Jo and I tried a trial run using Skype one day but we were both in our own homes so it seemed to work well. We scheduled a time for me to Skype into her classroom but unfortunately her school had problems with Skype. After talking to people on Plurk and Twitter, they recommended that we try Oovoo so we both downloaded it and tried it. Again we were both at home when we tried it but it seemed like it would be great to use. We set a time for me to join her class and it worked!
I don’t know if the class learned much from me but I learned so much from this experience that I want to run around and tell everyone about it. Maybe they will roll their eyes because it is nothing new to them but I feel energized and excited about what implications this could have for a classroom.
Things I learned:
· I’m not used to different accents and really had to concentrate on what they were saying. Teenagers tend to talk faster than older people so I had to pay close attention to what they were saying.
· We liked a lot of the same things about the book The Secret Life of Bees.
· They seemed to like tennis and were sorry I didn’t have a favorite tennis player. (Now that I think about it, I could have brought up about Arthur Ashe being the first minority tennis player but I didn’t think quickly enough.)
· I had no idea who Ben Harper was but they did and seemed a little disappointed I didn’t know him (so I will be doing my research on this).
· They wore uniforms and there were different types and styles. (When I was a child, my friends went to a private religious school and got to wear the best uniforms with plaid skirts. I always wanted to wear one like they did!)
· They were interested in American politics.
· They had compulsory voting there (which I had never heard of before) which really changes my way of thinking about elections. I can see why some people might have disagreed with one of my blog posts about voting which I didn’t understand before. In fact I was so excited about this discovery that I woke my husband up after the call ended and wanted to talk to him about it (but he failed to be as excited as I was and fell back to sleep).
I really think it says a lot that Jo McLeay was willing to go through all of this to connect her class with me. I can only imagine the time it took to set all this up and the frustration of not getting Skype to work. I have never met her in person and I can only hope that I didn’t say anything stupid and make her sorry that she invited me (those things run through my mind!). As a teacher, whenever you invite a speaker, you wonder if your students will like the speaker or be totally bored. Then Oovoo kept cutting us off and we had to reconnect. Of course I didn’t mind because I was sitting at home doing nothing and there she was in class full of students. Yet, she was so patient and kept up the conversation without even blinking an eye which shows what a good teacher she is.
After about 50 minutes, we said farewell and ended our call. I sat here for a few minutes just amazed at what had taken place. If you have never taken part of something like that, please find another class to collaborate with because it is an experience you and your students will never forget. I know I won’t. Suddenly places far away aren’t so intimidating and scary. Experiences like this can really help make student instruction more successful.
Photo credit: Original image: 'Watching' by: Tim O'Brien