Mel organised for us to have a blackboard collaborate session with Anne Mirtschin, which was amazing. Anne told us about the many IT tools she uses and one of those was Skype in the Classroom. While she was talking about it I could immediately see how I could start using this straight away. I signed up and registered for some lessons that fitted into our theme of Natural Disasters. There are so many lessons you can do on any topic you can think of! Time differences can make things difficult, but teachers are keen to make it work. For our Kansas class, we started our day early as the children all arrived at 8.15 and the Kansas children came back to school at 5pm their time. Every single one of my 26 children arrived early as they were very excited!
We have so far had 3 fabulous Skype sessions, each going for 30 – 40 minutes. We talked to a class in Kansas about living in Tornado Alley. The children in their class wanted to know about bushfires and how we prepare for them and the safety procedures. My children asked them similar questions. We brainstormed our questions beforehand using Padlet and we asked our questions and different children from the Kansas class answered and vice versa. My students loved talking to the Kansas students and got so much out of that interaction.
We had a lesson run by a ranger from Yellowstone Park. She spoke for about 15 minutes about the park, with emphasis on the volcano and geysers there. Whenever she saw a hand go up, she would get the students to ask their question and then we had a long time to ask questions. Each child in my class had the opportunity to ask a question.
This term we have been studying oceans and we had a lesson with a marine biologist in the USA who specialises in sharks, particularly hammerheads. She told the students all about sharks, using props and her experiences swimming with them and studying them. The children all got to ask their questions and were totally fascinated. In each of our sessions the children have happily sat for the whole session, totally engaged. I haven’t yet set up my own lesson, but have been contacted by a teacher in England to talk with her class about Natural disasters. I also want to do a Mystery Skype session.
I also registered with the Winter Olympic ‘Chat to a Champ’ program. We were lucky enough to be allocated Jana Pittman. My class had a Google Hangout with Jana and 2 other classes, one in NSW and one in Queensland. Jana was very engaging and the children were able to ask her lots of questions. We were lucky and got to ask more than our share as the other schools had technology issues! We will also be having a Google Hangout with Jana in February when she is in Sochi, Russia which should be really interesting.
After our intial day in Melbourne, I was interested in learning more about Project Based Learning and contacted Rich Lambert through the community to ask him a couple of questions. A phone call helped me to sort out some thoughts and Rich was extremely helpful. As a result of this, my class has worked on group projects to plan a fundraising activity for our school fair. And they are blogging about what they are doing on our new class blog! You can check it out at http://mrswindridge.global2.vic.edu.au/
So, while I haven’t done anything amazing, I feel that I am becoming more ‘connected’ and my class has benefitted hugely from the experiences we have had.