Skyping Across the Continent

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Yesterday my students had the wonderful experience of Skyping with Jody Amri’s class Oregon. This was the first time Skyping for my students, and they LOVED it!

Before our Skype chat, Jody and I planned an agenda of what we would like to cover in the 30-minute meeting. We included introductions, comparing/contrasting the time and weather at both of our schools, discussing the subtopics, and sharing how we would celebrate Halloween (our Skype chat was on October 31st!). I shared the agenda with my students before our meeting and taped it next to our computer so we could reference it during our chat.

For my students, there were two major benefits of the Skype chat. One was having the opportunity to discuss the AWL essential questions and subtopic information with their peers. I only have three students participating in the project, and they are all in different subgroups, so here at school they don’t have other peers to consult when they’re stuck for fresh ideas. It was wonderful for them to connect with their subgroup peers and share what they’ve found so far! Also, we’re VERY excited that Mrs. Amri invited us to call her on Skype at any time when my students would like to connect!

The second major benefit of the Skype chat for my students was the experience of Skyping in itself. Mrs. Amri did a beautiful thing by telling my students that she noticed they became much more comfortable and natural as our conversation went on. At first they were shy, giving short answers or mere nods, but as our conversation came to a close, they were speaking normally with their friends in Oregon. It was great to see!

I appreciate so much that Jody shared her experience with my students and with me. I learned a lot from her about how to facilitate a Skype chat, and she and her students were very encouraging with my kiddos.

Thank you Jody, Mrs. Amri’s class, and Flat Classroom for providing this experience!

Mrs. Guerrerro

Blue Ridge Elementary

New Milford, PA

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A Small Globe…………..

I had the pleasure of attending three student summits recently with students in Nepal.  The first summit was with the Lincoln School in Nepal and Yew Chung International School in Beijing, China. During the second summit, Chris Betcher, keynoter for Flat Classroom® 12-2, joined the summit, to the delight of the students.  During the third summit, Jeff Lebow, Ed Tech Talk Guru, dropped in to visit with students. Participating with these students, I knew their hearts were being touched (nods to a high school sophomore in the US) as teachers prepare them for their futures.

Nepal-China Summir3Surprise Guest



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Nepal Students Finish Strong


I have written a blog post on our own project site about what the students have gained from this project and my insights. I will repost here, but be sure to visit our blog for individual student reflections:


Grades 3-5 have completed their Flat Classroom unit.

This has indirectly had an impact on the entire school as many teachers have adjusted, adapted, gone without, rescheduled, and otherwise dealt with the increased demand for the laptop cart in support of this project. A shout-out to everyone!

This is the first year Nepal has been represented in this project and our students were some of nearly 800 from the U.S., Canada, China, India, Lesotho, and elsewhere. It was truly a learning experience us and was far from perfect. Yet, shortcomings and frustrations aside, the students learned and gained more than they may initially realize. More than what our students gained is what they contributed to the project. They provided an insider’s glimpse into Nepal, a country most of the participating students had never really known about or even heard of. One of my favorite pictures shows an entire class in middle America gathered around a map pointing to Nepal. That’s what we’ve done. Like others have noted, the best question we can ask is what are students contributing to the world as a result of their learning?

Monday and Tuesday of this week our students participated in a reflection celebration which included a live webinar/summit with students, teachers, and project administrators from around the world. Some teachers got up in the middle of the night to join us. It was a great chance for our students to speak, reflect, and ask questions in real-time and know their voices and video were being carried to others in far away places. We saw and spoke with a class at YCIS in Beijing. A very well-respected Google superstar friend of mine joined us from Sydney unexpectedly and the 5th graders couldn’t ask him questions fast enough. My favorite was when a student asked him how they handle loadshedding in Sydney:) (We started by defining it for him…)  Such a setting on this scale was a first for our elementary students. These students truly did connect, collaborate, and co-create.

We ended with a rousing exploration of my recent favorite Google World Wonders Project. The excitement in the air was tangible as students explored underwater at the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon, ventured inside Scott’s preserved hut in Antarctica, and even went to the moon and Mars. They couldn’t contain themselves and were a hubbub of activity showing cool things to their neighbors. They didn’t even want to stop for treats. These students also made a realization that Nepal and India (and most of Asia) aren’t on there yet, and that exploration is not over: they can contribute to the greater knowledge of the world.

This project has been a great example of expanding classroom walls and truly making the world a little more flat.


Thanks, everyone!

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Lovin’ the Voicethread!

Both 3rd grade classes in our school (Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet, IL) are participating in this project and LOVE to use Voicethread!  We have 3 designated spots where they can quietly add their voices to their pictures.  They find their avatar (for the most part) before they add their voice and they are on their way!

I am especially proud of the way they handle the computers because they are moving them from place to place.  They are responsible and thoughtful.  When someone else is narrating, they wait their turn (I have 2 students go to the special spots).

The students are excited to see and hear new narrations on their project Voicethread and look forward to seeing them all!

We love Voicethread!

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Activities that occur during “A Week in the Life” A Flat Classroom Project

On my last blog post the question was raised: What are some of the activities that occur when you participate in the “A Week in the Life Project”? (a Flat Classroom Project).  To kick off the projects students were asked to create a handshake.  Since we were connecting with other students around the globe, we had to create a virtual handshake.  Students were using information about our school and students. My students created a handshake using Jig Saw Planet. The students came up with different facts about our state and then found a picture of a famous landmark. Feel free to try out our virtual handshake puzzle Where Are We Located.  Students enjoyed figuring out the puzzle and enjoyed learning about other places. They could not believe we will be connect with students from China and India besides others states.

The moderators who are running the “A Week in the Life” project asked teachers to assign each student a different topic and place them in groups in a Google Doc.  Each group includes one student from about five or different schools.  The groups were created on Edmodo.  Students were then able to post personal handshakes on Edmodo to introduce themselves using various programs such as xtranormal, Comic Life, SmileBox .  My students wrote about their favorite activities and gave some details about themselves.  Next, time I do this project I will be having my students create short videos using Frames in which they will discuss information about themselves.

It was suggested in one of our “A Week in the Life” Flat Classroom meetings to have students collect media during the school day if you thought it might be a problem having them bring in cameras or cellphones to school.  This was a great suggestion and I decided to try it out.  It has been working extremely well with my students. My students started their Media collection about two weeks ago.  They were excited to be able to go around school during their lunch recess time to take pictures of objects they needed.  Students have been taking pictures of the clothes they wear, food they eat for lunch, their classroom and the school building along with other items that occur in their daily lives.  They truly are enjoying this great project and look forward to the forty minutes we spend together in the computer classroom.

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Forming Global Connections

We’ve spent the last few sessions trying to form connections. Students are encouraged to connect within their small groups in Edmodo around their various topics. Teachers monitor these groups and try to keep the discussions flowing. Sometimes the students get off topic and don’t follow the general guidelines we established in the beginning. When this happens, as it did for a group of our students, we turned it into a learning experience for the students and held a class discussion about appropriate online communication and commenting.

Speaking of commenting, we watched this great video about leaving quality comments and then practiced commenting on others’ posts within Edmodo (also noted in an earlier blog post by Heather Goggins). 

Now that we are three-quarters of the way through this project, we wanted the students to make a more solid connection geographically with the schools on our team. This hasn’t really happened yet. Since there are 800 students participating in several schools, students are formed into small groups. We’ve found they have had a hard time connecting with the actual schools we are partnered with. To help with this, we solved the “handshake” from each particular school, wrote down something that we learned, used Google search to look for more information as needed, and then shared with the class what we had found. The highlight was looking on Google Maps to see where the school is located. Some even had the Street View enabled and students became very excited to see the actual school and its neighborhood. Here’s a map of the schools participating in this project:

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Collecting Multimedia

[From our own project blog: Global Snow Leopards]

One of the main ways to get around Kathmandu is on a motorbike. Many of our teachers and staff ride motorbikes to school. The driver must always wear a helmet, so everywhere in town has a place to keep helmets.

One of the main ways to get around Kathmandu is on a motorbike. Many of our teachers and staff ride motorbikes to school. The driver must always wear a helmet, so everywhere in town has a place to keep helmets.

We checked out several digital cameras and video cameras from our school library and sent the kids around the school to take pictures related to their topic. The “food” group took pictures of our tuk shop, lunch line, types of food we eat, the lunch tables we eat on, etc. The “transportation” group took pictures of our bus fleet (which looks quite different from U.S. yellow busses, motorbikes, bikes, and interviewed a few of the bus drivers. The “celebrations” group filmed a few students performing a traditional Nepali dance. The “language” group interviewed students and staff members speaking various languages. We sorted them into categories and uploaded them to shared Google Drive folders.

One of the hardest parts of this project is getting the kids to see themselves (and their everyday lives and their school) through the eyes of another. Sure, they can take a picture of the drinking fountain and say, “This is where we get a drink.” But can they say, “Tap water in Nepal can make you very sick, so all of our drinking fountains have filters that clean the water before we can drink it.” Sure, they can take pictures of the housing around the school, but can they say, “Houses here are often made of manmade bricks, have large water tanks on the roof, often have solar panels that heat the water, and sometimes we can play on the roof.” They can interview people speaking other languages but can they say, “In our class of 25 students, we have over a dozen nationalities and languages spoken.” They can take a picture of the school bell, but can they say, “Our school has two gong bells. A man rings them manually with a little hammer-type instrument. One pitch is for the secondary students and a different pitch is for the younger students. The bell-ringer is never late.”

You get the idea.

They see their life but have to dig deeper to see how it is really unique and sets them apart from the other schools in the project. That is an on-going challenge.

We will soon start uploading the media to VoiceThread and actually creating a multimedia presentation collaboratively with other students from our partner schools. Wish us luck!

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