Today I want to celebrate my classroom’s first Skype adventure. We (eventually) Skyped with students in New York on the book Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.
I have to admit, I was worried. I was worried because we were Skyping on a book that we were just finishing that day. I was worried because I hadn’t prepared my students for what they would be encountering and how to be good Skyping partners. (Largely because I wasn’t sure what a good Skyping partners looked like.) I was also worried because when technology is involved, something can and probably will go wrong.
Fortunately, I had a very understanding teacher and classroom on my side, Erin Varley and her class of 5th graders. They were old hands at this (they have done it once!). “Don’t worry it’s just me,” she DM’ed me on twitter days before the scheduled chat. But I was worried. I didn’t want to fail her or our students.
At the planned time, 10:00 am PST, 1:00 pm EST, my students are all on the carpet, ready for the call. 10:05 nothing. We call. No connection. My students, who were at first quietly assembled on the carpet, are getting a little restless. I DM Erin. Do I have the right Erin Varley? I check. I try. Still nothing. Students and two adults, who came to watch, are all getting a little more than restless. We try. We test with someone else. Try again, still nothing. I DM Erin with lots of confused thoughts. The combination of failing technology and noisy students makes my thinking jumble. Students are offering suggestions of what to do. Time is passing. The noise level is rising. The focus is diminishing. But we keep trying. Time is passing. Keep trying.
At 10:25 am PST, 5 minutes before recess. The call goes through. Yeah!! Erin’s class is lovely, sitting quietly on the carpet, and we all see Erin looking calm. My kids are going berserk. Waving and elbowing for the tiny screen in front of them. Erin thankfully starts us up with a question from one of her students.
Eventually we get the idea of what to do. The chat continues. And I breathe a sigh of relief.
Even though I lost some students to recess, a core group kept chatting till recess ended. They learned about the three hour time difference. Some found it amazing that Miss Varley’s students didn’t have recess when they had recess.
For you Skyping veterans, this may seem like a big yawn, but for my students and me it was awesome. Student questions were thoughtful and answers interesting. My students loved seeing the students they had been blogging with for the past two amazing books — Wonder and Out of My Mind. Thank you Erin and your students. Can’t wait to do it again!