GlobalConnections: Creating LearningEnvironments that Take Our Students Around the World
We live in amazing times. Thanks to the technology provided to us, we can reach outside of our classroom and connect with the world. For some time now, I realize many of you have ventured to different sites with your students to discuss a history changing event. Our experiences, however, do not have to be limited to critical events nor do we have to be limited to being passive witnesses of events. Instead, we can connect to experts and classrooms around the globe and allow our studentsto personally experience the varied cultures of our world.
This year, SPES teachers reached out beyond their classroom and connected with other students and experts around the world.
  • 3rd graders video chatted using google video chat with 3rd graders in Canada. They asked questions about their communities, their daily life, and their school. Additionally, the two groups became classroom buddies and connected via Edmodo. Students conversed throughout the spring about events going on at school and at home.
  • 6th graders video chatted using google video chat with 5th graders in Arizona. The 5th graders in Arizona were studying the oil spill and they asked our 6th graders about how the oil spill impacted our community and our lives.
  • Jackie McMullan's class video chatted using skype with relatives she had living in Japan to learn about the impact of the earthquake on the community and its residents.
  • AP Government video chatted using WebEx with a lobbyist in D.C. Mr. Helmsing's students were able to ask the lobbyist (Wayne William's son) about his role in government.
  • The Architecture for Learning book club video chatted using WebEx with Dr. Kevin Washburn and asked him questions about concepts in his book.
If you want to make global connections, a number of resources are available to help you learn more about the possibilities and to help you make those connections. Let's take some time to explore thepossibilities! (Note: Most of the resources discuss the use of Skype. Skype is not the only videoconferencing program available, but it is the most popular. Sometimes our filter system blocks Skype because the program is using an unknown ip address. Do not let this discourage you from making a connection with an author, an expert, or a classroom. You simply need to be aware of the issue and when you make plans to connect with a teacher, we can determine the best resource for you to use to for your needs.)

So, let's get started! First, you will want to read about other teacher's experiences with video conferencing. From this first list, pick at least two articles to read about a teacher's experience with video conferencing:

http://grade3.forestgreenschool.ca/2011/03/01/alabama-buddies/ - Lesley Cameron, the grade 3 teacher in Canada who connected with our SPES students, writes about their video conferencing with our 3rd grade students. She also writes about the care package they received from our students here - http://grade3.forestgreenschool.ca/2011/03/14/surprise/
http://aroundtheworldwith80schools.net/journeyaroundtheworld/- 21st Century Learning Specialist Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano's blogs about the connections her students (K-8) have made throughout the year
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cI6jhq8kty0- This is a video capturing a classroom's experience video chatting with an author & illustrator
http://clc.yale.edu/2009/02/18/videoconferencing-in-the-classroom-with-skype/- This blogs discusses a Yale professor's use of Skype in her classroom.

Now that you have viewed two of the articles, reflect on what you learned from your reading. Go to the discussions page on this page and respond to the discussion labeled: "Thoughts about Teachers' Experiences" - After reading one or more of the blogs, what are your thoughts about video conferencing. What was unexpected? What did you find interesting?

Once you have finished responding to the above question, let's move on to see the different ways you can use video conferencing in your classroom. Here are some blogs and wikis discussing the possibilities of "Skyping"; choose at least two of them and discover the many ways teachers have used video conferencing in their classroom.

http://www.teachingdegree.org/2009/06/30/50-awesome-ways-to-use-skype-in-the-classroom/- 50 ways to use Skype
http://www.techlearning.com/article/32874- Learning Beyond Walls: 21 Skype Resources
http://petecskypeme.pbworks.com/w/page/16090118/FrontPage- overview of Skype and how two teachers used it in their classroom to connect their elementary classrooms
http://www.wtvi.com/TEKS/05_06_articles/skype-in-the-classroom.html- Skype in the Classroom

Now, let's move back to the discussion page and respond to the discussion labeled: "Ways to Use Video Conferencing" - After reading at least two of the offerings, what ideas do you have about video conferencing? How could you use video conferencing in your classroom?

Once you have completed the second question, let's look at an article that helps teachers organize and plan the video conference:
http://aroundtheworldwith80schools.net/- This is a great blog article about how to involve students in the videoconference so that everyone participates.

What did you learnfrom the blog? Share your most important take away from the article regarding planning a video conference on the discussion page at the discussion labeled: "Planning a Video Conference".

Finally, if your research this week has intrigued you and you want to connect with a classroom or an author around the world, you have a number of resources to help you. Below you will find sites that help you find other teachers who are interested in connecting with classrooms and/or authors who Skype with classes:

http://skypeinschools.pbworks.com/w/page/11008318/FrontPage- wiki with listing of teachers interested in connecting
http://aroundtheworldwith80schools.net/- sign up and connect with other teachers who are interested in connecting
http://education.skype.com/ - Skype's sponsored site to connect teachers.
http://skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com/- a list of authors who are willing to Skype with classes.

If you join a group, share that with us! Post the group you've joined or the author you plan to contact on the discussion page at the discussion labeled: "Connectingwith Teachers/Authors".

The possibilities are really endless! Video chatting with an author, an expert, or another classroom is also really just the beginning. Similar to the third grade students' experience, after your students have video chatted with a group of students (or an author or expert), you and the other teacher can set up even more options for your students to work together throughout the year. You could create a product for students to share with the other class; you could work collaboratively with the other class to create a larger product, or you could simply continue the conversation throughout the year. Next week, we will explore collaboration tools that allow your students to not only collaborate among themselves, but also allow you and your students to collaborate with another classroom across the country or around the globe!

(Thanks for participating in this professional development opportunity. Once you have completed your exploration, you will earn 2 hours towards your CEU requirements. If you make a connection with an author or a teacher, let me know so I can help you set up the video conference and ensure success. You will earn more CEU hours for the work we do to prepare for the video conference session.)