Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Adventures with Skype

As you may have read in our previous 2 posts, we have started exploring with Skype! This is very exciting in grade 2. It is amazing how many doors this opens for us in our opportunities to learn about people and places around the world. In learning about communities we have been corresponding with a class in Morris, Manitoba (where I used to teach). We have written letters to each other, sent movies with messages and received photos. Nothing that we have done so far was as meaningful and authentic to my students as the 32 minutes we spent on Skype with our Morris friends. When the students reflected on the event, many said their favorite part was when they got to meet their buddy face to face! We have also been singing "I Love a B OO K" all year which is a song written by Winnipegger, Celeste Krochak. She is currently teaching in Singapore so we planned a Skype Learning Call with her so we could sing her song together and ask questions about her community in Singapore.
In preparing to use Skype as a learning tool, I did some research and found the Langwitches Blog to be very useful. We did a lot of planning and preparing for our Skype Learning Calls before any calls took place. We talked about what the purpose of our calls would be (not just to see themselves on the big screen, although this was a definite highlight!) and what we hoped to learn. From these ideas, we mapped out the introductions to our calls, questions we would ask and how we would appropriately finish the call. We found Morris and Singapore on our maps and talked about where in the world they are, which is closer, which is further and how they might be the same and different as where we live.

We developed a list of jobs that would be required before, during and after the calls. We also brainstormed and discussed the purpose of each job. For example, the videographer was supposed to film mostly the screen and be near the speaker so we could see and hear what happened in case we missed anything. The audio recorder needed to sit near the speaker so he could pick up our guests’ responses to our questions. The photographers were supposed to get photos of the screen, the whole group and the details of the event (not just close-ups of their friends!).

Alyssa is asking a question.

Cole, one photographer.

Taylor is a recorder. Behind her, Matthew is the audio recorder.

Carter is the videographer.

When it was finally time to make our first call to Morris, we assigned the jobs and things were underway. We had our “welcomer” say hello first and then took turns with Ms. Martens’ class asking questions. Taylor was the recorder so she sat by the speaker and recorded as much information from their answers as she could. We also had Matthew audio recording and Carter video recording so if we missed any answers we could go back to find out what they said. Cole and Brooke were the official photographers. After all our questions were asked, we gave each child the chance to meet face to face with their buddy. Our “thanker” wrapped up the call with a message specific to the guests we were calling.

When a Skype Learning Call is finished, the experience is not yet complete. We discussed and reflected on the experience going through the questions we had asked them and talking about what we had learned about their community. We used Taylor’s notes and our recordings to record their answers to our questions. We also reflected on the experience as a whole so we would know if anything needed to be changed for future calls. We have been working on writing complete responses and adding detail, or elaborating, so this was our focus. Some reflection questions included: “What did you learn from our Skype call?” “What part of the call did you like best? WHY was this your favorite part?” What should we do differently next time?”

So far our Skpe-ventures have been meaningful, authentic and purposeful. My students are very engaged before, during and after the calls. They learn a lot and are excited about what and how they are learning. This is certainly something we will continue with. Let me know if you are interested in connecting with us via a Skype Learning Call!

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