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Global audiences & 'over the back fence' peer mentoring

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Geoff Wood, who is working in the Health and Life Skills Department at Rosmini College in Takapuna (Auckland) opened by introducing some background around the InterPacific symposium and forum.

It started in 2006 with a 2 hour video conference between students at Washington State University and Rosmini College in Takapuna. The students share their research projects (7 mins) and engage in discussion on current topics related to exercise, wellness and sport.

In 2011 the Symposium programme has been extended to allow group presentations on a selected topic. The topic for this year is obesity and physical inactivity. The students are hooked up via VC, at a location that is integrated with KAREN.

Student eeePC userImage by USM MS photos via FlickrThe project is cross age, and ranges from 8 years old upwards. The diversity in the audience was obvious, from primary upwards. One of the positive effects is seeing many different examples of presentations.

It was great to see some video footage of a couple of the students presenting, with the audience in the US projected up on the screen. The audience can see both the slides and the student talking, as well as hear the audio. Some of the student feedback included assisting with upskilling in tertiary skills.

The assignment for this year included a review of 3 research reports, synthesise and post on a forum for feedback. One example that Geoff showed was a student (Year 13) who wasn't a confident writer, who wrote up and posted his abstract in the community, and received some great comments, suggestions and questions. He refined his abstract, and has since created a poster which he has presented at a conference. As a result, the confidence in his own writing has improved, as have many of his key competencies.

Webinar Command Center 2Image by Christopher S. Penn via Flickr

A complementary aspect is the 'meet the experts' initiative that came about as assistance for students seeking the most up-to-date thinking on a topic being examined. Using Skype or VC the students connect with an expert in the field for a maximum of 10 minutes. Five minutes is for the expert to outline the issue and solution, and 5 minutes for questions and answers. Students have connected to experts in NZ, USA, and Switzerland on topics such as diabetes, the physical activity environment, and nutrition programmes.

Alongside these two initiatives is "Over the Back Fence", which is built on a  strengthening relationship with the primary school next door to Rosmini. Year 12 students provide a planned weekly physical education experience for 8 classes (year 3-6) - emphasising physical fitness and movement/sport skill development. In small groups the Year 12 students develop health and wellness messages which are taken into the classrooms. Each message is 5 minutes in length and sequential, Monday to Friday. At least one message must be Skyped, and others use blogs, online questionnaires, movies and PowerPoints.

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