Epic Holocaust Writing Project #4 #engchat

This is the fourth of several posts that will talk about an epic Holocaust writing project that we are embarking on.  Too much for just one post, so enjoy.  Click here to read the previous post.

To recap, at this point we have established:
  1. Project title.
  2. Project slogan.
  3. Marketing methods that use the three appeals.
  4. Publication ideas and jobs assigned.
But like I said before, we still had some questions.  So rather than me simply emailing the other teacher in Muscatine, I thought....Why not have my students ask the other students themselves?!

The Skype Hype

I have heard of teachers using Skype to connect their class with others from around the world.  Ever since hearing this, I have been very eager to try it out myself.  But I wanted to do it right.  I wanted to experience to be something that my students would remember and appreciate for what it is – an opportunity to break down the walls of my classroom.  

The Setup

In preparing for our Skype session, a fellow classmate in my grad school cohort offered some tips:
  1. Test Skype’s bandwidth during school peak hours.
  2. Arrange desks so all students are in the frame.
  3. Position a chair in front of the camera so individual students can ask/answer questions.
  4. Lighting is important so the other class can see us accordingly.
  5. Have questions prepared ahead of time in order to avoid any awkward dead air.
In this video, you will see that we did our best for all of these.

Final Thoughts

Skype can be a very powerful way to reach experts, breakdown classroom walls, or collaborate from a distance.  In our session, I will say that my students seemed timid although excited.  It was something new, something different, and nerves got the best of them a little, I think.  But nonetheless, we were able to ask our questions and share what we had planned in order to help them reach their goal.  They also shared some great ideas that we could add too.  All in all, I feel the Skype session served its purpose.

The next step is now to begin our publications!

Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

P.S. Have you used Skype in your classroom?  If so, how have you used it.  Do you have any tips for me for next time?

P.S.S.  Check out our YouTube channel for video updates on our progress and technology being used.


2 responses to “Epic Holocaust Writing Project #4 #engchat

  1. A few things I would suggest:
    1.) See if you can't hard wire the MacBook into the wall (IE use an ethernet cable). I couldn't see if you were doing that or not in the video, but it didn't look like it. This will help the image and quality of the bandwidth.
    2.) Check into whether or not you can borrow a newer model computer (if possible) so that you can process the information from Skype quicker. Those white MacBooks are good, but they were not meant for huge processing like Skye with fifteen things going on. The processing power just isn't there.
    3.) See if you can get an external microphone. It is tough with the terrible video quality on the computers to do large group Skype chats. A Snowball or Snowflake microphone might make some sense here. Even a simple USB pen microphone might give you a bit better quality.
    4.) As far as the classroom goes, the suggestions from Heather are right on point. It is tough to get everything going, but I think the teacher (like you said) needs to moderate the conversation. One thing that has also worked well is setting up small group situations (3-5 people) meeting up virtually with the other classroom's small groups. This takes a few extra people (watching the Skype and the class) if possible, but the interaction works out a bit better as well.
    5.) Can you do a online discussion while the real discussion is going on? IE Fishbowl style using something like CoverItLive, Twitter, or another conversation tool like that? That way more students could be interacting virtually with the students from the other class at the same time. Multiple conversations that you could/could not control all happening at the same time. Just a thought!

    Bottom line – you are doing some great stuff. Keep it up. The tech isn't always effective, but the learning sure as heck can be!



  2. Thanks, Randon, for the tips! I can't connect to the wall or get a nicer laptop unfortunately. But I REALLY like top #5. Definitely something to add next time. It was the other teacher's first time Skype with a class too, but it went well for what we knew.
    Thanks again for taking the time to respond and offer your expertise!


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