The Spark that drives Web 2.0 - Technology in the Classroom

The Web 2.0 is driven by sparks that fly when certain convergent elements collide and interact. For me, such an interaction occurred last week, when I had occasion to help connect a group of kids and their instructor in Nevada with another group of kids and their instructor in Virginia. But let me back up and give the full story first, and then tell why there was a spark in Web 2.0.

Skype Day One

Technology Set-up in Brian's Class

This is how Brian's class shares lessons over Skype. Note the web cam and laptop pointed at the ActivBoard.

A few weeks ago, I saw a blog post about a class of 4th graders in Sparks, Nevada, just out of Reno, who had created a Skype connection in order to include an at home student who was unable to attend regular class because of health issues. There was local news story that told about the instructor and a counselor seeking assistance from the larger community to insure that in this case there would be “no child left behind”.

Brian Crosby, 4th grade instructor at Agnes Risley Elementary School, had been given the task of educating a student who, he “might never see.” A bit of Web 2.0 magic and support of a caring school counselor and a school system that seemed to care, resulted in obtaining a MAC, a high speed connection and a Skype audio and video link to Mr. Crosby’s 4th grade class. Celeste, the recipient, can be seen in the news film with her head displayed on one of the classroom laptops, just like she would look if she was actually occupying that seat in the classroom. The smile on her face seems to extend from one ear to the other.

Brian’s class of 4th graders were so desiring of inclusion, that they created a short video to describe their desire to reach out to a fellow classmate who was in need. Their filmed efforts are nothing short of delightful.

On the opposite side of the country, I had befriended Lee Baber some time ago, and found that we both had an interest in raising the technology bar in American classrooms. Mrs. Baber’s eighth graders had already been experimenting with video, audio and web-casting via something they had created called “YouthBridges”. So it seemed a natural progression to me, to see if I could hook these two tech-savvy classes together.

So last Thursday, Brian Crosby, Lee Baber, a 4th grade class at A.Risley Elementary in Sparks, Nevada (including home bound student, Celeste), an 8th grade class at Hilyard Middle School in Virginia, and myself, all met online via Skype for a discussion of the technology and feeling involved in bringing the remote student into the classroom.

It was such an absolute treat to hear these young professionals question and answer each other. Oh, there were numerous glitches as should be expected, but in the end, a very nice, informative conversation took place among all the parties.

I recorded the conversation, and took a couple of days to use Audacity to edit and even out the various sound levels. The result, a near 30 minute discussion among digital natives about the technology they were studying.

Now, up to this point, I suspect my comments have appeared rather dry, but as you listen to the attached MP3, listen for the tiny sparks that are being generated among those present. Not just the students, but the adults as well. It was as if our paths all converged in Web 2.0 and from that convergence of elements little sparks of creativity, caring, knowledge and pride took on a role of their own as the energy that helps to drive Web 2.0.

Across three time zones, two classes use technology to find out more about how to help others and what inclusion means.

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