Earlier this week I was contacted by Dave Winter in Hamilton, New Zealand, via a Skype-forwarded voicemail. Dave wanted to visit about Google Sites and how we’ve used it to configure our project wiki for Celebrate Oklahoma Voices. This morning I got on Skype and was able to visit “live” with Dave briefly before he retired for the night. It was about midnight his time, tomorrow. He’s putting together a very nice ConnectedED learning community site, as a regional affiliate for CORE NZ. Their vision is:

To foster and establish a wide community of practice further developing a culture of improving learning environments for the region’s students. To facilitate ICT initiatives that create regional capacity and are aligned with the expressed needs of the community. For educators within the region to feel more connected with each other.

Morning Skype call with Dave Winter in New Zealand

My wife and son were in our living room with me for this ten minute Skype connection, and afterwards we all reflected how amazing our world is today. Ten or twenty years ago who would have thought we could start the day with a short phone conversation, for free, over fiber optic undersea cabling with someone living literally in TOMORROW on the other side of the planet? My wife’s comment was, “Well, that’s the world YOU live in.” My thought was that it’s the world we all CAN live in, but due to multiple factors not everyone does.

Mr Spacely and George Jetson

This morning was week 14 of my “Technology 4 Teachers” class at the University of Central Oklahoma, and our theme was “synchronous conferencing.” In my first two-hour class Jeff Utecht was kind to Skype in and visit with us from Bangkok, Thailand. Bangkok is 12 hours ahead of us in Oklahoma, so Jeff was about to retire for the day as well. It was great to have him share a little about Thailand and some of the opportunities available for international teachers. For educators interested in possibly teaching overseas, Jeff recommended the websites for International School Services as well as Search Associates. Both help with international teacher placements. Fortunately Jeff does not live downtown in Bangkok, as Kim Cofino does, so he and his wife have not been directly affected by the ongoing protests there. Kim has not been able to get home for several days. Jeff explained a little of the political situation, and it’s certainly complicated. It was great for my students to hear from Jeff, and actually participate in an international Skype call with someone across the Pacific Ocean.

During my second two-hour class today, Kristin Hokanson skyped to us from Philadelphia and not only discussed the ways she’s helped teachers and students at her school use Skype, but also some of the important advocacy work she continues to do in partnership with Renee Hobbs and others at the Temple University Media Education Lab. Some of Kristin’s teachers and students were able to participate in an interactive videoconference with author Dan Pink, organized by Karl Fisch. She discussed the value of classroom-to-classroom collaborations, as students present to and for each other, and the ways students can develop collaboration skills working with peers in other locations. Kristin’s message on copyright and the use of images in the classroom focused on “intellectual property” and the overriding purpose of copyright law, which was/is to encourage creativity. This is the message of the excellent music video produced by the Temple Media Education Lab, “What’s Copyright?” We are using this as part of our copyright discussions in Celebrate Oklahoma Voices.

I started off both my classes today with the video, “Inclusion” by Brian Crosby, shared as a referenced video link in his outstanding K12Online08 presentation, “Video-Conferencing It’s Easy, Free and Powerful.” This powerful video can meaningfully frame conversations about the the power (both actual and potential) of synchronous conferencing technologies in the classroom. That’s how we used it today.

At the end of our lesson, I shared the first five minutes of Silvia Tolisano‘s phenomenal K12Online09 presentation, “Around the World with Skype.” Silvia’s presentation (also available in Spanish) and her “supporting documents” blog post are chock-full of instructional examples of how synchronous conferencing is being used transformatively in classrooms around the world.

It was quite a morning of Skype connections! Many thanks to Jeff Utecht, Kristin Hokanson, Brian Crosby and Silvia Tolisano whose live as well as asynchronous contributions made this morning’s learning opportunities for my T4T students much richer and more engaging! The edited lecturecast from today is uploading now to our T4T Blip.tv channel, and should be available / encoded in an hour or so. (When it’s finished in the morning I’ll embed it here in case you want to check it out.)

Week 14: Synchronous Conferencing
All lecturecasts as well as student-written “scribe posts” for the Spring 2010 “Technology 4 Teachers” class are available on our T4T Shared Learning blog.

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