Saturday, June 11, 2011

Skype and Twitter in the Classroom

I think we all have noticed that the school classroom walls are not so defined anymore...right?  Through avenues such as skype and twitter, we can direct our students to go beyond the traditional learning methods.  We can branch out and learn from others miles away.  We can learn from our peers.  We can learn from experts in the field.  We can learn in real time!

This year, I branched out with skype and twitter in my science classroom, and I can't imagine going back to school in the fall without utilizing it. 

With Skype, my classes formed connections with other 4th/5th grade classes by starting out with a "Mystery Skype".  Our students did not know where their partner class was from.  So, we each developed clues for one another.  Our clue creations were a lesson on their own!  Everything from our geographic location and climate zone to economic factors were investigated for possible clues.  This first Skype was a great way to share information, get practice in talking over Skype, and get excited about the process.  We later branched out with practice questions for our state tests and discussing our class projects.  We even were able to Skype with other teacher in our district for help learning, and we LOVED our connection to our technology director.  He was able to work with us on several occasions discussing computer parts, the iPad2, and how cameras work with light to produce images.

With twitter, my students and I decided to follow various people and organizations to extend our learning.  Through my twitter account, we began to follow our hero, Steve Spangler.  Each time we read one of his tweets, my students were off and away on the iPads, finding out more about his message.  We also followed the NASA astronauts and were able to send in questions during a video conference via twitter.  Each time a NASA event was tweeted, it jump started our next avenue of investigation.  Another really powerful twitter experience was in following NPR and Science Friday.  This, along with the use of TED talks, was a great way to feel the 'pulse' of science. 

There is NO better way to learn science, than to learn the real time events, concerns, and discoveries.  A textbook just isn't enough anymore!  This is where technology such as Twitter and Skype come into play.  Connecting our students to other learners, building that learning community, and finding the experts and those in the field is at our finger tips...time to explore!

 This is why I'm using the summer months to lock in skype partners, gather ideas, and continue discussions with other educators.

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