Social Media and Education

If it weren’t for SKYPE…and good friends…

Posted on: April 3, 2010

March 31 was the deadline for our Global Virtual Classroom Challenge project. Since the first of October, my fourth graders had been creating a website with partners from John Muir School in San Diego, California and Raey Guang School in Ping Tung, Taiwan.

Our website was called Friendship Blossoms. We were studying native plants and trees from our regions and sharing our learning. We built blogs and podcasts within the site. We wanted to use those Web 2.0 tools to teach our students how to use them effectively. In a sense, I supposed I wanted to show my colleagues and administrators that social media needed a permanent home in our classrooms.

We took that issue a step further in early January. We spent an hour Skyping with our partners. My students came back to school at 7:00 in the evening. It was 4 p.m. in California and 8 a.m. the next day in Taiwan. We took turns talking with each other so we could record video of the calls.

The kids had so much fun. The Taiwanese showed us samples of the plants they were studying. They were in a large auditorium. Their administrators were lined up behind them, taking pictures and shooting video. They asked us if any of us could speak Chinese. Together, my kids shouted, “Taiwan!” Hilarious! The kids could not stop laughing.

Then March came. With it came the tedious but satisfying work of assembling the website. The kids made backgrounds, chose fonts, picked colors, arranged and ordered the information. We worked right up to the last day of the contest.

That evening, I started uploading everything to the GVC server. I took a deep breath and clicked on our assigned URL – Error 404 – File Not Found. I started back through the processes. No luck.

Last year, our first year of competing in GVC, one of our partners was Lincoln Elementary School in Oak Park, Illinois and their teacher, Matt Kuntz. A few weeks earlier, he Skyped me to find out how to record a video of a Skype call. I introduced him to Call Recorder, a $20 program that integrates itself seamlessly with Skype. He was planning a conference with his own GVC team.

With my own expertise floundering in a sea of self-doubt. I called Matt on Skype. Fortunately, he answered. Part of the problem was the sheer size of my file, nearly 400 megabytes. We had already cut more than 700mb from the practice site we had built in iWeb.

In all, Matt and I spent nearly five hours working together in face-to-face Skype conversations. There were 3,994 files in the project and 367 of those would not transfer. Matt, with his Dreamweaver expertise, identified them and we were able to make the necessary corrections.

Skype was invaluable to the successful posting of our site. The value of Matt’s friendship was even greater. I cannot imagine what the cost of traditional phone calls would have been. I cannot imagine trying to accomplish any of it through email.

All of this exemplifies the character of the Global Virtual Classroom Challenge. Learning and sharing networks are built and sustained. Children reap huge benefits from learning in a global environment. And though there are winners and losers in the contest, everyone wins. Everyone wins because of the friendships that develop in the process. Those are far greater than a plaque or trophy. Thank you, Matt. And thanks to my other GVC friends, Janet Barnstable, Marsha Goren, Rosalija Barcivec, Anne Lambert, Chiapin Chen, and Pizzicato Hue. You folks are the best. When you read this, Skype me. 🙂

If you would like to see what our kids created, please visit our site.

Rick

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