Just A Conversation

We just got done Skyping with a class of fourth and fifth graders in Louisiana. Their teacher contacted me a few weeks back about making a Skype connection because she had read about us somewhere. The class had never Skyped and they couldn’t think of a way to find other classrooms that did to try it out with so we were their choice.

We showed them a few of the systems we designed and built to live on Mars, and they shared about the State of Louisiana. They told us about alligators, hurricanes and craw fish. They had a live craw fish which they held up to the camera so we could see. One of her students told a personal story of Hurricane Rita, and we shared about the earthquake swarm we have been experiencing the last month (a 3.2 last night BTW). We reveled in hearing their southern accents and “ya’lls”. They were impressed by how many of my students speak 2 languages.

Five minutes before we were supposed to connect, it was announced that technicians had just taken down the network at my school for maintenance. Never fear! My Verizon wireless card was quickly put to use and made the connection until we had the network back about halfway through our meet-up.

It was very low key … just a conversation between 2 groups of students 1,500 miles apart.

I could do this every day, … well or maybe once a week or something just to learn about other places and people. Maybe we should set up a network like that. A wiki where schools could make contact to share about where they live … customs, animals, plants, places, etc. Hmmmm.

Learning is messy!

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11 thoughts on “Just A Conversation

  1. I love that idea! I’ll be teaching first grade next year and I’ve been thinking about how much I’d like to connect them to classrooms around the country and around the world. What a great tool that would be.

  2. I like the Wiki idea – you could include the class year level, what topic you were interested in discussing etc. Would also need some technical stuff – eg what technology do you have (skype, msn etc), time zone.

    We are testing MSN messanger video with a US school at the moment – Bentonville in Arkansas. I’ve enjoyed the technical challenge of making it all go. Now it’s time to get focused on the student side and their learning. I expect the process will have a novelty value for awhile – then, after some time will settle to be just another learning tool.

    I teach senior web design and our school has web hosting facilities. Perhaps you and I could put an interactive website/wiki together? we have done several projects of this complexity.

  3. There is a librarian that I follow on Twitter that is trying to set up interviews for people from each state for a 4th grade project. He has a wiki with the contacts he has gotten so far. It might be a good place to start, or just start a wiki of educators that have skype or other video conferencing software and let people add themselves.

    The 4th grade project link is at http://hmstateproject.wikispaces.com/

  4. We used Skype a few weeks ago to do some conference calls with commodity traders when our econ class was doing a trading project. Very powerful. Count Peoria Notre Dame in if you need a partner school. We’re going imac next year so every one will have skype available.

  5. Fantastic idea. We’d be really keen to join in.
    We’re a small primary school (with a class of 10 year olds at the moment) in the uk and very excited by helping our learning network to grow.
    The children are happy to share and celebrate their learning so let me know what I need to do!! Thanks.

  6. I’m going to give this some thought this summer. I’ve had feedback from some that already have wiki pages set up for this … but I might just take it a step further. Stay tuned.

  7. I am just learning about Skype with this current class. But by researching all of the possibilities that Skype is capable of, it is incredible! I learned just days ago that another third grade teacher in my building has been trying to set up a Skype session with a classroom teacher in Japan. How amazing would that be! Learning about their culture would be a great experience for our students, as well as having the students be responsible for teaching the students in Japan what our life here in Central Illinois is like. Being new with Skype, I feel like I would need to be a bit more familiar with the program and how to use it before I would feel comfortable teaching my students how to use it and actually performing a session with another school or person. However, I guess from the title of this blog: Learning is Messy, it wouldn’t hurt just to jump on in!

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  8. And you’ve just come up with exactly what I was going to blog about in a couple of days’ time. In a couple of years time it will be pointless to have Acceptable Use Policies based on filtering content, as most pupils will have pretty much unlimited data connections to circumvent the school network…

  9. I have a question from the perspective of a relatively “wired” family. My daughter is nine. She learned to type before learning to write by hand, and she types much faster. She does all these online social things daily. Yet there is something in the experience you describe that feels very different. Maybe it is in the way adults arranged that “playdate” for the kids. But it is hard for me to put the difference in words.

    I will try, though. There are two types of communications I observed in my daughter and her young friends. One is getting in touch with your buddies – people you know in real life, friends and family. And the other is discussing very specific topics of your particular interest, such as commenting in a manga community. What you describe, though, is exposure to neither already existing friends, nor people already sharing common interests. Crawfish – how interesting!

    What do you think about the resulting differences in social dynamics, though? When “meeting” with another class online, the initial intro is fun, but you don’t have the communication scaffolds provided either by existing friendships, or by common interests. A common project, maybe? Hmmm.