We had a great Skype call Wednesday evening. About half of my seventh grade students returned to the school at 6:30pm to speak to a combined first and second grade class in Australia. We are going to try to send a geocoin from New Jersey, USA to Victoria, Australia via geocaches.
Lessons Learned - Ideas to Keep
I sent a permission slip home the Friday before our Wednesday evening call. I asked that the form be returned Monday morning. The form gave all the particulars about the call: who we were talking with, why we were calling, where we were meeting, when we were meeting, how to get in touch with me. I requested the student's name, the name of the person dropping the student off and picking the student up, and a contact phone number for that person.
When school was finished for the day, I made sure I placed all the items required for the Skype call right at my desk. This included a working Ethernet cable, headset microphone, digital still camera, digital video camera, cart with projector and speakers, the geocache box, the geocoin we would be sending, and the permission forms.
I arrived at the school about 20 minutes before the students. I turned on, connected, and tested all the equipment, set up the Promethean board with some pre-work, had a printout of questions with answers that were discussed in class earlier that day, set the video camera on a tripod and checked that it would record, placed freshly charged batteries in the two cameras, and set the chairs in a semi-circle in the room.
Five minutes before students were to arrive, I went to the meeting place which was the outside door closest to the room and began greeting students. The first students to arrive were told to go to the room and answer the questions on the Promethean board.
When approximately half of the expected students arrived, I went back to my room and gave one student the task of reading the "script" for the call. I asked them to decide who would be responsible for each question during the call. One student chose to run the video camera to record the pre-meeting. I returned to the back door, greeted the remaining students and explained what was already happening in the room.
Ten Minutes Before the Call
I checked with the students to get agreement on who was responsible for each question on the script. I asked if there were any students who did not want to speak. I found out who was using Skype at home and gave a rundown of the Skype program to the rest of the students in the room.
There was an excited buzz in the air. One student asked what would happen if the othe class forgot. I assured the students that the teacher and I communicated via email earlier in the day and we were both ready!
The students had a great time asking questions, getting answers, and answering questions from the first and second grade students. We showed them the geocoin.
I think a Skype call is a huge step in forging a relationship and interest in an electronic project. The students become "real" to each other.
The call lasted about forty minutes.
Lessons Learned - Ideas to Improve Upon
At the end of the call, there was still time available before parents would return to pick up their children. I asked the students to help me learn what was good about the call and what was bad or needed to be improved.
They were all excited and felt it was a great reason to return to school at the end of the day. They want to do it again.
The first major improvement I learned was that I need to electronically post the details for the evening in the event of lost forms. One student went to my Schoolnotes page and was disappointed that I did not have times and locations listed for the call. This makes so much sense. I don't know why I didn't think of it myself. I'm always misplacing school forms at home for my sons.
The second major improvement is that I placed a sign on the back door to call up to the open window in my room to be let into the building. The student wasn't sure which window was mine. We decided I should hang a banner out the window so it was easy to find. They all agreed that it was hard to tell which room was which from the outside.
It was a great experience. Now to find out how long it will really take that coin to travel over 10,000 miles!