Jul 012014

In a previous post on my Langwitches Blog, Learning in the Modern Classroom, I started highlighting our school’s attention to not only providing amplified learning opportunities, but also the creation of new forms of assessment to go along with these learning opportunities. I see a growing AND urgent need to develop new forms of assessment to support our pioneering teachers, as well our students.

Learning in the 21st century modern classroom is changing. Many teachers are frustrated as the required or available assessments have not caught up yet with their efforts of upgrading to new forms of learning. How can we assess new forms of teaching with old traditional forms of evaluations?  Teachers feel trapped between wanting to upgrade and prepare students with skills for their life outside of school, but are dumbfounded how to assess the learning in terms that parents, colleagues (other subject areas), teachers (as their students rise to the next grade) administrators (& school policy makers), feeder schools, other stakeholders or universities understand, value and accept.


We are in dire need of wrapping our minds around new forms of assessment, conceptualizing and developing these assessment tools, using them, advocating for them, sharing them and making them acceptable EVIDENCE OF LEARNING!

The classroom learning scenario (4th & 5th Grade) was a Skype call with Mike Fisher, I described in a previous post. Students were in charge of different jobs (true to the Digital Learning Farm concept from Alan November’s latest book “Who Owns the Learning?”)

Assessing students’ writing, thinking level , understanding, learning connections via a Twitter stream, did not end the assessment upgrade for this particular learning opportunity.

During the same Skype call, we paid special attention to how students interacted with their conversation partner (Mike in this case) . We were watching their body language, paying attention to their vocabulary, ability to articulate an idea, their conversation etiquette and ability to follow a conversation and interaction.

If working (and communicating beyond face to face interaction) on a global team is/will be a crucial skill for our students to posses, how can we assess the skills, support, coach and guide students?

I am looking for ways to UPGRADE & REPLACE traditional assessment forms. Heidi Hayes Jacobs suggests in her book Curriculum21 to use an upgrade model which

begins with consideration of assessment types, moves to content reviews and replacement, and then links both of these to upgraded skills and proficiencies (Jacobs, 2010, p.20)

I started by taking a look at Andrew Churches Skype Rubric (pdf), but wanted to focus more on the actual communication skills during the Skype call and developed the following Taxonomy of a Skype Conversation  as a guide.


Download the Taxonomy of a Skype Conversation as a pdf file.

How are you assessing  your students’ skills particular to Skype calls? Have you developed assessment rubrics? Please share with our Around the World with 80 Schools community.

Getting Started with Skype Info-Flyer

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Feb 202012

“Getting Started with Skype” Info- Flyer.

The guide encompasses step-by-step help from Skype projects, preparing your students for a Skype call, transforming a Skype call into a Learning call to student job responsibilities before, during and after the actual call.

Get Started With Skype

Jan 092012
sharing-guinipigs-by ryancr

Teachers all over the world are using Skype in innovative ways. We will not hear and learn from most of these classroom learning opportunities.

Part of the reason I created this site, was not only for educators to find and connect with a potential Skype partner, but also give a space to teachers to document, reflect and share their skyping experience in the classroom.

Some AMAZING teachers are taking the time though to share their experiences and ideas with others to learn and grown from. Becoming part of a cycle which encompasses learning>experiencing>amplifying> sharing, is PART of 21st century learning (or simply the way we learn in the present!)

image licensed under CC by Ryancr- http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanr/142455033/




Feb 062011

No lesson, no event and no learning should stand alone. We connect what we learn with our experiences of the past and store newly acquired skills, facts and experience to be retrieved in the future. Previously, I wrote about framing a field trip with Google Earth. I try to make the case of the importance to allowing students to learn to make connections, to not just expose them to a learning experience without pre-knowledge activation and reflection “to put things in perspective” to follow. In Assessment of Learning via Skype, I shared the following image

A Skype call should never be done in isolation. We should not treat a video conference any different than a field trip. The actual experience should be framed by pre-activities that activate prior knowledge and post-activites that give students the opportunity to reflect, create and connect these new experiences.

Credit for middle image “experience” by tombodor

I want to share with you a fourth grade learning experience. Last month I mentioned in the post “What do you have to lose?” how our forth grade teacher took the time to upload her students’ book trailer videos to her classroom blog. One of the authors of these books, Babara O’Connor, received a Google Alert of her name and book title which led her to the classroom blog. We were able to set up a Skype conference with her. I set up a test call with Mrs. O’Connor ahead of the actual Skype call with students to make sure that both of our video and audio settings were set up correctly. In the classroom students started brainstorming questions they would ask during the Skype call. We talked about questions that could only receive a “yes” or “no” answer and formulated questions that would solicit a more in depth answer. The entire class contributed in the brainstorming session. In the end the questions were narrowed down to 10.

1. What do you like to write about? 2. Where do you get your ideas to write your books? 3. When you write your books what inspires you and why? 4. What was your favorite book as a child and why? 5. How long does it take to write a book and why does the process take that long? 6. What is your favorite part of writing and why? 7.Do you believe you have to be a good reader in order to be a good writer? 8. Where did you go to school, and were you inspired in school to become a writer? 9. What is your favorite kind of genre and why? 10. If you had to turn one of your books into a movie which one would it be and why?

Students were assigned different jobs before the Skype call, such as greeter, introductions, videographer, photographer and individual questions. Student then “practiced” speaking their part ahead of time using PhotoBooth. They recorded themselves speaking slowly, clearly and looking into the camera. Their classroom teacher confirmed that this exercise made a big difference in their confidence level. Everyone was very excited when the Skype call actually took place.

Welcome Mrs. O'Connor to our Classroom

Recording our Skype Visit

Mrs. O'Connor shares books that inspired her to becone a writer

Take a look at the video below that shows a few snipets of the call. http://vimeo.com/18438258 In order to frame the Skype call as a learning call, the experience could not end when we hung up with Mrs. O’Connor. For students it would include blogging about it afterward to reflect on their experience and think about what they had learned from it. Students also got inspired to read more by Mrs. O’Connor after the Skype call. What did we observe as teachers? How can we take this experience to the next level? Although students were confident demonstrating speaking skills during the Skype call, it was a “back and forth”- “question and answer” session. We would like students to go beyond the ping pong method of “conversing”, but truly be part of a conversation. Not only did we need to go beyond asking questions that inspire more than yes/no answers, we will also need to practice responses that will go beyond: “Thank you” or “That is interesting”. Students were asked to reflect on their “learning experience” during the Skype call by commenting on the classroom blog.

After watching the video of our skype call with Mrs. O’Connor, I want to know your thoughts. Please answer the following questions in your comment: 1. What did you learn from our skype call? 2. What part of the skype session did you like the best? WHY was that your favorite part? Remember the components of our preparation: brainstorming questions, practicing with photo booth, talking with Mrs. O’Connor.

See a sample of student comments below:

Student Comments

We had a good lesson on how to write more reflective and reminded them of the commenting etiquette they had drafted for their class previously.

4th Grade Commenting Etiquette

As we were going through the comments in moderation, we noticed that they most students followed the etiquette beautifully for the the most part. We noticed that the week parts in the comments were:

  • Proper spelling
  • Check before you click
  • High level of vocabulary

We also noticed that an important component was missing in our commenting etiquette:

  • Add something…go more into details…explain yourself
  • Remember your worldwide audience (Not everyone who will read your comments, will have been in the classroom with us when the learning event had occurred)

We pulled up a few suggestions for comment starters and highlighted words to integrate in our comments.

Comment Starters

If you want to read more about teaching commenting, take a look at a previous post “Blogging Lessons on Commenting” on Langwitches.

Assessment of Learning via Skype

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Nov 212010

Skyping with students is great! They are learning…There is no doubt in my mind…!

Skyping Hub- Learning Hub

  • I know…I see motivation in their eyes… I feel excitement in the air…I hear them say: “How cool”, “That was awesome” or “When are we skyping again?”.
  • I know… all about the different skills students are exposed to and are practicing while skyping.
  • I know… that I am helping them learn differently than from a textbook.
  • I know… that I am preparing them for a work environment where they are expected to collaborate with colleagues and teams who do not live in the same country, nor continent and operate in a different time zone.
  • I know… that I am exposing them to a world, people and cultures beyond their horizon.
  • I know… that I am broadening their perspectives, tolerance and for someone who is different

…but… what about formal assessment and documentation of this kind of learning.

I enjoy helping other teachers get excited and comfortable using Skype as a tool to connect with other classrooms or experts around the world. I want to make it explicit, once again, that it is NOT about the tool, but about the skills and the learning.

In order to streamline the process of converting a Skype Call into a Learning Call and to make it more visual, I created the following images and handouts. Please feel free to use them in your own classroom.

You can download all of them as a pdf file here.

Credit for middle image “experience” by tombodor

A Skype call should never be done in isolation. We should not treat a video conference any different than a field trip. The actual experience should be framed by pre-activities that activate prior knowledge and post-activites that give students the opportunity to reflect, create and connect these new experiences.

Pre-Activities include:

  • Familiarize with geographic location, language, culture, age group, etc.
  • KWL Chart
  • Information Literacy (locate)
  • Google Earth (distance)
  • Google Maps (Street view)
  • Formulate questions
  • Distribute job responsibilities for actual video conference experience

Pre-Activities Job Description:

Have students prepare for a call by filling out the handout below. You can easily ask them to formulate and share questions on your classroom blog as well.

Depending on the geographic location, have students “orientate” themselves to WHERE they will be connecting to by answering the following questions.

During the Call Activities include:

  • Interview
  • Q & A
  • Image & Video recording
  • Blog (summarize)
  • Backchannel
  • Data Collection
  • Present
  • Share

During Skype Call Job Description:

I have written several times about engaging students during a Skype call by given them specific jobs and responsibilities. You can listen to my 5th graders explaining each job a little more.

Once the Skype call has ended, it is important to help your students debrief and reflect on their experience. As their teacher you will want to assess in one shape or form the learning that occurred. Is skyping making a difference in their learning? Have they learned something that could not have been taught via a textbook? What was the engagement and motivational level of your students?

Here are some ideas on how to help your students reflect on their Skype experience and help you assess their learning. Give students choices on how to debrief by offering or alternating using different media.

Post-Call Activities include:

  • Informal assessment: debrief right after the Skype call. Have students talk about what just happened. Read the backchannel log out loud and collaboratively add anything that was not documented.
  • Information Literacy (evaluate, analyze, categorize data collected)
  • Create documentary (video clip) from video clips taken during the Skype call
  • Create Photo Slideshow of images taken during the Skype call
  • Write reflective blog posts
  • (Paper & Pencil) Journal entries: Give students prompts
  • Create a Video recording from your debriefing session
  • Audio podcasting
  • Embed images and video into blog post
  • Share with parents (informal at home) or host a parent presentation session at school
  • Present to larger audience (entire school, community, conference)

Post-Activities Job Description:

Take a peek into a debriefing session after a Skype Call from a third grade class.

What are some of the activities you do to frame a video conference experience for your students? How do you document and assess the learning taking place with video conferencing?


It is important that we start documenting and assessing student learning (formally and informally) from 21st Century tools. Most assessments are not designed to take new forms of learning into consideration. The more data and documentation we have, the more we can move towards a new kind of “testing and assessing“.

Please contribute by asking your students to take the following survey about their learning via Skype. Once you have had your students take the survey, please e-mail me , so I can share the results with you.

Please disseminate the link to the survey in your own PLN by blogging or tweeting about it.

More Skype Resources

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Oct 072010

I wanted to share some great resources about Skyping in the classroom with our AWW80S members. I am also adding the following links to the Skype Resource Page here on the AWW80S site.

One of our newest members, Bill Ferriter, @wferriter.

Bill blogs on The Tempered Radical, Tweets as @plugusin. and is author of two books, Building a Professional Learning Community at Work and Teaching the iGeneration

He shares a wealth of Skype resources on his Digitally Speaking Wiki.

Skype Connection Rituals

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May 062010


In the process of Skype becoming more and more popular in schools and teachers are becoming more comfortable in using it with their students. there seems to be something else emerging:


Two of the Around the World with 80 Schools participants have let me know of a ritual that they are observing at the start of a Skype conversation another school.

Lorraine Leo from the Jackson School writes:

Our class traditionally sings ‘The Circle Song’ at the beginning of our Skype contact with schools followed by a short chat.

The lyrics the song are:

Come and join the circle, come and take my hand. Come and join the circle. Come and be my friend. Gather round and see what the world can be. Come and join the circle. Come and share God’s word with me.

Another ritual came to me via the wiki invitation from one of the participants ( I am sorry, but I can’t remember who it exactly was. You know who you are, please drop me an e-mail or comment here, so I can give you properly credit :) )

We start out every Skype conversation with a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. The winner out of three games, wins cookies from the other class.

I think the idea of a ritual is a great one. On wikipedia, you can read

The purposes of rituals are varied; they include […] strengthening of social bonds […] stating one’s affiliation, obtaining social acceptance or approval for some event — or, sometimes, just for the pleasure of the ritual itself.

I have added a page on the Project’s Wiki to add your existing school’s Skype ritual or an idea of one.

Leave us your school’s ritual or routine as a comment on this post.

I am off to think of one for my school… :)

Skype Jobs for Students

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May 062010

There is a sense of excitement in the room, when our students get ready to conduct a Skype call. I almost want to compare it to a “traditional” vision of a newsroom before a deadline. Everyone is buzzing, running here, running there to get ready for their job assignment. Don’t ask why, but I have the memory of a scene in the “Watergate”movie with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in my mind.
Skyping: Assigned Roles

(click on the image for a larger version):

  1. Calendar
    • Responsible for adding Date & Time of planned Skype connection to shard & embedded Google Calendar
  2. Greeter
    • Greets the partner school.
    • Makes initial introduction.Talks about Geographic location.
  3. Share
    • Shares something special about class, school, city, state or country.
    1. Could be song, dance, souvenir, project, sports team, etc.
  4. Q &A
    • Asks specific questions for data collection.
    • Responsible for keeping conversation fluid
  5. Photographer
    • Responsible for documenting connection with still images.
  6. Videographer
    • Responsible for documenting connection with video.
  7. Backchannel Writers
    • Documenting conversation, questions, answers and classroom happenings during the connection on a backchannel chat (Ex. Today’s Meet)
  8. Backchannel Cleanup
    • Responsible to save backchannel chat as a Word Document and cleaning up duplicate comments and mark questionable statements to be verified.
  9. Live Blogger
    • Blogs skype call live to classroom blog
  10. Blogger Word Problem
    • Creates a Math word problem from data, questions and answers collected during skype call
  11. Google Earth
    • Finds location of skype partner and measures distance in miles & kilometers.
  12. Google Map
    • Responsible for adding placemark of Skype partner’s location to embedded Google Map on classroom blog.
  13. Info Station
    • Responsible to search for any data question on the spot.
    • Verifies any questionable information as well.
  14. Data Entry
    • Responsible for adding data collected into embedded google form on classroom blog. Ex. distance miles/km, temperature in F/C.
  15. Elapsed time
    • Responsible for noting time Skype call started and ended as well as calculating elapsed time.
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