Thursday, March 19, 2009

Skyping with 2nd Grade

Around the World with 80 Schools-- if you haven't already heard of it, this is a very simple (in theory) way for schools around the world to use skype to connect with other students. I say "in theory" because we had our first skype session today, and it was a bit messier than I had hoped. But, as I always remind myself, learning IS messy!
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 glitch:
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.


Wm Chamberlain said...

This is good information for me. I am considering using skype in my classroom as well. It might be a great way to blow off some steam during our state testing. (We test for three straight weeks!)

Anonymous said...

I really admire how you (and others) persevere in the face of challenges. So often, I will hear teachers say they "can't" do something because of testing, tech glitches, time constraints, or distance. Well, this post included a bit of all of that and still ended with a few dozen smiles. Awesome. Thanks for sharing this!

Alice Larson said...

Thanks for posting this! I've been wanting to try skyping. Your post helped relieve some of my nerves and worries b/c you told us what you learned from your experience. Knowing it doesn't have to be perfect is comforting. It's a work in progress, right? :) Thanks for that!! I'll be planning to do some skyping with my 2nd graders soon!

Andrea said...

@Wm Chamberlain- 3 weeks of testing? Really? I can't remember what grade you teach or where you are, but let me know if you want to set up a skype session. I work with K-5.

@Angela- Thanks so much for the encouragement. I can not tell you how much I appreciate it.

@Alice-thanks for your comment. yep, it's always a work in progress! It's supposed to be. Sometimes it helps to take a step back and remember that. Good luck w/your skyping.

Jane Hake said...

Thanks for posting about your session.
I've been wondering if gmail video chat would work? I can imagine you and Paula, knowing you both from Twitter... being flexible and going at this with the right attitude. I love it!!!! I can totally picture Paula giving the kids a tour of the hallway and the pets! How fun!