Monday, October 14, 2013

Caution: Learning Out Loud Can Be Messy

It Just Might Lead to Failure...  And that's when the learning opportunities grow!
I am taking a journey with a 3rd grade teacher using technology with her students to participate in real time discussions with another classroom in Canada.  She is participating in the Global Read Aloud (GRA) project created by Pernille Ripp. This is a global collaborative project where classrooms all over the world connect and read the same book and meet up online to discuss ideas (similarities/differences) together.

Teachers select a book that reflects their grade level ability and interest.  And using Edmodo and the GRA website, teachers seek out other teachers/classrooms that are reading the same book selection.  A projected schedule of lesson/chapters to read before a meet up is posted on the GRA site.  Next, teachers communicate how they want to connect their classrooms (Google Hangouts, Edmodo, KidblogsSkype, etc.).  Classroom teachers set up a time and day to meet up and facilitate students in sharing thoughts, ideas and questions about their classroom readings.  The process is continued until the entire book is read and the students have successfully participated in a global sharing experience that provided a unique learning experience that foster cultural differences and acceptance, languages, and new knowledge through shared collaborative products, if possible.  

After reading chapters one and two and having some classroom discussions for the purpose of constructing of good questions, we prepared for our first meet up.  Our chosen format with our partner class was Skype.  It was our first time using Skype in a classroom setting and we were excited about the new experience.  We sought out a webcam and external microphone/speakers.  We practiced logging in and connecting with one another. We had prepared for a great experience. 

We were Ready, Set...hello?  Are you there?  Oh No! Our partner class could not hear us.  We could see and hear them. What could be the problem?  We practiced using Skype the day before and everything was working.

This is a good excuse for teachers who don't particular appreciate technology in the classroom.  Well, attempting something new can have a learning curve.  And this moment was exactly that.  So, as any good teachers would do, we forged through the mess and addressed the goal for the meet up.   And that was to share thoughts, ideas and questions about a book with a class from Canada.  Students had written their questions on post cards as a reminder, but they now became a necessity.  Remember, they could not hear us and could only see us.  Quick thinking lead us to use the chat feature in Skype to pose questions to the teacher and the student's using the student's written question held up to the camera.  Genius!  

OK, maybe not, but it worked and the learning objective was meet.  The students discussed the first two chapters, cultural difference, language, foods, weather, geography, etc.  Wow!  Communicating with others beyond your community is great.  I learned a lot about Canadians just listening.  To be so close to Canada in terms of geography, I felt worlds apart.  But the big take away was how dangerously close we came to defeat.  Good thing we believe in our efforts. It was not an epic fail, but an opportunity to learn through the mess (failure).  We'll try week we are attempting a  Google Hangout :)  Success not guaranteed!

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill