Toward the close of this past school year, I had the pleasure of connecting my classroom with another U.S. History classroom in Liberty, MO, using Skype. The teacher, Eric Langhorst, and I configured two half-hour sessions in which our students could discuss recent topics of study.
The impact of that opportunity was amazing. Word spread instantly though the district about what my students did in class and I still hear from people how “cool” they thought that was.
“Cool”, although it certainly was that, does not adequately describe the event in its entirety. The instructional implications were far greater. By helping to smash the barriers that enclose learning within the four walls of the classroom, students are able to see how technology should be used in the school and learning.
This wiki, the “Skype and Author Network”, is a fantastic project that deserves attention. By allowing students to connect with an author and discuss their book as they are reading makes a lasting impression and solidifies learning that has taken place and opens unique opportunities for enhancement.
The technology required to facilitate this activity is within reach of nearly every classroom I have seen. All a classroom needs is a computer with high-speed Internet access and a web-cam (these can be purchased for $25). For a more enhanced experience, a LCD projector can be used for a larger display, but is not required.
Our students are surrounded by an increasing ubiquity of technology that is advancing at an increasing rate. Teachers do not need to know how to use it all and apply it seamlessly in their lessons for them to participate in the growing trend, they must simply seek simple applications with lasting effects and demonstrate for their students that technology is not just for entertainment and leisure, it is for learning, too.