On Wednesday I worked with some classrooms who wanted to develop their use of Skype. I arranged for two classrooms to skype with us (thanks to connections with my twitter friends, @Marama and @mrkempnz), one in Dunedin at Grant Braes School and the other at Pukeokahu School near Taihape.
The first class, Room 3 at St Thomas Aquinas, watched this video that explained what skype is and how it works.
Next we co-constructed a chart of what a successful skype session is. The poster below is the version I’ve put together in popplet – a cool chart maker, I’ve discovered. The three parts, preparation, during the call and reflection are based on the rubric I found online here, at the ‘Educational Origami’ blog. We found that it helped us have a great first Skype call, especially the prep stage where we visited their class wiki or blog and prepared some questions to ask.
Here are some reflections I’ve taken from the two sessions.
1. Watch for tricky technical bridges to hurdle.
It’s always important to test your technology before using it, especially when you’ve arranged a time to do something with someone else- who has built their timetable around it. We had some issues with proxy settings and, I think, some firewall blocks which has tripped me up in the past. Always check your connection before you need it. Especially when using skype for the first time with a class.
2. Always have an authentic purpose.
Anything new has its gimmick appeal. I’ve found that this lasts for about 20 minutes with kids and then they’re over it! When we’re using skype to call someone you should always have a real reason for doing so…not just because you can – ‘Hey kids, lets skype the class next door!’
With the second session we decided that we’d use the skype call to help the class develop an understanding of open and closed questions – and a real audience to practise on! They were totally engaged in asking their open questions (based on a video the other class made of a science experiment they did with sheep’s eyes) and they got experience how powerful those types of questions are. The learning intention of the session was not how to use skype – classic example of use the tool to help the learning..rather than learning the use of the tool.
3. Don’t underestimate how familiar our students are with technology
It was amazing to see how many hands shot up when I asked if they had used skype before. Many had skyped their grandparents and family front out of town and a lot of them knew how it worked and what it did.
Often we think that we will be sharing a tool with our class that is innovative and amazing! It may well be, compared to the technology we usually use at school, or even compared to the teacher next door. But to these students it’s a normal part of everyday life. It’s not so amazing to them – they don’t know any different. All the more reason to make our classrooms as relevant as possible to our students everyday lives.