So the EraserTowners are wiggly, chatty, silly, and goofy. They are seven- and eight-year-olds after all. So why would a teacher (me) sign them up to stand in front of a camera to be seen by five other classrooms across Pennsylvania?
Well, there were a few reasons. First, it was to participate in a videoconference with MAGPI entitled Famous Americans - a guessing game activity where each school gave clues about three different people and the other schools had to guess who they were. (see here for photos, etc.). My class has been researching "famous Americans" and learning about being good citizens four a few years now. We do it in the fall, and it is a difficult project for the beginning of second grade. But, I have learned that the benefits are well worth the effort it takes. And, the children truly immerse themselves in their work and take ownership of their learning. It is a guided research project, so I am helping them every step of the way. This is hard work for me, of course, but I am building skills that the children will need through the year and in years to come. So, to give the children a chance to share information they are gathering anyway with other children their age in a fun guessing game activity was the first reason to sign up for the videoconference.
The second reason was because these children love to work collaboratively. They love to move around, plan, and create things. For this videoconference, the children would not only be listening to other people presenting, they, too, would be the presenters. That is quite a job for young children! But since the other classes joining us would be second and third grade classes, I rationalized that we would all be working at the same level so "what could go wrong" in my class?
I also believe strongly in giving young children the chance to see how technology can be used and to be a part of the tech-side of the projects. I model how to set things up, explain the problems, and ask for their help when appropriate. I explain to them the possible snags in our plan and ask them to help me prepare for Plan B and even Plan C if necessary.
After all the preparation and the discussion of proper behavior when participating in this type of event, we did have a moment of "bunny ears" during the set-up. I did get very nervous that we would (they would) fall apart in front of all the other schools. But, as I had originally expected, they worked so well together and pulled it off fantastically. Even though, because of technical difficulties, we could not see the other schools as they presented, my students worked hard, took notes together, pretty much sat still for over an hour, and presented like professionals. We also learned some great videoconferencing tips that we can share with our school.
Oh, and there was some curriculum-type learning that went on as well! Oops, almost forgot about that!