As we explore further and further into the 21st century we can see the level of excitement rise as our students and educators realize the potential of the many tools, apps and tech that is out there to use in our classrooms. It really is a no-brainer, teaching with tech can blast your students learning and engagement out of this world and prepare them for the real 21st century workforce.
One of the many ways you can engage your learners with tech is to video conference with another class, some call this distance learning or global education. Skype in the Classroom is a wonderful tool to use and there are several “Mystery Skype” lessons and activities out there that set up educators and students to learn and play interactive games with one another. This type of learning is great, but if we really want to use video-conferencing to its full potential, we need to reach further, and think how educators can maximize this experience to make it more meaningful for their students. If you think about, setting up the whole class facing a camera and screen isn’t much different than putting both classes in one room together. There is no guarantee that all learners in that room are focused and it’s certain that not all students will participate at the same level. Furthermore, video-conferencing in the classroom has so much more potential than just playing trivia games and “guess where we are” activities. We, as educators, have an opportunity to put students face to face, one on one, to meet, greet and get to know each other on a deeper level. Any student can go on Bing, Google and/ or other research sites to gain facts and info about countries, population and other historical facts, but what about developing an understanding of who the real people are that you are actually speaking with?
#WHOtoYOU is a global education project that encourages educators and students to get to know each other, co-plan, co-create, and co-present a research project using Skype and the new Microsoft Sway. The title of #WHOtoYOU is meant to ask students the question, who are the people you are working with? Who are they to you? And what can you learn from them? During this project, students are paired with their global partners and are responsible for researching and collaborating on a Sway project together. The projects can range from book reviews, news articles, math problem solving questions to research reports, the ways in which the students use Sway is decided during the co-planning stage between each teacher. Over the course of a few weeks, each paired group will have several opportunities to connect with each other via web-conferencing and/ or text. Bing Translator and Skype Translator (still in preview) are key pieces to this project if you are looking to break down language barriers with your students. Once projects have been completed, each paired group has an opportunity to present their work, live, in front of both classes at the same time. Both classes will be able to participate and practise how to ask thought-provoking questions during each presentation. What’s more, students that have worked together have now developed a sense of respect, partnership and pride for their work that they have created together. It is so important to teach students how to work together and respect the process of how to solve challenges that can arise when working in a group. In today’s tech-based workforce, learning how to collaborate via video-conference is the next big thing and will be a skill most employees will be required to have going forward.
You can watch a full #WHOtoYOU project that was completed between two grade 2 classes in Canada, Mrs. Radomski’s class in Edmonton, Alberta and Ms. Dorland’s class in Milton, Ontario by clicking on this link. Additionally, you can join an exclusive #WHOtoYOU Facebook group where educators can connect with one another and set up their own #WHOtoYOU project this upcoming school year!
Check out this Sway to learn more information about the project! You can also follow me, the creator of #WHOtoYOU, Kaylyn Dorland @MsD_QOH (Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Grade 2 teacher at Queen of Heaven Elementary School in the Halton Catholic District School Board) to find out how #WHOtoYOU is taking some of the mystery out of video-conferencing in education and creating a more meaningful experience!
To learn more about becoming a Microsoft Innovative Educator, please click and explore the Microsoft Educator Network!