September #1

It’s September 4 today. End of week 36. At the risk of sounding like an old woman with curlers in her hair, time really flies!

So let’s not waste any of it and dive right into this week’s newsletter, which deals with an interesting topic: connecting.

The idea is not new; there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. Students round the world have been connecting with peers in other cities/countries for years with  good ol’ penpalling. But while it’s true that it has been an invaluable resource for years, it is also arguable that it can be greatly enhanced with technology. Let’s see how.

Sites of the week

People round the world are connecting on a daily basis, be that through social media, forums, even video games. And educators are no strangers to this phenomenon. There are countless ways in which teachers connect and share concerns, resources, tips, you name it. But for the sake of economy, we’ll focus on two of them.

Mystery Hangout

If you own a Gmail account, you automatically have access to Hangouts, which is basically a video chat tool accessible from multiple devices (cell phone, computer, tablet) This means you are good to go, as simple as that. The next step is to find a teacher or class willing to videochat with you. Complicated? Not at all. There are many Google+ Communities with teachers round the world looking for a Hangout buddy, just like you. My personal favourite ones are Mystery Hangout for schools, Connected Classrooms Workshop, and Mystery Location Calls.

Now, you may be asking yourself what’s with the word ‘mystery’ It’s pretty simple. Your students will have no clue as to where the class they are chatting with is located. Hence, they’ll need to guess with a series of yes/no questions (the process does not change if you are chatting with an individual teacher. They still have to guess where he/she is from). Once both classes guessed each other’s locations, they can keep interacting, either by teaching their buddies about their city/country, traditional food/festivals, you get the point. The possibilities are endless.

You can plan this as a once-in-a-while activity or as a year-long project. It all boils down to how comfortable you feel with it or how much availability you have.

Mystery Skype

This is another site with ample potential, not only because you can Mystery Skype with teachers and/or classes round the world (following the same yes/no question procedure), but also because you get some interesting bonus features. If you have a Skype account and sign up at the Skype in the Classroom site (both free), you’ll be able to schedule a videochat with a guest author (usually children’s book authors), go on a virtual field trip, or even upload a lesson you are working on and invite teachers/classes to join in. It’s truly worth exploring. Give it a try.

Hooked? You should be. The world is yours (yours and your students’) If you’re serious about trying it out, I wrote a blog postwith helpful tips that will guide you through (and, hopefully, keep the anxiety at bay)

At the last workshop this past Saturday, I organized a surprise Mystery Hangout with an American teacher and an Argentine one. None of the teachers attending the workshop had tried Hangouts before, and let me tell you, the feedback very was positive. So I came up with this crazy idea. Ready? Drum roll, please!

I’d like to create a directory of teachers willing to participate in Mystery Hangouts/Mystery Skypes. This way, finding a buddy to videochat will be easier. Interested? Fill out this form and share, share, share. Send it to any colleague you think might be interested in participating.

Video of the week

Those who know me are well aware that I’m a tech crusader (I sometimes feel more like a ‘Sancho Panza’, but let’s go with ‘tech crusader’) But as with anything in life, stricking a balance is key. Key to mental sanity. Key to developing and maintaining relationships. Key to having happier life.

“I have 422 friends, yet I’m lonely” This is how Gary Turk starts off his globally successful video. Turk is a filmmaker that truly hit the ball out of the park with this one. His spoken performance became viral in very little time with over 200 million views worldwide and it skyrocketed Turk into instant fame. Are you wondering what the hype is all about? Wonder no more and take a look for yourself; it’s just under 5 minutes. And, no, I haven’t lost my mind. I really think we need to disconnect once in a while. I do. For my mental sanity.

You read the whole thing and watched the video? You deserve an inspiring quote 🙂

 See you in 2 weeks!

PS: You got this newsletter from a friend? You are not part of my mailing list? That cannot be! You can sign up here and restore order to the universe 😉

PS 2: Feel like catching up on old newsletters? You can find them here.

Just one real connection is all it can take to show you the difference that being there can make. - Gary Trust