Skype an Author- a webinar about…creating a classroom webinar
While checking the EdTech Talk calendar, I noticed a webinar for Tuesday this week that looked interesting. The timing was off, however. I just could not make the EdTech webinar schedule sync with mine, so I looked at the Classroom 2.0 list that I receive by email. I have, on occasion, sat in on one of these and they’ve been very informative. There was an announcement there about the Learn Central webinars for the week. Turns out they were offering one in just a few minutes time Monday night so I set up the MacBook Pro with headphones and clicked the link and got ready to go.
Skype an Author is a Wetpaint Wiki set up by an author and a Library media specialist. Mona Kerby and Sarah Chauncey, author and librarian, respectively, had an opportunity for one to meet the other on a school visit. In a subsequent year, the author visited via Skype, and the idea took off from there. Their Wiki links classroom teachers to authors and assists them in setting up virtual visits. According to the site, “The mission of the Skype an Author Network is to provide K-12 teachers and librarians with a way to connect authors, books, and young readers through virtual visits.”
The medium for Learn Central is Elluminate Live! a medium with which I am now quite familiar. I had hoped it would be via another delivery method to give me a different experience. The event was hosted by another person and the guests explained how their idea came to fruition and how it works.
There were lots of questions in the chat box in Elluminate as the audience became engaged in the idea of bringing authors to the children, and how it could work in various schools and settings. The presenters went through some “dos and don’ts” for arranging a visit, setting up the technology and prepping the audience for the exchange between students and the author.
This is an excellent example of the type of webinar that can really bring the outside world into the classroom, with lots of practical suggestions for a successful session. This is the kind of presentation that encourages teachers and allows them to explore the possibilities of virtual visits. Kids are naturally curious about books and authors and reluctant teachers (those who might be intimidated by technology) might be ready do something like this if they were to see this done successfully by a colleague. With over 200 authors on the list of available “Skype an Author” participants, there is probably one that will fit your grade and program. A quick search of the author list showed numerous Canadian authors, lots of US based authors, as well as a number of international authors. The choices are very broad. The medium for the exchange is also negotiable- it could be Skype, Elluminate, Adobe Connect or iChat. Short sessions are free, and longer ones may involve a fee.
Ironically, I arranged an author “visit” using a private chat room back in 2004, before Skype and its cousins existed. Australian author Elizabeth Honey met with my class on more than one occasion to discuss her book Remote Man. Having a live author communicating with students is really an engaging, motivating experience, especially from so far away . This was echoed in the comments by the presenters.
Every time I participate in webinars I find that there is some great idea or significant learning that can be used in a classroom context. I have, as mentioned, tried a few different webinar venues and will, no doubt, follow some more, perhaps over the summer when I have more time (and after finishing this Wilkes course, which is my last!).
Teaching Science next year, I intend to incorporate a virtual visit by a scientist, perhaps an astronomer or Canadian astronaut, to parallel our Space unit. But an author visit could be added to the language program or social studies program by our Grade 6 team next year.