The students in Ms. Reichel's grade 2 class at Briggs Elementary School have opened their classroom by partnering with another grade 2 class located in Tennessee. Ms. Reichel had previously hosted whole class video conferences with her class in which all of the students engaged in a series of questions, answers and discussions. Although these events have been successful, she wanted to be able to use this technology in a more intimate setting. By providing an intimate setting we allow small groups of students to engage in a more fluid dialogue. This provides a manageable audience as well as opportunities for students to make connections and share perspectives on a topic.
I worked with Ms. Reichel to setup small group video conferencing in her classroom. We used the guided reading table in her room, a laptop with Oovoo installed and a webcam. The students in each class were divided into four groups. Each group read a book that was at their guided reading level. The students took note of connections, inferences and wonder questions as they read the book. They also noted their favorite part of the book and any questions that they had regarding the book.
Armed with their knowledge and questions we connected the groups with a 20 minute video conference session. The groups in NJ and Tennessee discussed their connections, inferences and wonder questions. They read parts of the story to each other. They exchanged questions as well as perspectives that brought insight to their geographical differences and class curriculum. The book talk extended beyond the actually books by making connections to their current studies in science.
This was an amazing learning opportunity for the students. This personalized approach to collaboration is an example of the development of 21st century skills. Technology allowed us to collaborate beyond our classroom. We provided students with authentic connections that brought various perspectives, opinions and knowledge. We provided an audience for our students that was beyond their typical day. We experienced an excitement for reading, sharing of what good readers do, and collaborating with others.