The power of today’s technology is not only in technological capability alone. The difference of technology is in the people connections and empowerment through that technology.
In this post, I will detail some educator and student perspectives on connecting with classrooms via skype. Interestingly, one of the classes profiled here is located in an area called ‘the island city’ in Alameda, California. Teacher Lisa DeLapo said that the Skype classroom connections felt especially meaningful to them given their location. Given that they are in an island type location, students can sometimes feel separate from other schools and students their age. Their skype classroom connections changed that!
We do not exist for ourselves alone – Thomas Merton
I remember the first time my students connected outside of our classroom. It was in the late 90′s and we emailed an author. After a few weeks, the author emailed us back and told students about her writing process. What an amazing feeling it was to reach for the students to reach outside of our classroom and hear directly from an expert – especially one whose books they were reading!
Today the process is easier, faster and quite powerful. The technology of today enables us to use video, voice and images help to enrich the connection. This makes it even more powerful than simple text based exchanges of years gone by.
Skype for Catholic School’s Week – Case Study
I recently had the chance to speak to some teachers and an administrator about a skype connection they established. The Skype calls took place during Catholic Schools Week and included teachers, students and administrators from various catholic schools across the country. Connection for some of these educators were planned via the twitter chat and hashtag #catholicedchat
No man is an Island – John Donne, Meditation XVII
Teacher and Student Perspectives
Teachers who participated: Barb Gilman, Grade 3, Omaha, Nebraska, Lisa DeLapo, St. Joseph Elementary School , Alameda California Nick Senger, Spokane, Washington and Patti Harju, a 2th grade, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Barb Gilman, 3rd Grade, Omaha, Nebraska
In Skyping with each other, they did an activity called ‘Mystery Skype’. For Mystery Skype, they ask each other a series of five questions with yes or no answers only. This allows student to guess where the other class is calling from. Students must listen closely and think critically to guess the location of the other class. It is fun too!
Comments from Barb’s 3rd grade class:
- We loved it!
- We had fun guessing!
- They were nice.
- It was exciting.
- It was awesome.
Barb’s class skyped with Patti Harju’s 2nd graders from St. Stephen’s school in Grand Rapids, MI and Lisa DeLapo’s 3rd graders from St. Joseph’s school in Alameda, California. Barb said,
‘This was our first experience doing a Mystery Skype and I’m hooked! They loved following along in their atlas and coming up with questions.’
Lisa DeLapo, Technology Teacher K-8, Alameda, California
Comments from Lisa’s technology classes:
- It was fun asking questions and seeing how different their weather is. They get to take a day off when it snows!
- We learned that there are different ways to sing the Alleluia at Mass.
- We saw the same teacher from last year, but it was a different class. That was so cool!
- It was like magic. Their classroom was on the screen, and they’re in a different state! – Victor
- We got to see another Catholic school and the differences between us. - Santiago
Patti Harju, 2nd Grade teacher, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Comments from Patty’s class:
Patty said, ‘My second graders enjoyed their first two Mystery Skypes with two other Catholic Schools this week. We prepared by looking at our US maps and noticing the locations of the states in relation to the oceans, other countries and directions.
We had a practice round before our chat. I chose a state and the children asked me yes or no questions about the state. They asked about bordering states, whether it gets snow or not, if it is bigger than another state, and if it shares a border with Canada or Mexico. We then wrote some of the questions we liked the best on the board.
During our chat with Barb in Nebraska, we were given clues to the identity of their state and using these clues and the answers to our questions, we were able to identify it. We were also successful with our second chat Lisa’s class in Alameda, Ca. Both schools were also able to identify that we were located in Michigan.
We hope to engage in additional Mystery Skypes this year. The children pay more attention to the map and to the location of the states when they are forming their questions. One of our favorite games to play to learn about the US states is ‘Stack the States’ which we play on our iPads. I love to watch the children consult the US map as they play the game. They are having fun and learning some needed US geography.’
Kathy Mears, NCEA, Executive Director for Elementary Education
Kathy Mears skyped in to talk with faculty at St. Joseph’s in Alameda, California during their faculty meeting.
Technology teacher, Lisa DeLapo said that the teachers really appreciated hearing from Kathy. Lisa noted that teachers felt special that Kathy reached out to them. Kathy happened to call in from a conference rather than from the NCEA office in Arlington, Va. This showed that these connections can happen anywhere and anytime and connect educators in meaningful ways too! Said Kathy:
“It was wonderful! Skype is a tool that we could and should more fully utilize for educational purposes.” NCEA Executive Director for Elementary Education
Getting Started With Skype
- Find another classroom to connect with and contact the teacher
- Invite the teacher as a contact on Skype
- Arrange topics and formulate questions – Students can generate questions also
- Plan the time and duration. Note any time differences and plan accordingly.
- Determine any related assessment – How will you assess the activity? How will you evaluate effectiveness?
- Check connections, peripherals and software – Make sure you have the needed internet access and software. Connect your computer to a speaker or large screen and projector as needed. Do a practice skype call to test the connection in your classroom.
- Assign roles to students so that information is recorded. These may include taking notes, checking connections and more. You can also record the conversation
- Get feedback from students
- Plan your next classroom connection via Skype
Whether you are on an island or not, take time to reach out to other classrooms. Connect, collaborate and learn together. As Thomas Merton says, ‘we don’t exist for ourselves alone’ and these connections can be meaningful for learning and for building special connections for students and teachers.