Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What I learned about Skype today

The 6th grade class from Zion participated in a Skype session with 6th graders from Immanuel Lutheran School in Giddings, TX. For the past couple of months, the classes have been exchanging letters as pen pals. We are talking about hand-written, place in the envelope, and slap a stamp on pen pals. Today, they met face to face through Skype. This was a chance to see each other, talk with each other, and ask each other questions. This is the first time that I have observed a Skype session between two groups of students. There were a few things that I noticed. A Skype session appears to be a great way to improve communication skills, make connections, and improve presentation skills.

A Skype session for students will help improve speaking and listening skills. The entire conversation, both speaking and listening, requires a more intentional effort by the participant than a face-to-face conversation. There are some slight nuances to a Skype session that take some time to get used to. First, there is a slightly longer pause during transitions between speakers, a small difference from a normal conversation. Second, speaking at the same time can be a little more awkward than a normal conversation. Overall, the longer pause and avoiding simultaneous speaking, cause the pace of a conversation to be slightly slower.

One of the things I noticed was the similarities between the two classes and the students. As the students asked each other questions, I think they found out that they have a lot in common with the class in Texas. Even thought they live a few states apart from each other, these students are their peers in many ways. Their interests and attitudes were very similar. At the same time, there were some differences. Between the size of the towns, schools, climate, and industries, the students learned about how what parts of their lives are different. There was a connection that took place today between Missouri and Texas. Our students heard about some different aspects of these students' lives, yet at the same time learned that 6th graders in a different part of the country have similar interests. Deep down, they are not that different.

Finally, both classes learned how to work together to give an effective presentation. Each class took a different approach during the Skype session. The 6th graders from Texas had the entire class in front of the camera for Zion to see. The 6th graders from Zion brought one student to the camera at a time for the the students from Texas to see. As a group of students in front of the camera, it takes great discipline to give a clear and unified presentation. It seems like one of three things can happen. The entire group can all begin talking at once, which can be a confusing and jumbled message. Second, the entire group can sit there silently waiting and not speaking because everyone thinks someone else is going to talk. Finally, one person can speak up and answer questions or talk, which most often is the preferable method. Overall, the class from Texas did a great job communicating with the Zion students, taking turns and making sure that the student who was speaking was in front of the camera. On the other hand, when the students from Zion came up to the camera one by one, they had their own set of pressures. When you are the only person on camera, there is pressure for you to speak clearly, loudly, and slowly enough for them to understand you. I think the 6th graders from Zion felt this pressure, and it took some practice for them to speak loud enough to be heard. Again, overall they did a great job speaking in front of the camera and communicating their questions and thoughts.

I think this Skype session was a great learning experience for the students, teachers, and myself. The main thing that happened today is a connection took place between students from different states. I like that it started months ago with pencil and paper, and culminated today with technology.

In what ways have your students benefitted from using Skype in the classroom?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Instant Events - Day 4 of Tweet Week

The fourth post of Tweet Week highlights a tweet from @mashable for the second day in a row.

@mashable: Times Square Evacuation As Seen by Twitter Users [PICS] - http://bit.ly/96FmYW

Clicking on the link will take you to the Mashable website where you will see 6 pictures from the evacuation of New York City's Times Square on Friday, May 7. This was the second evacuation of Times Square in one week. From the Mashable website:

Much like the car bomb scare that took place last Saturday night, Twitter users in the area are quick to the scene, snapping some surreal photos of one of America’s most trafficked landmarks completely empty.

Since it’s in the middle of the work day, many of the photos come from high up offices, painting an even clearer picture of what an abandoned Times Square looks like.

If you want instant updates for just about anything going on in the world, Twitter is the place to go. These 6 images give you an immediate visual about the massive undertaking and the eery sight of an evacuated Times Square. 16 months ago, one of the most popular tweets of all time was an immediate image of passengers being rescued on January 15, 2009 from US Airways flight 1549 that crashed into the Hudson River in New York City. This is another example of how Twitter can be used to provide immediate news and information updates. Finally, just this week, Twitter provided me with access to immediate information about why my Google Calendar crashed and about my beloved Chicago Cubs recalling their number 1 prospect Starlin Castro.

Is it any wonder that newspapers all over the world are stopping publication and advertising sales on TV and printed media are plummeting. The 10:00 news and the morning newspaper are what we used to consider current events. Today, it is Twitter and the real-time web that gives us instant events.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tweetshrink The World - Day 3 of Tweet Week

Wednesday was day 3 of Tweet Week and the theme for today is how Twitter can make the world smaller. The focus for today was a fascinating tweet by @mashable

@mashable: 10 Awesome Webcam Feeds From Around the World - http://bit.ly/bFQDbW

If you click on the link you will see 10 very interesting webcams from all over the world. This single link allows us to take a live glimpse into different areas all over the Earth. This made me begin to think about how a Tweet like this can shrink the world. There are so many opportunities on Twitter to connect, share, discuss, and learn from educators around the globe. There are many examples of how we have used Twitter in my classes in order give the students and myself learning opportunities that extend beyond our classroom walls.

  • There are great opportunities for polling a variety of people. Twtpoll is my favorite polling website. We have used this polling tool to learn about probability, percents, ratios, and fractions.
  • Twitter and geography can be integrated very easily. I enjoy replying to people's request on twitter such as, "I am giving a presentation on twitter. Please say hi to the staff and let us know where you are from." We have sent out tweets similar to this in our classes and have received so many replies that we can not keep up on reading them as they come in. It is fun, and interesting, to see where all of the people are replying from.
  • Sharing resources is a great benefit of Twitter. We have benefitted from great resources that people have sent out and we also try to share great ideas or lessons that we have to offer.
  • Probably my favorite way that Twitter makes the world a smaller place is the connections I have made with other educators. More specifically, as an educator at a Lutheran school, I have been thankful for the connections that I have made with educators from other Lutheran schools who are currently on Twitter. It is truly amazing the conversations that can take place in less than 140 characters.
In what other ways has Twitter brought the world into your classroom?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

#edchat Tuesdays - Day 2 of Tweet Week

Each day this week I am choosing one tweet that has an effect on my work as an educator. The choice for the focus today was an easy decision. The following tweet is from @ShellTerrel:

RT @jswiatek: The archive is available for today's (5/4 1800CET, 12 PM EDT) at
http://bit.ly/9HKFD4 #teachertuesday

The archive being referred to is the weekly #edchat discussion that takes place on Twitter every Tuesday at 12 PM EDT. The #edchat discussion is a great way for educators to gather together and hold a conversation about a current issue in education. Here are some of the reasons that I have found #edchat to be beneficial to me.
  1. #edchat is a good professional development opportunity. Twitter in general is great for professional development. However, the weekly #edchat discussions have given me an opportunity to set aside a specific time each week to learn from fellow educators on Twitter. I am thankful that I have most of the #edchat hour free to participate.
  2. #edchat is going to stretch your mind. I appreciate the opportunity that I have to think, consider, question, and form opinions regarding current issues in education.
  3. #edchat will help you to become a quicker thinker. I am impressed with the number of people who participate in #edchat, which in turn keeps the conversation moving very quickly. You are going to have to read, and think, very quickly to keep up with the conversation.
  4. Although the main #edchat discussion occurs on Tuesday, the conversation continues throughout the week. It is common to see tweets with the #edchat hashtag for hours and days after the scheduled #edchat times, which is an indication of the power of the #edchat conversations.
I recommend #edchat for all educators on Twitter. I have found it to be a great way to connect, interact, and learn from educators around the world.

In what ways has #edchat been beneficial to you? What was your favorite #edchat discussion?

#edchat links

Monday, May 3, 2010

School Promotion - Day 1 of Tweet Week

The first post this week about how Twitter has enhanced my professional life began yesterday with the following tweet:
RT @ozge: Is the iPad Fit for School? - http://ht.ly/1FK2n #ipad /via @ianw91

This tweet led me to an website, which contained a link to an additional article about how the 140 Character Conference last month explored how Twitter can be used in the classroom. (Click HERE for the article). The following paragraph in the article struck me as one way that I can use Twitter to help promote my school:
In another session, New Jersey principal Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) explained how he uses Twitter to get the word out about the great activities taking place at New Milford High School. Since he started tweeting in February, 2009, some 14 news stories have been written about his school use of the Twitter as an educational tool by both students and teachers.

In addition to following Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal), I have also been following Shelly Terrell (@ShellTerrell). Both Eric and Shelly have recently passed the 1 year anniversary of their start on Twitter. I am amazed at the amount of followers and the influence that both Eric and Shelly have accumulated through Twitter. Eric's success with Twitter is something I respect, and so I looked for ways today to "get the word out" about my school just like he has done. Throughout the day I paid close attention to classroom newsletters, the school newsletter, my email, and conversations with teachers and parents. I was searching for ways to promote my school in the same way that Eric describes in the previous paragraph. The tweets that I sent out today about Zion are below. They can also be found at Zion's Twitter page and my personal Twitter page.

zionbobcats Teacher Appreciation Day is tomorrow! How can you show appreciation for your teacher?

zionbobcats Nickels for Nails: Zion students will be collecting nickels, dimes, and quarters for Habitat for Humanity on Thu-Fri http://bit.ly/ahiiaw

zionbobcats Zion second graders to take a field trip to The Butterfly House on Wednesday. http://www.butterflyhouse.org/

Although these tweets will not result in 14 news stories like New Milford High School, I think continuing like this will help to promote some of the success stories at Zion. Have you ever Twitter to promote your school? If not, maybe now is the time.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tweet Week

I am preparing to give a presentation next year about teachers using twitter. As I prepare that presentation, I have been reflecting on my current use of twitter. This led me to a decision to focus during the upcoming week on how twitter has helped me to improve as an educator. Each day this week, I will write about how I use a single tweet to help improve my students, my colleagues, my school, or myself. Check back each day to see how my PLN and twitter can "tweek my week."