Saturday, March 5, 2016

Read Across America 2016

We are always looking for ways to connect with new friends using Skype and Google Hangouts. It is great to model practices for connecting and sharing ideas by using these two tools (in addition to social media!) Recently, my friend Lynn Kleinmeyer, a teacher librarian at Titan Hill Intermediate in Council Bluffs, Iowa, had asked us to connect with her classes for the Read Across America event. We planned the event over a webcam conference the week prior. We were excited to have an opportunity to do this!

Anna had previously  read The Dot during World Read Aloud Day
A Student Led Opportunity

Lynn had asked for one of our senior high school assistants, Anna, to read to her students during two separate sessions. Anna had previously read to a class in Texas via webcam as part of World Read Aloud Day, and we were excited to provide the opportunity for her to do this again! Anytime we can get out of the way and allow students to lead, everyone wins! Lynn had requested Anna to read a Dr. Seuss book on the day of the event. Anna was able to locate a copy of Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham!

What Happened

Since the selected day also happened to be Dr. Seuss' birthday, Titan Hill Intermediate School was celebrating by having the students wear green. They also had the famous breakfast menu selections of green eggs and ham! Anna and I decided to recognize this celebration by wearing green for her Skype reading session.

We were able to connect using Skype with no problems. The first session was held in our library gaming/ coding room. It has a nice layout for webcam sessions. I connected a Blockrocker amplifier to the computer audio out to improve the sound quality on our end.

Mrs. Kleinmeyer did a great job introducing us to her young students. During the first session, Anna presented to 4 classes of 2nd graders! They greeted Anna and took turns waving back and forth at each other. Anna then told them what grade she was in and where our high school was located in Arkansas.

Anna would read a page, then bring the pages close to the webcam so that the Titan Hill students could view on their screen. It was priceless to hear the reactions and comments from our new friends in Iowa each time there was a break from the reading.

As I watched, I remember thinking that we are only just beginning to use these technologies in the classroom. What a wonderful way to connect with far away places to learn and share with each other! I also remember wondering how connecting with other states and countries have impacted our learners through Mystery Skype sessions. Now the learners in Titan Hill know a little more about Arkansas. It is not just a place on a map, but a place with people just like them!

Since the second session was during lunch, we decided to move the computer and webcam to my office so we wouldn't interfere with gaming room activities. It worked just as well during the second session. My laptop sounded great using the desktop speakers in the office. At the end of the session, we waved our goodbyes; and school life returned to a normal Wednesday afternoon. 

A short "commercial" style video clip of the events!

 Anna's Reflection

Our library team is always curious to get feedback from our learners following any event such as this. It is always useful to know the impact a library program or connection might make on a learner. We asked Anna to share a reflection with us. These are her thoughts from the event:

Reading to the 2nd & 3rd graders on Wednesday was the best feeling ever. Seeing those smiling faces made my day. It's amazing how we can connect with different states especially the ones that are 600 miles away like Iowa. The little kids at Titan Hill Intermediate were so awesome and really sweet. I love the way I got to engage with them and love the way they interacted with me. This opportunity was the best thing ever. I'm happy I got to participate in Read Across America Day. 

Final Thoughts

It was a great day to be a connected school librarian. The more we do activities like this, the more connections we make. Compared to a year ago, we get many more requests from new friends on Twitter for Mystery Skype events. It is wonderful to have a growing personal learning network so that we can continue to have new experiences for our learning community! This phenomenon has changed us forever. There is so much to learn in this very big world. The adventure has only just begun.

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Read about our first Mystery Skype here (this article will help you understand how to set up for the event).

Read about the student inventor we connected with on Twitter and then Skype!

This is how we had a book club with friends in Springdale, Arkansas at Lakeside Jr. High via webcam!

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