Friday, January 21, 2011

Author Visits Via Skype

Today's blog post is by Christy Jordan-Fenton, author of Fatty Legs. Take it away, Christy!

Margaret Pokiak-Fenton prepares for a Skype classroom visit
Recently, we took part in a very unique classroom visit with Christianne’s Lyceum of Literature and Art. What was so interesting about this visit is that we weren’t actually in the classroom at all. With a little help from Skype, we were able to talk with this parent/child book club right from home. Now, I am definitely not very tech savvy, and Margaret has barely mastered the art of email, so I was quite concerned that we would make a mess of the whole thing. But, to my surprise it was extremely easy. First we set up our Skype account for free video calling and then we added Christianne as a contact (if you can use Facebook you can do this). Next thing we knew, we were transported from way up here in Fort St John, BC, down to Vancouver, which is about an eighteen-hour drive.

The visit got me thinking what a wonderful tool Skype could be for remote schools, or ones without budgets to bring in authors. All it requires is a computer, an internet connection, a webcam (many laptops and netbooks come with built-in webcams now), a microphone, and a screen and projector (to be plugged into the computer)—system requirements are listed on the Skype site. The children can see the authors via the screen and hear them through the speakers. When it is time for a child to ask a question, they simply approach the microphone and webcam. Having the students each prepare a question beforehand makes things run more smoothly, as does having additional material. For example, Christianne prepared a crossword based on Fatty Legs that we were invited to help the children answer.

We really enjoyed our visit with Christianne’s Lyceum and can’t wait to Skype with a remote class in a community like Tuktoyaktuk, or maybe some place far, far away like Sydney, Australia. And, should we be invited for a physical visit to some distant place, I just might use Skype to read a bedtime story to my children. If you would be interested in knowing more about Skype school visits, please feel free to drop us a line at tworiverscowmama[at]yahoo[dot]ca.

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