Posted in Criterion 4, Criterion 8

Skyping Sydney

A few weeks ago I shared a tweet saying that I was excited to be ‘rocking some PBL’ with my year 9 English class. An Australian tweecher (@vivimat78) asked what I was doing so I tweeted the link to my Edward Scissorhands project. She liked it and asked how my class were going to share their film guides. I replied that I had a friend in the film industry (@LewisBostock) who I would ask to come and give the class feedback on their work. I asked her if she had any other ideas and she suggested Skyping a class in another country to share our project. Before I know what as happening she had tweeted her tweeps asking if anyone was up for a global Skype with me. I then had tweechers from the US tweeting me to say they were keen. Very exciting!

Unfortunately, the Skype session with the US hasn’t come to any fruition as it’s a challenge negotiating time zones and time for that matter! However, I knew that @BiancaH80 was doing a project with her year 8 class on Tim Burton so I asked her if she wanted to Skype. Year 9 in NZ is the same age group as year 8 in Australia so it couldn’t be more perfect. Bianca was keen and, as Sydney is only 2 hours behind NZ, it wasn’t too much of a challenge to arrange a time that worked for both of us. It did mean that my class had to come at lunchtime but I bribed them with lollies and about 10 girls came along. Maybe a pizza and hamburgers might have been the key to the boys stomachs!

Yesterday was the day for the much looked forward to Skype session and we had a lot of fun! Some of the questions Bianca’s class asked my class were about themes and favourite characters in Edward Scissorhands. My class asked hers about the films they would make and the Tim Burton films they had watched. After a while, one young Sydney lad asked if my girls had heard Gangnam Style. Next minute, one of mine had the song on their iPad and played it to Bianca’s class who all got up and started dancing Psy’s quirky dance steps! It was hilarious!

Unfortunately, my sound was not the best and it was very difficult to hear what was being said. I had Skype projected onto my whiteboard so we could see the other class well. Because it was lunchtime a large group of students who had heard that a Skype session was happening gathered outside my classroom to see what was going on. As the sound was poor I had my classroom door shut but these students kept popping their heads in and were disruptive so I had to lock them out. Interestingly, before I went to lock the door I was sitting right next to my laptop and was answering some of the questions. While I was dong this my class were a bit reluctant to ask or answer questions. When I left my place to lock the door, the class flocked to the laptop and totally got involved. I had been in the way of their experience! I then spent time in the background taking photos.
Overall, it was a fun experience but next time I will make sure I’ve got the sound sorted out so we can hear properly. Then the kids who were keen to see what was going on could join us. I will also seat my class in a more orderly fashion and have one student at a time step up to the camera to ask or reply to a question like Bianca did.

Good times! I can’t wait to do it again!

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Author:

I am an English teacher of year 9-13 students at Whangaparaoa College. I enjoy incorporating the use of technology in the classroom and researching effective ways of engaging students. In 2012 our school introduced compulsory BYOD for year 9 and I have enjoyed this challenge. I am an advocate of Project Based Learning and plan to increase my use of this teaching style. I am also a musician and enjoy playing in local bands. If I can include music in my teaching in some way, I do it!

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