Update on Going Virtual

Nov 25, 2009

It's 7 pm in our virtual room. Monika and I extend a warm welcome to our students. The long awaited virtual lesson begins. We listen to American students talking about Thanksgiving. Croatian students ask questions. Whoever wants to speak next, raises their hand. At the end, they all deserve a round of applause. The 'freedom bloggers' in two classrooms on two continents raise their glass of sparkling cider and toast to change. Tupac Shakur is singing in the background. Everybody is happy.

Too good to be true? Unfortunately, yes. Our first Connect Pro Meeting was complete chaos.

The beginning was almost perfect, though. A very friendly CARNet guy went over the whole meeting with me. I was even sent a tweet by @connectusers, the official community for users of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro wishing us fun:

Then I sent the address of the site to Monika, but she just couldn't open it. Later we found out that it was blocked by her school district! However, after 29 hours of phone calls, tweets, Ning messages and an Elluminate session, I received a tweet that said:

Some might say that what followed was a teacher's worst nightmare. All the participants were either hosts or presenters, so everybody was talking at the same time. Some of them suddenly discovered what fun it was to play with the pods, so they minimized the camera and voice pods, maximized the attendee list pod, made the chat box disappear or simply ended the meeting and then restored it just for fun...

But we didn't mind. We were just sitting there, smiling happily at each other because we brought our students together in this e-room and no nightmare or chaos could diminish our excitement.

Going virtual

Nov 21, 2009

When @shellterrell tweeted about glogster, I immediately set up a glogster project called Greetings from the world. @monk51295 showed me her voicethread presentation for the district people and it didn't take me long to start my own voicethread for teaching Croatian. @chickensaltash blogged about Dvolver and soon movie making was the new game in my classroom. I don't remember who first tweeted about wallwisher, but, yes, I have one of these too. I took part at the Pecha Kucha night last week and my students already know how to avoid death by PowerPoint.

But the PK night made an even deeper impact on me. Ever since then I've been dreaming about Adobe Connect Pro Meeting and its use in the classroom.

And guess what! Today, only ten days after I first heard about this Adobe application, I have a virtual room scheduled on the Croatian Academic and Research Network site. CARNet implemented this video conferencing software so that we, teachers and students can use it in order to enhance teaching and learning. With no extra charge. Dear people at CARNet, we're lucky to have you!

However, it takes at least two for a video conference, and luckily, our collaboration partners from Colorado invited us to their Thanksgiving party, which will be thrown in their school on Tuesday. Because of the time difference, we will be attending it from our homes.

Now I'm not tech savvy and I don't know if it is going to work, but at least I know that I have given it a try and that's what makes it so exciting.

Pecha Kucha

Nov 14, 2009

This twitter thing is absolutely amazing. Not only do you learn about various new tools that can be used in the classroom, but you also get invited to join webinars, online conferences and virtual round table discussions.

Yesterday, I jumped at the opportunity to join my first Pecha Kucha night, held in a virtual classroom on The Virtual Round Table site, where over the past two days the first virtual conference on language learning with technology took place. The conference was coordinated by Heike Philp from Lancelot school, and the Pecha Kucha was moderated by Shelly Terrell.

I first heard about Pecha Kucha, when some teachers from my PLN tweeted about it as preparation for the TESOL France conference. Then I saw the recordings on Shelly's YouTube channel. The presenters were fabulous, just like the ones I saw yesterday. It was a fantastic experience, thanks to the brilliant presenters sharing 20 slides in 6 minutes and 40 seconds each.

I liked it so much that I immediately started wondering if my class could do something similar with Monika's web class, as part of our collaboration project. It would be a great way to connect the kids visually in real time.

What do you think? Can (only extra)ordinary teachers create such an extraordinary event for their students?

My Ning, Your Ning

Nov 4, 2009

Whenever I start a new project with my students I have great, usually unrealistic expectations. It wasn't any different this September when I opened up a Ning site for my students. But life works in mysterious ways. Not in my wildest dreams could I imagine what my Ning will turn into.

It took only one tweet to set the things in motion:

@monk51295 read your post - we're experiencing the same with our class ning... i'm in colorado, usa, math, we should colab... :) #unboxed

This is what it looked like at that time:

Two schools on two continents, two classes eager to collaborate, two teachers keen on using web 2.0 tools in class.

This is what we have today:

One online class, one Ning for math, one Ning for English, one voicethread for Croatian, one project for learning to respect and to understand, one (better) world.

And there's more to come, brilliant plans are afoot. The students have so many ideas, and we just need to hear what they want to say.
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