Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ancient Egypt comes to life with Skype

Last month I posted a tweet on Twitter asking for help to set up a Skype session with an ancient Egyptian museum so that the Year 6 children in my school could have a great learning experience. There were many replies, one great tip led to the Petrie Museum and today that all came to an amazing and successful conclusion with many children describing it as the best lesson they ever had.

I was put in contact with Tracey Golding, who works in the Petrie Museum, and was extremely keen to find out about my suggestion of using Skype to let the children find out more about their current Ancient Egypt topic. However, last week the whole event almost met a sudden end as I discovered that Skype is blocked for use in schools by our network provider (EMBC) but that is another story altogether. I found a way around the issue and after an impromptu test session with Tony Shepperd and I spoke with Tracey for the first time yesterday. Technical issues were sorted and this morning the whole of Year 6 crammed into one room and awaited Tracey’s call. There was nervous anticipation when the arranged time came and went but then the ringing went across the room and a cheer went up. The class was buzzing before we had even answered the call. Tracey was brilliant especially so as it was her first ever Skype call and it was in a room filled with year 6 children, their teachers and teaching assistants, myself and the head teacher. She walked us around a room filled with artifacts stopping here and there to describe them and answer the children’s questions. At the end we had a question and answer session and then we said our goodbyes to frantic waving and cheering.

5 tips for a Skype session in your school.
  • Test Skype to make sure it works in your school, it may require firewall settings to be adjusted or ports to be opened.
  • Check the lighting in your room to make sure viewers can see you, and get them to check their own too.
  • Check sound – make sure you can hear each other. In a class setting it’s an essential to feed your sound through an amplifier.
  • Hold a test session so that you can iron out any technical issues.
  • If you are doing a question and answer session, have your class prepare questions first to give the participant(s) an opportunity to put their answers together.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Safer Internet Day

image courtesy of earl53

I'm not bothering about Safer Internet day this year and will not bother again. 
When your internet service provider already locks down most tools that you would otherwise take for granted when you're outside their network control, how can any teacher really demonstrate how to be safe on the internet?

'Okay class, let's look at spam mail...oh sorry we can't our service provider has blocked it'  'Okay let's see why it's not really a good idea to open a Facebook account...ah, no we can't. It's blocked.' 'I know, let's search for...Nope, that's already blocked too'

I'm certain I'm not alone when I say that service providers are doing a sterling job at web filtering but there has to be some lee way, a point where a school can 'switch on' apps, tools, access to sites that they deem suitable without going through hoops and paperwork. I want to use Skype in my school but had to make a phone call to our service provider to check that we could! Web filtering is very similar to ripping out certain pages in newspapers before using them for Art, or deciding what books are suitable for reading before children get a chance to check for themselves. I'm not asking for a complete removal of filtering but a level of responsibility that can be shared between providers and schools. If I want delve into why it's important to being safe online then all I ask is for the ability to do so without first coming up against a standard 'this site is blocked' message.

Happy Safer Internet Day.

Note - I do teach my class how to take care when online and remind them that they are the ones that have to teach their parents too. I refer to this type of safety regularly not just on one day of the year.