Sunday, November 24, 2013

FaceTime in the Classroom

Everyone talks about technology IN the classroom, but what about when technology BECOMES the classroom? This week I experienced a teaching first that thrilled and excited me in a way I haven't felt in a long time. It totally changed my classroom! 

We had a student who couldn't come to school for 4 days due to a temporary medical reason (he's totally fine now, so nothing to worry about!). His mom was very worried about him missing too much school and even though we can send work, it's not the same as being a part of a classroom lesson and engaging with a teacher. She suggested letting him see a video of the lessons or watching them with FaceTime, but his end muted so he wouldn't interrupt. We thought would be a challenge, but what could it hurt?

This turned into something AMAZING! What started as the idea that he could just watch us, turned into him being a very real part of our classroom through FaceTime! Read on to see how he was included in part of our lessons! For the purposes of this story we'll call him Techy :) I took pictures of him during this process, but due to privacy reasons, I sadly can't share them.

For literature we have been reading the story The BFG by Roald Dahl. The students sit on the rug while my co-teacher reads the story, then they discuss the story and use comprehension strategies to think about the content. For these lessons I placed my laptop on a nearby desk where Techy could see the students and the teacher could easily show him the occasional illustrations in the story by holding the book up to the camera.

Social Studies Theme
Our theme this month is Native Americans and Pilgrims. We have been reading a series of mini books from this Scholastic resource book:

Techy has been LOVING these stories and all the knowledge we've gained from reading them. The books have non-fiction text, then opportunities to write a response to their learning in each story. We've covered one paperbook a day. 

I placed my laptop on Techy's desk during these lessons this week. Using FaceTime, we were able to read the stories aloud to Techy (we've already been reading aloud, so this was not a change), then I'd show the pictures to the camera so Techy could see the illustrations. Next, Techy would write his written responses on a sheet of paper at home, then hold it up to the camera for me to read and check his work. This interactive teaching without him in the room was AMAZING!! I especially loved when I'd ask the class a question and Techy would raise his hand at home sitting at his kitchen table for me to call on him!!! It was adorable!

Social Skills
Our school uses a curriculum called PATHS, which is a series of verbal lessons where the kids either listen, role play, or discuss various ways to communicate feelings effectively and how to solve problems. For these lessons we set up the computer just like literature, with the student on a desk while the other students sat on the carpet. One of this week's lessons was "perspective taking" and included looking at those funny black & white pictures of the faces/vase where it looks different based on how you look at it. There was also one with a duck/bunny, so I held the images up to the screen so Techy could see the pictures and take part in the perspective taking activity. It was quite easy to include him!

For art this week we were taking part in a greater school project. Each class was assigned a few letters of the alphabet, then they had to come up with words that represent the school and illustrate a picture of it around the big letter on the page. For example: E for Education and kids sitting at desks learning. While art seems like something you'd need to be in the room for, a big part of our art time is the kids chatting together quietly while they work. It's an essential social skills time of day! For this lesson I placed Techy on the table where his two best friends were working. While they illustrated their letter page, Techy drew pictures at home while chatting with his friends. It was just plain adorable!!

This was truly one of the coolest teaching "firsts" for me! I see so much potential in the possibilities for this in the future! I was genuinely surprised by how little extra I needed to do compared to teaching without the virtual student in the room. How would you use video to teach in your classroom?

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