Monday, May 4, 2015

Google Hangouts in the clasroom

I had the opportunity to help facilitate a google hangout with Suzanne Smart's Grade 11 english class and Castleberry High School in Fortworth Texas.

To prep the students we had 2 class to class hangouts where the entire class spoke with the entire class at Castleberry.  With all new things there were some challenges that occurred.  The first hangout we tried with a chromebook, however, the audio was not very good and it was difficult to hear them and they could barely hear us.  The second hang out we used a USB webcam with a built in microphone. This helped the audio tremendously, however, we still had students sit in front of the webcam when they wanted to speak.
The hangout was set up with predetermined questions surrounding the play Macbeth to prompt the students for discussion topics. The grade 12's at Castleberry provide the prompting questions for both hangouts.  Students were receptive to speaking online and validating their ideas.  Some students were obviously shy about being on camera and others enjoyed the limelight.
Our final google hangout was set up with each student having their own chromebook and a partner student from Castleberry to discuss their Macbeth essay with.  In the days before the hangout the students created a shared google doc with their partner where they could commit and share ideas about the essay.  As we attempted to connect the students to each other through hangouts we ran into multiple challenges, some students were able to connect and beign chatting almost immediatly, others had to rely on the google doc to chat as the hangout was not connecting, and some students had no one at the other end (their partner was absent) - which was easily rectified by pairing them up with another student.

Overall the student were engaged in the conversations with their peers from Castleberry, chatting about their essay amongst other 'teenage' topics like upcoming prom and dresses.   Overall I think the concept of realizing that sometimes technology doesn't work exactly the way you want it to and letting the kids know that we need to problem solve the issue together and not let them see you get frustrated or stressed is an important take away form this exercise.  The experience was exciting as technology helps implement 21st Century learning skills into the classroom.

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