Hanging Out, and Linking In to SAMR

“I think all teachers should experience the excitement of seeing their students participate in a Google Hangout!” @katrinabtvdsb

When I began writing this post, it wasn’t my intention to mention the SAMR Model; I simply intended to showcase Google Hangouts through a Q & A format. However, after spending more time reading through the responses to my questions, my convictions regarding the importance of considering the SAMR Model when integrating technology were reaffirmed. If we’re aiming to provide transformative experiences for our students, then we need to ask ourselves some important questions about how we are going to use technology to make these experiences a reality. There’s little question in my mind that this is a solid example of a transformative experience.

samr-model-graphicIt’s hard to top sharing a great book with a classroom full of students, but what if we could use technology to redefine this rich literacy experience by crossing boarders, and reaching out to a classroom more than 2000km away? The Global Read Aloud was created by Pernille Ripp, a grade 7 teacher in Madison, WI, and it aims to bring classrooms together for a shared literacy experience. Through the GRA, Katrina Brown, a grade 4/5 teacher in St. Thomas, ON, and Lynda Mullaly Hunt, a grade 5 teacher in Morrill, NE made this classroom connection happen using Google Hangouts. This is an interview with Katrina.

hangoutTell me more about the Global Read Aloud. How did using Google Hangouts enhance the Global Read Aloud experience for your students?

In September, we signed both of our classes up for the GRA.  This was the first time we have ever been apart of this global reading event!  We chose to read the novel “Fish in a Tree” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (which may I add is a FANTASTIC example of great writing for students, with a great message, and story).  Participating in the Google Hangout allowed our global read aloud to be exactly that, global! Through Twitter I connected with a teacher from Nebraska, who was also reading FIAT with her grade 5 students.  We initially planned to blog back and forth between classes, but then thought to explore the virtual hangout to allow for a more personal connection to develop between the students.  The first hangout was very structured, basic introductions (including about our school, communities, towns, and countries).  Our second one was focused on a specific question related to FIAT, but wasn’t as structured (it replicated more of a book talk you may have with a group of people who are reading the same book).  I had emailed the teacher in Nebraska the question that we had responded to, and she had her students preview the question ahead of the Google Hangout.  When this second hangout occurred, students from both sides were very familiar with the guiding question, and talked freely back and forth through the screen.  We then shared some other work (including some art) we had done related to FIAT, and they shared a cool science experiment they had done with us!

Having the Google Hangout as part of our GRA enhanced the student’s overall excitement about the novel.  They already loved the book, but the fact that we were discussing the novel with new friends from a place that is foreign to them, increased student engagement huge!

What equipment did you use for your Google Hangouts? Was it easy to set up?

We used a Chromebook, HDMI cable, a snowball microphone, our projector (with an HDMI input), and a IPEVO camera (so that we could span the room and show more of our students on the screen). Everything was placed on an overhead cart to keep it organized for future use.

How did Google Hangouts redefine the learning experience for your students?

The Google Hangout made the original learning experience that much more authentic.  They took their experiences from the novel and the connections that they made, and were able to not only connect with students at our school who are reading FIAT, but also with students from another country, who made very similar connections to the main character, Ally.  It validated their own experiences even more knowing that kids are kids (no matter where they live) and go through similar experiences in life.


Do you feel that your students’ engagement and learning were enhanced by this experience?

As stated earlier, the engagement of our students was huge before we participated in the Google Hangout because our students loved the novel to begin with!  But adding in the Google Hangout made the learning and entire experience that much more engaging and authentic for our students.

Teaching our students about digital citizenship is becoming increasingly important. Do you feel that this experience has enhanced your students’ understanding of what it means to be a good digital citizen? If so, how?

Before we participated in our first Google Hangout, we created a Success Criteria with our students as to what the Hangout would look like from our end.  This remained posted in the room where we held the Hangout and was referred to many times. Students witnessed first hand from modelling from myself and Stephanie how to be a good digital citizen, as well as ideas that came from them to create the Success Criteria.

If a teacher is interested in doing Google Hangouts in their classroom, how would you recommend they get started?

I think all teachers should experience the excitement of seeing their students participate in a Google Hangout!  It was so invigorating to see the connections being made on both a personal level, as well as on a learning level with students across the continent.  We even shared through Google pictures of us on Halloween at our schools! I would recommend connecting through social media first.  The Global Read Aloud initiative made it easy to connect in the first place because people were looking for connections, but I’m sure there are lots of teachers on Twitter that would be interested in making connections.  Then, locate the appropriate technology equipment, all of which should be in your school.  Before we participated in our first Google Hangout, we struggled a bit with the technology and had to test it a few times with the teacher from Nebraska, as well as connect with David Carruthers (our Learning Coordinator for Technology) to ensure everything was setup to ensure success with our students when the first Hangout came.  But once everything was set and tested, it was very easy to replicate for future Google Hangouts.

Do you have any tips for a successful Google Hangout session?

Go for it!  I can say that I was hesitant before to try this technology just because I thought it was too complicated and I was also fearful of the set up and the unpredictability of our WIFI.  But jumping in with both feet allowed us to provide this great learning experience for our students.

This connection will be continued after we are finished participating in the Global Read Aloud.  We have already talked about doing the same read aloud in January to continue this connection with our students and the students from Nebraska!  There are obviously huge connections to be made with Social Studies as well as Math with our new friends from Nebraska (physical layout of the land, town vs city, industry comparison, country comparison, area, distance travelled to visit etc).  The class has already sent us postcards, and we are planning on writing them back next week.  As well, on our FIAT day, we are going to invite the class from Nebraska to join us “virtually”!

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