As part of the sharing/learning/connecting, participants are asked to blog about the experience afterwards. I'm going to keep my post short and sweet as I am tired tonight. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures during the call.
I threw out my request for a skype call on twitter, as I thought it might be the easiest way to find someone. Silvia Tolisano, the project's organizer later messaged me that she found it simpler to connect via email, so I will keep that in mind for next time. Luckily, I had a quick response from Paula White, a teacher at Crozet School in Crozet, VA. We made arrangements to have our 2nd grade classes meet this morning around 11 am. ET. It was easy to start with a school in the same time zone.
The hard part on my end was that our students are engaged (?) in standardized testing this week. Being a dual-curriculum school, most of the general-studies part of the day has been filled with testing which didn't leave me much time to prepare the kids. I like to really prepare for things (which, yes, does involve me talking quite a bit as one of my students pointed out today). I asked the classroom teacher to have them write questions in advance.
Technical problems are par for the course. Despite the best preparation, they do happen. Unfortunately, we were unable to see the students in Virginia. It threw me off not being able to see the kids to whom we were talking, although we could hear them just fine.
What went well:
The kids were extremely excited about the call. They asked questions about field trips, pets, wild animals, the weather (the VA kids asked my kids how HOT it gets in Florida during the WINTER. My students were a bit confused by that one!), and questions about locale such as "Are you close to Washington DC?" and "How many of you have been there?" Almost all of the students from VA had been to DC.
The best part was that Paula called us back after her students left to go to art. She called from a different computer, and this time the video worked. Since our call had been short, many of my students had not had a chance to go before the camera and ask a question. Paula was very patient and answered many questions. She even took the computer into the hallway to show us her school's pets.
What I would like to do differently next time:
I would not try to do this again without having a chance to talk to and prepare the students beforehand. We will brainstorm our questions as a whole class instead of having each student write their own questions. We will also decide in advance who is going to sit in the "hot seat" and who will ask which questions. Of course, we will discuss behavior expectations as well.
Thank you so much to Paula and her students. I am really looking forward to our next skype session.