Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Beyond Skype

Previously I have written about the unique opportunity our school has to connect with another grade school in Iowa. So far we have paired up two kindergarten classes, two second grade classes and one third grade class, with additional pairings to come. Our students remain excited about the opportunity as do our teachers. We have gone beyond the initial Skype session to create pen pal Wikis, a book club Wiki and a Gingerbread "exchange". My post on our combined blog page details more about the benefits of being involved in this multi-school connection. (And is reprinted below.)

I can't say enough good things about this connection and the possibilities I see for increased student engagement and learning. If you ever have the opportunity to try this, even with just one class, I really encourage you to do so!

My original post from

As I was helping one of our teachers get ready for her Skype session, she mentioned that someone asked her the value of our Skype. That made me stop and think, because the minute we started planning this connection, I could see the value of the relationship and I even had curricular ideas popping into my head! I also knew the collaborative effort of all our teachers would bring more ideas!

How does this Skype benefit student learning? At first I was going to look at the core curriculum areas that will springboard off our Skype session; but as I started writing this, there is no way to do this without simultaneously discussing the 21st Century skills our students are gaining. The original Skype itself helped foster relationships in our global community as the students are seeing similar classroom situations and meeting new students, some with the same name as theirs! This reinforces the connection with the other class and thus reinforces all the learning that results from this connection. Our Wild Thing videos were a great way to introduce our personalities to each other and a great spin off from the award-winning book “Where the Wild Things Are.” These wild things can now be used to help the students work on developing word choice, by describing their picture through Voice Thread or some other applications.

Our second graders are already writing back and forth to each other as pen pals using a Wiki. This is a great reinforcement of language arts skills while learning to communicate with those outside our community. They are learning about students in other communities (social studies) and using map skills to locate the other school in relationship to ours.

This Wiki will springboard into collaborative projects in many areas. We are already talking about combined problem solving in math, surveying each other to create graphs, and creating a collaborative story where each class contributes alternating pieces of the story. We will start with whole class activities and eventually, the students can do these types of learning experiences on their own with their pen pal. The third grade is planning to create book clubs through their Wiki based on a chosen set of books. Our kindergarteners are exchanging gingerbread men through the mail and photographing their visit to the other school. This will extend off into literature and creative art projects as well.

As educators we know that the greatest learning occurs when there is a personal connection, a personal motivation, to our lessons. The relationships we are building between the two schools are a springboard to all the curricular activities we will do together and I look forward to each and every one of them!


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