Video Conference

VC We had a very interesting video conference this week!  We used our new Polycomm mobile VC unit to connect with Big Valley, Alberta.  We were sharing two science experiments each as part of our grade 5 classroom chemistry unit.  The class from Big Valley showed us two chemical reactions.  The first was combining Potassium and varying concentrations of Hydrogen Peroxide.  The point of the experiment was to show evidence of a chemical reaction, and the evidence was very exciting,  The stopper flew out of the flask, across the room, the liquid turned yellow (produced iodine), a gas was given off (causing the stopper to go flying!), and heat was produced.  In the second experiment 15mL of Ethanol was placed in a 5 Gallon plastic water cooler jug and then the other teacher very carefully dropped in a match.  The students watched in amazement as a blue flame and loud pop burst out of the top of the jug.  We watched the teacher in Big Valley try the experiment again, adding new Ethanol to the jug.  We predicted that it would explode again when a match was added, but this time it didn’t react at all!  After discussion and observation we concluded that there was carbon dioxide in the jug instead of oxygen!

pepsiFor our experiments we looked at separating a gas and a liquid and surface tension.  We added mentos to pepsi,  The gas leaves the liquid very quickly!  The mentos causes a chemical reaction which quickly breaks the surface tension and allows the gas to escape very quickly!!  We did the experiment twice, once with room temperature pepsi (went about 1 meter in the air), then with cold pepsi (went about 6 inches in the air) so we could share the effect of temperature on the molecules in the pepsi.  I even managed to keep all of the pepsi in the catch basin!  We did the same experiment outside with a big bottle of pepsi and it went  about 14 ft in the air!

We also examined eggs that had been in various acids for over a week to examine the strength of acids.  The eggs had been in lemon juice, lime juice, pepsi, coke, vinegar, apple juice, and orange juice.  The shells were at different states of dissolving and the eggs were swelling and absorbing the liquids.  The egg in the vinegar was completely without a shell, making it the strongest acid.

Being able to share our learning and excitement with another class made our learning very exciting and engaging.  We were able to show what we knew and learn from other experts that are studying the same topic.  The added dynamic of science experiments added a strong visual component to the video conferencing experience.

On Friday, March 26 I met with a group of pre-service intern teachers from the University of Lethbridge.  I’ve had an intern teacher in my classroom since Christmas, and it has been a fantastic experience for both myself and my students.

I met with the cohort of pre-service teachers to share some of the ways I use technology in the classroom, focusing on connecting with the world.


Polycomm/traditional VC – This system offers high quality connections and works great within Alberta, but I find it a bit cumbersome.  Sources of information and connections:

Collaborations Around the Planet – Will send daily emails with new opportunities

VC Alberta – A great source of experts, tips, and how to videos (one featuring me…!)

2Learn Regional Network – An Alberta provincial network of VC contacts

Skype – a fast free way of connecting around the world.  Fast becoming the main VC medium in education.

Skype in Schools Wiki – a directory of teacher Skyp contact info from all over the world.

Edublogger – another great list of contacts

Around the World in 80 Classrooms Ning and Blog – Silvia Tolisano’s blog and Ning all about her Around the World with 80 schools project.  she connects classrooms all over the world with Skype.

Skype an Author – Authors that will Skype with your class!

50 Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom

A Blog Post about Using Skype in the Classroom packed with ideas and resources (more than this one!)


RSS or Really simple Syndication is a great way to read blogs, news updates, and even sports.  You can bring all of your favourite sites into one place to read them on a daily basis.  It is like a newspaper, but a newspaper you can customize to deliver only the content you want to read.  I use google reader to collect all of my feeds.


Twitter is my best tool to connect with like minded educators.   I can share ideas, ask for help, and get new resources and ideas.  A great list of twitter in education resources. I could talk forever…watch for a new post soon about how I use twitter in the classroom.

What so you get when you take 24 grade 5 students, 5 parent volunteers, 1 student teacher, and 1 slightly crazy classroom teacher and lock them in a school over night? You get one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a teacher.

On Thursday, January 28 my grade 5 class slept over at the school to video conference with the world. We worked around a Winter Olympics theme breaking into countries to compete in sporting events, used the Wii to play Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics, and went geocaching in the dark!

We started by Skyping with two classes in Canada. The idea was to start close to home and talk to other Canadians about the excitement building around the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver in February. We spoke with @Hafy2009, Jodi Hafenbrak of Balmoral Hall in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  She was one of the Canadians I traveled with to Brazil in November for the Microsoft Innovative Educators Forum.  Then it was @zbpipe, Zoe Branigan Pipe, in Hamilton, Ontario.  We Skype with her class quite often, and she was the first teacher I ever videoconferenced with!
This got the kids off to a great start, and two VC’s down during school time, before the craziness of staying late after school started! Part way through the afternoon I got an email from my parents, who have been in Hawaii.  They are both retired teachers.  I thought Hawaii would be a great stop as we headed west with our Around the World trip so I gave my Mom a quick Skype call and we connected!  In a happy accident moment, I managed to plan our sleepover on Pajama Day at school, so the kids were very prepared for our sleepover, and wore their PJs (me too!) all day!
After school we got into some of our activities, including incorporating the Winter Olympics theme.  We painted our faces and made flags for our team countries.  We had teams from Norway, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, and Great Britain.  They students were very patriotic.  As the host of the event, I was of course Team Canada!
Some of our Olympic events were in the gym, or hallway.  We had a figure skating event, which was the Michael Jackson Thriller Dance, which we learned and performed at Halloween.  Each country had to perform and see who could best remember or make up new steps the fastest and work as a team.  We raced bobsleds (in the form of two students sitting on scooter boards) down the hallway, it was one of the highlights for me.  The students loved it!
Other events we played on the Wii, including ski jumping and curling! We used the game Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics
We met with @robinthailand, Rob Newberry, and his class from Thailand.  They were shy, but we talked about weather, different sports in the two countries, food, and beaches!
After speaking with Thailand it was time to run around outside! We went geocaching in the dark. It was our “torch” relay. Each cache was a different city across Canada that the torch visited and they had to name the province or territory it was in. They used their flashlights or “torches” to guide the way
Next on the agenda was a Skype call from Austraila. Rob Sibaglia, an IT specialist met with us, and had a colleague read us our bedtime story which was about how the kangaroo got its tail!
Just before bed we got a second call from @zbpipe.  It was Zoe’s second time to talk with us, but this time she was in Philadelphia!  Nothing like having the same person meet with use from two different countries!  The students thought it was fantastic! Then it was off to bed! The kids did not sleep….well maybe about 2 1/2 hours! The girls’ room was full of giggling and gossiping. It was especially interesting when they thought I was asleep. The boys’ room was full of, well, methane!
We even remembered to brush our teeth, and the parents were really great about organizing healthy snacks, fruit, cheese, crackers, and meat! There was a healthy supper of lasagna, salad, veggies, bread, meatballs, rice, and perogies! Not all of the toothbrushes made it back home, I found this casualty on the hallway floor!
The next morning at 5:30 I was up and energetic, but the kids were a bit…sleepy! With the worst bedhead I’ve ever seen, smeared face paint, and questions about when they got pancakes, we met with @gillpenny, Gillian Penny, and Gavinburn Primary School from Scotland. This was the one connection that didn’t use Skype. We used Glow, the Scottish VC Intranet system. @olliebray worked very hard behind the scenes to get everything going on both ends. Thanks to my tech department for opening ports and solving a few last-minute snags. We had a bit of sound trouble, but we worked around it, and did get everything connected in the end. We shared all about the Olympics as Gavinburn is working on a big unit all about the Winter Olympics and are using Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics as well! There may have even been some curling rivalry talk!
After pancakes and some very Canadian maple syrup, we had our last connection of the day with @bligoben, Mags from Wales and the year 6 class. We walked all about weather and what we had in common, and what was very different. My students enjoyed hearing that even students in Wales like Justin Bieber, a Canadian Pop Singer!
After cleaning up and sending all the kids home, it was time for me to head to Vulcan (the town, not the planet) for a professional development/teacher meeting day. It was kind of a blur, with a great deal of coffee. I did bring the Wii and Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics with me so other teachers could try it out and several plan to use it with their class. We were looking at it for measuring with decimals to thousandths. Thousandths are a hard concept, and timing of races was almost the only context we could think of that they were used, which our students would find relevant. Not only do Grade 5 student have to use and understand decimal places to the thousandths, but they have to order and compare them as well. What better way to order and compare that collect race times on the luge, bobsled, skiing, or snowboarding runs, then compare and order them to see who won, and the order of the competitors!
The night was a huge success, thank-you to all the parents, our Skype and VC partners from Around the World, my student teacher Mitchell for putting up with the boys all night, and to the students for having a fun, safe time!

world2 I’m planning a big event on Thursday, January 28.  I’ve been trying to develop a global sense and awareness in my students.  We’ve  been collaborating and connecting with places all over the world all year.  We are limited in the amount we can video conference with other places being in Western Canada.  We can VC with North and South America, but Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa don’t ever line up with our school day.

I love a challenge and a problem to solve. To get around the time zone issues I have arranged a sleep over night at school.  On Thursday, January 28, the students are going to spend the night sleeping over at the school, connecting with the world!

I was inspired by Silvia Tolisano’s Around the World in 80 Classrooms Project.  I want to connect via Video Conference (Skype, Polycomm, I can use a variety of platforms) to classrooms all over the world.

To keep 27 10 year olds entertained and enthusiastic for the evening I’m planning to connect with as many places as possible, all through the night.  They aren’t going to be sleeping much anyway.  We are working on an integrated unit all about the 2010 Olympics in Social Studies and Math.  Connection topics could be all about the Olympics, working in learning about the countries we are meeting with.  I realize not as many countries are as involved in the Winter Olympics as Canada is, but international sport and collaboration is a fairly universal topic.  We would also love to hear stories from other parts of the world.  If  they students could listen to a local story, and be able to share that literature connection it would be very powerful.

We are also going to be tying in some Games Based Learning with Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics, doing some Olympic style sporting events (scooter board bobsled down the hallway!), and I’m trying to arrange to go to the local curling rink for some real curling as a field trip to get us out of the school for a while.

Here is where I need help!  I want to find as many places as I can to connect with, anywhere in the world, our time zone is  suddenly very flexible staying the entire night!  Even if you are close, to be able to map connections near and far, compare time zones, look at latitude and longitude, and learn about everywhere is the goal of build global connections.