Our second K12Online LAN party was a hit! In order to appeal to a different crowd, we held this one at ISB Teacher Housing right after school on a Thursday evening. Although it was definitely more convenient for most teachers, trying to get energized and focused on learning after a long day of work was a little more difficult than our previous Saturday morning party. Thankfully, we had three amazing guests visit and chat with us via Skype, which kept everyone engaged for the two-hour event.
First up, we had the wonderful Allanah King from New Zealand share the story of how she got started using new tools like Skype, blogs, wikis and podcasts in her classroom. It was quite late for Allanah (I think something like 10pm) but she was as enthusiastic and passionate as always! Having Allanah there to start our party was a great way to demonstrate the power of connected learning from the outset – and to be able to use a tool, which is new for some, to kick-start our conversation was the perfect beginning!
After we chatted with Allanah, we watched Brian Crosby’s excellent presentation, “Video-Conferencing It’s Easy, Free and Powerful” about his experience using Skype in the classroom. I have to admit, no matter how many times I watch Brian and his students talk about involving Celeste in their classroom, I tear up. This presentation ended up, totally unintentionally I have to admit, setting the tone for our entire party. We spent most of our time talking about the power of Skype in the classroom. Chrissy and I shared a few examples and we brainstormed about the potential of bringing expert voices and outside guests into our daily learning environment.
Continuing along our Skype theme, we had a very welcome visit from Nancy von Wahlde in Madrid, Spain. Amazingly, two of our current ISB teachers, Erin and Ali, had worked with Nancy (and many of her colleagues) in previous years. We had an unexpected reunion, which really brought home the potential of Skype. Nancy was right in the middle of her day in Madrid, so we got to see a few of her students in action and experience the hustle and bustle of the American School of Madrid with her.
Finally, we had a perfectly-timed call with Chris Betcher – who was using Skype on his mobile phone while spending some time with his family (Chris, you never cease to amaze me!). Chris shared some of his IWB secrets (soon to be published in his book, Teaching With Interactive Whiteboards) as well as tons of advice on how to use Moodle in the classroom (which ISB has recently implemented in the middle and high schools). As usual, Chris had a wealth of resources to share, not only about IWBs and Moodle, but also podcasting, screencasting, and digital video editing (we got the inside scoop on how he made his fantastic K12Online presentation about tagging).
Although we had a somewhat makeshift setup (check out the wobbly projector stand we put together with some of Ali’s still unpacked boxes from her move to Bangkok this year), this was another powerful experience of learning together. At the end of the session, we brainstormed ways to kick ‘em up a notch to get even more people interested. Here are a few ideas that we came up with (mostly thanks to John, so I can’t take much of the credit):
- Send an e-mail to the people who have expressed an interest to get them talking about the event in an effort to create a “buzz.”
- Ask attendees what they want to learn about next – come in with a plan or a focus that can be advertised in advance (an excellent idea, requiring more work than I’ve put into the parties thus far). Although it was unintentional this time around, I really liked having a focus on one specific tool – sometimes it’s easier for people to wrap their heads around one idea than being bombarded with many different things.
- Finding a way to use the tools we’ve learned about in previous evenings in the weeks leading up to the next party.
One more thing that we plan to do next time around is share the new Elgg group that we’ve created for our early adopters – this is definitely our target audience!
We’re thinking our next session will be next Saturday, December 13th, back at my apartment downtown in the late morning. So if you’re around and interested in sharing your thoughts with us, please let me know! We love having guests and hearing all different perspectives.
Anyone have any suggestions for making our next party even more LAN-tastic?