This past week we connected a laptop to the Smartboard in our library and my grade 4 students participated in a Skype call for the first time, engaging in a wonderful dialogue with Ms. Witherspoon’s grade 4s from South Carolina. After this wonderful experience two things became very clear to me. First of all, skyping with other classes is easy. Secondly, lending itself to the development of a varirty of important 21st century competencies, skyping with students is a no brainer.
Since opening a Twitter account for our school last August (@stmarylibrary) I’ve noticed that most classrooms use their account to engage others. Educators who have figured this out, mostly use Twitter for one of two reasons. Either to direct followers to their blogs and other student created work or to arrange more full engagement through Skype. As a matter of fact, this is exactly how we met. After following one another for a few weeks we began to reply to the interesting happenings each school was posting. Through these posts and replies we decided to introduce our students through Skype.
Our Skype visit with @spoonsclass was not strategically planned out by any stretch of the imagination, but the conversation provided for some amazing learning. For starters, our schools are two time zones apart and a quick look at Google Earth gave them some much needed perspective, seeing that South Carolina was about a 38 hour drive from our home in Southern Alberta. After sharing a little bit about each of our schools the questions started. At first, the students were mostly interested in snow, class pets, and the length of recess. At that point there were no set curricular outcomes being met but the level of engagement was extremely high and inappropriate behavior was nonexistant. In the middle of the question and answer period we found out that one of their students was celebrating a birthday and our class spontaneously broke into song. Then the students proudly shared their countries of origin as both schools are highly multi-cultural. We learned that some of our students come from the same countries. As our Blackfoot students from the Blood Indian Reservation introduced themselves the @spoonsclass students informed us that they recently studied the Plains Indians in their Social Studies classes. It was very interesting to find out that students from the South Eastern part of America study the history of our First Nations students. The teachers agreed that there were some great possibilities for future learning activities. Before saying goodbye our students agreed to leave comments on each others blog posts http://kidblog.org/SpoonELASS/ http://kidblog.org/4DE/ http://kidblog.org/4TE/ and become e-pals. We can’t wait for our next Skype visit.
If you are interested in giving Skype a try check out Skype in the Classroom. It’s a no brainer.