The classes I teach have always been connected to the outside world.
Blogs, flickr, twitter, skype, facetime, hangouts.
The tools have never been important.
It’s been the ability to connect to help further learning that has always been the draw for how I wish students to use technology in the classroom.
When I look at the times that learning has been really enhanced with collaboration it is when there is shared purpose behind the connection, there’s knowledge we can’t find in the room or through google. We actually need to communicate with others to find that missing piece in the puzzle to further understanding.
Over the course of this current Unit of Inquiry the children have been inquiring into how forces are shaping our planet. However the recent events in Nepal have tuned the children into the human factors of these forces.
@kindly offered a Skype session between the two classes. Her class had the experience of living through major earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand while my class in Singapore was keen to learn more about the human side.
We had initially planned a mystery skype session, however in order to set my class up for success they needed to have some context to their questioning.
They needed to learn the story of Christchurch.
I was worried about letting this part of the conversation go for my students but the conversation that followed the Year 8s finding my class’s location was so much more powerful.
It ran through a wide range of topics from how it actually feels to be in an earthquake, animals and pets reactions, disaster preparedness and why a smaller earthquake could cause so much more devastation than larger ones. So much of the conversation was unplanned and unscripted yet a common purpose enabled the classes to talk to each other for 45 minutes.
Which leads me to wonder about a popular vehicle for classroom connection, the Mystery Skype. Throw two classes together, the kids guess the location. On one level I know the children learn a lot about using maps, deductive reasoning, teamwork and communication. On the other I wonder could we enhance the experience of a video call beyond a surface level connection.
Are we doing more than just connecting for the sake of connecting?
Skyping for the sake of skyping?