This week, I was fully reminded of the fact that I should never, ever doubt the ability of students. Thinking it would be great to blend two classes - one in Boston, USA and mine in Hawkesdale Australia in a virtual classroom, it was suggested to Lorraine Leo, my great colleague in USA. Lorraine suggested Friday 16th our time, or Thurs night 15h March, their time. Yikes! That was only two days away and we had nothing organised.
- That was only two days notice.
- the interesting mixed collection of students in my year 9/10 ICT elective class
- the student mixed ability levels
- lack of time to practise, rehearse etc.
- our continuing problems with sound on the student netbooks (they had just been reghosted and handed back to students)
As there was one single, precious lesson prior to the online session, we tested sound/audio/access/application sharing/use of web camera etc to Blackboard Collaborate, the webconferencing software tool to be used and also brainstormed some ideas on a wallwisher. However, the time was not long enough. Students were then told to bring their photos and scripts with them on Friday ready to share with their global counterparts.
Feeling quite nervous on Friday about:-
- who had brought photos and more importantly how many had not done anything
- whether they had anything to talk about and would they stutter, stumble and take frights (as many of these students are extremely shy)
- whether they would behave online
- whether the webcam would be used to good effect
- whether the app sharing of pivot and some stored photos on their computers would work etc...
- whether sound/audio would all work
I was surprised to find allof them were all organised, they had taken photos at home, had brought products into share and wanted to come in at recess to get organised. Here is what it all looked like.
- an opening comment by Lorraine : Thank you for inviting us to Australia to visit your students.
- Problems as always with sound - most students had to come to my laptop to speak and demonstrate
- in my nervousness, I forgot to go through the tool bars and elements of Blackboard Collaborate, but most seemed to work it out as we went a long.
- A classroom of 21 participants, including Mrs Leo, the teacher from USA, 5 of her students, logging on from home (as it was 7:30pm at night for them), two adults from Japan - one a university professor, the other a parent, a student teacher from Saskatchewan Canada, a parent of one of my students and Mrs Leo's mother, an amazing 86 year old lady in blackboard collaborate for the first time. Such an amazing blended classroom, made possible with technology.
- my students presenting on topics such as:- Hawkesdale, my farm, my pets,our school, my interests, pivot and demonstrating sample student work, including quilting.
- Once the initial nervousness dispersed, the obvious pride that my students took in sharing their passions, how well spoken they actually were and that they were all organised!
- the support that students gave each other
- the fast paced nature of the chat, where participants asked questions, gave feedback and generally shared across the globe.
- interacting on the collaborative whiteboard to share names, farewells, favourite technology.
Despite being pushed outside their comfort zones, students really enjoy interactions such as this. They find it fun and engaging and are curious about each other. Each person has a voice and is able to interact in the chat. A big thank you to our global participants for coming to learn about us and to Mrs Leo for her work in making it possible.
I love this quote from Lorraine's thank you email:-
Thank you again! I really appreciated your time and all of the behind the scenes work in putting the meetup together. I know that for many of my students and for Noriko and my mom, being in a Blackboard Collaborate room was a completely new experience. Can you only imagine what it must be like for my mom -- at 86!-- listening to students all the way over in Australia! She really enjoyed the experience and I'm sure will want to be included the next time there is a meetup.
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