Category Archives: Skype

My MACUL11 presentation

I presented for the second time at MACUL this year on the topic of collaboration based on the video games my students made with students in Vietnam. Overall I was very happy with how it went. I had less attendees than last year, but great conversations. My goal going in was to get the audience to participate and not just have me talk at them for an hour. I created a backchannel for the session and at first was disappointed that no one used it, but then I realized that was because they were having real conversations instead!

I would like to thank @bruce1lj@kchichester@TheNerdyTeacher, and my tech support @toddhower for their participation in my session. (I would thank the rest of you but do not know your twitter names) It was fun to meet these people face-to-face for the first time in my session, and they definitely added to the conversation. The highlight for me was Skyping in my collaboration partner Gary Bertoia from Vietnam followed by four of my students at school. The audience was able to ask them questions and hear about our project from multiple perspectives.

Here is my Prezi which probably will not make much sense without the audio 🙂

I Ustreamed the session, but forgot to start the recording until I was a few minutes in. The video is not so great but you can hear the discussions. The skype calls start at about the 33:30  mark if you want to jump to that part.

Here is the Livebinder that I created for my session. It contains a lot of information that was not talked about in the session, but to help you in your collaboration efforts including tools, collaboration examples, places to connect, and the Scratch games that the students created.

Technology Integration

I started my one hour a day of helping other teachers in my building integrate technology two weeks ago. I have been too busy battling my washing machine (more about that to come) to write about it. So check out a very nice summary of the highlight of my week by Silvia Tolisano (aka langwitches) “Becoming the Experts”

Twitter addict confession

Why am I addicted to Twitter? It’s not the links. They’re great, but I love the conversations…
I can control my use of Twitter. Really I can. But last night was an example of how powerful of a conversation tool it is to me.

First, I watched an interesting discussion that Jon Becker (professor at VCU) had with plugusin (teacher in North Carlina) over the “validity” of a survey that plugusin created and used. Now I was not very interested in the survey itself, but in the discussion of what makes something “valid.” I would have to say that I sided with plugusin as far as twitter and social networking giving voice to teachers working in the field vs. professors writing for peer-reviews journals.But I must confess I am not an expert on what makes something “valid” so when Sylvia Martinez (a leading educator from LA) asked Jon to explain this more I joined the conversation and asked too. Jon patiently answered our questions. The thing I know and respect about Dr. Jon is that he is not condescending or narrow-minded about the equalizing power of social media. 

Meanwhile Jane Vanhof (choir and ELA teacher from my school!) and Ira Socol ( from Michigan, too) joined the conversation too. The end result is that Jon Becker decided to do a session on “What makes a survey valid” open to anyone who wants to join in (Here is the signup for time).

At the same time I was asking questions of some experts from my PLN about educational history (Teaser: stay tuned over break for some posts about grading) including Ira, Shelly Blake-Plock (Maryland Latin and history teacher), and Andrew Watt (classical history teacher in Connecticut). During this multitude of conversations Tomaz Lasic (an excellent teacher from Australia) tweeted to Ira and asked him to quick Skype into his class that was in session. Ira did and re-joined our conversation a few minutes later.

Wow! There is no way this is possible ten years ago. I would have to enroll at VCU and sign up and PAY to learn from Jon Becker. I would still not be able to attend faculty meetings with him, which is what it feels like as I “watch” conversations he has will leading educators from around the world. I have personally met only two of these people (Jane and Ira about two weeks ago) but yet I can learn from them anytime, anywhere around the world. And added onto it  is the ability for Ira to off-the-cuff join into a classroom discussion on the other side of the world at a moment’s notice.

I have never been so motivated and excited about my own learning. And I am working out methods to share this with the other teachers and the students in my building. I am truly amazed at the knowledge and GENEROSITY of the people in my PLN. It really is about the conversations and the giving. Thanks to all in my PLN, and of course I would highly recommend following all of the educators mentioned here.

Why am I addicted to Twitter? It’s not the links. They’re great (especially the ones to thought-provoking blog posts), but I love the conversations …
                                                               with some of the greatest minds in the world.

Skyping in a Student Teacher

Just a quick note that one of Dean Shareski‘s education students that will be working with a couple of my classes skyped into class today. Check out how it went from him, Kyle Webb .

Nice job, Kyle!


Well, this is my entry into Teach Paperless ‘s Cinco de Mayo contest for using Web 2.0 tools, a great blogger by the way. (It never hurts to butter up the judge:) WebPals is taking the traditional pen-pals idea, but using Skype to make it a real conversation between students of different cultures. If you are unfamiliar with Skype, it is a free download that allows you to make free video calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world. I know there are many classes with pen pals through email, but I believe using a program like Skype for a face-to-face conversation takes it to a much higher level.

Students would be signed up with another student from a different culture around the world. They would have 5-10 minute conversations once a week. It would start out structured with certain topics to talk about but allowing free conversation. The goal would be to develop cross-cultural friendship that would decrease students prejudices and stereotypes and increase their tolerance. I used to teach in an alternative school in a rural district that had very little diversity. I had students in class with neonazi tattoos and who had gotten in trouble for burning crosses in people’s yards. WebPals would give those students a chance to get to know personally someone who is diiferent from themselves and discover the similarities that they have.

Of course, other tools like edmodo (twitter is blocked for students at our school) could be used too, but I think Skype would be the most fun and interactive for the students. The long term goal would be to develop cross-cultural friendships and then develop a social action project to work collaboratively on. The main pitfall holding up my plans is finding the right international school that is interested, speaks English, is in a timezone that is compatible, and has the technology to do it. I would really like to connect to a school in South or Central America because the time zones are similar and they have the largest cultural differences to my students, sorry Canada:(

In my class we have made a few successful Skype calls, but next year I hope to take to the next level with WebPals. How about you? Anyone interested in giving it a shot with us? Leave a comment or tweet me @concretekax