Skype an author with Hazel Edwards

Recently author Hazel Edwards undertook a ‘Skype an author’ session with New Zealand librarians. Hazel explains how the process felt:

Surreal Skype NZ Book Launch with NZ librarians
I felt a bit like a security camera. Surreal. I was an electronic participant-observer via web-cam  On the wall screen. f2m: the boy within was launched by Kevin Hague, Green MP, at 6pm. But it was 4 pm in Melbourne, and I was on the Skype web-cam from Melbourne.
Hazel on webcam from Melbourne

Hazel on webcam from Melbourne

We’d had a practice two  nights earlier, luckily. Sorted the visual and sound problems. I could hear the enthusiastic crowd, and see some of them, and apparently they could see me on the big screen. Had to remember not to do anything embarrassing. But I couldn’t control where/what I could see.
Location of physical launch: Unity Books, 57 Willis Street, Wellington. New Zealand.
Thoughtful, witty and enthusiastic launcher NZ Launcher Kevin Hague Green MP’s Review, Green MP stressed how health issues were realistically covered in the novel.  Quotes proved he’d READ the book, thoroughly!
But I only ever heard his melodious voice, never saw his face, because the web cam was fixed.
Ditto for my co-author’s eloquent launch speech & the bookseller. Plus they had rich NZ accents.
So I felt rude, not to be looking into people’s eyes, nor acknowledging each by name. I could hear the rustles of appreciative response from the big crowd and see some of them. Not sure how many more were there outside my field of vision.
Distanced, but observing the fabulous buzz in the room. On a technological high, I realised I could take a book crowd snapshot via Skype. So I did. But I was facing the wrong way and they were moving off to form a queue to get their copies autographed by Ryan. And they sold ALL the copies!
Congratulations to my co-author Ryan Kennedy. A fabulous book launch.
Summing up:
A satisfying artistic and electronic experience. Plus:  Saves time and money. I didn’t have to fly to New Zealand. And I could keep working my computer while I waited for them to set up. Downside: I had to settle for toasting in virtual champagne.
Such a great idea for remote and regional schools to be able to connect with an author in this way.

Bringing experts into your classroom

It can often be problematic for students to gain access to authors and other experts in their field due to location, cost, time, travel and other issues. Technologies such as Skype can help. The ability to make free calls computer to computer with the added bonus of video conferencing if users have webcams has been a boon for schools.

But Skype is not the only method available. Richard Byrne’s (@rmbyrne) wonderful Free Technology for Teachers blog outlines three other free methods for Bringing Experts into Your Classroom:

Go to the Free Technology for Teachers post Bringing Experts into Your Classroom for some fabulous free tools to explore, thanks to Richard Byrne.

f2m: a collaborative project

Quentaris author and Ford Street Publishing representative Paul Collins recently sent Bright Ideas some information on an interesting way the new YA book f2m was written.

Authors Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy co-wrote the novel and collaborated via Skype using a webcam. By writing together online and using online conferencing, they developed the entire novel using web 2.0 tools. This is a great example of the power of online collaboration for our students. The result is that the writing is seamless; readers cannot tell which author wrote which pages or chapters.

f2m will be launched on 14 February in Melbourne. A media release about the book is available here. The novel is aimed at students aged 15+, it deals with female to male gender transitioning.

Ford Street Publishing also have a number of book trailers on their website.

It’s not about the tools, it’s about the skills

Author of the wonderful award winning Langwitches blog Silvia Tolisano (Twitter name is @langwitches), has written a must-read post. Looking at the advent of Web 2.0 and the way it is perceived by parents, Tolisano addresses the skills developed and used by students in using tools such as blogs, creating podcasts and adding to wikis rather than the tools themselves. To read this post, go to Silvia’s blog now!

SuperClubsPLUS @ Mount Waverley PS

2007 SLAV Research Fellowship recipient (along with colleague Jacqueline Griffeth) Lee King has created some outstanding ICT opportunities for her students at Mount Waverley Primary School.

Lee recently introduced the students to SuperClubsPLUS.

SuperClubsPLUS is currently being trialled by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Knowledge Bank: Next Generation. The trial provides free accessto SuperClubsPLUS for 100,000 year 3 and 4 students and will conclude in December 2010.

Lee explains how she came to be involved in the project. ‘Increasingly, students, parents, teachers and the wider community have become aware of the issues surrounding Cyberbullying and Cybersafety. As a parent and a teacher, I have been active in protecting the children I have contact with from the dangers in an online world. How did I do this? By worrying endlessly and restricting access.

 ‘What a ‘head in the sand’ attitude! After a quick ‘hands up’ survey, I established that in each of the Year 3 and 4 classes, an average of three students had mobile phones. Again, in each of those classes, around half used MSN Messenger and 3 to 4 students used Skype regularly. What was I protecting them from? They were already engaged in online activities!’

 Lee wondered, ‘Were they safe? Did they know that not everyone online is who they say they are? Did they know not to give out personal information? Were they treating others kindly and speaking appropriately? I had read a little about SuperClubsPLUS and liked the sound of it, so I registered our Year 3 and 4 students with the intention that it would be the ICT focus for Term 1, 2009. 

‘SuperClubsPLUS (Australia) is a social network, similar to Facebook and MySpace, however it is for primary school age children and it is extremely safe. It is a ground breaking initiative, providing engaging and stimulating learning experiences centred on ICT, literacy and citizenship.

 ‘Students are kept safe whilst on the site as only those who have been registered by their school and have written permission from their parents will have access. This ensures that the community is only made up of the children it was designed for. Fully trained mediators, all of whom are teachers or Principals with current Police checks and VIT registration, actively mediate all children’s activities. At least one mediator is on duty from 8am to 8pm, monitoring all interaction and protecting the students in real time. Students may access the site out of these hours but will be unable to communicate with others.

 Lee continues, ‘Once registered, students receive a user name and password which is uniquely theirs. They have their own personal online space where they can complete activities to earn their Cybersafety badge, design and build their own home pages, participate in clubs, join discussion forums and achieve their ICT ‘Star Awards’. They are expected to reach a certain degree of awareness of cybersafety issues before they can participate in other parts of the site.’

Cybersafety page (no link as you must be a member to access this.)

Cybersafety page (no link as you must be a member to access this.)

 As Lee explains, the students just loved SuperClubsPLUS. ‘A wonderful thing happened on the way ……. An hour is never long enough in the lab! Only a day after introducing the students to SuperClubs, I found I was receiving many emails from the students. They would begin with ‘How do you …… ?’. Other emails would arrive shortly after, from the same students saying, ‘Don’t worry, I worked it out’.’

 ‘They couldn’t wait for the next lab session so they used their initiative and actually read the instructions! By clicking on the ‘HOW TO’ link, the students are able to learn everything they need to know about building their home pages, inserting widgets, how to send emails and more. They discovered this before I did.

 ‘The students learn by ‘hands-on’ experience. If they forget about the Cybersafety and Cyberbullying issues, they quickly find themselves on the receiving end of an email from the Mediator. Any inappropriate email (no girlfriend/boyfriend stuff either!) is immediately blocked. Serious misdemeanors are dealt with by deregistering the student and cancelling their user name and password. Teachers are always notified via Department email if students have acted inappropriately.’

Lee explains how SuperClubsPLUS fits in with VELS:

 VELS and SuperClubsPlus Australia

 ‘Many aspects of VELS are covered. Students’ achievements and progress are monitored and rewarded with the STAR Awards challenges. They learn a huge range of ICT skills, Literacy, Cybersafety, social skills and global citizenship – ticks many of the Progression Points boxes!!

 ‘The Domains in italics are dependent on the focus of the content:

Interdisciplinary Learning

  • Thinking Processes 
  • Communication 
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Discipline-based Learning Domains

  • English
  • The Arts
  • Humanities
  • LOTE
  • Science  

Physical, Personal and Social Learning Domains

  • Personal Learning
  • Interpersonal Development
  • Health and Physical Education 
  • Civics and Citizenship

  Personal and Social Learning

‘The students have the opportunity to join learning projects and events such as: discussions on global issues; a writing club with a popular author; a Hot Seat with an Olympic hopeful athlete, an artist or an astronomer; an interview with Anne Frank or Tutankhamen or a Maths fun day. There’s something for every child as they follow their own interests and work at their own pace and level.

‘Out of the mouths of babes ……

“Thank you for getting us on to Super Clubs, it is so cool so thank you I love it.
Thank you.” TG, Year 3

“Superclubs is awesome.”  LM, Year 4

“I LOVE Superclubs. Mum and dad want to have a go.” GK, Year 5.

‘It is not just the kids who love SuperClubs!!!! Here are some comments from teachers involved:

 “It is so easy – this week for  my computer literacy group – they have to send me an email to tell me three things they have loved doing so far this year in class.  Took me about 5 seconds to think of the activity, takes no time for me to show them anything because they all know what they are doing, and is so easy for me to assess!!!!!!”

“I love it as much as they do!!!”

“Thanks for hooking us up with it!!!  I was trying to stay a step ahead of the kids – not possible – some of them are so far ahead of me I will never catch them!!!!  Which is a good thing as they are obviously so happy with what they are doing and being asked to do.”

Congratulations to Lee and the staff at Mount Waverley Primary School for being an enthusiastic part of the SuperClubsPLUS trial that will benefit all Victorian primary educators. SuperClubsPLUS is supported by the Telstra Foundation.

Working Together 2 Make a Difference Program

Jenny Luca, the Head of Information Services at Toorak College in Mt. Eliza is part of an inspiring project that aims to change lives for the better.  Jenny writes, ‘Angela and Laura Stockman from New York State and I are working together to make a difference. We have created a ning site to encourage people to join us to collaborate to raise funds for worthy causes in the lead up to the festive season. Here is a link to a blog post I wrote about it.

Working together 2 make a difference

Working together 2 make a difference

‘We would love to see Australian educators join the ning site and help their students to see the difference that can be made when we pool our efforts and set out to do something good for others. Angela sent out the message below to people in her network in the United States. It explains the project and its motivation very well so I thought I would replicate it here. I hope you will consider showing this to your staff and joining the effort.’

Angela Stockman writes, ‘Last year my daughter Laura began an online service project called Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference.  Her premise was to promote service work by doing small things to make a difference throughout the year in her community. Blogging about them was her way of encouraging others to join her. To date, nearly forty thousand people have visited her blog, and hundreds of individuals, schools, and teachers have supported her work and begun their own projects as well. We’ve learned that blogging inspires our eleven year old to give back to her own community while forming safe and rewarding relationships online. We’ve also learned that the web is a powerful place for kids to do authentic and meaningful work when they are monitored by responsible adults.

25 days to make a difference

25 days to make a difference

‘This year, Laura is joining forces with Victorian teacher librarian Jenny Luca to launch a global effort. Jenny is a member of an international PLP community led by Will Richardson  and Sheryl Nussbaum Beach.  Jenny approached Laura last year and asked her to Skype into her Melbourne classroom so that her students could collaborate with Laura. Our friendship has grown from here.

Working Together 2 Make a Difference is an online community administered by Jenny and myself. Teachers and students from all over the world are invited to join this space and share what they are doing to make a difference in their own communities. Doing so will enable teachers and kids to network with others around the globe, support each other’s service efforts, and witness what happens when everyone works together “to make a difference.” Those who join will have tremendous opportunity to teach their students about internet safety, powerful ways to use the web, how a ning works, and what it means to make a difference locally and globally.

‘Please consider inviting your teachers and students to join us, and invite anyone else who might be interested in doing so. Feel free to contact me for more information or with any questions that you might have! Thanks. Angela.’