Amazing! Global! Collaborative! Snap! I’m overjoyed by how today’s Poem In Your Pocket Day went. For the past 3 years, we’ve been observing national poem in your pocket day by carrying poems in our pockets, wearing stickers to promote the day, and holding a day of poetry reading in the media center where every child (and adult) has a chance to read poems into our open microphone. This year, we tried something new: a live webcast. Using Clarke County’s new purchase of Adobe Connect, Joel Frey setup a room for the Barrow Media Center. The link was sent directly to the PTA listserve and an online registration was setup via Google Forms for anyone else interested. Registrants on Google Forms were emailed the room link.
Today, 18 classes came to the media center for 20-minute poetry reading sessions. Students came up one at a time and read their poems. We all celebrated with snaps. At the same time via Adobe Connect, parents, media specialists, classrooms within our school, classrooms across the district, and family members in other parts of the United States and the world were watching, listening, and making comments about the student poetry. As online participants made comments, I shared the comments with the students in between poets.
Amazing things started to happen. Students started huddling around the computer waiting for the next comment to come in. They got excited when they saw that someone was typing. They wondered why someone didn’t make a comment about their poem. They kept asking, “You mean people can really see us? They’re watching us right now?” Students took over the computer while I got up to make announcements and when I read my own poem. In a matter of minutes, they discovered multiple functions of the Adobe Connect software just by watching it in action. It was electric.
Online, participants made comments about how much they appreciated being able to connect with their child, nephew, cousin, etc. People joined us from multiple locations: Mrs. Marsha West, Barrow’s former media specialist, joined us from Lincoln, Nebraska. One student had family members join us from Chicago, Illinois, Cohutta, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Another student had an uncle tune in from Afghanistan. Parents explored a technology that many had never tried, and they appreciated this opportunity to think about learning and connecting globally in a new way.
At the same time, every teacher in the school got to see a new technology in action, and now the ideas are beginning to spark about how this can be used in the future. At least two teachers have already approached me with ideas for future events or lessons.
Did everything work perfectly? Well……no. However, I learned many things along the way. Think about how to market your event. I posted on my blog, facebook, PTA listserve, and sent some personal invitations. This opportunity to webcast came only one week before my event, so I didn’t have a lot of time. I would have tried other avenues of invitation if time had allowed. It is a good idea to have someone who can login and monitor sound quality while you manage the chat, camera, audio, and recording. If you have a registration process, it’s good to have that same person managing audio also watch for new registrants so the link can quickly be sent out. Using a wired connection is better than using wireless. My wireless dropped me off the network twice, and I had to get back into the room. It was quick to fix and not a big deal, but I wish it could have been avoided. The great thing about Adobe Connect is that even though I was dropped from the room all of the people were still in the room when I got back and everything was just as I had left it. You should also think about what part of your session you want to record. I pressed record at the beginning of each session and stopped at the end of each session so that separate archive links were created for each class. Also, think about what your users need to see on their screen. For the first few sessions, Joel Frey, my technology integration specialist, helped me arrange the chat, webcam, participant list, and power point on the screen so that it could be seen by all in a logical way. Originally, I made the video full screen, but participants weren’t really sure which class was reading poems. By putting the slide with the class name, grade, and time beside the video, it was easy for users to stay informed. Finally, I had to periodically remind people in the chat to participate. For many, this was a new experience, so it was important to give them reminders and tools on how to connect with students through their comments, snaps, and virtual applause button.
This afternoon, as I walked down the halls, a student stopped me and said, “Mr. Plemmons, did anyone else make a comment about my poem?” Kids want authentic audiences beyond their classroom walls. Thank you, Clarke County for giving us this tool. Now, our task is to keep using it, seeking out authentic audiences, connecting with experts around the globe, and collaborating with classrooms in our own district and beyond.
You can listen to every class recording on Adobe Connect below. At each link, you will hear and see the students reading poetry. You will also see the chat comments that took place during the webcast and hear my announcements to the students each time a comment came in. I hope you will take some time to see what an important day this was for us in the media center and consider how this might work in your own media center or classroom.
You are also invited to tune in on Monday April 18th, where several PreK, Kindergarten, and 1st grade classes will read their poems between 8:00AM-12:20PM EST.