So recently my colleague, Kenna McRae, and I began using Skype between our two classrooms. Whenever I have a hair-brained idea, I know I can count on McRae to jump in and experiment with me. And I think the level of engagement in our two classes indicates that it works to be teachers willing to experiment with our practice. Frankly, the students never know what we’re going to be up to.
So when we began using Skype, it seemed the easiest (and free) video conferencing tool to start experimenting with while waiting for our district to bring in more sophisticated tools. This is apparently happening in the near future, but if you’re a teacher looking to engage your students NOW, you find ways to get ahead of the timeline.
We’ve both worked with our students in the past on teaching students to be teachers. (I’ll write more on a unit I’ve developed on the subject at a later time.) So they come to the table with certain skills already in place:
1. Leading a whole class lesson (definition or demonstration)
2. Allowing for Small Group Discussion
3. Developing a Visual (non-linguistic representation) of the subject
4. Creating an Assessment
McRae and I decided that in order to do some test prep with our classes, we would split some terms up between the two
classes, and that each class would be in charge of teaching the other. So, let’s say, my class was in charge of reviewing the following terms:
Each of my small cooperative groups would be assigned a term and would get to work, assigning each other roles and creating a script for their lesson. They had to teach a review of their term in front of the camera (remember this is for test prep review), dividing up the job amongst the members of the group. It might include a 2-minute lecture, a visual created by the group, and a little worksheet which one of them ran down to the participating room in time for the activity to begin.
On the first day, we began with McRae’s class teaching us our test prep terms, which you can see from the pictures peppering this post. (I know, I know. My room’s a mess. But I like to think of it like creative chaos.) On the second day, my class took over.
One of the most important elements that McRae and I pre-taught were norms in how to use Skype and how to behave while video conferencing. It’s important to set up norms with any activity, especially one that is new. Below is a link to the norms that I developed. Just cut and paste the URL into your browser to download. Please feel free to use them in your own video conferencing experiments.
Check back in and let me know how it goes!