Well we finally brought it together today when my classroom hooked up with our project school in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Thanks to our great IT Technician, Martin and Andrew Williamson for helping me succeed and getting everything working prior to our Skype call.
It was just great seeing how the kids interacted with their ePals and they each got given a chance to ask a question. We hope to do another Skype call before the end of the year when students from Colarado will ask my students a question. A couple examples of questions that my students thought of included ~ ‘If you were the Prime Minister (President) what would you change?’ and another question was ‘How do you get to school and what if it is snowing’? That in itself was a great question because it was snowing as we spoke. Andrew Miller the classroom teacher said that in the time he had been at the school a school day had never been cancelled. Apparently it needs to be -30 before that happens…brrrrrrr. His principal and vice principal were both present and were delighted to meet Cresten (principal) and Marg (vice principal) from Bell Primary. A number of parents stayed to watch the broadcast which took place at 8.30am our time and 2.30pm on Tuesday for Colorado. That in itself was a lesson for the kids, identifying how we were talking in real time however, they were a day behind.
I have gained a lot of momentum out of completing this project however, ePals is only as good as the teacher at the other end. They need to embrace the opportunity as well and I am thankful that I was paired with Andrew as he has the same thinking as myself and that is to take learning outside. Whether that be locally or globally, we both know it can work. We have already anticipated linking up again next year to complete another project. Unfortunately, due to technical constraints in their school, my Italian counterpart has lapsed which is a shame.
More to come.
My journey of collaborating outside of the confines of 4 classroom walls is now well underway. My students are still continuing to email their Italian counterparts via ePals. A project like this though can only be as good as what the teacher at the other end also brings along. For this school in Italy they are slightly computer poor but you know what?…they are doing the best with what they have and their emails are now filtering through to my students. The kids have uploaded Melbourne landmark images and attached cryptic clues for their ePals to research and then give feedback.
So with this all in mind I went one step further as you know, and my kids are now also participating in an ePals ‘Jump into ePals’ project. Last week students were introduced to forum discussions and they posted information about themselves and where they live in the world. We are into week 2 and this week will focus on sharing emails. We have been matched with a school in Colorado, USA. Andrew who is my team teacher for this project is a Grade 5 teacher from Steamboat Springs, Colorado and he teaches Grade 5. His community is small (15,000 population) and rural. Despite their relative remote location (3 hours from Denver) they have a world class ski resort and an amazing mountain living environment. They call Steamboat Springs Ski Town USA because more USA winter Olympians are from Steamboat than any other town in the USA. The kids are loving it.
Well the kids have started to receive emails from their Italian pen pals. They are asking each other relevant questions such as:
- What is school like for you in Italy?
- What things do you like to do outside of school?
- What are your favourite subjects?
- Do you have brothers and sister?
I guess at this point in time they are finding their feet with one another and trying to overcome the language barrier (thank goodness Epals offer an inbuilt translator in their email package).
My partner teacher, Livia and I want to give the kids a couple of week to get used to emailing and then we shall set a set question for pairs of children to research and work on together.
At Bell Primary our second language is Italian. Although we no longer have an Italian teacher, there is an expectation that we incorporate Italian into our weekly program. My Italian language is very limited so I needed to be creative in thinking of other ways to engage my students in the use of learning some Italian words.
Having used EPals before to collaborate with a class in the United States with a Grade 5/6 class several years ago made me once again go back to EPals to find a classroom and teacher in Italy who would like to converse with an international school.
Livia is from Genoa in Italy and teaches ICT to a Grade 5/6 class. She conducts lessons with two classrooms consisting of 44 students. This really suited my needs and another member of my team was really keen to join in. She is a second year graduate and I felt it would be a great learning opportunity for her to join in. It was also one way of bringing a staff member on board. It will be through her that hopefully other teachers will come on board with trying new and exciting learning opportunities for their students.
Livia and I set up personal Epals email for our students and then assigned students to each other. For the first email we encouraged students to introduce themselves and share information about their personal lives as well as school. They were also asked to consider some questions they would like to ask their Epals.
Several of my students received their first emails today and were so excited. The great thing about Epals is that you can translate what you write into Italian. Livia and I are getting the students to write in their native tongue and then copy what they have written before translating it into either English or Italian. They then paste their original message back into the email. This way students receive both an English and Italian version.
We hope that after writing to each other a few times that we can then start setting pairs a task or question that they can work on together. It is anticipated as we get to the end of the school year that we will try to do a Skype hook-up. The time difference may be an issue but I am sure we can work around it. Stay Tuned!