Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Connecting Our Classrooms via Daily Email

The previous post entitled, Learning With Tomorrow, explains how @Capt_KK and I are in the process of creating a global classroom. You may want to read that post first to get a better perspective of our journey!

After Jacqui and I started brainstorming via a shared google doc we realized the great potential of blending our curriculum. We also realized that we didn't need to Skype live to still provide communication with the students.

One of the first ideas Jacqui had (with some help of one of her colleagues) was to create a collaborative activity where our class's response would be dependent on information received from the other class. So, she developed the highly engaging and math centered game "International Naval Warfare" aka Battleship. :)

Because Perth is currently 13 hours ahead of us, Skyping with the students is not feasible during the school day. So, like anything else, when you're determined, you make things work. And sometimes the answer is very simple: For us, email seemed to provide us with a simple solution.

So, everyday, each class sends one coordinate via email to the other class along with the reply if the previous day's shot was a hit or miss. At first glance, I thought we would focus on plotting coordinates on a coordinate grid, but the activity has transformed into an amazing opportunity to discuss probability. The activity takes less than 5 minutes to complete everyday, and it's the FIRST thing the students want to do when they get to school.

Here's an example of the game boards so you can see how we set up the game.

This board shows my students' shots. So far the students have sunk one ship!
This is an example of the board that shows where our ships are hidden. Jacqui's students have already sunk a ship and are on their way to sinking another one! :( 

Here's an example of one of the emails and an audio clip that Jacqui sent my students after getting our second straight hit:

My students were thrilled to not only get a hit but to be able to hear the students' voices (and accents!)  Our emails got much more detailed as the weeks progressed. We've decided to include student names and sometimes fun facts such as birthdays, interests, etc. (Jacqui and her class even sang Happy Birthday for one of my students and sent the message in as an audio file!) Talk about feeling special!

Now, three weeks later, my students submit questions to me that Jacqui answers via email and I do the same. I print off the emails and give the answers to the students. They are always so excited to get a response. The responses just take a few minutes, but to the students, the reply from someone half a world away is priceless.

Could we have this very short communication via Twitter? Most definitely. Could we answer questions via a shared blog? Sure. Right now, email works for us, but I would suggest using the easiest form of communication for you and your students - just don't let time zones hold you back!  There are very low tech, fun ways that your classroom can connect with another classroom in another state, country or continent. Email communication isn't the only way we are connecting our students, however. In future posts I will explain our weekly video sharing project that has really accelerated the learning in our classroom.

If you would like more information on the math concepts that we've covered in the Battleship game, please refer to the next post which is full of pictures and specific examples.

Here are links to all 7 posts in this series:

Learning with Tomorrow
Connecting our Classrooms via Daily Emails
International Naval Warfare
Connecting our Classrooms - Weekly Video Series
Student Success Stories
Future Plans
How To Connect YOUR Classroom

Interested in creating a global classroom? Follow the #globalclassroom and #flatclass hashtags on Twitter for ideas from educators around the globe!  Here are just a few others I follow that continuously provide excellent global classroom resources:  @flatclassroom and @julielindsay.

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