Thursday, March 27, 2008

Best Day Ever!

Today was the best technology day ever in school! We had three Skype calls, all with a purpose, and one was quite exceptional.

The first was with a middle school teacher in Connecticut, named Paul Bogush. Paul apparently has a connection to Ginger Lewman, an online friend. Ginger sent out a twit that Paul was looking for help with a project he was working on in class. She added a link. I followed her link to Classroom 2.0 where I discovered that Paul was looking for elementary students to critique songs his students were creating about the Oregon Trail. How serendipitous it was that we are studying the Oregon Trail now. So I responded that we would be interested.

Today, we Skyped with his class so they could find out what kind of songs our students liked. They were surprised to find that fifth graders have moved past children's songs and are more interested in songs played on the radio. We did, however, find a common interest in the Chicken Dance. A student from our class volunteered to do the dance for them and then two eighth graders performed for us. It was great fun. And we can't wait to see what they create.

Our third Skype call was with my Teachers Are Talking co-host Susan van Gelder. Susan was gracious enough to speak with some of my students who are researching the government of Canada and various provinces there. She explained how the government works and gave a clear explanation of a Parliament. She then answered questions about Canadian homes, her house (she was in her home while Skyping with us) and any pets she might have. She even sent us pictures of her cats. It was wonderful watching the students seriously taking notes while she spoke and respectfully asking questions. All in all, it was quite successful.

But the second Skype call of the day was, by far, the most impressive use of collaborative technology I've ever seen in my room. Today was the day that we skyped with our writing partners.

Brian Crosby and I started a collaborative writing project based on the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris van Allsburg. We partnered up our students on individual stories from the book. Their assignment is to create an original story based on a picture and a title. After enlisting Christine Southard for this project, we then duplicated it for 8 other teachers. Each story is going to be written and edited in a Google doc. It will then be published in our Class Booktalk Wiki, where VoiceThreads will be available for the students to compare story versions.

So all week, the students have been brainstorming ideas in the Google doc. It has been asynchronous due to the time differences. Today, we scheduled a time when both classes would work together. So at 1:00, each child opened up their document and found that their partner was editing also. This was exciting enough. But that's wasn't all. Brian and I each set up a computer with Skype that we placed in a corner of the room. One group at a time sat at the Skype computers and discussed their story. They were so excited to see their partners, so enthusiastic about clarifying the story elements, and highly motivated to write. One girl in the class told me afterward that her entire storyline had changed after speaking with her partner. "But," she said, "now it's better."

Our principal was invited in to witness this project. She was amazed at the quality of discussion going on, floored by the technology skill of the students (even more so when I told her this was the first time the children had used Google docs), and inspired enough to say we need to find grants to give us enough money to buy 1 to 1 laptops for our classroom.

I, too, was amazed watching this activity. The children were so energized over writing. The smiles on their faces when they sat down and saw their partners for the first time was priceless.
Overall, it was the best technology day I've ever spent in school!


Karen Janowski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen Janowski said...

Congratulations to you for your successes today. This was NOT coincidental - this reflects the tremendous amount of work you have put into creating a collaborative, engaged classroom environment for your students. You model it and implement it for your kids.
Would love to hear more of their reactions and want they learned from the experience.

Cheryloakes50 said...

Lisa thanks for sharing, I too will be sharing your enthusiasm with my teachers. Good luck and see you soon.

Martha said...

This sounds amazing. Skyping is so amazing. What a great way to open the world up to our students. I am so happy that this was such a successful activity. I hope that Shannon and I can do the same.

Mr. Kimmi said...

As I twitted, I am insanely jealous. Maybe one of the most impressive bits to all of this is that the technology held up it's end of the bargain. I hope I have permission to use this post in my pursuit of Skype. My district is currently blocking it.

loonyhiker said...

I think it is great that your students are so motivated and excited. I am even more thrilled that an administrator got to witness how great this was for your students, which would not have happened if you didn't take the initiative to make it happen. I'm so excited for you! Congratulations on a job well done!

Ted S said...

Cool! thanks for writing it up

Paul Hamilton said...

Wow! Your classroom really has no walls, and your students are fortunate to be part of your class. Thanks for sharing your experience and your enthusiasm. It's inspiring.

Mrs.A said...

What a fabulous project. I was excited to be able to watch your kids with your ustream. I wish I could get teachers in my school to see your classroom in action. How fortunate your students and Brian's student are to be able to collaborate this way.

Kirstin Anderson-McGhie (Keamac) said...

Wow! I am so inspired after reading your post - that was just amazing! What an awesome experience for you and your class. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

jepcke said...


What an amazing day! As time goes on, I'm sure there will be more days like this in your classroom and classrooms across the globe. I love the idea of Skyping for the Harris Burdick project I will be sharing this idea with my teacher who is participating in this project. I hope we can have 1/3 of the fun, excitement and success you had! Congratulations on a job well done. Can't wait to see what you'll do next.

Mr Lietze said...

Yay for things all working and children collaborating! Well done Lisa.
My challanged is to look for an alternative to skype since our filter blocks it. We are a Windows based school so can't use IChat.
Do you have any ideas?

jepcke said...

Hi Lisa,

Had to post again. After a great class to class Skype about the Harris Burdick project yesterday, today the 5th graders I'm working with did their individual Skype chats with their partners. We had 3 laptops going. I purposely put one group in the hallway and hung around to pull people over and explain to the passersby what the students were doing. Teachers, students, admin were all thrilled and amazed by what was occuring: the technology, the learning, and the adeptness of the 5th graders who have had limited training with Google Docs and Skype. I echo the value of this activity for the students. Thanks again for organizing this wonderful project. It is doing so much for the students and really energizing teachers in my district to stretch their thinking (and usage) about technology.

partner portal dog said...

Teachers, students, admin were all thrilled and amazed by what was occuring: the technology, the learning, and the adeptness of the 5th graders who have had limited training with Google Docs and Skype.

- nice to hear this

Diana said...

Wow! How inspiring. This is what teaching and learning should look like. Kudos to you for being such an innovative facilitator of education and role model to your students.