Ok, sometimes I am a little behind the times.
I confess - I'd never done a Skype session with my class - until last week.
This is how it all came about:
In the term break I purchased this book:
I blogged about it in this post, Anzac Books I am going to use this coming term, and the author of the above book, Peter Millett, commented on my blog. A short conversation ensued, he said he'd love to talk to my class about the book, I followed Peter on Twitter.
I read The Anzac Puppy to my class and they really enjoyed it. Of course they wanted to know if it was based on a true story or not. I said to them that the author wanted to talk with them, so we should ask him questions about the book and being the author. I split them up into groups of three, and these are the questions they came up with:
The other week I tweeted photos of the questions to Peter. And eventually we settled on a Skype conversation.
As I said, I was a "Skype in the classroom newbie". My previous solo Skype conversation was with a mate to help him prepare for an interview, and prior to that it was gate crashing my Mum's conversations with my aunty and some family friends in Aussie. I'd just never really had a good reason to Skype with a class before. But Skyping with an author is a very authentic reason.
Mistake #1: Not prepping the kids on how to do a Skype session.
Actually, this was the one and only big mistake - I pretty much sprung this on them, by telling them we were doing it after the Year 7 & 8s left for Tech - who wants to miss out after all? Then, by the time I set up the computer at the end of lunch and got on Skype, Peter was there, so no time to tell the kids what I was expecting.
Now it wasn't a complete disaster. The children were very excited to see Peter and know that they were going to get the answers to their questions. They all gathered around and at the beginning were attentive. But as time went on, they drifted off to be silly while the teacher's back was literally turned. Some went off to draw pictures. Any child who wasn't participating wasn't hearing the answers, and certainly wasn't engaged as I expected.
Peter's wife is also a teacher, so while I was embarrassed at the rudeness of some children, he rolled with it and was very understanding indeed, which I was grateful for. After the conversation ended I did the growling thing with the kids, the one that starts with, "I'm extremely disappointed... why do you think that is?"
Peter was great. He told the kids something very important: he has loved writing ever since he was a little boy. He told us about how long it can take to write a book. He started researching The Anzac Puppy in 2001 and it wasn't published until 2014... that's the longest time it has taken him to write a book. Peter loves writing for children, and he loves writing stories that will make people laugh. He also told us about some of the things that inspire him and the book he has just completed that is next to be published - but we were sworn to secrecy.
My class and I have the opportunity to have another Skype conversation with a class in Australia. So I am thinking we will definitely have to nut out some expectations prior to doing the next chat. The children are also keen to Skype an ex-teaching colleague of mine who is now working as an advisor on writing in schools, including my school. I said we would ask her next time she came to the school.
Later that day on Twitter I started a random #edchatNZ chat about personalising learning for teachers (that is for another blog however). I mentioned my first Skype chat during it, saying how I had done some "just in time learning that day". As a result, now another teacher is pursuing Peter Millett's books for use in his class and may also do a Skype chat with his class and Peter Millett. So there is a win out of the day.