Friday, October 30, 2009

Cool 2.0: Visit 1 with Brendan Halpin

"Things don't stop being funny because they're serious."
Brendan Halpin
So Thursday morning's Skype visit with Brendan Halpin was going along amazingly well. The students all had come prepared with mostly thoughtful questions, Skype was working fine, and we were really enjoying hearing Brendan's funny, honest answers. And then (oh no, the awful and then . . ), about halfway into the visit, OUR network crashed. No Internet, no Skype, no Brendan. Grrrr.

Folks, not only is Brendan Halpin a wonderful author (buy his books!), he's also a great guy who enjoys connecting with teenagers. He agreed to let me send him the remaining student questions, and, as a simulated Skype completion of the visit, he created a video of the answers, complete with simulated student interaction (thank you, Rowen). Oh, and Weezie is short for Helyn Louise.

Virtual Class Visit #1 from Brendan Halpin on Vimeo.

Based on half of a virtual author visit, I'd say that it's a really effective way to bring writing and writers into the classroom. It's relatively easy on the author (an hour of a day from a home office, rather than a whole day at minimum of airplanes, transportation, crazy scheduling) and oddly enough, a very personal experience for the students (maybe it's the larger-than-life head on the whiteboard?).

This was very different from an in-person author visit, which usually starts with a prepared talk by the author, followed by a shorter Q&A from the audience. Mindful of the author's time, we jumped right in with the student questions, and because we were all in their regular classroom space, I think the students felt a lot of "ownership" of the time (by that I mean, freedom to participate).

Tips for a Successful Skype
  1. Invite a really neat visitor
  2. Communicate in advance.
  3. Do a technology run-through in advance.
  4. Make sure the students are prepared with relevant questions.
  5. Inform your technology department of the event so they don't schedule maintenance during the visit.
  6. Be on time.
  7. Cross your fingers and hope for the best --
    technology does sometimes fail us, without notice :-(
  8. Follow up with students and your visitor with feedback and thanks.
Luckily, we get another try in a couple of weeks when Brendan returns to vist Greg's Junior High class. This time, I'm going to consult in advance with the invisible Internet sprites, to make sure the network stays with us for the whole visit.

11/7/09 - Comment from a participating teacher after showing Brendan's video to her class:
This was AWESOME! I showed it to my kids this week, and they loved it. What a great guy.


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