Saturday, December 13, 2014

Skyping the Teacher?

In a regular classroom one thing that we can all count on is that things don't always go as planned.  This past week my students and I were excited to have a Mystery Number Skype video call planned with a class in New Zealand!  This was pretty exciting for us and entailed several visits to our class world map, discussions around weather and temperature, and we even wondered if they could actually have Christmas because their weather was warm in December. But alas, at the very last minute we found out that they were caught up in an assembly that went much longer than they had expected and our call had to be rescheduled.

Since we had already done the prep work for our call I quickly created a plan B (isn't that what teachers do best?).  If you've followed my class blog at all you'll know that we have been experimenting with Kathy Cassidy's grade one/two class in Moose Jaw and we have held two Mystery Number Skype calls at the exact same time.  One call has been focussing on numbers to 20 while the other numbers to 50.  This also means I have two Skype accounts to make this work.

My students were keen to have a Mystery Number Skype call but we had no one to call.  So what did I suggest?  That they Skype me!  Yes, you read that correctly.  I was thankful to have my personal computer at school in addition to my work computer. On one side of the classroom my class sat connected to one of my Skype accounts, while on the other side I sat with a couple students and my other Skype account.  

Me and my very small crew chose our number and quietly the rest of my class chose their number too. When I knew they had their number (and I did not know their number) we started the call.

They  answered the call on their computer and away we went.  It was pretty incredible to just let them do what they do best.  Classroom leaders took over and the call ran as if I was with them except... I wasn't! I was facing a totally different direction and I could only see them in the computer screen.  The few boys that were with me were giggling away as they took turns asking questions to their classmates, via computer, on the other side of the classroom.  The rest of the class took the job very seriously. They asked questions that made sense and they recorded the data that was necessary.  It was a really fantastic experience and in the end we were both able to guess the Mystery Numbers.

So what did I learn from this experience?

First off my students are very capable of running a class Mystery Number Skype call without my help.  It makes me think that I need to find a class that is free during my math time so that we can have this as an on going 1:1 Skype interaction for my students.

I also learned that classroom leaders step up but  sometimes the leaders are different then who you'd expect them to be. This year I teach in a combined grade one/two classroom and I assume my leaders will come from my grade twos. And while this is partly true I have some very strong grade one leaders too who are willing to step up, even with their older classmates able to help too.

We have been doing Mystery Number Skype calls on and off most of this first term and it's really making a difference in my students' number sense.  Their questions are far more focussed and far fewer "off task" questions are being asked.  It was reassuring to see this. 

And finally,  there are a small handful of students who really do need my support and when given extra freedom can't quite handle it yet. (It was great for me to be able to give them the guided support they required as well).

Have you ever thought about having your students Skype you and see how well they excel when given this opportunity?

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