11 Oct

Don’t forget! The power of Skype….

It has been a while since I posted about Skype, however moving schools has meant that I have introduced Skype to another set of pupils, and indeed another set of teachers as I am always amazed that teachers haven't tried any kind of video linking with their pupils.

Firstly let me remind you of the fantastic resource that is EducateSkype or Skype in the Classroom now. A health warning here as this is becoming increasingly linked with Microsoft's infrastructure, however if you keep a school skype account separate from a home one you should be fine.

The Skype in the Classroom site will allow you to connect with pre planned lessons, video and all sorts of content. Everytime I have gone there I have found something I am looking for – it really is amazing. However skype does not have to be so 'organised'.

In a nutshell:

  • It's cheap (or free) – just equipment is needed!
  • It literally brings the world to your classroom!
  • It's easy to find contacts…
  • The children remember the experience…

Mystery Skype

The hashtag 'mysteryskype' has really taken off – you can find schools on the website mentioned above, or search on twitter. Connecting with schools from across the globe where the children try to guess where they are never gets dull. My pupils always love it. Admittedly they can sometimes guess pretty quickly, but pinning down to city rather than country, or county in the UK will keep them busy!

Digital Leaders

I am currently collecting email addresses from those keen to skype with digital leaders – please let me know in the comments if you would like to be involved. It's brilliant. The children already have something in common, and can begin with shared questions about they do and how they do it.

School Council

This is going to be my next project – school council's chatting to one another. Our school council is very new, but think it will work wonders if they chat to a more established one!

 

Languages

Connecting with those who speak the language you are learning has obvious benefits! Skype can also offer three-way calling, which means you can get partner schools involved!

 

Career talks!

Particularly useful for schools 'off the beaten track' – chatting to those who are in specific careers is much easier via Skype – and is less hassle for those giving the talk…

 

Have you had any brilliant experiences with Skype you could share?

 

 

24 Apr

Five fab free ed tech tools!!

wpid-Photo-20140424225253.jpgWhilst I recognise that we shouldn’t always expect tools and services completely free of charge, there are many great tools that can be used in the primary school free of charge!

 

  1. Skype – check out the Skype in the Classroom site here. Great for inspiring ideas, connecting with all kinds of experts. I have a couple posts on this site describing my Skype Adventures!
  2. Padlet – a great tool for collaboration and sharing ideas. The ‘walls’ can be embedded into a blog, and then be accessed from home. Also great for use in staff meetings to collate ideas.
  3. Haiku Deck – a really great free presentation tool that is also an app. Super easy to use, and with a very different feel to PowerPoints – the images are great, and because it can be logged on over different devices can also be used for collaboration and critique.
  4. Scratch – the darling of the Primary Coders at the moment, I have written about a couple of projects here, and there is lots of advice at the fantastic Code-It.co.uk website.
  5. Twitter! I can’t stress enough what great CPD can be found on twitter – and for beginners there is a great guide here from the Bring a Teacher to Twitter group and a great guide for beginners here.

I really could go on… But thought 5 for teachers to investigate would be a good start! Would love to hear of your favourite free tools.

Thanks for reading!



 

19 May

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/

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.