Hands-on computer usage is extremely engaging to children. Technology integration in the classroom in any form increases retention of knowledge; adding videoconferencing takes it to a level that is difficult to top. Cross-cultural sharing, social interaction, presentation skills...Skype in the classroom and kids are made for each other.
Plus...it's great fun! Jump down to my classroom Skyping checklist and then check out the videos to see it in action.
I made a connection with a dedicated teacher from the American Southeast at the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teaching Academy for Science and Math. This interactive classroom activity allowed me to open the world to my students, bringing kids from Washington state and South Carolina together virtually to teach each other about Native American cultures.
Take a look at the video below. These kids started the year with very little computer knowledge...but just look at them now! My before-school computer club kids handled this technical check using Skype within our own room.
Long-distance video conferencing can involve lots of bugs you can't imagine in advance; you can't assume everything will work perfectly when you have another class on the line. Test and test again before the actual event.
This was the dress rehearsal before we went "live." Using visual aids is very important to keep interest levels high - especially for children. I was lucky to have a young member of our local Native American tribe in my classroom.
This project combined multiple approaches to presenting and sharing Native American research: PowerPoint slide shows, posters, verbal presentations, and question/answer sessions. Sounds intimidating at first, but it's not.
Native American Research
Skyping between classrooms is a straightforward process that just takes a little practice and patience. The payoff is engaged students who are happy to put your creative teaching ideas into practice. If you are not familiar with the technology, you and the kids can learn it together one step at a time.
After finding another classroom to work with - which can be as close as across the hall - the basic steps for this project are straightforward:
The details, of course, can be the tricky part. To help you out, I've prepared a comprehensive Skyping checklist for anyone undertaking this classroom project.
Free Download: Skype in the Classroom Checklist
TIP: A solid-color background keeps attention on the presenters.
Prior to this unit, students in my class knew virtually nothing about Native Americans in Washington or anywhere else, other than the fact that five of my students belonged to Native American tribes.
Skype session in an
elementary school classroom
Following the unit, students demonstrated deep understanding of the similarities and differences among Native American groups in two distinctly different parts of the United States.
Kids pick up on the funniest things! A favorite difference between these native groups was that in the Eastern Woodlands, men got a wife by playing the flute outside her tepee. Not so in the Northwest where arranged marriages were more common.
Technology integration in the classroom can bridge gaps between cultures. The greatest achievement was a change in attitude and respect for Native American art and lifestyles. My non-native students were very interested and elicited more information about family traditions from my native students which added great richness to our caring classroom community.
NOTE: Remember to obtain media releases signed by the parents before posting anything publicly
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