Sunday, February 28, 2016

Reflections On: Connected From The Start PART 1: "Skype"

Connected From the Start

When I started using Google Apps For Education in the classroom, there were very few lower elementary educators who were sharing what they were doing with technology in the classroom. There were even fewer K-3 Canadian educators sharing. Kathy Cassidy was one of the few exceptions. So I was excited to have a chance to see this trailblazer at the 90th Annual Greater Edmonton Teachers' Convention. I went to see her session called "Connected From the Start" which is also the name of her book which covers the same topics.

It IS All Connected

Like many teachers who use technology in class, Kathy uses a wide variety of technology devices and applications. Her classroom has one-to-one iPads. Her session had three main sections: Skype, Blogging and Twitter. I am going to review each section in a separate blog post.

However, I want to add a caveat to blogging about these topics separately. The magic in what Kathy (and other educators like her) does is that she does not just do ONE of these in her class, she does ALL of them and more. That's where the magic happens. Students are not simply bloggers, tweeters or Skypers, instead they see themselves as connected to the world throughout the day, across the curriculum. I know that can seem daunting to someone who has not tried any of these tools. However, I think people who only try one platform or only do blogging for one assignment will not be able to appreciate or experience the magic that happens when you open your classroom up to the world in multiple ways and vice versa. 

Part One: Skype (Google Hangout)

For those of us in EPSB, I would suggest using Google Hangouts rather than Skype (both are video chat platforms). However, the program used is not what is important here. It is how and why video conferencing is used in the elementary classroom (based on Kathy's presentation):
  • Can't get an expert to come in class? Have them Skype in: Nurse? Geologist?
  • Buddy reading  
  • Mystery Skype (she did not recommend this for grade one)
  • Mystery Number Skype
  • Skype an Author

How To Connect With Others?

Kathy recommends checking Skype for Educators to find other teachers/classes/experts to connect with via Skype. She also encouraged people to use the Twitter hashtag #mysterySkype and Connected Classrooms community on Google+.


My Reflections

As I began to write this blog post I realized that we have not blogged here at Div1Edtech about Google Hangouts yet. I have used Google Hangouts a number of times. I find it an excellent, yet fairly simple way to make learning relevant for students. It is great of any age, any grade. Going to Kathy's session reminded me to pursue more opportunities for Hangouts this year. 
  • Can't get an expert to come in class? Have them Skype in: Nurse? Geologist? This is sometimes easier said than done. However start with people you know. Kathy mentioned she uses her sister, a nurse. I will say that this is when being a "connected" educator comes in handy. It is amazing how many opportunities you can create for you class because of your Twitter or Google+ PLN. Note, developing these connections does not happen over night.
  • Buddy reading. I love this idea! I think students would find it motivating. I have already lined up Mr. Reilly for a test run! Look for a blog post about how it goes. 
  • Mystery Skype (she did not recommend this for grade one). As someone who has never taught grade one, I appreciate her opinion about grade ones' readiness for Mystery Skype. I have done it in grade two, and with guidance and structure, it is a worthwhile social studies activity.

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