As a teacher, you know when your students are excited about learning. It is what you work for. Is is part of the passion that makes you a true educator.
I had the honor of witnessing such display of excitement and learning a couple of weeks ago, as I spent a day of learning with educators participating in the Edweek2011 in St. Jospeh, Missouri. Not only did I want to talk to teachers and administrators about the opportunities of using Skype in the classroom, I wanted to show them first hand. I wanted them to experience the potential it could bring into their own schools by connecting, communicating and collaborating with others around the world. But the connection could not only be about the connection via Skype itself. How can we make a connection to curriculum content and 21st century skills and literacies? How can we turn an ordinary connection via Skype into a LEARNING CALL?
Using the concept of “The Digital Learning Farm: Students as Authentic Contributors”by Alan November, I had arranged a Skype call with Mrs. Yollis and her third grade students. Neither party knew the geographic location of each other. It was each groups’ goal to find their respective location by asking closed questions that could be answered with a “Yes” or a “No”. Mrs. Yollis had prepared her 3rd graders by distributing specific job responsibilities during a Skype call in order to work together to figure out the location of their connection partner.
I hope you will be able to see, hear and feel the excitement of learning these students displayed by watching the edited video recording (for time purposes) of the call.
Make no mistake, simply by assigning these job responsibilities to (groups of or individual) students will not automatically create a learning call, nor will it welcome such an open display of learning excitement into your classroom. The credit goes to Mrs. Yollis for having prepared here students with her own enthusiasm and thirst for learning the entire school year up until this point.
The learning call was well framed by preparing students ahead of time. All of Mrs. Yollis’ students had had previous experiences with authentic contributions to their classroom learning community. Just take a closer look at Mrs. Yollis’ fabulous classroom blog documenting and describing their shared learning.
During the Skype call, Mrs Yollis continued to guide and focus students on the task at hand. It was obvious to us “on the other side of the screen”, that students knew their job responsibilities and worked well together.
Once the call was over, the learning continued by reflecting on the experience on their classroom blog. Mrs. Yollis posted questions for her students to comment on. The class also received comments from teachers who had participated from Missouri as well as blog readers as far away as Australia.
Read more about Mystery Skype calls: