Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Skyping with Caracas

Anyone who has ever tried Skype is undoubtedly amazed. I first used Skype when I was travelling in Venezuela. I used it to make a personal call home - first to my home phone, and then to my husband's cell phone. The quality of sound was great and it was incredibly cheap (the 20 minute call cost less than a dollar, if I remember correctly). Since then I have wanted to "Skype" another classroom. This month, we finally did!

I established a "sister school" connection between our 7th grade middle school students and a 6th grade class of native Spanish speaking students in Caracas. We set up accounts on Skype (which is free) and set up a time to "meet." We connected a web cam, fired up the SmartBoard and placed the call. At first, we had trouble connecting, getting the web cam to work, etc. After a bit of a struggle, we were ready to start videoconferencing.

The students on both continents LOVED the activity. It was amazing to see the Venezuelan students crowding around their web cam as ours craned their necks to get in frame so that they could appear on camera as well. Students on both sides asked and answered the typical "checkpoint A" (level 1) questions: ¿Cómo te llamas?, ¿Cuántos años tienes?, ¿Qué te gusta hacer en tu tiempo libre? and so on. I was thrilled with all the language that they actually got to use during the 20 minute call!

To see our students in action during the Skype call, check out the video on our department homepage (scroll down to the bottom and click on the "Skyping in the Classroom Video."

Question: Are there any sites out there where people can simply connect "in the moment" to another classroom that is ready to Skype? One of our biggest challenges in this project was getting the time difference coordinated (believe it or not!) It would be great just to be able to connect at any time during the day and find another classroom ready to chat.

Who else has Skyped recently? I'd love to hear your experiences...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

VoiceThread - talking about photos online!

I really like VoiceThread. This site enables users to upload photos and then make comments (orally or in text format) about the photo. A teacher might upload a photo and have her/his students upload their comments about it. I think it has a lot of potential for teaching world languages and ESL. I am still in the process of finding the educational version and signing on as a teacher... Here's a really neat use of VoiceThread - imagine this with a class in Spanish!

Does anyone else use VoiceThread in teaching languages?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Using Web 2.0 technologies for teaching languages

I am obsessed! It is all so exciting. I am interested in the types of projects and activities that people have developed using web 2.0 technologies (i.e., blogs, wikis, podcasts) in teaching world languages and ESL. What are people finding particularly useful?

I especially LOVE wikis. They are so incredibly useful for collaborating on writing, peer editing, etc. What are YOU doing?