Skype – Reflecting on the Adventure!

We have now had four successful skype sessions in our school, and a couple of not so successful sessions. I thought it would be useful to share  our experiences and to reflect on the usefulness of the session in the classroom. 

The Background
I initially wanted to use Skype for a topic one class was doing about their local area – I thought the chance to discuss their local environment with peers from around the world would be very powerful. I was also looking for something with a bit of a ‘wow’ factor to get our children engaged in their learning. As many of the children I work with speak English as an additional language or are very new to the country I thought they would enjoy the chance to chat with their peers from around the world.

I began by looking at the excellent website – Skype in the Classroom – and created a post for a World Book Day event (which didn’t happen – I was being a optimistic about what I could achieve!) However that didn’t matter as it meant that I began to make contacts with other teachers from around the world who were interested in these sessions. I also put it to my contacts in Twitter, and got a few teachers interested that way! The first session I examined here…

Now we have children chatting about their Skype session at lunch time, Digital Leaders who blog about it and teachers building a session into their planning. It really has taken off!

Firstly the successful sessions:

They have been led with a purpose in mind, and one teacher will create the question, or a theme will be discussed. One class have now met twice, and there is no doubt that the second time the children were much calmer and knew what to expect. 

The theme of ‘getting to know you’ is much better if key questions have been shared and discussed first.  A big thank you to one teacher Ana for guiding us in this way

One of our groups shared a book over Skype – the perfect example of purpose, and a curriculum link. This has proven popular with the teachers who wish to talk again as soon as they have finished their current book. Thanks to @PEandMe for this brilliant idea.

Other children and teachers have been involved in the successful sessions, I have included our Digital Leaders as recorders of events, and asked teachers to choose if they wish to take part. Eventually the organising of sessions will be left to teachers. 

The unsuccessful sessions:

Are plagued by technical issues or bad timing – you do need to give the sessions some time, and due to the nature of the technology some leeway if things don’t work. No point planning a session for fifteen minutes with another lesson straight away.

Your internet connection, whilst important does not need to be perfect, camera and microphone are important. Try out your equipment, can you hear the children? Are the children used to seeing themselves? Valuable time can be lost with waving and giggling into the camera!!

The least successful sessions are done at the last minute with little prep – the children are going to be curious and will want to get involved  – give them time to prepare with some questions, ideas about the country or the children or the topic to discuss. 

What we’ve learnt:

Try out your connection first – and think about what equipment you use. We find it works fine with iPads, but the Airserver link to the whiteboard created a delay that confused the children. 

Prep the pupils – point out the country discuss their experiences and make the links with the curriculum like any other subject.

Speaking and listening are important! As a result of this work we are going to begin September with a big push on these skills – ‘conversation’ if you like! Skype chats have shown that our younger children can struggle to formulate questions, and often don’t answer in full sentences, this can have a big impact in EAL learners, and the children we are chatting with!

Next steps

Now we are beginning to see smooth running sessions, I am investigating projects and ideas which would bring authors, experts or interested guests into the classroom. Such as discussed by Kate Messner in this article. Skype Splash

I am definitely getting more teachers involved as well, and as our class teachers get their own mobile device, connecting with Skype will be even easier!

Referenced from links in the article :

http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ922983&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ922983 – Article

Awesome blog and experience from a very valued contact! http://cegarvirtualclassroom.weebly.com/15/post/2013/05/ii-3-meets-their-peers-from-turkey-and-uk.html

The School Digital Leaders Blog : http://debeauvoirdl.blogspot.co.uk/

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