#tmaquarium

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#tmaquarium, 12 May 2011, National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth

Last night I attended and presented at #tmaquarium, organised by a passionate team of trainee teachers in their third year at the University of Plymouth (@JCBarrington, @trainieteacher, @kforeilly) and @ethinking or Pete Yeomans, lecturer at the university. It was a great turn out in an incredible location, with around 50 people watching, discussing, contemplating and, at times, heckling, the fantastic presenters. This was very much a trainee-led evening, with the vast majority of presentations coming from third or fourth year students and the host @JCBarrington who stepped up at the last minute and did an awesome job! Personally, I thought it was great to see so many of my fellow ‘BEdians’ getting involved and having the confidence to step up and share something they are passionate about. I’ve posted before about how important I (and many others!) think it is to cultivate a culture of sharing and collaboration amongst teachers and it excites me that there are a firm group of ‘teachers of tomorrow’ already dedicated to promoting this. 

This comment from @innovativeteach (Stuart Ball) kind of sums the evening up:

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And thanks to @eddbolton you can see for yourself; the footage can be found here

Below is my Prezi from the evening, the main points from which I want to briefly summarise and reflect on as 5 minutes goes ridiculously quickly when you’re presenting and I always forget some of the main points that I want to make!

Skype: Connecting, Communicating, Collaborating

I used Skype during my final BEd placement in a Year 3 classroom near Tavistock, Devon. One of the areas for development highlighted by the school was to improve their children’s awareness of social and cultural diversity, an issue for many schools across the county. The school had invested a lot of time and money setting up global links and bringing in speakers for INSET workshops, however, I pitched the idea of using Skype, a free communication platform, that I believed could instantly enhance this area in the school.

Whenever implementing something like this in the classroom, it’s crucial to consider the impact it will have on children’s learning. Whilst I thought about this beforehand, before I left the school I wanted to hear what the children thought the impact had been. Their views can be heard here or on the Prezi. Three main areas were highlighted as having an impact: connection, communication and collaboration.

Connect

The idea came to me when throwing some ideas around with my housemate who is also in her final year of the BEd course and who was also on placement at the same time. We thought it would be great to connect our classrooms and let the children share what they had been learning. Now, even though her classroom was only 60 miles away in Exmouth, it still provided us with a way of exploring social and cultural differences. The entire staff (of both schools) were incredibly surprised at just how simple it is to download, set up and connect!

Communicate

I was keen for the children to take control over the use of Skype and asked for ‘Skype monitors’ to set up the equipment, check our messages and make the calls. Other children volunteered to talk and share what we had been doing (though I made sure that everyone had this opportunity at some point). As well as providing a stimulating and engaging way to get the children to reflect on their learning, this also dramatically improved the speaking and listening skills of many children in the class. They had a real audience to communicate with and see the way they reacted to their dialogue and developed an awareness of how to improve their skills to enhance the experience for their listener.

Collaborate

Eventually, we would have liked to collaborate with classes from all over the world on specific projects. This is ridiculously easy to achieve with Skype’s ‘in the classroom’ online community:

Skype in the classroom is a free community to help teachers everywhere use Skype to help their students learn. It’s a place for teachers to connect with each other, find partner classes and share inspiration. This is a global initiative that was created in response to the growing number of teachers using Skype in their classrooms.

There are loads of ways that Sype can be used to collaborate with people and classes from all over the world. Some of these could be…

  • Interview people with jobs the children would like to do in the future
  • Collaborate, not just with schools, but with businesses and other disciplines
  • Practice speaking foreign languages to people in other countries
  • Connect with children who can’t make it to class
  • Broadcast a performance to parents/carers who are unable to watch
  • Collaborate with other teachers to plan units of work etc.

So, as this post has taken me long enough, basically, use Skype ‘cos it’s free, easy to use and awesome.

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