Saturday, June 30, 2012

Help Wanted!

This past year, I had amazing experiences connecting my classroom to other classrooms via Skype, Twitter, and Edmodo. I am REALLY looking forward to that for the upcoming year. I loved the classes that we worked with, and I want to follow that similar path for this new group of students.

Also, I am also looking to build this relationship up with a class to class connection that will be on a more full time basis. I want to essentially merge two classes to work together to explore science. Using combined efforts with resources, ideas, and students, I would love to make a year long commitment with our classes.

Sound interesting?

If so, here's what I'm looking for:

  • 5th grade class (connection in science content)
  • Ohio preferably (due to state standards)
  • willing to Skype or Google chat on a weekly (building up to daily) basis from the very beginning of school for class period
  • Willing to connect classes through Edmodo and possibly Twitter
  • Willing to integrate technology with emphasis possibly on iPad project use, video, and web-site development of content learning
  • Willing to engage students in a more problem based learning style
  • Interested in connecting classes to science and technology professionals via Skype
If this sounds interesting and worth having a conversation about, please let me know on this blog or through twitter @llacrosse

I would love to explore learning in this format. I think we are doing great things in 5th grade @lacrossescience and I would love to take this next step.

Please share this request. :) I can brainstorm possible connection possibilities.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Scaffolding Skype

I think most people can agree that science happens to be one of those subjects that kids naturally get excited about. I always say that I have the best "gig" in the building. Students come into my room from day one with enthusiasm and great questions. They are ready to roll!

Of course, many images like this comes to their mind!

In any case, the love for science is already there! 5th graders are natively the best scientists around. So, I feel that the best thing I can do for them is to CONNECT them to other scientists. My task then becomes giving them a forum to continue their conversations, ask questions, learn together, create and build representations of their learning and ideas!

Skype offers this forum. I can connect my students to other classrooms of scientists around the country! The possibilities are endless. Right? Right! However, I wanted to do this well. So, like any activity I want my students to do well, I scaffold the experience giving them opportunities to practice, experience success, and expand on the activity.

How? This is how I approached it with 100+ students in a day...

*We started SMALL!

I set up short 15-20 minute Mystery Skypes with other 4th and 5th grade classrooms that I had connected professionally on twitter. (You can find out a TON about Mystery Skypes and the roles students perform during these skypes by doing a simple google search.)

I was able to give the students pre-Mystery Skype practices by calling another one of my accounts with a student in another classroom. Or, my classes called other teachers in my building or my friend, Gary in Oregon. Just giving them an opportunity to do a quick run through made ALL the difference when the Skype calls really got rolling!

These Mystery Skypes allowed me to have conversations with my students about the content we were sharing (geography, science, map skills, etc) AND the manners and behaviors required of a this type of connection. We talked about clarity of voice, eye contact, asking follow up questions, and showing interest in the other class.

Side note---the content my students shared became SO ingrained in them because of the practice and sharing sessions. Information about our ecosystem, geography, economy, and culture was repeated over and over...pretty cool!

*Spreading our wings...

After my students gained confidence in the Mystery Skype mode, we were ready to spread our wings and expand our delivery of content. skypes!

We used our classes that we had connected with to share other science content that we were learning. Our calls to our partner scientists ranged from:
*performing investigations for each other
*singing and dancing our science songs
*showing our water cycle model
*sharing our NASA moon and meteorite samples
*playing game shows with our science content

These skypes always ended with smiles and high fives amongst my students. They scurried out into the hall sharing with the incoming students about how awesome our partner classes were! Science conversations continued all day long.

*Ready for more...

With our science learning including great videos from TED Talks and The Symphony of Science, my students were ready to talk to scientists around the country. I didn't initially know if any scientist would respond to my emails. But, I was SUPER fortunate to not have one scientist respond...but two!

After watching Phil Plait, @BadAstronomer discuss meteor impacts on a TED Talk, my students had so many awesome questions. So, I contacted Dr. Plait through the TED Talk profile pages, and we set up a time to Skype. WOW! He was awesome! So kid friendly, patient, and excited...the skype was phenomenal. My students had created and voted on questions to ask. They stood before the camera with the most respectful, professional manners. And, it was truly a moment of pride for me! At the end of the Skype, the kids were cheering, and I gave away a couple of his books.

This success gave me the courage to send an email to another scientist, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. My students had listened to several of his videos. They were singing along to Symphony of Science, Onward to the Edge. They were hooked! So, it seemed logical to send a request his way.

I didn't think that we were going to be able to connect because he is a REALLY busy guy! But, when I read the email from Dr. Tyson's assistant confirming a Skype meet up, my hands were shaking with excitement!

This was the grand finale to the year for us! The students were ready for this. I was MORE than excited. We were all nervous. But, when the skype call got going, it was amazing how poised, confident, and inquisitive the students were.

Video of Tyson Skype

I truly believe that this experience was so powerful for many reasons:
*Dr. Tyson is just AWESOME!
*The students had control over the science conversation.
*The students were practiced, seasoned Skypers through the scaffolded interactions through the year.

So, this was my process. I'm sure I made some mistakes, but I'm positive that next year I'll be ready to embark on this journey with another 100+ fifth grade scientists. And, we will learn together.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Twitter in the Science Room

While doing an iPad training in a local school district, we started talking about different directions my classroom learning took this year. It was great to talk out loud and reflect on the really cool aspects that technology introduced to our learning. One topic that was of particular interest to the teachers was our use of a class twitter account... @lacrossescience

After explaining to the teachers that I have a professional twitter account (@llacrosse) and that this account was for our classroom learning, I fielded many questions about using twitter during the school day. I thought I'd share parts of our conversation here as I outline my use of...

Twitter in the Science Room-

Our start with twitter began with students viewing our twitter feed on the big screen. We were following several scientists, including some astronauts and a GREAT scientist in Colorado, Dr. Phil Plait, whom we later skyped with. Students began giving me tweets to send out about what we were learning. We all worked to develop the content of the tweet. It was very teacher-led, and we didn't do this too often because we were very busy with our class mystery skypes!

After modeling this for awhile, I felt comfortable enough to allow students to create tweets about what we were learning in our science labs. Students actually did a pre-write of the tweet on a notecard, and we had fun checking for content, character amount, and thinking of hashtags. Then, they sent them out and read our other science class tweets. So, it became a great way to get them to make science observations and share!

We then began to use twitter to share our projects. The students shared videos made with the ShowMe app. It was great to ask student to share, then pull up our twitter feed on the big screen, and have everyone watch and learn from each other. (Talk about stream lining the work flow!) I was able to open each up, grab my rubrics, and grade while we shared!

Students expanded to sharing lab results through twitter.

We also used twitter to chat with our science friends! Mr. Larizza gave us some mystery fruit pictures to try to ID his location in the world (as he travels a ton, and we try to connect via Skype).

I also used twitter for my "Science in the Pictures" photos. Very easy to send a picture to our twitter stream and discuss in class all the science we could see. This replaced the 20 smart board slides that I previously made and transferred via a flash drive. This makes MY workflow a lot easier!

Towards the end of the year, my students were ready to use twitter to backchannel during our science Skype with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I had 4 students that had twitter running and shared some of the information they were learning during the Skype. (I will be blogging about this MOST AMAZING Skype at a later date!)

Lastly, as students compiled their electronic portfolios, many of them were able to refer back to the twitter feed for copies of their projects. They were able to open them up and add to their google site easily!

These are just a few ways we used twitter this year. Looking back, I'm pleased with the progression. My students ultimately viewed twitter as a learning and sharing tool, which ultimately, it is. As I shared these activities in my training, I did see some apprehension from the teachers. Now, mapping out our use, I can show the scaffolded progression and I'm excited to bring twitter into the science room again next year.

If you have other ideas for using twitter, please share! I'm excited to add on next year.