Create a Live, Permanent, Always On Video Conference...
(Quick news first: I was interviewed for the EdTechCrew podcast http://www.edtechcrew.net/2010/11/09/ed-tech-crew-142-innovating-with-steve-collis/ . It went really well - the two guys who run it are just lovely people, Darrel Branson (The ICT Guy) and Tony Richards from itmadesimple.com . My episode is sandwiched between two others that I also recommend, one with Lucy Barrow and another with Dean Groom. In all three, virtual worlds are discussed to some degree.)
AND NOW ON WITH THE SHOW:
"Create a Live, Permanent, Always On Video Conference..."
...by which I mean have a computer in your school that provides a permanent video conference link to another school. This becomes a little window out into the world. Students who walk by can glance at the screen and see who is at the other end. If they want to they can put on a headset and chat!
When I thought we'd give this a go I went first to Judy O'Connell (@heyjudeonline on Twitter). She works as teacher/librarian at St Joseph's College, Riverview. In fact, this is quite close to my school, and in the same city. But the point was, let's just get cracking! Let's see if this can work! Let's see what goes wrong! Let's just get some momentum going.
My initial email to Judy was brief, and she picked up on the idea immediately. We didn't have a meeting, we didn't write a program, we didn't design a policy.
Within a couple of days she had set up the computer at her end, and I had at mine, and we were ready to go.
All we needed to do is boot up the computer, run Skype, and call each other with a video-call. It runs all day. We leave it to serendipity as to who will talk to who, when, and about what.
We've done this two days so far.
At my end, I needed to quickly adapt the plan as we went. My students need to sign an agreement before sitting at the computer. I have a script of questions that they can ask - "What are you learning at the moment? How is your day going?" and so on. I have emphasised everywhere DO NOT GIVE OUT YOUR SURNAME OR CONTACT DETAILS!
Two more things have to happen:
- I need to move the location of the computer somewhere a little more discrete (not too discrete - we need to supervise!).
- I want to set a screen recorder up on a loop so we can actually record everything that's happening for monitoring purposes, so I can tell the students 'you are being recorded'! General rule of thumb: students behave differently if they know they are being monitored.
Once I've sorted that, I want to set up two or three permanent connections, not with local Sydney schools, but with schools in Japan, Russia, and the outback (in all three cases the time zone will be workable)
It's early days in this project, but I love this way of working: Ready, Fire, Aim, or "Act, then think". This method grounds your ideas in practice, making it really obvious really soon what will and won't work, rather than putting energy into planning that can come to nothing through fatigue or impracticality.
More later, I'm sure!