Then after a quick camera tutorial, pictures of the drawings were taken...

Then after a quick camera tutorial, pictures of the drawings were taken…

...and then uploaded to the computer, and inserted onto each page of their digital books.

…and then uploaded to the computer, and inserted onto each page of their digital books.

Everyone really enjoyed creating their digital story books!

Everyone really enjoyed creating their digital story books!

The students were having so much fun creating their digital stories, that they didn’t want to leave during lunch breaks, and if they did, they would be back in 5 minutes wanting to come back inside, not to play computer games, but to continue their stories! I asked the year 6 teacher “When’s the last time your students came running back to class early to continue learning about narrative writing?” to which he replied “They never have!”.

It was very pleasing to have the teachers actively involved in the classroom activities. Many teachers in Fiji have limited knowledge and skills with computers, however, the teachers at Toko Primary School saw the opportunity to further develop their own understanding.

Posted in 2015, Toko Sanatan School | Leave a comment

Andrew’s reflections of Naidovi, Balata and Toko schools – February 2015

It is quite rare to come across individuals (let alone students) who believe in undertaking proactive steps in their own time and using their own resources to enhance the quality of education in the developing world. Andrew Iddles is one of these individuals. I was privileged to have taught him in his third and fourth year of the Bachelor in Education (Primary) course at the Queensland University of Technology. In this blog, Andrew reflects on his experiences when he goes to Fiji for the second time….

After my experiences teaching in Taveuni, I was very keen to go back to Fiji on a similar project. Shortly after returning, I applied for the Mary and Carl Leonard International Relations Award, a scholarship made available for QUT students, through the generosity of Mary and Carl Leonard, who have devoted their lives to working in developing countries. In late 2014, I was fortunate enough to receive the scholarship.  My project proposal that I submitted as part of my application was accepted. My plan was to return to Fiji for 6 weeks and volunteer in 3 schools – Naidovi Primary School, Balata High School and Toko Primary School. These three schools had all received support from the SEE Project to varying degrees. My project focussed on three broad objectives. I was very aware that the challenges and the strategies for achieving each objective would be quite different at each school. My project objectives were as follows:

  1. Work closely with teachers in their classrooms to gain an understanding of how ICT is implemented and supported to extend student learning.
  2. Share, engage and educate teachers about effective strategies for ICT integration by developing and implementing appropriate activities in classrooms.
  3. Conduct ICT-related professional development sessions for interested teachers outside of school hours.

Naidovi Primary School, Balata Secondary School and Toko Primary School January 25th – March 7th 2015

I spent my first three weeks teaching at Naidovi Primary School, which is located in Cuvu, a coastal district along the South Coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island.

Such a picturesque part of Fiji.

Such a picturesque part of Fiji.

I stayed at Gecko’s Resort for the three weeks, which was less than 2 km from the school. I must say a big thanks to all the staff and management who work their, who made me feel most welcome for the entire stay. The entertainment and food at this place was absolutely phenomenal. In fact, during my stay, guests from the nearby resorts would often come to eat and watch the Gecko’s performances.

It was at Gecko’s Resort where I met Sam, a man whose kindness has provided me with opportunities and experiences that I could of never even imagined. The fact that I was staying for three weeks at Gecko’s raised a few questions from the staff and management, as guests would normally stay for just two or three nights. I explained my project to those who asked and word started to get around. Sam heard through the grape vine that I was going to be teaching at Balata and Toko, so he came and found me and started the conversation… He explained that he and his family live in Tavua, a town that is situated between both schools, and he kindly offered for me to stay with his family for my final three weeks. I must admit at first I was a little hesitant – I had never experienced this sort of kindness in Australia, so I told Sam that I would think about it and let him know. Later that night I called Vinesh and explained the situation, and he told me how these sorts of generous gestures are just part of the Fijian culture, so he thought it was pretty likely that I would live to tell the tale… The next day I accepted Sam’s offer – YOLO.

Naidovi was the first school to receive support from The SEE Project in 2011 – the school received 12 laptop computers, 10 desktop computers, 10 LEGO robotics kits, 1 projector and 400 library books.

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Naidovi Primary School

During my first two days at the school I observed a few classes, and spoke with many staff members about their successes and the challenges that they were facing when using ICT in their classrooms.

Getting to know the students.

Getting to know the students.

It was good to see that some of the teachers who were involved in classroom activities in 2011 were repeating similar activities with their classes three years later. One of the challenges that was brought to my attention in my first few days was that schools have little autonomy over staff employment. The result of this being that teachers who take up the role of encouraging and supporting the use of ICT in these schools, can be transferred at anytime. An instance of this in Naidovi was that the two teachers who had received  professional development for teaching using LEGO robotics, had been transferred out of the school. Due to the unpredictable and untimely nature of these transfers, not enough information was shared with other staff members to be able to continue the LEGO robotics programs that were in place.

For the rest of my week 1, I worked with the two Year 7 and two Year 8 classes. I developed a sequence of lessons which used ICT, that were based on their current science units. In Year 7 the topic was deforestation, and in year 8 the topic was weather. The lessons I developed for each unit of work were similar, which was important because I wanted to show how one idea for using ICT can be used by other teachers in different year levels, and for other topics and subject areas. The lessons required students to create a computer presentation using Libre Impress, the Linux equivalent of Microsoft PowerPoint. These presentations could be used to educate their peers, friends, family and the community about what they have learned about deforestation and weather.

Year 7 students engaged and having fun on the computers.

Year 7 students engaged and having fun on the computers.

The student's worked in groups to create their presentations.

The student’s worked in groups to create their presentations.

The students were able to access the internet to do further research about their topics, and also retrieve pictures that they could use to create more effective presentations. This provided the opportunity for students to develop a deeper and broader understanding of the topics, rather than being restricted to what was written in their science text book and the prior knowledge of their teacher. This also provided an opportunity for students to take more control of their learning, by focusing their additional research on areas that the student’s were of interest for them. The teachers for each class were encouraged to be active participants in the lessons, so that they could further develop pedagogy for teaching with ICT.

Mrs. Reddy helping her Year 8 students do additional research.

Mrs. Reddy helping her Year 8 students do additional research.

*Links to student presentations will be added soon*

The focus of my second week at Naidovi was LEGO robotics. I worked with classes from Year 3 – 8, and once again, teachers were encouraged to join me in the classroom to develop their own skills, knowledge and understanding. Robotics, like computers, when used effectively, provide students with learning experiences that are not only engaging, but also provider a deeper and broader understanding of concepts from a range of subject areas, such as science, maths, programming and engineering.

The student's enjoyed creating the LEGO robots.

The student’s enjoyed creating the LEGO robots.

The students programmed their robots for a range of activities and challenges.

The students programmed their robots for a range of activities and challenges.

For my third week at Naidovi the main focus was on reorganising and recategorising the library, and to have all the students their first books for the year. Since receiving 400 books in 2011, the library had grown to contain approximately 1500 books; thanks to further donations from The SEE Project and volunteers from Japan.

There is a lot to be learned from organising a library, so I invited students to get involved.

There is a lot to be learned from organising a library, so I invited students to get involved.

Fiction books were organised by reading level.

Fiction books were organised by reading level.

Non-fiction was organised by topic.

Non-fiction were organised by topic.

It was great to see how excited the students to borrow their books.

It was great to see how excited the students were to borrow books,

and great how much they enjoyed reading them.

and how much they enjoyed reading them.

During my time at the school, there was a visit from Fiji’s Minister of Education, Dr. Mahendra Reddy. This was a big event for the school and the local community, and it was a privilege to be able to meet him, as brief as it was.

“…regardless of what ethnic group you belong to, what religious beliefs you hold, or where you are from, you all have the right to have access to Education.”

This was a great opportunity for me to meet and socialise with the school staff from Cuvu College and other members of the community. To cater for the event, the Cuvu College staff made chicken pilau, dahl and a number of curries in the biggest stove pots I had ever seen…

I even helped cook the chicken pilau!

I even helped with the cooking!

It was sad to leave at the end of my three weeks at Naidovi. Fijian people have this amazing quality of making complete strangers feel right at home, just like part of the family, and the staff and students of Naidovi Primary School were no exception – Vinaka vakalevu.


I spent my next three weeks in Tavua, a small town located on the north coast of Fiji’s main island.

As I mentioned before, Sam invited me to stay with his family, who live in Tavua Village, one of Fiji’s larges Fijian villages. Living in the village was a unique cultural experience that I was so grateful for. In the village there is no warm water for showers, but the weather is hot, so it’s great! Cats, dogs, chickens and ducks wonder around outside, most of which are owned by people in the village. The roosters give a courteous wake up call, starting around 6 am, which always gave me just enough time to get ready for school – I just wish I could turn those alarms off on the weekend! In a Fijian village, everyone knows everyone, because everyone is family. . After staying there for three weeks, I not only felt like part of Sam’s family, but also part of the village.

The lounge/dining room.

The lounge/dining room.

They kindly insisted that I take Manasa's room for my stay.

They kindly insisted that I take Manasa’s room for my stay.

Bari and Kalera

Bari and Kalera.

Fresh fish in lolo, and cassava from the family farm. Miri is an amazing cook!

Fresh fish in lolo, and cassava from the family farm. Miri is an amazing cook!

I taught the kids in the village how to play French cricket.

I taught the children in the village how to play cricket.


I spent my next week at Balata High School, which is just 10 minutes drive east of Tavua.

Balata High School

Balata High School

Mr. Segran Pillay, the principal of Balata High School, heard ‘through the grape vine’ about the work that The SEE Project had been doing at Naidovi Primary School, and took the initiative to make a contact with The SEE Project, to see how he could get involved. In 2013 the school received 10 laptops, 1 projector and 1 video camera from The SEE Project. Thanks to Mr. Pillay’s passion, commitment and vision for the use of ICT in education, and the support from The SEE Project, the school now has:

  •  A computer lab with ~10 desktop computers, each with the Windows operating system. These computers are used for Computer Studies (a curriculum subject).
  • A media room with ~40 desktop computers, each with the Edubuntu operating system. These computers are all on the school network, and have access to the internet. The media room also has a projector which is connected to a desktop computer.
  • The school has a network, with a server and internet access.
  • Each teacher has access to a personal laptop (supplied by the school if they do not have their own).
  • Each classroom has a projector.
  • The school has WiFi access for students and teachers to connect to using their devices (e.g. phones and laptops). This is for educational purposes only.
  • Webcams, video cameras, digital cameras and projectors are available for teachers and students to borrow for use at school.

It was great to see that many staff were making the most of the opportunities that Segran was providing at the school. For example, in the picture below,  the tech drawing teacher is using a webcam to project live footage of his worked example onto the whiteboard. The teacher is also using recording software on his laptop to make a video of his worked example, which he then was able to give to students on their USB’s, for them to take home and watch again. This is an excellent example of how when ICT is used effectively, it can enhance and extend the learning experiences for students.IMG_0532

Segran also shared some of the challenges that he was facing with ICT, which was a great insight into


I spent my final two weeks volunteering at Toko Sanatan Primary School [Toko Bhartiya School], which is located 10 minutes drive inland from Tavua town. The school received 25 desktop computers from The SEE Project in late 2014, and over the holidays two new computer rooms were set up with new furniture, air conditioning and WiFi.

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I spent the first day setting up the computers in the newly build computer lab. I invited a few interested students to help, which provided a unique learning experience of how to set up a computer with the standard peripherals.

The majority of the students at the school had not used a computer ever before. So I spent my time running 30-60 minute computer lessons, teaching the students the basics, such as the names of different parts of a computer (e.g. mouse, keyboard, monitor), the different functions of the different mouse buttons, important keys on the keyboard, opening up computer programs, typing and mouse coordination. The students learned these basic skills through a range of free Edubuntu games (e.g. GCompris, TuxMath and TuxTyping), with intermittent explicit teaching moments.

The students enjoyed practicing their typing skills by playing TuxTyping.

The students enjoyed practicing their typing skills by playing TuxTyping.

These students are practicing their mouse coordination and left-clicking skills with a dot-to-dot.

These students are practicing their mouse coordination and left/right clicking skills with a dot-to-dot.

With this game, the students had to navigate the cursor through different mazes. Even I found some of these tricky!

With this game, the students had to navigate the cursor through different mazes. Even I found some of these tricky!

After the students had developed a good understanding of the computer basics they created informative posters for the computer lab. To create their posters the students used the computer program Libre Writer.

This example poster was created by class 6B

This example poster was created by class 6B. The students labeled the three mouse buttons.

This example poster was created by class 6B. The students labelled the keys on the keyboard that they thought were most important.

This example poster was created by class 6A. The students labelled the keys on the keyboard that they thought were most important.

On my last day at Toko Primary School, the school celebrated Holi, the Hindu festival of colours. It was a great cultural experience, filled with traditional food, music and plenty of colour!

Delicious sweets and a bowl or two of kava.

Delicious sweets and a bowl or two of kava with the staff.


During my time staying in the Tavua village, I was able to organise with Mrs Salote  Natuna, the principal of Tavua District School, to spend my last school day teaching at this school. Tavua District School is located adjacent the village I was staying in, and is the school where most of the children living in the village attend, including my brother Bari and sister Kalera.

XO laptop computers provided through a Government initiative.

XO laptop computers provided through a Fijian Government project.

One of the main purposes of my visit was to connect with the staff and bridge a relationship with the school and The SEE Project, so that the school could receive a class set of desktop computers donated by The SEE Project.


My extended Fijian family were kind enough to host a farewell lunch on my last day in Fiji.

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As always, the food was totoka! – Fijian for delicious!

My 6 weeks in Fiji was an incredible experience. I personally made so many new friends, was accepted into a wonderful family and village, had so many different cultural experiences which I would otherwise never of had. I also gained significant insight into the success and challenges that schools supported by The SEE Project have had, and worked with teachers to develop effective ways that computers can be used as a tool to enhance the learning experiences for other subjects in the Fijian Curriculum.

I am so grateful to have had all these opportunities, and so thankful that all the teachers, students, staff and community always welcomed me with open arms, and made me feel right at home – Fiji truly is my home away from home…

Posted in 2015, Balata High School, Naidovi Primary School, Teacher PD, toko bhartiya school, Toko Sanatan School | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Andrews reflections of Somosomo District School

In 2014, Andrew Iddles joined us on the trip to the Somosomo District School. His leadership and input in the design and delivery of classroom activities was highly commendable. He took a lot of interest and developed some very meaningful tasks and experiments that were focussed on teaching concepts in electricity to children in Years 4 and 5. An admirable quality in Andrew is that while he is a deep thinker – he is also an excellent team player. In this blog, Andrew reflects on his experiences on the trip of a lifetime to Somosomo District School in Taveuni…  

I can still remember my first lecture for Teaching Primary ICT. This chirpy, comical and optimistic young man starts the lecture by explaining all the positives of turning up to his lecture at 8 am in the morning. Following this, to break the ice this wise spring chicken plays a ‘guess how long I have been teaching for’ game, where the winner has the ‘privilege’ of sitting down for a coffee with him. What stuck with most in this lecture, was the enthusiasm the lecturer had for the use of ICT in everyday life, his passion for its place in education, and the fact that ICT its self does not teach students effectively, but rather ICT is just a tool, that when used the right way can create so many opportunities for deeper and broader learning in education – this has been my motivation to share, engage and educate, both students and teachers, about using ICT in the classroom. This man was Dr Vinesh Chandra, the president of The SEE Project inc., who at the time I only knew as my lecturer, and just 18 months later Vinesh is now my good friend, my uncle, and just recently, one of my Fijian dads.

My name is Andrew Iddles, and I am currently (2014) completing my 4th year of my Bachelor of Primary Education at QUT. Like so many others, I chose to study teaching so that I can ‘make a difference’, however thanks to the opportunities provided and inspired by The SEE Project I have been able to do more than I ever imagined, and I am yet to even finish my degree. Over the past 18 months I have been to Fiji three times and volunteered for over 8 weeks across 4 schools. In each school, the focus has been on sharing ideas to effectively integrate ICT’s into a range of subject areas, to enhance the learning experiences of students of the 21st century.

June 25th – July 7th 2014 – Somosomo District School

In June 2014, I embarked on a 12 day trip to Fiji, as part of a team of 16 staff and students from the Queensland University of Technology. We would spend the majority of our time on Taveuni Island, the third largest island of Fiji, where we would share, engage and educate teachers, students and community about the advantages of effectively integrating ICT into the classroom.

Taveuni Island, also called the Garden Island.

Taveuni Island, also called the Garden Island.

With us we took a class set of second hand laptops, a science kit, library books and stationary, which would all be donated to Somosomo District School, a small school located on Taveuni Island.

SDS Years 1 - 3 are just metres from the ocean.

SDS Years 1 – 3 are just metres from the beach.

SDS Years 4 - 8 have amazing ocean views.

SDS Years 4 – 8 have amazing ocean views.

A big thanks must be given to QUT for the donation of laptops, and also to all those who supported our crowdfunding efforts, which raised enough money for the science kit, library books and stationary items.

Vinaka - A Fijian thank you.

Vinaka – A Fijian thank you

The purpose of our trip was not only to provide resources to the school, but more  importantly to showcase how they can effectively be used in the classroom. For many students and some teachers, this was the first time they had seen or touched a laptop, so having everyone actively engaged in the lessons was so important.

Teacher and students using the new electronics kit.

Mr Mosese and his Year 6 students using the new electronics kit.

Mr Aisea and his Year 5 students using the new laptops.

Mr Aisea and his Year 5 students using the new laptops.

I worked in a group of 5 people, made up of 3 Bachelor of Primary Education students, 1 Bachelor of Information Technology student and 1 Bachelor of Electrical Engineering student. We planned to teach Year 5 and 6 Science: Physics, focusing on the topics parallel and series circuits, and conductors and insulators. We chose these topics after we were told that at this school, and many others in Fiji, these topics would be using chalk, talk and text books. From our experiences, we knew that such abstract ideas are best learned through hands on experiences. To provide this hands on experience we put together a science kit, filled with globes, wires, batteries and multimeters.

In the first lesson the students created simple (series) circuits and came to conclusions about the relationship between complete/ incomplete circuits and a flow of electricity.

“When the circuit is complete, there is a flow of electricity. We know this because the globe lights up”

“When the circuit is incomplete, the light stops. This means there is no electricity moving through the globe”

In the second lesson students created series and parallel circuits, with one, two and three bulbs, and made observations about the similarities and differences. They also used multimeters to identify the voltage and amperage of each circuit.

In the third lesson, students tested a range of materials to see if they were conductors or insulators. Students placed the materials between two alligator chips, and learned that if the material is a conductor the globe will light up, and if it is an insulator the globe will not light up. This was related to the first lesson, so students were able to come to the conclusion that conductors allow electricity to pass through them, where as insulators do not.  The students also took photos using the laptop, which would be used as evidence to show what they have learned.

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“A nail is a… conductor.”

“Plastic is an… insulator”

In the final lesson, students used the laptops to create a presentation to share what they had learned about conductors and insulators. They imported the photos that they had taken to make their presentations more engaging and educational.

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The Year 6 boys enjoying learning, thanks to ICT.

Here is an example of the presentations that were created (I have redone the speaking component).

On the final day of our week teaching the school hosted an open day, where the students shared what they had learned throughout the week with other students, teachers, family and other members of the community.

Year 5 students practicing their presentations

Year 5 students practicing their presentations.

Parents and community members engaged in the students presentations.

Parents and community members engaged in the students presentations.

After the completion of the open day, the students presented an amazing thank you and goodbye ceremony for all of us visiting from Australia.

There was singing...

There was beautiful singing…

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… and there was traditional dancing …

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… and there were selfies.

A group picture with the Year 5 and 6 students that we taught.

A group picture with the Year 5 and 6 students and teachers that we worked with.

Something that we quickly noticed during our time in Fiji was how amazing everyone is at singing. Before leaving,  I asked 4 students from Year 6 if they would like me to take a recording of them so that their voices could be heard around the world– they excitedly said “Yes!”

Of cause, being in Fiji and all, it certainly was not all work and no play. There was plenty of time throughout our teaching week, and in the days after, to enjoy the kind people, the welcoming culture and the beautiful environment that IS Fiji.

A bit of light reading in 'preparation' for the next day's teaching.

A bit of light reading in ‘preparation’ for the next day’s teaching.

Less than 20 metres from where we slept.

Less than 20 metres from where we slept.

The international date line; where today and yesterday meet. We crossed this everyday we went to school.

The international date line; where today and yesterday meet. We crossed this everyday we went to school.

On our last night in Fiji, we enjoyed a traditional Fijian lovo feast for dinner. The food is cooked in a lovo pit, and tastes a bit like a barbecue, but a little more smokey – tokoka (delicious).

Fresh fish, chicken and pork is wrapped in palm fronds and banana leaves, and organic root crops including dalo and cassava lay beneath.

Fresh fish, chicken and pork is wrapped in palm fronds and banana leaves, and organic root crops including dalo and cassava lay beneath.

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Large rocks are heated at the base of the lovo pit.

The food is placed into the lovo pit.

The food is placed into the lovo pit.

The food is then covered in large leaves that trap in the heat. The food is then left for approximately 1 - 1.5 hrs.

The food is then covered in large leaves that trap in the heat. The food is then left for approximately 1 – 1.5 hrs.

This trip was such a life changing experience for me. On reflection, I learned so much about myself, about Fiji and about my future profession as a teacher.

  • Planning for teaching needs to be dynamic, especially when teaching in an unfamiliar context – content knowledge is more important than planning lessons.
  • Kuni lenga – Just relax and don’t stress.
  • The best kind of happiness comes from family, friends and community – not money.
  • Fijian people have the ability to make their home, feel like your home.
  • When you think you have finished your plate of food, there is another plate waiting for you.

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Posted in 2014, Learning activities, Somosomo District School, Teaching | Leave a comment

The SEE Project@ Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai…Malaysia

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The SEE Project@ Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai…Malaysia is an exciting outreach project. The Queensland University of Technology(QUT) and Universiti Putra Malaysia(UPM) are partners in this initiative.  The project is supported by the QUT Short-Term Mobility Program and UPM. This partnership will enable students from both universities to teach in cross-disciplinary teams at Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai  – a primary school in Pahang, Malaysia. This school has 160 students – 40% are of Orang Asli background.

 

The challenge for the teams is to integrate ICT focused classroom activities that are based on the local curriculum. Also, it is also envisaged that this experience will enhance students’ cross-cultural understanding. This engagement will occur over a week – from 28th September to 2nd October. This project builds on similar outreach activities initiated by the SEE Project in Fiji for the past three years.

Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai, Pahang, Malaysia

Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai, Pahang, Malaysia

This project was born out of QUT’s policy to encourage domestic students to undertake semester-long studies and short study activities internationally. The project will be led by Mr Graeme Baguley (International Student Services), Dr Vinesh Chandra (Education) and Dr Richard Medland (IT), Ms Jocelyn Tan (International Student Services) from QUT. Without the support and interest of Dr Siti Isa at UPM, this partnership and activity would not have eventuated.  Dr Isa has worked exceeding hard in leading and facilitating the project in Malaysia. She identified the school and liaised with a number of key locals, including the QUT Alumni to make this project a reality. In particular, the input of  Mr. Ash Tan, Mr. Suranthra Sahotharan, Ms. Deeviyanam Prabhakaran, Ms. Syarifah Nazurah was useful and informative. In Brisbane, the advice provided by Jan Harvey (QUT), Sabrina Amir (UQ) and Emma Sulaiman(QUT) was invaluable in refining and reshaping our ideas.

Dr Siti Suria- pictured in Kedah

Dr Siti Suria- pictured in Kedah

The QUT students disciplinary backgrounds are in Information Technology (IT), Film and TV, Design, Education, English as Second Language (ESL), Health, and Business. The overall theme of this engagement is  ‘Culture and the Environment’.  After weeks of brainstorming and collaboration with their Malaysian colleagues/advisors, the four QUT teams have developed classroom activities that will focus on the following sub-themes:

Year 3   Culture and History

Year 4   Environment- to include aspects of pollution, our footprint, etc

Year 5   Deforestation

Year 6   Alternative Energy

While designing classroom activities in unseen learning environments can be a challenge, even for the more experienced educators,  for QUT students it has been an exciting journey. Some of the students explained their reasons for their participation in the project as follows:

Jessica Davis – Bachelor of Information Technology (3rd Year) 

“I like how Computer Science incorporates mathematical problem-solving skills, and can be used to solve scientific problems, but also allows you to build something and see results almost instantly. Combining science and IT is something that I am passionate about, and I hope to share that with the students at SK Temai. While in Malaysia, the other IT students and I plan to run sessions around renewable energy concepts, using Little Bits and Arduino boards. We hope to get the kids interacting with hardware and drag and drop coding so that they can have the experience of interacting with something that they have built while also learning about scientific concepts”.

Elliot Kennedy – Bachelor of Secondary Education (3rd Year)

“I am majoring in English as a Second Language and Geography. I decided to study ESL due to a few reasons, and they are associated with my passion to travel. I have visited parts of Africa and South America, but my largest trip to date was living in Mexico for two years. I noticed on these trips that children, regardless of where they are from, want to learn. How could I help and be a valuable asset to these children’s education? Being lucky enough to have learned Spanish while living in Mexico, I experienced first hand how empowering and beneficial learning another language could be. I decided that studying ESL and secondary education was the best way to enable me to be a positive influence on these children’s’ lives. Before I began studying at QUT, I taught English in Malawi and Mexico and have since gone on to volunteer at Milpera State High School in Brisbane. I enjoy working with international students and see my career spent both here in Australia and globally. I decided to study Geography for my love of traveling because I am always interested to learn about people, their culture and their way of life. I spent two years working as a travel agent. This experience enabled me to constantly learning about new places and people. I am extremely honoured to be able to join this amazing project to Malaysia and look forward to furthering my teaching skills in an international classroom. I hope this is the first of many teaching trips to Asia”.

Vicki Jacobs – Masters in Social Work

“I am studying a Masters in Social Work and currently on placement at QUT International Student Services.  I will graduate in December this year. I am very excited to take part in the SEE project and am looking forward to meeting new people from KL and Pekan.  I enjoy travelling and learning about new cultures as I believe it broadens the mind and encourages respect for diversity.  I am looking forward to working with students and staff at UPM and QUT, sharing knowledge and skills to provide a unique experience to the children of Pekan.  When I am not on placement at QUT, I work at a community centre, helping young people overcome difficulties at home or school.  In the future, I would like to work in international development, focusing upon widening participation for children and young people in education.  I am British, married to a South African and live in Brisbane”.

Mitchell Neil – Bachelor in Software Engineering (3rd Year)

“I am currently in my third year of study as a software engineer at QUT and am employed within QUT as an Events Support Assistant and as a sessional academic. I am passionate about education and volunteer within numerous educational roles within QUT including the Peer Programs Student Advisory Team, and the STIMulate program. These initiatives are examples of some of QUT’s Peer Programs. I believe education should be available to all people and should be a custom experience that reflects a student goals and individuality. I look forward to understanding and overcoming numerous and challenging problems along my journey and am always looking for new opportunities where I can develop both myself and my skill set”.

Students at Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai engaged in curricular actvities

Students at Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai engaged in curricular actvities

We are looking forward to this unique experience and, in particular, working with the staff and students of Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai.

Here is a link to the Official tentative program STOMP

 

Posted in 2015 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A letter from Leo: Two years after my trip to Fiji

Leo Xie was a final year mechanical engineering student when he joined us on the trip to Sabeto in 2013. Together with his team members – Jeremy Varendorff and Epeneri Korovakaturaga they did some amazing science activities on water purification and electric circuits. They demonstrated their understanding by creating videos on laptops and animations on ipads. When Leo graduated, he worked as a mechanical engineer for one and a half years before resigning to pursue a career in teaching. Leo wrote this letter to where he reflects on the Fijian experience and connections with his new career path…      

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Leo (left) and Jeremy ready for another day in the classroom…in Fiji sulus

Dear Vinesh,

I am finally getting to this point of sharing my thoughts about the trip in Fiji with you.

It was great to see the ongoing work of the SEE project as I was able to meet with some of the students who went to Fiji in 2014 and 2015. It was great to see Graeme, Epeneri, Jeremy and you. It refreshed my memories of the SEE project from two years ago when we departed from Brisbane and had a life-changing trip together. In this letter, I would like to reflect on how we helped in the schools, and how the project impacted on me.

In 2013, I was with a group of passionate undergraduate students from the disciplines of engineering, film and TV, fashion, and education. We headed to a small village called Sabeto, and connected with the local people. Our project included setting up computer labs, teaching with ICT, sewing, and filming. Through these projects, we were able to see the lives of the people and how they lived in this village, and got inspired – they were so happy even though they had so little.

Experiencing Fiji

Experiencing Fiji

As a mechanical engineer, I never expected to be a teacher (let alone a good one) until I encountered the children in the classrooms in Fiji. I thought teachers must have many tricks under their sleeves to tame the children and help them learn. I am a mechanical engineer; teaching would not be in my job description. But my first encounter with some children in the village changed my views. There are two aspects of children I found that drew my attention: they are vessels of curiosity, they are eager to explore this world, and naive enough to believe the simple facts that we taught them (not that I taught them anything wrong or incorrect). The moment I stepped into that class, it suddenly appeared to me that, whatever I do, it would influence these curious little minds, for better or worse. Teachers in my view are role models for children, therefore, their morals and professionalism drives the atmosphere of the classroom. The second aspect was behaviour management. To be honest, in one of the schools the children may not have been the best behaved but they are happy children, and they are very excited to meet us, playing games, conduct science experiments, and learning at the same time. We had lots of fun together. Through my experiences, I found that children in general want adults to pay attention to them individually and also engage them in meaningful activities. While I always encouraged them, at the same time, I did not let them run wild. I set boundaries and made sure to let them know when something they did was not acceptable. In the end of the day, we made friends, but professionalism also prevailed.

Students' interest and engagement made a big difference

Students’ interest and engagement made a big difference

Where I am at now: After I got back to Australia in 2013, I was thankful that I got a job as a mechanical engineer, but I resigned from my position after one and a half years. In my continued journey of searching for a profession that is truly aligned with my passions, I am now studying for a Graduate Diploma in Education (Secondary) at the Queensland University of Technology. I have to say, the trip to Fiji played a part in making this decision…through the experiences in Fijian schools I realised that teaching was a profession that I was passionate about.

Thank you Vinesh for your guidance and being a friend.

I hope you are well.

Kind regards,

Leo Xie

14.8.15

Posted in 2013, Sabeto | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Vinaka vakalevu Ratu Epeneri Korovakaturaga

This week we said goodbye to Ratu Epeneni Korotakaturaga. He came from Fiji and completed his undergraduate degree in Design with honours at the Queensland University of Technology. We all felt very proud of his achievements. For all students coming from overseas – there are many hurdles and challenges when they come into a country is which truly foreign to them. It is very different to what they are generally accustomed to in their home countries. For Epeneri, he not only overcame these challenges and barriers – he set some very high standards that others can aspire to.

Through the SEE Project, we get to know students. I did not get the opportunity to teach Epeneri but I would certainly place him in the category of students who go beyond just achieving a degree and willingly step outside their comfort zones to tackle new challenges that have a potential to make a difference in the world. Two years ago Epeneri joined us on the outreach project to Sabeto. He was very impressed to see the impact that the team were having on the school children in two Sabeto schools. They were creating new opportunities and sharing new ways of learning. It was during this trip that he indicated that it would be nice if we do an outreach project at Somosomo District School on the island of Taveuni (Fiji). His dad’s side of the family has strong connections with the village and the school. On a hill behind the village is the home of the late Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau –  Epeneri’s grandad.

Epeneri addressing some of the students at Somosomo

Epeneri addressing some of the students at Somosomo

Through the support of the Australian Government’s Short Term Mobility Grant a trip to Somosomo Primary School became a reality in 2014. This where Epeneri’s leadership and his commitment to his community shone through. An outreach project to Fiji (or anywhere in the world) requires months of negotiation and planning. Epeneri’s role was significant at all stages of the project. He not only gave up his time but he also used his own financial resources to travel to Somosomo (long before the team arrived) to seek permission from the community leaders and work through the logistics of the exercise. I never asked him how much the many phone calls cost him.

Children using  laptops for school work

Children using laptops for school work

Epeneri has also been a true ambassador for his country. He was like a big brother to all students who have travelled to Fiji to participate in the activities of the SEE Project. In our pre-trip induction activities – he always led the proceedings to inform his Australian contemporaries about his rich culture. When in Fiji – he was always proud to share the knowledge of his culture and his country.

It is fitting to revisit the trip to Somosomo. It was a great success – and his contribution was highly significant in the whole mission.  This video highlights the trip from Brisbane to Taveuni.

This video shows what the team did at the school.

This video highlights the impact of the team’s initiative. This video was shot six months after the team left. The students of the school are sharing their thoughts on how the resources – library books and computers are helping them. They are also sharing how some of the ideas that the team introduced (e.g. creating ebooks) is benefitting them. Needless to say that without Epeneri’s interest and commitment – this project would have never eventuated and the children (in the video) would not have had the opportunity to share their experiences.

This report from Master Mosese Tuimatai – one of the former teachers of Somsomo District School outlines how the resources are used. SDS learning Report

I interviewed Epeneri on the eve of his departure. In this video, he shares his thoughts about the SEE Project and how he intends to remain engaged in order to make a difference for the younger generation back in Fiji.

I think if there were more young (& old) people like Epeneri who believed in making a difference in the world and actually did something about it….the world will change for the better.

From the SEE Team – Vinaka vakalevu Epeneri. All the best as you open a new chapter in your life.

Posted in 2015, Epeneri, Somosomo District School | Leave a comment

A classroom activity on Girmit at Balata High School

For Fiji born Indians and their descendants, Girmit has played a significant role in shaping their lives. When Fiji became a British Colony, labourers were brought from India to work on sugar cane plantations. They signed up to a 5- year contract. Slavery was abolished in the mid1800’s. As a consequence, indentured labour contracts were the best way to go. Girmit was the name that the illiterate labourers (girmiteers) gave to their 5-year indenture contracts. For me, the sacrifices made by my girmiteer ancestors have shaped my life immensely…I was privileged to have stood on the shoulders of these giants. Working alongside the Fijian people, they created new and unseen opportunities for their descendants. We all have to understand our past to really have an appreciation for where we are going now and in the future. This video – Girmit and Girmiteers sheds more light this human trade. My son and I produced this about 15 years ago.

Within the year 9 English curriculum in Fiji there is a unit which focuses on Girmit. As part of an outreach project supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan, students from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), designed, developed and implemented a classroom activity that explored Girmit through role play and drama. The team was led by Katie Whitehead and Aimee Halsey and supported by Zarina Shahbhan, Ramila Chandra and Jenny Nguyen. Prior to QUT students travel to Fiji, they developed an activity plan. Students at Balata developed story-boards, scripts and ultimately performed and recorded their role plays. Support of the principal Segran Pillay and the school community was critical in this task.

QUT students with Year 9B at Balata High School

QUT students with Year 9B at Balata High School

The QUT student team tackled a topic that they were quite unfamiliar with. Congratulations to Katie and Aimee for leading this activity and doing an excellent job. The evidence of the team’s work was highly evident when some of Balata students spoke about their work to the participants at the school’s open day. Their presentations spoke volumes about what they had done. Perhaps the most significant was the inclusion of a song sung by the late Mukesh (well known Indian singer)  – Chal akela, chal aklea. This song was inspired by Ramila and Zarina to encompass the musical talents of Balata students in this activity.  The lyrics sum up the journeys that were undertaken by the Girmiteers…they left their comfort zones and walked into the unknown. Perhaps the song also relates to the journeys undertaken by many migrants today. What was even more significant was that ALL the children joined in to sing. It demonstrated how the Fijian education system is making a positive contribution towards promoting multiculturalism in Fiji.

I hope that such an activity continues not only at Balata but also in other schools. Every day our stories of the world from the past gets diluted and twisted in the process. We have to preserve such memories and with ICT it can be done with ease…schools are a good place to start.

Here are students reflections of their experiences at Balata Hugh School.

Link to group website: https://kggroup82015.wordpress.com/ 

Aimee Halsey’s Reflections

Amy is a third year in the Bachelor of Primary Education program.

Amy with her students - sharing lunch

Amy with her students – sharing lunch

During our time in Fiji at Balata High School, there were many moments and experiences that have had a positive impact on my life and my studies as a pre-service teacher.  One significant highlight was being so warmly welcomed by everyone.  In addition to this, the hospitality shown to us throughout the week by Balata High School staff and students cannot be expressed in a few words.   This not only included delicious meals provided for us but also traditional dance and music performances that were amazing to watch and also be a part of.

The students at Balata High School were very friendly and by midweek our year 9A class had invited us to eat with them during lunchtime.  This encouraged me as I could see that during the short time we were there, we had built a positive relationship with the students where they felt comfortable to engage with us outside of our teaching lessons.

Link to the group website:

Katie Whitehead’s Reflections

Katie is a third year in the Bachelor of Primary Education program.

Katie and Aimee facilitating group discussions

Katie and Aimee facilitating group discussions

Teaching in a school in another country was something I had always wanted to do in my life so the opportunity of working at Balata school that the SEE project provided for me was a dream come true. Although it took a while for the students to get used to our teaching style, and for us to get used to their learning styles, the classrooms quickly became harmonious, engaging and fun for all involved. Our topic was foreign to both my teaching partner, Aimee, and I but supported by staff and members of the SEE Project, Zarina, Ramila and Vinesh we managed to teach a unit we were both proud of and believe had an impact on the students and their learning. This unit focused on the history of girmit and students were asked to develop scenes to piece together a story of a labourer from girmit. This topic was used as a focus to teach English through the structure of narrative and develop skills such as reading, writing, spelling and comprehension. The school community was very welcoming towards us and I truly felt like I was a part of it for the week. The cultural trips organised for us between Vinesh and Balata’s principal Segran Pillay, were eye opening. My favourite excursion would have to be to Naseyani Primary school: an inspiring school which I believe is doing an incredible job with what they have to ensure their students are receiving the best education they can provide.

There were two very special moments that I’m going to treasure forever from the week at Balata High School. The first one occurred on the Thursday, our fourth and final day of teaching. In this lesson, one of the activities was showing the students’ their work. The combined video ended up being approximately 10 minutes and all students in the room were transfixed on the screen watching themselves and their peers. It was a very rewarding moment for me, to see how proud the students were of themselves. The second moment occurred at the presentation at the end of the week. We asked some of the students to help us present our unit and experience to the education officials and staff of Balata High School and other local schools. One of the students, Riya, gave a touching speech about what her and her classmates had learnt this week and finished up by thanking Aimee and I for our time with them. Hearing a student so appreciative of what you tried to do for them, and seeing that the time and effort you put into a unit or a lesson had paid off was an incredibly special and proud moment.

Here is Riya’s speech:

Posted in 2015, Balata High School, History | Leave a comment

QUT team visits the Ra School for Special Education

Our team from QUT spent their time with the children at the Ra Special School recently. This school is located in the town of Rakiraki – which is north west of Viti Levu (largest island in Fiji). The Japanese Government built a building for the school which is very well designed. Thanks to the Government and the people of Japan for this donation. We could see that this donation was making a big difference to the children at the school.

A group of dedicated teachers led by the Head teacher – Isikeli Naivalulevu are doing an excellent job at this school. A team of dedicated management committee members led by Pushp Dass are very supportive of the teachers and their students.

We were thoroughly entertained by dance items performed by the students and staff of the school. It was good to see the many talents of these children. Walking through the school there was good evidence of the school’s staff in creating a learning environment that was conducive to learning and supporting the needs to the children.  We hope that our donation of 10 laptops, a digital camera and table will add value to teaching and learning activities.

Thank you to the staff, students and the school management for inviting us to your school. A very special thank you to Sangeeta ( Shyna Dass ) for all your efforts in facilitating our visit.

Our day at the Ra School for Special Education

Our day at the Ra School for Special Education

Here are excerpts on the Managers address as part of our welcome to the school. It is an interesting account of how the school has evolved over time.

“The Ra School for Special Education was previously called the Ra Special Unit when the Unit was opened at Rakiraki Methodist School in 1982. The Special Unit later moved to Penang Primary School in late 1988 and was headed by Mrs Repeka Toanikeve with Mr Sam Pillay as the School Manager. She was followed by Mrs Subamma Rajan, wife of the late Mr Tyaga Rajan who was the principal of Penang Sangam High School then.

In 1991, the School Management with the help of the MOE/ Sp. Ed. Unit purchased a house with land opposite Penang Primary and converted it into a school which is now called Ra School for Special Education. Our school legal advisor then, the late Mr Dhirendra Kumar finalised the land transfer and the school was born!! The Canadian Govt. donated some money for fencing and the PWD cut down all the big mango and coconut trees in the school compound.

Master Ram Rattan was transferred from Suva Special School as the Acting H/Teacher until 1994 and was later replaced by Mrs Rajan replaced until 1996 when the H/T’s post was advertised. Late Mr D Kumar was elected Manager/President of the School replacing Mr Sam Pillay who stepped down from his position due to health reasons.

In Sept. 1996, the new H/T, Mr Isikeli Naivalulevu was posted to the school from Lautoka (Sunshine Special School) and I am proud to say Mr Naivalulevu stayed on and will retire later this year from our school. In 1997, Late Mr D Kumar who had been an elected member of parliament approached the Embassy of Japan to build our new building. In March 1998, the new double storey school building was officially opened by the Hon. Japanese Ambassador and the new name of the school was also unveiled; Ra School for Special Education.

In 1999, another single block of 2 classrooms with a covered walkway to the main gate was completed by School Management, a classroom nearest to the washrooms was upgraded and converted into a kitchen and Staff Tea Room.

The legacy of the School began in 1998 and continued to where it is today. Late Mr Kumar headed this school until he passed away in July 2010. I was given the reins of the school as President/ Manager from 2011 after I held the positions of Secretary and Treasurer of the school since 2004. I have had some untiring members who continued to assist me in keeping the school on par or to speak as one of the well kept schools in Rakiraki. We have recently upgraded the office and library with sealing of the windows and air conditioning.

Just for information on our major upcoming project, we have purchased an acre of land across the road and developments are expected to start in the next few months. A small play centre and a small pavilion is expected for the interim, later the same to be converted on a fully fledged play centre to be used as children’s park on a user pay system and open to the public in the weekends and after school.

The management continued to play a pivotal role in the school as far as its upkeep, maintenance and getting in donation of cash and kind for the school is concerned. We had received assistance from far and wide including ex- residents of Rakiraki who are abroad.

I am very pleased that the SEE project headed by Dr Vinesh Chandra also stood to our call and are here today to do the honours of presenting 10 laptops and a digital camera, request to put their hands together to thank Dr Chandra and his team who are here today. In fact I had not known about Dr Chandra the SEE Project before, but getting his email address from a friend led to our exchange of emails and the donation made possible and I thank you whole heartedly Dr Chandra. Once again thank you , Vinaka Vakalevu and Dhanevaad to Dr Chandra and the SEE Project from Australia.”

These are students reflections of their visit to the Ra School for Special Education…

Olivia Gordon’s reflections 

Olivia is completing a degree in primary education (specialising in inclusive education).

Olivia Gordon pictured with a student

Olivia Gordon pictured with a student

The special school was definitely my highlight of the trip. I have a passion for inclusive education and it is my dream to teach in a special school when I graduate. Just seeing how happy these students who were battling learning difficulties and disabilities really hit home with me and just reassured that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life…

Aimee Halsey’s reflections

Aimee is completing a degree in primary education.

Students' special performance for the QUT team

Students’ special performance for the QUT team

Our visit to the RA  Special School, left many moments and experiences that have had a positive impact on my life and my studies as a pre-service teacher. One significant highlight was being so warmly welcomed by everyone.  During my visit I found it very encouraging to see the level of enthusiasm shown by a particular male teacher.  This teacher led a dance performance involving the students that was performed especially for us. Teaching students with special needs is challenging enough without facilitating a dance performance with some technical difficulties involved (when the music cut out at times) however he still looked like he was having the time of his life.  This was very encouraging to see from a pre-service teacher perspective.  He looked like he absolutely loved his role and his students and the students looked like they loved him in return.

Danielle Wales’s reflections

Danielle is completing a degree in primary education.

Daniella – sharing a story with the children

This Fiji trip also allowed me to further develop my knowledge and experiences of inclusive education when we visited Ra Special School in Rakiraki. The school was extremely welcoming and the staff were more than happy to share their knowledge with us. The students were also very respectful, friendly and fun, they were always ready to have a chat with us despite some small language barriers. A highpoint of this visit was seeing the room fill with happiness as the students sang and danced, this is a memory I will forever cherish. Visiting the Ra Special School strengthened my passion for inclusive education as it reinforced the importance of equality education inside the classroom, thank you for letting us visit.

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QUT is a deep conversation with one of the teachers

I would like to thank all of the people that made this exchange possible, especially Dr. Vinesh Chandra, with your guidance and support we were able to drastically help schools in Tavua and Rakiraki, Fiji. I will forever be grateful for the experience and I really appreciate all the effort that you put into this important project, thank you for allowing me to participate in this life-changing experience.

Gayle D’Souza’s reflections

Gayle is completing a degree in primary education.

Gayle joining the children at lunch

Gayle joining the children at lunch

The highlight of my Fiji trip was visiting the Ra Special School.  We were only there for one day, but that one day has definitely opened my eyes to the challenges faced by children with special needs.  I grew very attached to one girl in year 1 who has intellectual difficulties named Ebony.  She immediately held my hand and opened up to me and it was amazing to see how happy the kids are with the little they have.  Another girl that I spent a lot of time with was a deaf girl.  Even though I didn’t know much sign language, she was able to teach me the alphabet in sign language and still show me around the School.  I will never forget this trip or the skills I developed from this trip, and can definitely see myself going back to Fiji, visiting all the kids I taught and spending more time at Ra Special School.

Katie Whitehead’s reflections

Katie is completing a degree in primary education.

A student teahcing Katie a new game

A student teaching Katie a new game

Visiting the RA Special School was a really inspiring day for me. Meeting the students who had so many challenges to overcome, just to live a normal life and go to school, be so happy, friendly and welcoming really made me think about how privileged I am in my life and what more I could be doing to help make the lives of others easier. Although I had been thinking about it before, visiting the RA Special School and meeting the deaf student and her hearing impaired little brother has cemented my desire to learn sign language – something I have already begun to look in to. The welcoming items put on by the students was heart warming – especially to see the look of pride in the teacher’s face as he danced along with them. I also really enjoyed having the chance to talk to the students as well as play games and dance with them. This school is doing incredible things for the lives of their student’s and I feel privileged to have been provided with the opportunity to have an insight into their routine.

Mary Mosquera’s reflections

Mary is completing a degree in primary education.

Children performing for the QUT group

Children performing for the QUT group

Spending the day at the RA School was one of the greatest and happiest experience I had on the trip. Both the students and teachers were so kind and welcoming to us. It was truly heart warming to see the students perform for us with such big smiles on their faces along side their teacher. It was also good to see all of the teachers being actively involved in engaging with the laptops and learning all the skills and activities they could do with their students.

Matthew Turner’s reflections

Matt has recently graduated with a degree in information technology (IT).

Matthew and some students posing for a selfie

Matthew and some students posing for a selfie

At the RA Special School, my most memorable moment is just trying to communicate with the special needs kids.  There was this one kid there who was 18 years old and this was his first year at school.  Despite not being able to verbally communicate he was determined to share bits and pieces of his life by using various hand gestures and objects to gain my attention.  I found it quite remarkable for him to be so outgoing despite meeting a stranger for the first time. Overall I would have to say this was a once in a lifetime experience.

Posted in 2015, Ra Special School | 1 Comment

Taking a STEM approach at Balata High School

Students starting off with the building phase

Students starting off with the building phase

As part of an outreach project supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan, our team from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), designed, developed and implemented a number of different activities that tried to kill a few birds with a few stones. Science, Technology, Education, Mathematics (STEM) Education is a relatively topic in the world today. The “pundits” have different takes on this. My take (as a maths/science teacher from my previous life) is how do we can harness overlapping concepts in these subjects to optimise students learning and in do doing so, address the “silo-mentality” of teaching these subjects. In delivering this activity I was supported by Chloe Fas and Jenny Nguyen. Ronald Prasad – the maths and physics for this class worked with us in delivering the activity.

An angry bird screenshot on Geogbra showing the parabola

An angry bird screenshot on Geogbra showing the parabola

At Balata our approach was simple. Students in year 11 built robots (Engineering) and programmed it (Technology). Then they collected data to draw linear graphs (Mathematics) and understand how simultaneous equations worked. They extended this knowledge to Physics to develop their understanding of how graphs in kinematics worked (distance/displacement-time, speed/velocity- time, acceleration-time etc.). Such activities can lay the foundations for more challenging problems such as “The distance between Tavua and Rakiraki is 30km. A car leaves Rakiraki and travels at an average speed of 60km/h. Another car leaves Tavua and travels at an average speed of 75km/h”. Draw graphs to determine where the cars will pass each other. The problem can be extended to incorporate where exactly will this occur by using Google Maps.

Deeply engaged in the building process

Students deeply engaged in the building process

We used the game Angry Birds and GeoGebra to teach students about parabolic graphs. Our approach was to get students to have a play first. We then taught them to do a screen capture. This was embedded on a Geogbra page and from here the students determined the equation of the graph that aligned with the path followed by the birds.

While we spent only a few lessons with the students, it was very pleasing to see that they developed their skills and knowledge rapidly. Only 4 students in this class had access to computers at home! For all students – building and programming robots and the software Geogbra was a new experience. Surprisingly no one had played Angry Birds before. Balata organised an open day where Balata students showcased what they had learnt with our team for the visitors. It was really pleasing to see how the students explained what they had learnt…all in a very short time. Freddie Prinze Jr’s quote is noteworthy; “Living life at a young age is like being a sponge thrust into the ocean. You absorb what’s around you. If you’re around people who are supportive and positive, that’s how you look at the world”. Quality learning environments with quality teachers can make a big difference to a child’s learning.

Reflections of the Maths/Physics teacher Ronald Prasad

A new learning tool for physics and maths

A new learning tool for physics and maths students

Thanks very much for choosing our school for running ICT based classes  with our students.The classes undertaken in mathematics and Physics  were really interesting and wonderful. My Maths and Physics students have really enjoyed  all the lessons taken by your students and you.I have also enjoyed your classes as well and it was a professional development for me. By observing classes of the QUT team I have learnt a lot of strategies in the learning and teaching process. I have now realized that ICT makes learning and teaching more productive.It also increases the  effectiveness of learning and teaching process. GeoGebra is an important tool for learning and teaching mathematics that offers geometry, algebra and calculus features in a fully connected and user-friendly software environment. The use of ‘Angry Birds’ could be used to teach concepts such as quadratic graphs (as was done in classes) and projectile motion in Physics. I will be using these programs in my maths/physics classes.

The use of robotics in the Maths and Physics classes was also an interesting one and my students enjoyed  the most.They  have learnt most of the concepts that were taught to them by the use of robots. Thank you sir for providing  robotic kits and 5 laptops to maths/physics section.These resources  will be very useful in conducting maths/physics classes at Balata.

Posted in 2015, Balata High School, STEM | Leave a comment

A talented team heading to Balata High School: Thanks to the New Colombo Plan

A team of staff and students from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane will head to Fiji at the end of this semester. They will engage with teachers and students at Balata High School in Tavua and surrounding schools. For most of the students, this trip was made possible by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan with the support of QUT and the SEE Project Inc.  All student participants are undergraduate students in the Faculties of Education and Science and Engineering. Two Deans Scholars from the Faculty of Science and Engineering will also join the group. The group will be led by Dr Vinesh Chandra. He will be accompanied by Dr Richard Medland and Ms Zarina Shahbhan from QUT. Mrs Ramila Chandra of the SEE Project Inc. will also join the team. Staff members have self-funded their trip either in part or in full.

All student participants are undergraduate students from the Faculties of Education and Science and Engineering. Two Deans Scholars from the Faculty of Science and Engineering will also join the group. The group will be led by Dr Vinesh Chandra. He will be accompanied by Dr Richard Medland and Ms Zarina Shahbhan from QUT. Mrs Ramila Chandra from the SEE Project Inc. will also join the team. Most of the staff members have self-funded their trip. Their support and commitment to this project is truly appreciated.

The team will spend 10 days in Fiji. The group will design, develop, and implement classroom activities using ICT. Robotics will be one of the themes of this year’s engagment. The SEE Project Inc. has supported Balata High School through the donation of a range of digital technologies. Under the guidance and leadership of the school principal – Mr Segran Pillay significant progress has been made in terms of integrating these technologies in teaching and learning.  Mr Pillay has good support of some dedicated staff members and the school management board.

The team is looking forward to the working with teachers and students in Fiji.

The team:

Gayle D’Souza

My name is Gayle D’Souza, I am 19 years old and I’d like to think I am a very out-going and friendly person.  I was born in India and moved around a lot to The Middle East, Dubai, New Zealand and eventually Australia.  I love learning new cultures and love travelling to new and exciting places.  I decided to study Primary Education because I love kids and love teaching and helping young people grow.  I used to coach young girls gymnastics and I am currently coaching tennis to kids aged between 5-12 years old.  I am a very sporty and hands-on person and look forward to implementing some of my ethics at Balata High School.  I also look forward to learning how the teachers at Balata teach, meeting all the students and understanding the Fijian culture.  I am very excited to be apart of the group coming over to Balata High School in Fiji and feel like this is such an amazing opportunity and an unforgettable experience.

Olivia Gordon

Olivia

My name is Olivia Gordon and I am from Brisbane, Australia. I am currently studying a bachelor of primary education at QUT and in my third year. I have always wanted to be a primary school teacher from a young age due to an amazing teacher I had in year 5. She was really amazing and caring and had a huge impact on my schooling experience. From having her as a teacher, it really inspired me to become one because of the way she cared for all of her students. I knew I wanted to be that teacher who had an impact up on the lives of students and was remembered for being an amazing teacher. This is the main reason as to why I wanted to go to Fiji and teach the students of Balata High School, so I can have an impact on their schooling experience and make a difference to their lives. I am so blessed to have been given the opportunity to travel to Fiji and participate in teaching these students. From this trip I really hope to impact upon the school by successfully integrating ICTs into the classroom and make the learning fun for the students. I also hope to develop a sense of culture from these students and staff at the school and people within the community. This is my first time overseas so I am very excited to experience another culture.

Matthew Turner

Matthew_T

Hello, my name is Matthew Turner. Currently, I am a third year Bachelor of Information Technology student at QUT. Primarily I have been focusing on software engineering. During my studies at QUT I’ve written programs in C, C++, Java, C# , Python, PHP and Javascript. If I had to state a preference it would be Java for objected orientated programming and PHP for server side development. A key part of my learning experience at QUT has been volunteering for a QUT based educational program named Stimulate. Through this program I’ve come to enjoy not only interacting with my fellow students but actively trying to facilitate their understanding of programming / I.T. related concepts.

In terms of my reasoning for joining the Fiji Project, I would have to attribute it to firstly my passion for tinkering with the Raspberry Pi and Robotics. The second reason is the underlying satisfaction that an educator receives from showing someone how somethings works and then watching them take what you have taught and expand upon it.

Mary Mosquera

Mary Mosquera

My name is Mary Mosquera. I am in my third year of my Bachelor of Education (Primary) degree at QUT. I have always been interested in going on volunteer projects overseas. My greatest goal in life is to travel and teach anywhere and everywhere. I can’t wait to participate in this project because I believe that it will provide me with the opportunity to really help and make a difference in the lives of the students. My parents come from a background where it wasn’t easy to get a good education and they taught me to really value it. I believe that a good education can really change somebody’s life and being part of a project this one can provide students with this opportunity to learn and develop skills that are very important in today’s day and age. I really want to inspire the students to be interested in learning and their education. I intend to do this by having a positive and encouraging attitude.

Geoff Polzin

geoffpolzin

My name is Geoff. I am a third year Information Technology student at QUT. I have a passion for all things technical, and in particular an interest in programming and web technologies. I’m enthusiastic about this project because it presents me with a unique opportunity to learn about another culture and share my passion in technology with a new generation of students.

Katie Whitehead

Katie

Hi, My name is Katie, I’m a 3rd year Education student at QUT. I am very keen to participate in the SEE project as I can see that it benefits all who are connected to it. I feel like I will learn a lot from partaking in this project and am excited to have already begun work on this project. Minoring in literacy, I am looking forward to the imputting the skills I have learnt into a classroom. I believe the technology aspect of this project is very important. The SEE Project is a cause which I believe in and am excited to be representing and engaging with.

Jenny Nguyen

Jenny_N

I am an undergraduate Bachelor of Electrical Engineering student at the Queensland University for Technology. Inspired by my childhood experiences, I have become very passionate about increasing access to education in rural communities. I also like to support communities by donating my time and skills in teaching, English, science and maths.

I grew up in Australia with a strong Vietnamese background. I love travelling and innovative engineering applications. I am fluent in English, Vietnamese and basic Japanese. I  have worked on a research project developing and optimising the production of biofuels.

Matthew Brown

Matt_Brown

I am an Information Technology student in my final year. I was fortunate enough to go to Fiji last year and work in the Somosomo District school where I had an amazing experience. This year I am looking forward to working in the classroom again and helping the kids with building robots. My goals for the project this year include deploying version 2 of the SEEbox, assisting in the setup of the computer labs and interviewing several of the staff for a journal article I have been writing this semester. I am really looking forward to the trip and getting to know everyone we are going with.

Amy Halsey

Aimee Halsey

My name is Aimee Halsey, I am a mature age student who loves the outdoors and animals. I currently live in Brisbane but I am originally from Rockhampton in Central Queensland. Some of my favourite things to do include spending time in the outdoors, horse riding, socialising with friends and listening to music. The reason I am going to Fiji is because I wish to impart the knowledge and apply the skills I have learnt at university.  I have also never been overseas so I am quite excited and I intend to make the most of the experience.

Danielle Wales

Danielle_Wales

My name is Danielle Wales, and I am a 3rd year Primary Education student at Queensland University of Technology. I enjoy working with children and am excited to help others through this immersion experience.  I am particularly excited to go to Fiji as it gives me the opportunity to embrace another culture, to gain real-world skills first hand and to develop my experiences in incorporating ICT into the classroom. I am a fun and loving person and I look forward to meeting new people and having a fun and educational time in Fiji.

Chloe Fas

Chloe_Fas

I am currently a second year Mechatronics Engineering student who has a passion for Mathematics, travel and new experiences. I have lived in Brisbane my whole life (hence my passion for travel), but I love riding motorbikes, and doing property work at my friend’s property in outback Queensland.

I am looking forward to going to Fiji as I love to immerse myself in different cultures and being at a school really helps with that. I can’t wait to work with the kids and teach them all about an area that I am so passionate about.

Jared Willis

Jared_Willis

My name is Jared Willis and I am a 3rd year Primary Education student.  I am minoring in inclusive education so I am always looking for ways to incorporate the missed student into the learning experience.  For the last 2 years I have worked at an Outside School Hours Care which has been very fun and rewarding.  I enjoy working with kids and helping them achieve the best that they can.  This is why I am so excited to go to Fiji, because I am passionate about helping children achieve the best they can.  One thing I have learned from kids so far is that you will always be surprised at the things they do or come up with.

Posted in 2015, Balata High School, Participants | Tagged | 5 Comments

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Posted in 2015, Activities, Balata High School, Participants

The SEE Project starts a new chapter

Pages from digital book written by a primary school student in Fiji

Pages from digital book written by a primary school student in Fiji

The SEE Project has undergone a major transformation. It will now be supported by the SEE Project Inc.. This incorporated body was registered was on 7 November 2014. Its primary purpose is to support the activities and initiatives of the SEE Project.

The interim office bearers for the organization are: Vinesh Chandra (President), Graeme Baguley (Secretary) and Andy Ng (Treasurer). The committee members are: Ramila Chandra,   Epeneri Raudreudre Ganilau Korovakaturaga‎,  Zarina Shahban‎,  Heena Akbar‎, and ‎Jun Seok Song. An annual general meeting will be called in the New Year to elect the office bearers and launch the organization.

In the past three years we have achieved significant milestones helping schools in Fiji, South Sudan, Bhutan and the Solomon Islands. Our assistance has been through the setting up of computer labs, libraries, face to face and online professional development of teachers, and financial support for the education of girls in high schools. The total cost of the resources to-date exceeds AUD225, 000. This does not include, the hundreds of hours that has been put by volunteers who believed in the aims and objectives of the project. We feel that with no financial support or grants, the SEE Project has come a long way. Amongst our donors, the support provided by the Queensland University of Technology(QUT) has been very significant. Their donation of second hand computers has made a difference in advancing our agenda and we are looking forward to their continued support in future.

While our efforts have not have changed the world, we are certainly doing our best to create opportunities for those who may not be as fortunate as we are.  It is pleasing to see that some have embraced the opportunities that they have been presented. We would like to share a story with you to highlight the value of our initiatives. It highlights the significance and value of our work. Earlier this year a group of students from QUT engaged in a service learning project in Bhutan to promote the benefits of inclusive education. The input of the SEE Project was minimal – we provided the students with laptops that could be used as part of their project and then donated to the school in Bhutan. Upon their return, one of the students Stewart Duff sent me an email. (We are reproducing Stewart’s email with his permission with minor edits).

Hi Vinesh,

I thought I would share with you one of our experiences from the Bhutan Service Learning. This is taken from my reflection notes.( Names have been changed for privacy reasons). 

One of the most emotional and touching moments that I encountered happened on my second day between classes. My supervisor and another QUT student had been working with a young girl named Pema who was labelled as having Cerebral Palsy. Her fate seemed to be sealed when we arrived as we were told that she had never engaged in any form of communication that required written, oral or gestural expression. We were told that Pema enjoyed playing with toys and sitting by herself – she had engaged in these simple activities since she started her schooling. 

After observing Pema on the first day, my supervisor decided to test Pema on the second day. My supervisor placed a laptop computer in front of Pema and proceeded to read out some simple words. To everyone’s astonishment, the girl started to type on the keyboard the words that were read out to her, with extremely high accuracy and fluency. In the space of 5 minutes she had written over twenty words. The support teacher and other teachers in that room were absolutely stunned and overcome with emotion. They had just experienced something life-changing. 

Throughout the day Pema continued to write and solve mathematical problems using the laptop. My supervisors suspicions were found to be true. Pema did not have Cerebral Palsy, she had Autism, and although unable to express herself through traditional means of communication, she was able to show her knowledge and express herself through an alternative medium. Pema had spent her entire childhood self-teaching herself in isolation. I can only imagine the raw emotion and joy her mother would have felt upon seeing her daughters work and contemplating the endless possibilities that awaited her. A life in emotional and communicative isolation was over – a new chapter had begun.

Thank you once again Vinesh. The laptops you donated will have far reaching benefits. Sometimes the impact of one’s actions can be felt on the other side of the world.

The change that a laptop was able to bring in just one persons life justifies the many hours that we have put into this project so far. How many other people can such initiatives benefit? Thanks Stewart for sharing your story. Read more about Stewart and his experience – click here.

We hope that you will be able to support us in our initiatives as the SEE Project enters a new chapter in “its life”.  Through our collective efforts we can create new and unseen opportunities for more children like Pema!

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.
Mahatma Gandhi

Posted in 2014, SEE Project Inc. | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Zoe’s reflections of her engagement in two primary schools in Fiji

Zoe Smith graduated with a Bachelor of Primary Education degree in 2013. Currently she is enrolled in the of Master of Education program at the Queensland University of Technology. Zoe addressed prospective QUT students who were planning to participate in the outreach program at Somosomo District School this year. This is her address to the students:      

Zoe with one of her mates in the village

Zoe with one of her new mates in the village

Hi my name is Zoe and I graduated last year (2013) with a bachelor of primary education. Currently I work 2 days a week at Buranda State School in a 4/5 classroom and study my masters full time at QUT. Today I’d like to share with you some of my experiences from the trip to Fiji last year.  At the beginning of last year I was sitting in Vinesh’s lecture at 8am and he quickly mentioned about a volunteer trip to Fiji to implement technology into schools. I was sitting next to my friend Courtney and we both agreed it sounded great so we went along to a meeting expecting the whole cohort to be there but much to our advantage there was only 4 of us at the meeting. Fast forward a few weeks and Courtney and I were selected to go to Fiji, as part of a group consisting on 2 education students, 2 engineering, 6 film and tv and 2 fashion design students. An interesting bunch of people when put together had the most amazing 2.5 weeks. Those 2.5 weeks were some of the best weeks of my life and I’m so grateful to have been able to experience what we got to because no tourist would get the chance to do what we did.

Traditional dances - an admirable part of the Fijian culture

Traditional dances – an admirable part of the Fijian culture

I knew prior to leaving that my time in Fiji would be life changing that would open my eyes to the world. What I didn’t know is that it would be challenging, exciting, not a holiday, mixed emotions of both happiness and sadness as well as strong friendships both with my fellow volunteers, your lecturers, but also the children and adults you will meet. I had done really well on my prac teaching before going to Fiji so I felt very confident in being able to deliver an engaging, challenging and fun educational experiences in Fiji, I was so wrong.

School assembly at Sabeto District School

School assembly at Sabeto District School

My first day in school started like this, I said that I would take grade 1 and 2 for the week in the two schools we were visiting. My first day I had grade 1, a class of 30 children and a female teacher. I walked in with 2 other students from different cohorts and was the teacher for the day. The children were excited and I was too. I said good morning and wanted to gauge how much English they knew. I said if you can understand me give me a thumbs up, if you can understand a few words put your thumb to the side and if you don’t understand me at all put your thumbs down. Well, I had 30 smiling faces looking up at me with no clue as to what I said. No one knew English.

Timoci and Epeli - students at Sabeto District

Timoci and Epeli – students at Sabeto District School

It got worse when the teacher wouldn’t look at me and didn’t translate for me. Maybe for cultural reasons I’m not 100% sure, but she gave me no eye contact. I remembered that 80% of communication is body language so hopefully the children will try and understand what I say. What I needed to do that day was to make up a dance and song for the older children in 6 and 7 to record on some video cameras the other education girl; Courtney was teaching them how to use. I had big hopes of making a great piece to be recorded when all I got out of one group was baa baa black sheep; not what I had anticipated. Moral of the story: Be flexible!!!!!

It is easy to make friends with the villagers

It is easy to make friends with the villagers

Forming relationships with the teachers and the village people is vital. I noticed when we were playing games out on the field, the teacher who wouldn’t speak to me was talking to a lady that I’d formed a connection with yesterday in the village, so I went over and had a conversation with them, it definitely helped. This moral: You have to get uncomfortable.

The smiles on the faces of the children was priceless

The smiles on the faces of the children was priceless

By lunch time, I was out of ideas and what I had planned wouldn’t work. I was sad and disappointed in myself. I spoke to Vinesh and he told me not to go back in. So I spent the rest of the after with the older children showing them how to use computers. A much better afternoon but I felt like I’d let myself down and when I’d heard that all the other students had the best day ever, I just cried and cried.

Students' interest and engagement made a big difference

Students’ interest and engagement made a big difference

Day 2: I was so nervous I couldn’t eat breakfast, very unusual for me. I knew today was going to be much better because the teacher was lovely, his name was Jim. I loved Jim. We got to school and 2 girls came up to me and asked me why I was wearing pants? Girls, take maxi skirts, women don’t wear pants. My day that day was filled with fun, laughter and I was actually able to teach. It was a great day.

What to expect when you go into Fijian schools:

-Large class sizes – one day I had 35

-Possibly children with learning difficulties

-A teacher being away sick and you taking the class all to yourself, they don’t have relief teachers

-No lunch or possibly a stick of sugarcane

-limited resources: Take everything you need, down to paper, rubbers, pencils! – Don’t expect all children to basic resources.

-Behaviour – more rambunctious and playful

Interesting foods at the local markets

Interesting foods at the local markets

What should you do:

  • Say yes, yes, yes
  • Be grateful, don’t complain
  • Be culturally appropriate
  • Have fun
  • Get to know one another, your lecturers and the people you meet in the village
  • Be helpful

Challenges both inside and outisde the classroom

Challenges both inside and outisde the classroom

Be prepared to be challenged. Experiencing what you will, your thoughts and opinions may change too. You may feel confronted hearing stories about the way people live, or what they have experienced and what you will see. I was confronted on my first day in Fiji at a cultural ceremony where I went into someone’s house to see a baby. The baby was wrapped up, lying on a concrete floor in someones house, which consisted of four walls and a concrete floor. How many people live in here I asked “8” was the answer. When I looked around, I saw that people were some of the happiest people I have ever seen and what I noticed was they had nothing, well compared to what we know. Fijians are some of the happiest, lively, fun loving people I have ever met.

Always warm and welcoming

Always warm and welcoming

After 2.5 weeks of sitting crossed legged so many times on floors, eating with my hands and living on ‘Fiji time” my views had changed. I am known to enjoy luxurious things. On the last day in Fiji a group of QUT students and I decided to go to the Sheraton for a swim. We lasted 30 minutes because we all felt uncomfortable going from a village where some children may only eat one meal a day to luxury. We were all begging to go back to sitting on a grass mat; never did I think I would utter those words. I know that each and every one of you will change in some way, mostly for the better and I commend you for taking the leap and not only changing yourself but changing the lives of many others. Congratulations. I’m so jealous of you all. I wish you all a wonderful trip.

Students at Sabeto Central School

Students at Sabeto Central School

 

 

Posted in 2013, Sabeto, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Melissa and Lucian’s story from Ghana

Melissa was one of my students at the Queensland University of Technology. She will soon graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Primary Education. She initiated and completed a project in a rural primary school with her partner Lucian in Ghana. Their work is inspiring (to say the least) and if we had more people (young and old) with such conviction and commitment, lives of people can change around the world.

Here are some of Melissa’s reflections of her project:

Melissa in Ghana

Melissa in Ghana

I was inspired by Vinesh’s SEE Project as an opportunity to share ideas and become immersed in another culture completely different from my own. Coupled with my partner’s passion for developmental work in Ghana, West Africa, we set about delivering a project in a small village community called Kasoa.

Whilst our initial proposal was to teach and work together with local teachers in a deprived school, the project evolved into a wide ranging ambition; to collectively improve various structures of the school in order to improve the learning environment for the children. At that time Vinesh’s SEE Project in Fiji had me thinking about building resources, and we successfully built the school’s first library, thanks to various donations sent from Australia. The project expanded, with subsequent construction of a school canteen and crucial facilities such as clean toilets, and fresh water for the school. This sustainable relief allowed better management of the school funding, since money and attention could be better focused on the children’s development rather lagging behind on internal necessities that hindered the school’s progress.

Melissa with her students

Melissa with her students

When I first entered the world of development, I was inevitably nervous and it took time to accustom myself to a very different school environment in Africa. However, the warmth of the Ghanaian people in a life of adversity and struggle, made me realise how fortunate I am as an Australian. I was struck by the challenges faced by the less privileged, and realised that even the smallest efforts of sacrifice are the most rewarding moments of life.

My biggest advice is don’t be shy, if you have even an ounce of motivation for doing something like this, then it is not scary, it is not dangerous, humans share the same spirit of giving and sharing no matter what geography divides us. Dive in, always keep an open mind and prepare to learn more than you can teach, because it will be one of life’s biggest lessons that will change everything you see about the world. We hope you enjoy the video, for any more information on the locally run organisation we worked with:- please see www.cheerfulheartsfoundation.org

Posted in 2013 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Stewart’s experiences in Bhutan

Stewart Duff was one of my students at the Queensland University of Technology. He will soon graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Primary Education. Stewart was part of a team of university students that took part in a Service-Learning project in Bhutan. It was led by Professor Sue Carrington and her colleagues. In this blog he shares some of his experiences on the use of ICT in his classroom.    

Stewart Duff and Professor Sue Carrington handing over a laptop to a Bhutanese teacher

Stewart Duff and Professor Sue Carrington handing over a laptop to a teacher in Bhutan

I was fortunate enough to be invited to travel to Bhutan with QUT as part of a Service-Learning program to promote the benefits of inclusive education. As part of this program, we donated six laptops to the school that we worked at. These laptops were given to us by the SEE Project.

The laptops provided an opportunity for Bhutanese teachers to use this technology to enhance inclusive practices. However, for many teachers and students, this type of technology was relatively new in an educational context.

To promote the laptops as a tool to enhance inclusive teaching practices, we worked collaboratively with the Special Education teachers, demonstrating the capabilities and potentials of the laptops in the classroom.

We used the laptops to support the learning of those students that found it difficult to participate in the traditional classroom environment. This allowed students with learning difficulties and disabilities to communicate their understanding of content, enabling them to become participating members of the classroom.

One of the most emotional and touching moments occurred on the second day of working in the school. Our Service-Learning supervisor and another QUT student had been working with a young girl who was in a self-contained class. This student had extremely limited modes of communication.

After observing the student on the first day, my supervisor decided to place a laptop computer in front of her and proceeded to read out some simple words. To everyone’s astonishment, the girl started to type on the keyboard the words that were read out to her, with high accuracy and fluency. The teachers present in that room were absolutely stunned and overcome with emotion as they had just experienced something life-changing. 

Throughout the day the student continued to write and solve mathematical problems via the laptop computer. Although unable to express herself through traditional means of communication, she was able to show her knowledge and express herself through an alternative medium. A life in emotional and communicative isolation was over – a new chapter had begun. It was amazing to witness the transformation that technology can bring in a person’s life.

 

QUT students with teachers at a school in Bhutan

QUT students with teachers at a school in Bhutan

Posted in 2014 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The QUT team at Somosomo District School

Taveuni is an island in Fiji. It is located to the east of Vanua Levu – the second largest island. When you come to Tavenui – you get the feeling that this is the way the world should be – crystal clear ocean, lovely coastline, clean air, lovely people and the list goes on. It is an island where it appears that humans and the environment exist in harmony with each other.

Breathtaking coastline

Breathtaking coastline…

...and water falls

…and water falls

...lovely views

…and lovely views and ….

Nestled on the western coast of the island is the village of Somosomo. This is a chiefly village. Many prominent Fijian leaders lived in this village at one time or another. Perhaps the most notable is the late Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau. He was a former deputy Prime Minister and Fiji’s first president. The people of the village – well what I can I say. So welcoming and true ambassadors of the Fijian people.

Children welcoming the team with songs

Children welcoming the team with songs

Within close proximity of the Somosomo Village is the Somosomo District School. This year a team of 16 staff and students from the Queensland University of Technology spent a week at the school. They shared their knowledge to engage and educate the teachers and students and the community of Somosomo District School. In the process they developed new understandings about themselves and the world they live in.

The QUT team

The QUT team

The team starts with a kuni lenga....

The team starts with a “kua ni lenga” cheer

..."kuni lenga" or chill and do not stress cheer

” Kua ni lenga” or chill and do not stress

In this project, a class set of second-hand laptops were donated to the school. This donation was made possible through the support of the Queensland University of Technology.  As part of the project, the university students had to use this technology to showcase how it could be used in classrooms. The school’s library was also setup – so creating opportunities for students to read was also a priority. St Agnes Catholic Primary School in Brisbane, friends and relatives of the participants, made this donations of second hand books. Through crowd funding and the support of the Rotary Club of Wynnum, classroom resources such as stationery and science experiment kits were also purchased. The QUT team also donated tables to the library.

The team with the resources

The team with Ratu Jone Ganilau, the Assistant Head-Teacher and some of the resources

The journey to Somosomo began almost 9 months before the actual trip. An application for the Australian Government’s Short Term Mobility Program was successful. This set the wheels to Somosomo in motion. Students were selected from the disciplines of education, information technology, and design. Two students with backgrounds in engineering and nursing put their own resources together to travel with the group. Students worked in cross faculty teams to design and develop classroom activities that aligned with the local curriculum. It was critical that these activities showcased the use of ICT.

Somosomo District School (Lower Campus)

Somosomo District School (Lower Campus)

This project was supported by a number of faculties including the university’s international student services.  We also had the support of the community in Somosomo. Our project was strongly supported by the  Tui Cakaudrove – Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, the Mataqali Valelevu (AI Sokula) (village clan), the school head-teacher and the management. The Ministry of Education in Fiji also supported our work. Ratu Jone Ganilau – the secretary of the mataqali  played a significant role in liaising between the team leadership and the school. One of our students from QUT – Ratu Eperneri Korovakaturaga Ganilau has strong family connections with the school and the village. His time and input steered the project in the right direction.

Getting ready for class

Getting ready for class

Getting ready for class

Getting ready for class

A significant innovation of the project was the SEE box. The school did not have access to the Internet. So the IT students addressed this issue through this invention. The SEE box creates a pseudo-online environment.

The SEE Box

The SEE Box

Getting the library resources, cataloguing them, and then recording the stock on a spreadsheet was a time consuming task. Luckily, we had the support of volunteers including our grand daughter – Gwenevieve who came to help.

Hard working volunteers going through the library books

Hard working volunteers going through the library books

Our grand daughter Gwenevieve came to help as well

Our granddaughter Gwenevieve came to help as well

By the time the team left they had a significant amount of freight that needed to be transported to Sososomo – this included 14 laptops, about 500 library books, science kits, stationery for the students and so on. Getting the freight across was a logistical challenge – all modes of transport(plane, bus, car, ship, trailer) played a role.

Getting the resources across was a challenge

Getting the resources across was a challenge

Upon arrival in Fiji and after a long bus trip from Nadi to Suva, we were greeted by one of the student’s family. The Korovakaturaga family’s welcome enabled all of us to experience the true hospitality of the Fijian people. Good food, good music, and good company set the scene for what was to follow.

We were warmly welcomed by Mrs Ganilau and her family

We were warmly welcomed by Mrs Korovakaturaga and her family

A memorable cultural immersion

A memorable cultural immersion

QUT students with Mrs

QUT students with Mrs Korovakaturaga

The Korovakaturaga Ganilau family who made the day very memorable for us

The Korovakaturaga family who made the day very memorable for us

The next day an 18 hour journey took us through the Koro Sea and onto the Island of Taveuni. The time on the ship created opportunities for the team to understand more about the local culture – especially about kava ceremonies. The crew on board the ship were also accommodating – they were keen to show us around.

On board the Lomaiviti Princess

On board the Lomaiviti Princess

The team was invited into the captain's cabin

QUT team was invited into the captain’s cabin

The team was also invited to join the crew in the lower deck

The team was also invited to join the crew in the lower deck

Upon arrival on the island, the team offered a sevusevu to the Tui Cakaudrove – Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu. When people from outside engage in activities within the boundaries of Fijian villages, a sevusevu is presented to the head of the village. It is a small offering of waka (dried kava).   After our sevusevu to the Tui Cakau, we were given his blessings and permission to proceed with the project as planned.   A warm welcome by the villagers in the church followed by a welcome by the students made the whole team feel very much at home. The next five days of teaching was an experience of a lifetime for many of the QUT students.

Teaching students in class 5

Lachlan with his students

Cleannah and Christa with their students

Cleannah and Christa with their students

Amy and Lauren with their class

Amy, Lauren and Andrew with their class

Setting the library looked challenging. Given the context we were pleased that it was setup as planned. Before the team left students borrowed books for the first time. There was a buzz – quite unlike what we see in local schools. Students were actually excited to borrow books.

Children were very excited to borrow books

Children were very excited to borrow books

Borrow and read

Borrow and read

The team were proud of what they had accomplished

The team was proud of what they had accomplished

Throughout our time at the school, the local community ensured that we were well looked after. They provided lunch everyday. The teachers and students fed us fresh coconuts daily.

Lunch provided by the community

Lunch provided by the community

Matt getting ready for lunch

Matt getting ready for lunch

The team was treated with fresh coconuts daily

The team was treated with fresh coconuts daily

A student showing his talent - climbing a coconut tree as though it was child's play

A student showing his talent – climbing a coconut tree (about 10 metres tall) as though it was child’s play

All good things come to an end. On the last day there was a showcase for the parents and the community. It was well attended and many parents were inquisitive about the digital technologies and the library books.

Parents attended the showcase

Parents attended the showcase – they were quite inquisitive

Interested parents asking their children questions at the showcase

Interested parents asking their children questions at the showcase

The farewell ceremony was a colourful occasion. The students demonstrated their cultural talents through dance and music.  However, it was overlayed by moments of sadness and tears.

Students performing a meke - Fijian dance

Boys performing a meke – Fijian dance

The girls performed a cultural item

The girls performed a cultural item

The experience has left a lasting memory in the minds of the all team members. Who knows we may be back one day to do more at Somosomo.

Vinaka vakalevu Somosomo District School - we enjoyed out stay at your school

Vinaka vakalevu Somosomo District School – we enjoyed our stay at your school

Team QUT - Well done! Where is Lachlan?

Team QUT – Well done! Where is Lachlan?

Another lovely sunset in Taveuni

Another lovely sunset in Taveuni

 

Links to classroom actvities:

https://kggroup422014.wordpress.com/author/kggroup422014/

https://kggroup412014.wordpress.com/

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The 2013 SEE Project Report

The SEE Project: 2013 Report

Introduction

The acronym for SEE – Share, Engage and Educate sums up the underlying philosophy of the work that we have undertaken in Fiji since 2011. We share our knowledge in schools by engaging with the key stakeholders – head teachers, teachers, students and school management committees. This is done onsite and also online through our website (https://theseeproject.org/). Through this process we believe that we can educate the stakeholders.

We work with schools and provide them with digital (computers, cameras, data projectors) and print resources (books). Our big idea is to build teacher capacity so that these resources can be effectively embedded in classrooms. For this reason, we have worked with teachers in schools and conducted workshops to build capacity. With ICT professional development activities, we believe that teachers who are motivated can become “ICT champions”. By showcasing their knowledge, these champion teachers will not only influence their own students, but will also have the potential to influence other teachers in their schools and districts. We have also supported schools in times of natural disasters. We provide children with direct financial assistance so that they can realise their dreams.

We work with Education Officers in Ministry of Education and schools. In the past three years we have donated 86 laptops, 169 desktops, 10 robotic kits, 12 digital cameras, 4 data projectors and 1200 library books. Most of the digital resources were second-hand (robotic kits were all new) that was donated to the project by individuals and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia. A very conservative estimate of the cost of these resources is $220,000 (Fijian dollars). This estimation is based on similar products that have been advertised for sale (online) in Fiji. As a result of our efforts 30 schools have benefited (including 2 special schools) either through the donation of resources, teacher professional development or both. Fourteen schools received a class set of computers (10 or more) and a library was setup in one of the schools.

The project has not received any external funding. Thus, its survival to date can be attributed to the commitment of a handful of volunteers who have provided countless number of hours for various activities and donors such as QUT. In a significant number of cases the volunteers have self-funded various aspects of the project. Some of the activities that the volunteers have provided their services towards are: (a) planning, preparation and delivery of professional development activities; (b) planning, preparation and delivery of in-class activities; (c) liaising with donors; (d) developing technology solutions for classrooms; (e) packaging and transportation of resources; (f) troubleshooting; (g) liaising with school principals and teachers; (h) maintaining a project blog site, and (i) conducting research and writing reports.

Objectives in 2013:      

Our primary focus was on supporting those teachers who had attended the ICT teacher workshops that we conducted in Lautoka and Sigatoka in 2012. The District Offices identified the teachers and organised the venues for the workshops. Education Officers Seruppeli Udre and John Vincent in Sigatoka and Albert Wise in Lautoka were very helpful in getting this initiative underway. At the workshop there were a number of teachers who were very enthusiastic and keen to use ICT in their classrooms but their schools did not have these resources. A number of teachers who did not attend the workshop also contacted us – expressing their desire to have computers donated to their schools. As a consequence our primary objective for 2013 was to support these motivated teachers so that they could use computers in their classrooms. Hence all our donations were primary directed to these schools.

Tasks undertaken:  

Continuing a productive partnership with QUT

Three faculties at QUT donated the laptops, computers and other peripherals. These were the faculties of Science and Engineering, Business, and Education. QUT has also been very supportive to the project by giving us space to store the computers until they are ready to be shipped. A productive relationship with QUT has been essential in sustaining this project.

Identifying recipient schools

We decided to donate computers to the schools that did not have computers. Thus we emailed all teachers who had participated in the workshops for an expression of interest. Other teachers who had contacted about donations were also included in the list. Interestingly only a handful of teachers responded – a significant number did not even acknowledge the email.

There were some conditions to the donations – one of which was that the schools had to agree to meet the cost of freight from Brisbane and any associated costs on the ground in Fiji. Given that our project does not have any external funding, we needed schools to take freight costs on board. We believe that such an approach also gives schools some real ownership of the computers. They are not merely receiving the computers but making a financial contribution towards the acquisition of this resource. Another significant aspect of the donation was that the schools would upload the Ubuntu operating system on most of the computers themselves. We provided them with the images (iso’s) and supported them with written and online instructions (You Tube) . Here, the idea was to build capacity in terms of how computer software and hardware worked. The Ubuntu operating system was not only a free download but it was general more resistant to viruses. Once schools developed an understanding of how these images worked, they have the option to clean the machines periodically. This not only installs new software, but gives the machines a new lease of life. Another condition was that the schools give us feedback in terms of how the technology was integrated and how it was impacting on students’ work.

Expression of interest was received from the schools as shown in the table below. The schools also agreed to the conditions of donation. The items donated are also listed. In primary schools we provided sufficient number of computers for a class set so that students could work in groups. In high schools, we provided double the number of computers so that students had the option of working in smaller groups and also individually.

School Laptops Desktops Cameras Data Projectors Month of shipment
Votualevu PrimaryNadi 10 May
Raviravi SangamBa 9 May
Rahmtullah KhanMemorial School

Sigatoka

10 1 May
Balata High SchoolTavua 10 1 May
Sabeto District SchoolLautoka 12 1 June
Sabeto Central SchoolLautoka 12 3 June
Naidovi Primary SchoolSigatoka 11 October
Malomalo Primary School Sigatoka 11 October
Waidra Muslim SchoolNausori 11 October
Viseisei Primary SchoolLautoka 11 October
Lautoka Andra CollegeLautoka 22 October
Vuda Primary SchoolLautoka 11 October
Sabeto CollegeLautoka 22 October
Savusavu Special School Savusavu 5 December
Total  44 123 4 2

 

Freight forwarding

Most of the schools (except Sabeto Central, Sabeto District, Vuda Primary and Savusavu Special School) were billed for freight. The two Sabeto schools were a part of a QUT project and the freight cost was picked up by the project (explained later on). The Vuda community in Brisbane met the cost of freight to the Vuda District School. Laptops to the Savusavu Special School were hand delivered by some project team members when they travelled to Savusavu in December. We have been working hard to get the best freight deals and used three different freight forwarders over the year. The rationale of how the freight costs are determined seems to vary between the companies. The best price we were able to get was $2 a kilo plus a document fee (usually $80). Payments for freight were organised through QUT’s International Student Services. Without this support sending the computers to Fiji would have been difficult.

We were also able to get the support of a small group of students from Brisbane State High School and staff from QUT’s International Student Services. Through their assistance we were able to pack and transport the computers to the freight forwarders. Feedback from the schools suggests that almost all computers landed without any damages. In a small number of cases (3) schools reported computer malfunction upon receipt.

Linking with QUT’s Engagement and Innovation Grant

In June/July, 13 students and 4 staff from QUT travelled to Fiji. This project was made possible through QUT’s Engagement Innovation Grant that was awarded in in 2011. These grants involve a competitive application process and it enables the recipients to engage with external stakeholders that is consistent with the University’sEngagement Strategy. The two participating schools in the project were the Sabeto District and Sabeto Central School. Working with teachers, the QUT students spent the first week integrating classroom activities that utilised ICT in these two schools. They delivered learning activities in science, English, social studies and music in years 1 to 8. QUT students also setup computer labs at the schools – the cost of freight was factored into the project. In the second week, the students focussed on community activities in the Sabeto village. While this project was an independent activity, it built on the existing connections of the SEE project (a teacher from each of these had participated in teacher workshops in 2012). QUT staff and student participation also supported the goals of the SEE project.

Outcomes:

Freight payment

The schools have been quite receptive to the idea of meeting the cost of freight.

Three out of the four schools that received laptops in May made the payment. One of the schools has failed to reimburse the cost of freight. Despite numerous emails that were sent to the head –teacher for an explanation – no response to date has been received. At the time of writing this report, three out of the six schools that the received the desk computers in October had reimbursed the cost of freight. The deadline for making this payment was 30 November. Feedback from the other schools was that the payment was on its way.

Teacher feedback

A survey was emailed to the identified teachers (ICT champions) in all schools that had received computers (prior to July 2013). This survey was deigned to gather data on how the computers were used in the classrooms. Data was gathered under the following headings – “About you”, “School Details”, “Computer use in your classroom”, and “Ideas for 2014”. Nine teachers in six schools completed and returned the forms. This represented a 67% response rate – 6 out of 9 schools. The teachers were from these schools – Balata High, Sabeto Central, Votualevu Primary, Rahmtullah Khan Memorial School, Naidovi Primary, and Drasa Avenue School. Some of the points identified in the responses were as follows:

Background of participants:

  • The sample comprised teachers who taught classes 2-8. Their teaching experience ranged from 2 to 23 years and they had either diploma (66.6%) or degree (33.3%) qualifications.
  • They all owned a desktop or laptop and the average age was 2.7 years.
  • 66.6% claimed that their knowledge of computers was fair to good but all were using their own computers to create worksheets, write reports, and conduct research.
  • All had Internet access but for 66.6% of the sample connectivity ranged from fair to poor.
  • On average teachers checked their emails once a week.

School details:

  • Student to computer ratio ranged from 1:6 to 1:90.
  • 85.7% of the schools have computer labs.
  • All schools had at least one computer lesson per week for students.
  • Only some computers in the schools had Internet access.
  • On average teachers used the computers once a week.

In-class activities

Teachers were asked to provide some details on how ICT was integrated in their classrooms. This aspect of the project is more important than the donation of technology itself. Unless these technologies are used effectively in classrooms –such donations can become almost valueless. The teachers were asked to identify the top three activities that their students had done with computers during the year. There was strong evidence of a range of activities that were being implemented in classrooms. The responses from the teachers is summarized in the table below:

Lesson objective Software/hardware Outcomes
Class 3
Create a photo story on the topic “An inter-island journey by boat” Photo Story 3 Students were actively engaged and they developed image-editing skills.Use of photos was very effective for visual learners.
Create a bar graph on where students lived Excel Students were able to present the data as a bar graph.
Class 4
Develop an understanding about families through digital images Digital images and data projector Students were able to understand more about different types of families through digital images.Students found the activity interesting and it was quite effective for visual learners.
Develop an understanding of circulatory system Digital images and data projector The use of multimedia helped students understand how the circulatory system and in particular the heart functioned.
Write sentences using correct grammatical structures, punctuation and tense Tux typing The software acted as a tutor – it identified their errors. Students used this knowledge to correct their errors. As a consequence they were able to write correct sentences.
Class 6
Use the computer keyboard effectively Tux Typing High levels of student commitment with evidence of the use of right fingers with increasing typing accuracy.
Write a story about your grandfather Libre OfficeWriter Students found the task interesting and enjoyable.Spell check made the writing more efficient.
Develop mental mathematics skills  Tux Maths Students had the opportunity to engage in mental mentally challenging questions of increasing difficulty – it catered for different abilities.
Class 8
Prepare a report on sources, uses, and conservation of water in students’ localities Libre Office Writer Students developed typing and formatting skills.The quality of the their work was enhanced in terms of presentation and was completed in a shorter time frame.

Using computers was seen as an incentive and they were quite motivated.

Present data on water usage in a day Libre Office Calc Students developed typing and formatting skills.Students were able to convert data into tables and graphs and interpret them.

The quality of the their work was enhanced in terms of presentation and was completed in a shorter time frame.

Prepare a quiz on water uses, sources and conservation Libre Office Impress Students developed their knowledge about how hyperlinks worked. They also developed their knowledge on various aspects of the topic.
Create a quiz on Navala Village Libre Office Impress Students’ developed their knowledge on hyperlinks.Students were excited, interested and engaged. Through the quiz, they were able to develop their understanding of Navala Village.
Write a short story on a chosen topic Storybook Weaver Students expressed their thoughts through drawings, graphics and text.The task gave them an insight into how books are published.
Read and edit a written article Microsoft Word Students demonstrated basic formatting skills (e.g. bold, italics, spell check etc.) associated with Word.Students corrected errors in written text and enhanced the quality of the presentation.
High School
Form 3
Introduction to the topic: density Libre Impress & Writer The quality of the presentation and especially the diagrams enabled the students to learn the content.
Research on the topic – Momentum Internet (Firefox) & Libre Impress Students researched and gathered relevant information. This value of this task was reflected in the quality of students’ responses to questions.
Participate in an online quiz on energy Gizmo, Internet (Firefox), PDF Reader Students were buoyed by the activity. There was evidence of good understanding in students responses to questions.
Form 5
Identify parts of an information system Libre Impress Students enjoyed the task and they were all engaged.Students were able to demonstrate their keyboarding, communication and teamwork skills.
Create a bar graph and pie chart from given data Microsoft Excel Students were able to demonstrate their understanding of the given data through appropriate graphs. 
Create a database of library books Microsoft Access Students were able to create and demonstrate how a database works -through queries and searching records.Students were able to understand the value of electronic and manual records.
Form 5
Introduction to the topic: symmetry Internet (Firefox) & mathisfun website Students were able to develop their understanding with greater ease because the website was giving instant feedback.There was good evidence of self-paced learning.   Students found the task interesting and enjoyable and it made the activity very efficient.
Participate in an online quiz on energy Internet (Firefox) & mathisfun website Students were able to draw and interpret graphs.Students were able to develop an understanding of the concepts faster.
Introduction to the topic: transformation Internet (Firefox) & You Tube Videos could be replayed a number of times and this enabled students to develop their understanding at their own pace.

Our findings:

  1. Our initiatives so far suggest that teachers are making good use of the donated resources. While this evidence has not been demonstrated in all schools, nonetheless it is pleasing to see the efforts of some of the teachers – the ICT champions.
  2. The role of the school principals and head-teachers is critical to the success of ICT integration. There is strong evidence that where the principals/head-teachers are proactive towards this initiative, teachers also become more motivated.
  3. It is also noteworthy that some of the motivated teachers have taken the initiative to drive the ICT agenda in their schools. As a consequence they convinced and got the support of their head-teachers and school committees and made this a reality.   This demonstrates strong support from school management committees towards technology acquisition and integration.
  4. Responses to emails have been problematic – this applies to most of the individuals that we have dealt with in this project. Emails are handled in three ways – either the response time is relatively short (this is rare) or a response is received at some time after the email is sent or the email ignored altogether.
  5. Internet connectivity and the lack of computers has hindered most of the teachers from using them more frequently.
  6. Some schools are quite happy to receive the donations but do not provide any feedback.

Recommendations:

  1. The Fiji Government’s latest increase in education funding is highly commendable. Of significance is the funding allocation towards ICT. Technologies on its own do not make a difference – teachers do. Most teachers have not had any formal training on how ICT’s can be integrated in their classrooms. This is an area that has had a significant emphasis in many developed countries and even with this emphasis – effective integration of ICT is education is still problematic. Unless teachers in Fiji are appropriately supported through professional development activities, the ICT initiative of the Fiji Government may not realize its full potential. ICT teacher champions should be given opportunities to participate in short and long term professional development activities. There no shortage of such teachers – all they need is an opportunity. Institution such as the Queensland University of Technology can assist to fulfill this need.
  2. A teachers’ ICT network with some connections with organizations overseas (such as the Queensland Society of Information Technology in Education) can be quite valuable to developing teacher capacity.
  3. School leaders (head-teachers and principals) should also be given opportunities to participate in professional development activities. Such activities should be quite rigorous and have clearly defined outcomes.
  4. There is a need for more timely communication to emails and other deadlines. Given that ICT has revolutionized communication – all users should adapt and adopt accordingly.
  5. Some former Fijian residents and many Australians who would be quite willing to support schools – in the same way as we do. However, schools need to not only accept donations but also show some outcomes. These outcomes should be communicated clearly and regularly. This is the basis for strong partnerships. This can lead to productive outcomes in schools.

Future directions:

  1. The SEE Project will continue to support schools with digital technologies. This support will be strengthened in schools where there is a strong evidence of ICT integration (e.g. Balata High School).
  2. We will also develop teaching ideas that will be shared with teachers online. In 2014 we will make digital stories our focus and work with teachers to develop their strategies in this area.
  3. The project has a strong desire to conduct teacher professional development – but we lack funding. We would like to engage with the Ministry of Education and find ways in which this can be achieved.
  4. Late last year Dr Vinesh Chandra was awarded a grant as part of the Study Overseas Short – term Mobility Program (STMP). The Australian Government sponsors this program. It will enable 10 students and a staff from QUT to travel to Fiji and engage in classroom activities at Somosomo District School on Tavenui Island. The focus of the activities will be on using ICT to deliver learning outcomes that are aligned with the Fijian Curriculum. The students will work in cross faculty teams to deliver these activities. Secondhand resources (laptops, digital cameras) will be used in the project. These resources will be handed over to the schools once the QUT team leaves. While this grant was not awarded to the SEE project, it advances and supports our work in the area of ICT integration in Fijian Schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sabeto College making good progress with computers

We sent 22 desktops to Sabeto College late last year. It is very pleasing to see the progress that the school has made in embedding the technology in their classroom activities. The school’s computer teacher in charge – Ms Meenal Reshmi needs to be commended for facilitating this change. The school principal – Mr Rajesh Chand and his staff, the school management led by Mr Bhagat Singh have also been very supportive of this initiative. The collaborative efforts of all in the school community makes such a change possible.

Here is an edited version of a report on the progress so far from Ms Meenal Reshmi. It demonstrates what has been achieved at the Sabeto College in a short time. Keep up the good work Meenal and the rest of the team at Sabeto College.  

The Department is thankful to Dr. Vinesh Chandra and his team from the Queensland University of Technology for the donation of 22 desktop computers to the Computer Lab at Sabeto College.

At the beginning of the year (2012), the school had 20 Pentium 3 and Pentium 4 desktop computers with CRT Monitors.  On average only 10 computers were operating. Maintenance costs were high and were borne by the school.  The computers’ were slow and as a consequence much of students time in the labs was counter productive. Despite this challenge students’ continued to work on their assigned tasks (e.g. lab activity, projects and research work in pairs and sometimes in groups) (see Fig 1 and Fig 2 )

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Figure 1

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Figure 2

Early 2013, a data projector was donated. It served as a great asset to the department lab which enabled ICT supported learning in school.  The other departments in the school also benefitted – they had the opportunity to show digital videos, images and text. This made the lessons more interesting and  the benefits were evident in how students responded in this environment.

The donation of a laptop (which is kept in the Computer Lab), has encouraged teachers to use it for class presentations – there is some evidence to suggest that this has led to  improvements in the academic performance of the students. The donation of the 22  Dell desktop computers with LCD screens was a blessing to the school.   The Head of the School took quick action and arranged an electrician to install an appropriate circuit breaker, new power points and cabling to cater for all computers (Figures 3, 4, 5).

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Figure 3

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Figure 4

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Figure 5

The Ubuntu software was successfully loaded on all PC’s and brief training was provided to all students.  The free and open source software has many advantages and teachers at Sabeto College have really appreciated the robust software system.  Above all, computer sets are being used by the College staff in their planning and preparation of lessons.

The students now have the opportunity to use the computers one on one and this facilities both individual and group learning. For most of the students it was the first time they got to use computers.   Currently, there are 64 students doing Computer Studies in the following classes:

Form/Year

No. of Students

Course

Form 4

20

Office Technology

Form 5

12

Computer Studies

Form 6

23

Computer Studies

Form 7

9

Computer Studies

64

Highlights of Improvements:

  • Soft copy of the lesson notes are loaded on each PC and students can access their own set of notes
  • Each student has access to a computer and their learning is supported by digital illustrations through the data projector
  • Softcopy of textbooks are loaded for reference – this has promoted more reading and learning activities for students with appropriate examples and diagrams
  • 15 computers with internet has provided the students with an opportunity to do their research work
  • Typing software creates opportunities for students to develop their typing skills at their convenience
  • Teachers in other departments also use the Computer Lab for multimedia presentations that facilitate teaching and learning

Future Goals

1) To have internet available on all 30 computers

2) To have Moodle setup for online interactive learning especially for Form 7 students so that they are well prepared for tertiary studies

3) Forward proposal for Smart board to make learning more engagaing.

The following are images students of the Sabeto College using the computers.

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Figure 6

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Figure 7

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Figure 9

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Figure 10

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Figure 11

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Figure 12

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Figure 13

Finally, some of the shots of the Sabeto College teachers doing the FEMIS (Fiji Educational Management Information System) entry, to update the record of the day.

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Figure 14

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Figure 15

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Figure 16

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Figure 17

Posted in 2014 | Tagged | 1 Comment

Some of our hardworking volunteers

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(L-R) Jehan Baguley, Afiq Nazrin, Alif Nazrin, Oliver Caddie, Graeme Baguley and Riccardo McMillan-Miceli

A significant part of our work entails loading, unloading, storing, and transporting the donated items. We are very grateful to the Queensland University of Technology  for not only donating most of the secondhand items but also assisting with storage. In addition we have been grateful to the support given to us by some high school students – Jehan Baguley, Afiq Nazrin, Alif Nazrin, Oliver Caddie, GB and Riccardo McMillan-Miceli, Nadia Baguley, Simon Rocco, and Billie Liu. They have helped us with a lot of the “heavy lifting” at various stages. Thanks very much team – your assistance is truly appreciated.

Two strong pillars of the SEE Project - Andy Ng and Graeme Baguley (they left high school a long time ago!)

Two strong pillars of the SEE Project – Andy Ng and Graeme Baguley (they left high school a long time ago – I think!)

Posted in 2014 | 1 Comment

2014: A story of success at Balata High School

We donated 10 laptops, a data projector and a digital video camera to Balata High School in Tavua. All this gear was secondhand. The laptops and the data projector came from the Queensland University of Technology. The digital camera was given to us by my friend Kazunori Nozawa, Professor at Ritsumeikan University, in Kyoto Japan. The school received these donations in June last year. Edubuntu/Ubuntu operating systems were installed on the laptops.

One of the conditions of donation is that the schools give us an update of how these resources are used. We also request schools to provide evidence of the impact that these technologies are having on students’ work.

Late last year, I received a detailed report from Mr Segran Pillay – Principal at Balata High School. I was truly amazed at the range of different activities in which laptops, data projector and video camera were being used. It shows the commitment of Mr Pillay and his staff towards ICT integration. More so it shows their innovative capability and their ability to think outside the box. From an education perspective, technology on its own does not make a difference on it’s own – teachers’ do. Teachers’ and school leaders like Mr Pillay play a significant role in integrating technology in school activities. Without a collaborative and determined effort, technologies such as computers will never realise their full potential.

I take this opportunity to commend Mr Pillay and his staff for a magnificent effort. The school management have also been very supportive of this initiative. I think with limited resources the team at Balata have demonstrated some very productive outcomes. Keep up the good work and all the best in 2014.

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Mr Segran Pillay – Principal, Balata High School

Here are parts of Mr Pillay’s report – it is very impressive. It highlights the challenges and achievements. What is equally satisfying is his vision and determination to create new opportunities for his teachers and students with ICT.

SCHOOL DETAILS

Balata High School is situated 5 km from Tavua Town along the Nadarivatu Road. The school had 235 students in 2013. These students are from Forms 3 to Form 7 and the school also has a vocational center for boys.

 

The school was established in 1976. There are 2 streams of students from Forms 3 to Form 6. Most of the forms have a class roll of 30 students which is an advantage considering that many urban schools in Fiji have rolls of over 40.

The school is a level 3C school and has 18 staff most of whom are experienced teachers.

The school has a Computer Lab and when is mostly used for students of Forms 5 – 7 doing Computer Studies as an examinable subject. Furthermore, students of forms 3 and 4 use the same lab for Office Technology classes. In addition, every form gets a 40 minutes session a week for Co-Computer lessons.

The computer lab has 5 new desktops donated by the Canadian Embassy in 2012 through the Vodafone ATH and Fiji Council of Social Services. Three old Pentium 4’s also are working in the lab. The lab is yet to receive an air conditioning unit from the school management.

It was a blessing for the school when a set of 10 laptops, a multimedia projector and a Sony video camera was given to the school as part of the SEE PROJECT led by Dr Vinesh of the Queensland University of Technology.

Considering the busy schedule of the Computer Lab, we decided by to have a separate room for the laptops. After much thought and with a vision to prepare senior students for tertiary institutes, the Form 7 students were shifted to the Music Room and the partitions of their room was opened to make a lecture theatre and media room next to the school library. This room is about 25ft by 45ft in is an ideal room for lectures and presentations.

Work first began on the safety and the Vocational teacher and students assisted by putting on burglar proof grills on the windows and doors of the Ubuntu Lab. A white canvas material 3m X 3m was bought to be put on the wall at a cost of $150 which was much cheaper than a projector screen. The room was then neatly painted blue and purple and an electrician was called to put up about 20 electrical power points across the room. The school Board members were called to school and the laptops were officially handed over to the school.

By this stage, it was almost July and we were close to the end of the second term.

The school now has a Computer lab and a Ubuntu lab where the 10 laptops are placed. The Ubuntu lab is known to students and teachers as the Media Room and the laptops are placed on the sides and the middle section has desks for students to sit when presentations are made through the multimedia projector.

The projector, laptops, and camera has in the last few months being used for the following:

  1. Professional Development sessions taken by Principal and Computer Teacher;
  2. Presentations for students by teachers and visitors including university reps;
  3. Saturday and evening classes where students are able to view examiners reports stored on computers [Examiners Reports contain marking schemes and solutions for past external exam papers];
  4. Teachers bringing students for research and activities [Edubuntu software and online quizzes];
  5. Students typing their projects and tasks under supervision of teachers after school and during breaks;
  6. Entering of school data on FEMIS [Education Ministry’s Information System on student bio data, attendance, fees];
  7. Photos of school activities taken by camera, and
  8. Camera partially used to record videos for school short movie competition entry.

While the school had also wanted to move the musical equipment to the media/ubuntu lab, this was stopped as the dream of ICT at Balata would have been diverted in another direction.

The following challenges were met this year:

  1. There is variation in teachers’ abilities and teachers need more inservice.  The school management is quite supportive and no stone will be left unturned to compile a good ICT Policy for 2014 that will motivate and support teachers.
  2. The school is working on a policy to have all teachers to save lesson plans, notes, other necessary content as soft copies for viewing on a school server. For this, the school management is assisting in bringing all teachers to a common staffroom [below the Ubuntu lab]   –
  3. Slow internet is a concern and flash net modems can chew a massive amount of data when teachers and students view U Tube and other videos.
  4. The Ubuntu lab / Media Room taking some time to be ready,
  5. Some students and teachers having difficulty with touch pads,

Achievements

  1. Some of the trainings were very fruitful
  2. Teacher motivation and encouragement worked – some teachers showed a lot of interest in taking students to the Ubuntu Lab.

Future Plans

  1. Having a common staff room – work has started thanks to the understanding management. This will be closer to office, Ubuntu lab and storage of data, scanning, printing, sharing internet etc will become easy.
  2. Encourage parents to buy laptops for students [cheapest is F$379 – mini 10” laptop from Vodafone so the school can encourage F7  [25 students] students to bring their own devices to schools [BYOD] – Principal has written a few letters for sponsorship and arrangement for FSC loans for farmers hopefully something works out.
  3. Letter written but there is no response for broadband connection – will work on a petition in the community through FCOSS so get better internet connection.
  4. Form 7 students to have University Foundation style classes – lectures / workshops and tutorials.
  5. Compulsory for all teachers to follow ICT Policy – integration of ICT and move away from teacher centered teaching – show evidence of lessons taught / activities / lesson notes available for each lesson on class share.
  6. Teachers to update student information on FEMIS and school server.
  7. Encourage and communicate to parents through emails / MMS / e-newsletters.
  8. E-books and Teaching materials to be provided to students as soft copies.
  9. Encourage teachers and students to use Ubuntu Operating systems and software.
  10. Communicate in school amongst staff using emails for efficiency and improvement in meeting deadlines – save papers.

Introduce white board software that is to be used for teaching – open Sankore is a basic one and can be used on both Ubuntu and Windows. If used well – teachers can make videos of their teachings by screen capturing software. Since there is only one projector – teachers can use this concept when coming to the Ubuntu lab as part of the ICT Integration programme. Other LMS like Haiku and EDU20 can be used for assignments, notes, etc and class shares can be created on school server to store notes and videos.

School photos 

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The rooms upstairs is the new Ubuntu lab / Media Room [24ft X 45ft]. They used to be the Form 7 and optional room. It has now become a Computer Lab and Lecture Theatre. The school management had to put up Burglar proof grills, complete electrical for the first stage.

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The basement will be converted to a common staffroom so networking becomes much easier.

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The existing Staff Room 1

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Teachers presenting their teaching aids – this is a weekly activity at school. The first photos were taken before the arrival of the laptops and projector.

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Science HOD trying to use an added screen prior to the arrival of the projector for his Form 7 Biology class.

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Students at the old Computer lab / Windows Lab

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Prefects having a session with reps from Vodafone ATH and Fiji Council of Social Services prior to the arrival of the projector. As from Term 3, the Student Council have their meetings in the Ubuntu Lecture Theatre.

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Board Members having the first feel of the laptops and projector. I am trying to show them the movie “Taare Zameen Par”. The Laptops are placed on tables on the sides and the middle group can focus on the projected screen.

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The Sony camera partially used for recording scenes in the school short film and the Dell laptop used in one of the scenes. The laptop also used for the above poster that was printed and put in 500 newspapers that Saturday.

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Ministry of Health officials with a presentation using their own projector in the Ubuntu Lab.

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Students rehearsing for items in the Media Room. This has been stopped as it required a lot of movement of laptops from the lab to Office.

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Chief Guest for Diwali Celebration – Mr Pranesh Prakash. Students eagerly waiting for the presentation on the story of Diwali which was presented in slides and narrated by a Form 3 student. Teachers plan to record a 10 min short video on the same for next year.

Balata13.jpgStudents ‘rangoli’ competition design prepared after online research.

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Principal taking a session on how to use laptops and internet to teach effectively to the digital natives.


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Teachers getting laptops and internet ready for a training session on FEMIS and Online Quiz – Quiz Star

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Teachers preparing their lesson Plans using Libre Writer.

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Class in the old Windows Lab

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Form 7 Room. There are massive plans to incorporate ICT into the teaching of Form 7 in 2014 and change their high school method of teaching to Foundation level.

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The new burglar proof grills for the new Ubuntu lab

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The Librarian trying a new Ubuntu lab. She has moved to Ba and the school has advertised for a new Librarian. We seek a person who can transform the place from manual method of recording to a whole new place where students come to research, read books and also e-books.

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Management looking at the new set of technology. There are eight tables that hold eight laptops – catering for eight groups. This is reasonable as one laptop is normally shared by 3 – 4 students only.

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Library Week displays . photo taken by the Sony Camera which has very good picture quality

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Presentation by Tavua Police Station Officer during Drug Free Week.

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Vocational students working on the grills for the media room in Term 2. Photo taken by the Sony Camera given with the laptops

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Screen shot of Haiku learner system allowing a teacher to 5 classes, 375 students and other special features [1GB data space] – free users

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Open Sankore Screen shot. A great free tool for white boarding / screen capturing your lessons.

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A very good cloud based system to organize online Quiz and it’s free

Posted in 2014, High School | Tagged , | 2 Comments

2013: Reflections of the Sabeto Schools and Community Project (SSCP)


I was with the team for the first half of the project. I had to leave because of a teaching commitment in China which overlapped with the second week. I found this project to be an immensely rewarding and memorable experience of my career. My engagement with a group of highly motivated students and colleagues not only enabled us to achieve our aims but we also excelled in all our expectations.  A big thank you to the Queensland University of Technology Engagement Innovation Grant.

A picture speaks a 1000 words. So instead of explaining how the aims were achieved (in too many words), I have uploaded images (against each aim) which speak more than a 1000 words… .

Aim 1: To work with their fellow students from three faculties to pursue the aims and design of the schools and community components of the SSCP

A cohesive team made a big difference

A cohesive team made a big difference

A willing and able team ready to teach and dressed like the locals

Aim 2: To gain an understanding of the functioning of primary schools in Fiji, including the needs and aspirations in terms of ICT education.

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A computer lab set up at the two schools…with computers donated by QUT

Aim 3: To design, develop and integrate ICT related activities in classrooms

Active engagement with ICT

Knowledge sharing with teachers and students – Exhibit A

Knowledge sharing with teachers and students - Exhibit B

Knowledge sharing with teachers and students – Exhibit B

Aim 4: To be given the opportunity to observe and interact with members of the Sabeto Village community and pursue common aims in a community based project

Interactions occurred regularly with the villagers

Community Interactions – Exhibit A

Community interactions - Exhibit B

Community interactions – Exhibit B

Community interactions - Exhibit C

Community interactions – Exhibit C

Aim 5: To be provided with an opportunity for incidental learning via personal contact with teaching staff, primary school children and community members of the Sabeto district of Fiji

This is how the locals cook eels

New learning (Exhibit A) – This is how the locals cook eels

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New learning (Exhibit B) – “found a drinkable tree” Comment on Leo’s Facebook Page

Aim 6: To build on communication skills in terms of improving their intercultural competencies

Engaging at all levels of the community

Communication with the community – Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Communication with the community – Exhibit B

Aim 7: To develop lifelong friendships with teachers and members of the community

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Real world engagement and possible life long partnerships – Exhibit A

Real world engagement and possible life long partnerships – Exhibit B

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Real world engagement and possible life long partnerships – Exhibit C

Aim 8: …….(unstated)….