This is my second of a five part series about my Skype in the Classroom journey. If you would like to read the entire journey, here it is!
1. My Skype Challenge
2. Skype is blocked???? (and other issues)
3. My First Skype Mystery - Figuring out how to Skype
4. Answer The Call!
5. Windows to the World (Global Classroom)
In my last post I talked about how I fell into the crazy world of Skype in the Classroom. The gist of the post was that after learning about Skype in the Classroom with only 2 weeks left of school, I decided to challenge myself to set up a call with a class or guest speaker from all 7 continents. Not only was this goal accomplished but I was able to set up 16 Skype calls during the last 6 school days after only knowing about Skype in the Classroom for 8 days.... Sounds good right??? Wrong....
Things happened so quickly that I did run into some road blocks along the way. The reason I'm blogging about this is because I want to make the point that sometimes things don't go perfectly, but great things can still result from it!
Here were some of the bumps in the road:
1.) Skype in the Classroom and Skype are blocked at my school. (Uh...that's a problem!)
2.) I tried to record our three guest speakers' calls with VodBurner and failed on all three attempts.
3.) I set up a Mystery Skype call with a student in South Africa but she found out that we were from Ohio before the call. I found this out 2 minutes before the call started.
4.) When we Skyped with Costa Rica, our video feed didn't work.
5.) When we Skyped with a freshman class in Belgium about Social Media, the audio didn't work.
6.) The teacher from the school in Chile cancelled the day before our call because she said their region experienced some really bad storms and their school was closed. (This was our only cancellation.)
7.) My contact in Japan got confused with the day because of the time difference and cancelled on me 5 days before the call.
If you are planning on using Skype in the Classroom, Google Hangout, etc., you may run into some of the problems above. For some of the problems, I had a few days to try to figure out a solution. Other problems I only had minutes, and for one problem, I didn't solve it until after school was out. Here are how I solved these problems:
1.) Skype in the Classroom is blocked at my school. (Uh...that's a problem!) I used my laptop and was able to access the Skype in the Classroom site and Skype this way. I'm going to request for it to be unblocked for this coming school year. I know it's silly, but be sure you've tested everything at school and Skyped with the teacher before your actual call. Just because it works at home doesn't mean it works at school.
2.) I tried to record our three guest speakers' calls with VodBurner and failed on all three attempts. So, this is the problem I figured out AFTER the school year. If you've read some of my other posts, you'll remember that I flipped my classroom for about 6 weeks. I used Camtasia to create my Screencasts and I have NO idea why I didn't think about recording the calls this way. I know I was just overwhelmed with scheduling the calls because such a simple solution was right at my fingertips (literally icons away from each other!) Oh well....lesson learned!
(Camtasia's icon is the one on the far right! So close to a solution.....)
3.) I set up a Mystery Skype call with a student in South Africa but she found out that we were from Ohio before the call. I found this out 2 minutes before the call started. We still did the Mystery Skype with her from our end. Our students were really shocked when she said she was NOT located in the Western Hemisphere. (It was the first and only Mystery Skype we did outside of the the Western Hemisphere!) Because she didn't have to ask us questions, we had more time to talk to her about her daily life, climate, culture, etc. It ended up working out perfectly!
4.) When we Skyped with Costa Rica, our video feed didn't work. Although it was really disappointing, we decided to chat with one another on Skype. Ironically, we were able to control the class a little better because we didn't have the noise from our class and the noise from the other class at the same time. The students stared at the screen intently as their answers came through. It ended up working out fine in the end! So, if you have a problem with video or audio, don't give up. At the very least, use the chat function to still complete a modified version of the call. The teacher and I emailed pictures to one another after the call so the students could see who they talked to!
5.) When we Skyped with a freshman class in Belgium about Social Media, the audio didn't work. Again, out of 16 calls, we only really had two issues with the technology which isn't too bad. This call was pretty awkward because the Belgium students could see and hear us but we couldn't hear them. Because we could see them, we decided to talk to them while they typed to us. This was one of the few non-mystery skype calls that we had planned so it was especially disappointing. We planned a Social Media debate where my students prepared three con arguments while the Belgium students prepared three pro arguments. Again, everything seemed to work out though, because I gave the students all 6 arguments printed out so they could read their arguments during the call and we discussed a lot with the students before and after the call. In the end, it worked out - it wasn't ideal but it worked.
6.) The teacher from the school in Chile cancelled the day before our call because she said their region experienced some really bad storms and their school was closed. (This was the only cancellation) This call was supposed to occur on the very last day of school so there was no hope in rescheduling. Hopefully next year we'll be able to plan a call together.
7.) My contact in Japan got confused with the day because of the time difference and cancelled on me 5 days before the call. This was the NOT the only issue that I had with time differences, however it was the only one that caused a cancellation. When scheduling calls be sure to find the current local time for the other city. Because my mission was to Skype with every continent and this call was supposed to be a part of the Group Skype call after the Math Is Everywhere Fair, I became quite desperate trying to find a class to Skype with. I started messaging many other teachers on the Skype in the Classroom site and Twitter. It took me a few days to secure on a contact and two days before the event, I had everything set up.
One of the biggest twists to this story comes because the first Japanese teacher canceled. I'll discuss this surprise call and the other unique activities that we did during the group Skype call in a few more posts. Stay tuned!
Lesson #16: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
Lesson #17: Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. Step back from your current problem, don't get overwhelmed and try to look at the problem from a different angle (Ex. Vodburner/Camtasia)
Just like everything in teaching, you have to be ready to adapt at any moment. When using technology and especially for activities such as Skype in the Classroom calls, be ready for anything and everything. Let me know of any situations like the ones above that you've encountered. Leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter at @ArinKress. Thanks for reading!