Monday, August 26, 2013

Baby Florida Gopher Tortoise

The gopher tortoise is born with the right tools for digging

Gopherus polyphemus

Eventually, he overcame his fear and made a hasty retreat

Look at that cute little mug.
Unfortunately, two of his siblings were killed nearby on the road. Cars are a major threat to all ages of gopher tortoise. If you live in the same area as gopher tortoises, please be careful of these gentle animals.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to Use Skype in your classroom

I was recently invited to speak at Oklahoma's Recharge Technology in the Classroom Conference for teachers. There were over 100 conference sessions and 50 presenters. Mrs Schantz is a third grade teacher in Clinton, OK and I've Skyped with her class several times, so it is only fitting that she presented a "how to" use Skype in the classroom. My role was to be available as a guest speaker for her to Skype and to discuss my perspective as an author.

We had two sessions during the conference. Mrs Schantz had a raffle for my book in each session. Hopefully, I'll make some new classroom friends.

Lucky winner of Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus

In addition to the Skype demo, here is the outline of what she discussed along with some notes that might be helpful.

Skype is a great classroom tool.
  • FREE easy way for you to connect your classroom to the world.
  • Meet new people.
  • Share ideas.
  • Talk to experts

You will need:
  • Computer with video camera
  • Speakers
  • Microphone
  • Install Skype with your own ID
  • Big screen for students to watch
  • High speed Internet

The Ways Mrs Schantz uses Skype:
  1. Connect with international classrooms.
  2. Story time.
  3. Guest lecturers.
  4. Have a mystery call!
  5. Meet book authors

Mrs Schantz's class has connected with classrooms around the world including Brazil and Canada. Her mother-in-law participates in read along events where they each read certain roles. She is currently looking for an elite marathoner to visit with this year's class because their classroom theme is Running to the Finish. Her classes always have a goal to try and meet with classrooms from every state. They use a Skype map to track their progress and its a great tool for teaching geography.

Although you can theoretically Skype with anyone who also has Skype, we highly recommend that you use Skype in the Classroom as a resource to find partners. This site is committed to the education mission and there is a level of professionalism you may not encounter elsewhere. Skype in the Classroom is also the easiest way to find a wide range of quality guest speakers.

Mrs. Schantz's Skype Lesson for Mystery calls

My Skype Lesson. I'm a Skype in the Classroom Guest Speaker.

My advice to teachers using Skype in the classroom.

1. Skype visits should be more structurally interactive than in-person visits. My in-person visits are 75% "lecture" and 25% question and answer. My Skype visits are almost 100% question and answer. This approach builds engagement and interaction. This is critical for Skype visits in my opinion. If you spend most of the time lecturing, the students might as well watch a video. When I do in-person visits, I actually try to dial-back the amount of interaction because an auditorium of 200 children quickly gets out of control.

2. Test your connection, video, and sound with your Guest before the day of the visit. It is much easier to work through technical issues when there aren't 25 kids looking over  your shoulder. Plus, the time you have with your Guest is limited.

3. Discuss with your Guest what your expectations are for the visit. Because it is so easy to schedule a Skype visit, we sometimes forget to be clear and thorough with what we are trying to get from the visit.

4. Call your Guest when your classroom is ready, as opposed to having your Guest call you. Be clear about this.

5. All start times for visits should include Time Zone info!

6. Keep in mind that when more than one person is talking on an internet line, it gets very difficult to hear anything. Keeping the classroom quiet while a student is asking a question is very helpful.

Here is Mrs. Schantz's classroom blog:

I Skype with classrooms who have read Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus, but I've also visited classrooms who simply want to know how to become an author. I've talked to science classes who are interested in how to be amateur scientists. I've even given guest lectures on subjects like POV, setting, and voice.

Please contact me if you are interested in a Skype visit with your classroom!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus wins another award

I'm happy to announce that Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus has won the People's Choice Award for printed book. This award is particularly special because the winner is determined by readers' votes. It is always difficult to get people to take that extra step to write a review or vote for their favorite author. So it's truly an honor. It's also a reminder of what keeps me motivated to continue writing.  Thank you Olivia Brophie fans!