20 Mar

Skype – One Big Adventure

 

I wanted to find a way that I could really start to connect our pupils with the world around them. Schools in London have a wealth of geographical experience in their classrooms and I thought a great way to harness that would be Skype… 

Our skype adventure began with me browsing the Skype in the Classroom site...

This really great site linked me immediately to lots of people all over the world.. I had some pretty big dreams, you know – the explorer going up Mount Everest, the Astronauts and so on. However, I began small….

I set up the school Skype account, and then tested it on locally. The school has iPads, and I used those. I made sure not to leave the app logged in on the pupil iPads however. In fact, I got the Digital Leaders to remove the app from some of the iPads.

Then we set up a Skype date – a school in Qatar, and a teacher who contacted me initially over twitter.

(Big thanks to Mr Allen – @peandme)

We decided to set a theme – and as World Book Day was looming we went for a Book theme. Our Year 4 class was primed to talk about their book, and the teacher in Abu Dhabi, UAE prepped their children for their talk.

Once connected the debate was quickly lead by the children. Their excitement could felt in the room! We had to rehearse some questions and the children could, some of the time, stick to a script! However, with a class of 30, it was tough for them to do. It was nice to let them lead the questions though – and this was helped by having the skype display on the interactive whiteboard through AirServer.

This led then to the Digital Leaders writing up the experience for the parents and teachers to see.  See our school website here.

Year4SkypeMarch

So what worked?

  • Well the chat certainly did, and both schools were impressed…
  • The children and teacher are now sufficiently motivated to read the book they were reading and report back at the next chat.
  • The one session has been enough to make other staff ‘think big’ – and I am busy setting up other skype meetings!

Warnings: (or what I would do differently!)

  • We have had some ‘dodgy’ connections with one of our other classrooms… Have a back up plan!
  • I have been inundated with schools – don’t bite off more than you can chew! I was amazed at how many schools want to give this a go.
  • Think about the time difference – sounds silly, but it has a real impact on what is possible.
  • For the main skype session I prefer a fixed webcam and microphone rather than an iPad – the connection feels so much more solid!

 Future ideas? 

  • The motivation for writing, speak and listening are obvious… the children are able to see a purpose to what they are doing.
  • Speaking and Listening – sharing ideas and crossing a language barrier!
  • Topic based work? Specific and shared learning intentions? Sharing teachers?

Resources

Skype in the Classroom – a good place to start!

Ways to use Skype – Teach Hub

Interesting article from Time magazine – What Teachers Are Using Skype For

An Author in Every Classroom – Messner, Kate (2010) School Library Journal  – abstract – This article discusses how Skype and other video-conferencing software have become a staple for teachers, librarians, and authors who want to get kids excited about reading. The past year has brought a huge increase in the number of schools and libraries using Skype to connect classrooms and bring in experts to talk with kids. And with cuts in school funding limiting traditional author visits, meetups via Skype have grown even more popular. All of the authors interviewed in this article agree on one point: it’s important for teachers and librarians to prepare students for a Skype visit in advance. Reading at least one of the author’s books, either together or as a read-aloud, is a must, and kids who prepare questions in advance are generally more comfortable speaking on the day of the visit.

20 Mar

Using Primary Aged Digital Leaders

Using Digital Leaders in school has been one of the easiest decisions I’ve made! Thanks to a really great showcase of blogs and community at the Digital Leader Network site it is really easy to get involved!

So what is the idea?
Digital leaders are, at the basic idea, pupil monitors for the tech that is used in schools. They are children who are interested, enthusiastic and thanks to training, knowledgeable! They spread good behaviour with technology, support teachers and are able to showcase what is possible. And, importantly, they develop their own skills and become a showcase for what is achievable!

Why Digital Leaders?
Giving the children, and indeed the teacher a high profile, with the title, badges and official roles will benefit all involved. Digital Leaders are trained to carry out specific jobs regularly (such as emptying the photo roll on iPads weekly…) and can support teachers when needed, (printing all of the presentations from DropBox). They will also support pupils when blogging, can have access to some passwords and get to try new technology. Promoting their role means that teachers and parents will take them seriously, and the experience they get from this will be very valuable!

What have digital leaders done?

Digital leaders can take part in staff meetings, parent meetings and can be on ‘duty’ – I use a rota to encourage the leaders to take responsibility for what they are doing each day. They can also be advocates and ‘champions’ of technology: demonstrating it’s use to the rest of the school.

Hints and Tips

– Encourage the children to ‘apply’ for their role. This will encourage a sense of ownership and excitement.
– Let parents know! Permissions for photos and things are a must anyway..
– Explain their role and the idea to staff, it’s nice to get the children to introduce themselves in an assembly as well.
– Enjoy them! Give them something fun to do…
– Do check out the great Digital Leader Network, the community is awesome – and get on twitter too!!

Guide to getting started!

Guide to getting started!

A beginning blog..

Where to start?
But don’t just take my word for it – take a look at how others are using Digital Leaders.