Taking Global Collaboration and Skype Beyond Mystery Skypes

Once again I am lucky enough to work with great educators who are pushing the realities of learning both in the school where I work and abroad. Brian Tritt is a Spanish teacher for Bettendorf Middle School and Eden Quayle is an educator who has taught children around the world and currently resides in Cadiz, Spain.

These two educators are pushing the concept of global learning. Earlier this year I blogged about their first experience of student interaction. It was a great session where the excitement to connect with students from around the world kept students engaged.

As much as I love mystery Skype session and the first initial contacts, I always wonder what is next? How do we move to real learning once the initial connection has been established? Is it actually possible to cover standards, real life learning, and more through Skype and other global tools?

Brian and Eden are working to find these very answers.

For the second session the goals were to do the following:

For our second Skype session we wanted to create an environment in which students were presenting on what life looks like living as a teenager in both the United States and Spain. 8th grade students studying Spanish created short videos in Spanish narrating what they like to do inside and outside of school. These videos included footage of home life, as well as a glimpse of what school life looks like as a teenager in Bettendorf, Iowa. Students from Cadiz, Spain presented videos on Spanish culture that highlighted local food and drink, festivals, geography, and daily routines .

In our second Skype session, both Eden and I wanted to take the experience from an introduction, to a sharing of culture and language. Students from Bettendorf, Iowa stated they have a new interest in the culture of Spain, and hope to make more connections in the future to enhance their language skills, as well as improve their global awareness.

Students crafted their videos, classrooms were prepared and it was finally time to connect and share their learning. Below is a video from the session. It is not the whole session, but you can get a sense for what we were trying to do.

 

 

So…….

How did it go? Here are some things that we learned from this session.

  1. Live audience is vital to learning. Anytime you can engage with another group of learners to share experiences, learning, and culture you have something special. Having the opportunity to work with students in Spain brings our Spanish classes to life and makes it more meaningful.
  1. Skype Translator not ready for the classroom….yet! Eden and I experimented with the translator option before class but it was not quite ready to handle fluid conversation. As this option expands and grows it will be very helpful for classrooms as students can listen and read to process the foreign language easier.
  1. Skype, Screenshare, and YouTube don’t mix. Using Skype we were able to connect. We could share our screens as well. However, when we needed to share our YouTube videos we had issues. So, we had to disconnect the call, load up YouTube and then call back. This was a bit of a pain, but it worked.
  1. Smaller groups/1:1 learning. On our side of things we had two classrooms in the room. Eden had a handful of students. As much as it is great to bring the learning to everyone, we are ready to move to more personal interactions and learning opportunities. As we prepare for our next connection we want to bring in more computers so students can gather in small groups or one to one to share their learning. When you have a whole class involved too many are sitting and observing. We need them talking, interacting with the language, and using what they have learned.

We are currently in the process to make this happen for our third connection. I honestly believe this will be the game changer. We will place the learning truly in the hands of students where they must engage and be part of the process. This will bring learning to a whole new level and really take our Skype use to higher levels of process and engagement.

  1. Student Voice. This is a learning journey not only for students but for the educators. One of the most important pieces to all of this is asking the students what they think. We received some very valuable feedback from our students to make things better. The students in Spain provided some honest feedback as well that we are working to bring things back into perspective to meet their needs. Here are a few examples to show the power is listening to students(click on image to enlarge each student).

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Overall, this was another amazing learning opportunity. Not only are we slowly changing how education looks and feels, but we are working on the changing the mindsets of students. We all love the excitement of meeting new people, but how do we work to sustain long-term learning opportunities where students can continue to learn and grow? This is the path we are on and look forward to the next destination in our future.

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