For the past several weeks Diane McAlister’s first grade class at Reidville Elementary School has been writing to a class in Washington State, where each student had a pen pal. The culminating activity was a Skype teleconference with the other class. I had the privilege of visiting the class this past week while the conference was taking place.
A projector was set up so that all of the kids could watch what was going on. However, most of the kids preferred to sit around the laptop with the webcam. Each student took his or her turn at the webcam talking to their partners on the other side of the country.
Most of the questions were scripted and simple – “Do you have any pets?” “What color is your bedroom?” “Do you play any sports?”, etc. While listening to the exchanges, I realized that their partner school was in LaConner, Washington, a town I’ve visited many times. I suggested some questions specifically related to the town about the Tulip Festival and Rainbow Bridge. However, I keep forgetting that these are first graders, and simple really does work best.
I couldn’t stay for the entire exchange, but I enjoyed watching kids from different parts of the country interact with each other. Most of my counterparts from around the state block Skype for their school districts. I choose not to, mainly because of the potential for activities like this. I’ve also learned that another class at the high school uses the audio portion of Skype to allow a home-bound student to listen in on the lessons. Yet another great use for the program.
It’s times like these that make me really enjoy what I do. I just wish they came more often.