Saturday’s article in the Daily Oklahoman by Jesse Olivarez, “Internet connection broadens horizons in Deer Creek school,” is one of the first I’ve seen highlighting the instructional use of Skype for classroom to classroom collaborations in central Oklahoma. Deer Creek is the school district located just west of Edmond, where I live. According to the article:
Principal Michelle Anderson said the idea of using Skype, which is a free service, to talk to students and teachers abroad began in earnest last spring. She had received an e-mail from a teacher in Buckingham, England, looking for a school in the U.S. that could help her. The teacher, Lucy Howard, had just begun teaching her students about severe weather and was hoping to make a connection with a school that lived in tornado alley.
Through e-mails and phone conversations, the teachers and staff at both schools began building a rapport with one another. In time, the teachers began talking about the idea of allowing their students to become video pen-pals.
Hopefully members of our Edmond School Board are paying attention. Skype use has not been permitted / supported on the Edmond Public Schools network in the past. Perhaps that door can open in the future, especially as we see positive, constructive uses of interactive videoconferencing amplified in mainstream media articles like this one. School leaders tend to look more to their neighboring districts who are sports competitors rather than districts around the nation or world who may be exemplary in other areas. For this reason, it’s great to see Deer Creek educators modeling the use of Skype to support classroom learning. The fact that this example is LOCAL significantly increases the chances that my own local leaders will notice, I’d hypothesize.
I showed Brian Crosby’s video “Inclusion” during my opening keynote in Hong Kong last week at the 21st Century Learning conference there, and it made a big impression on several of the administrators in attendance who talked with me about it afterward. Synchronous conferencing should become a “normal” part of educational learning in our schools. In many districts, however, we still need to “unmask the digital truth” to learn why technologies like Skype are often not permitted or supported.
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