Monday, 6 October 2014

#EducampNZ Smackdown on Air

Tonight I got to participate in my second ever Google Hangout (my first having been our planning meeting a few days ago) and to add to the experience it was a live on air hangout, which meant that we had a viewing audience!  Talk about jumping in the deep end.

Our planning chat hadn't really required me to say anything, which was a good thing as my computer microphone decided it didn't like me wearing headphones and refused to pick up anything I was saying.  Fortunately, I figured that I'd be ok for tonight as I had my TELA laptop and an iPad as back ups; however, I realised after our meeting that I really didn't know how all the Hangout features worked.  This resulted in an entertaining 20 minutes this morning where I logged in on one device as myself and on another as my son, put them in different rooms so that I could check the microphones were working, and then dashing backwards and forwards between the 2 devices to see what happened when I pushed different buttons. I'm sure someone could suggest a more practical method, but I was the only person at home, I like to figure things out by myself until I know I can do them,  and the dog and cat were suitably entertained.

In any case, I felt confident that I knew what I was doing and was ready for the live hangout.

The purpose of the Google Hangout was to share the Educampnz movement and also ways of connecting with other educators, using the Smackdown format often used at Educamp.  This was our contribution to Connected Educator Month, which takes place throughout October.  If you want to know more about it check out the website here. There were several of us from up and down the country contributing to the Smackdown, ably facilitated by Fiona Grant.

As well as having the opportunity to contribute myself, I had a front row seat to listen to all the other contributors and the things they had to share.  I learnt about several ways of connecting that I hadn't heard of before and even got introduced to the term FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in relation to being a connected educator - certainly something that I suffer from at times.  

I spoke about using travel buddies as a way of building national and international connections for your students.

Here's a sort of transcript of what I said during my part of the Smack down ( I'd pre-written notes because I wanted to make sure I remembered everything).

Travel buddies are a really easy way to connect your class with other classes, both nationally and internationally. I've been using travel buddies with my students since 1999 and I was able to create these learning experiences for my classes through my own online connections.

Travel buddies can be as simple and inexpensive as posting a flat Stanley in an envelope. This was the first travel buddy experience I participated in. After reading Jeff Brown's book, we drew our own flat Stanley's and posted them to a host class, we received theirs  in return.

When sending a travel buddy, you often send them with artefacts that represent or tell something about your town, city or country. These usually stay with the hosting class as a Koha for hosting.  The host class keeps your travel buddy for whatever amount of time you have agreed upon & they are responsible for keeping a journal or diary sharing what the travel buddy gets up to and include photos where they can. Back in the 90s and early 2000s this was usually a physical journal. These days it can be digital e.g. A blog post, Skype chat, google doc, or similar.

A few years ago Rohi the Kea went on a grand tour of NZ and was passed between several classes throughout NZ who all contributed to a collaborative blog. This was a great way for all the children to learn about different parts of NZ.

Last year my class hosted Snail and Whale who were travelling around NZ complete with the book about their adventures. This was easily incorporated into our literacy programme. When it was time to send them on to their next school we recorded inside the cover of the book to show who we were and where we were from.

Sometimes travel buddies go astray - Kara the kiwi never returned from her trip to Wisconsin. She was posted from the U.S. but never made it home. Rohi, was accidentally sold at a school gala but fortunately she was retrieved and was able to continue on her travels. This doesn't happen often but it worth keeping in mind - this is one of the reasons why I make sure mine are small, light and inexpensive. Keeping them small also helps keep postage costs down.

Travel buddies are a great way for teachers to connect and collaborate with other teachers and provides an engaging and accessible learning opportunity for their students

I have to admit to a huge sense of relief once I'd finished my bit.  I was also really pleased with how it had gone.  Having never really participated in a Google Hangout before, I have to say it was a fantastic way of presenting to others and I loved the collaborative aspect as well.

Here is a link to the recording of the hangout if you missed it:

This is a link to the supporting Google Presentation document It's open for you to edit if you have something to add.

Finally, I've included a link to my Wiki page about travel buddies and I've embedded the EdTalk video, filmed a few years ago now, where I talked about connecting through classroom projects such as travel buddies - just  in case you wanted to know more.

There are so many ways that educators can connect with each other, check out the hangout recording, browse through the presentation and give something new a try.  I certainly did tonight, and had a blast.

Travel buddies from EDtalks on Vimeo.