Van Meter School, Iowa

Following on from inital conversations between Liam Dunphy in Sydney and John Carver & Deron Durflinger in Van Meter, teachers from both schools started to collaborate via Skype, Twitter, Google Docs and email. Initially it had been hoped that Senior High School students may connect for an English project but difficulties arose with trying to match school term times for such a project. It became apparent that the best connection to start with would be to find a project to connect St Augustine’s Primary school with Van Meter Elementary school.

Van Meter suggested using software than teachers at St Augustine’s College had not used. In order to make the make connection successful, it was important that teachers felt comfortable making the leap of faith into the unknown. Liam worked with the St Augustine’s College teachers to make this happened and recommends that exploring options like this is very important for successful connections. If one school knows the best solution for technology to promote a particular project then it must be worth the other school’s time in investing in this expertise and learning from them. Van Meter school helped push technology like voiceThread and Skype that was not previously used by teachers at St Augustine’s College. Learning by experimenting and doing proved a valuable bonus for the professional development of these teachers.

Liam facilitated the connection project with Shannon Miller (@Shannonmmiller, teacher/librarian) and Janelle Thompson (@janellejt, 5th grade teacher) from Van Meter collaborating with St Augistine’s College Year 5 teachers, Andrew Allmark (@andallm) and Liz Armenio (@earmenio) and Chris Egger, a year 6 teacher.

The first live Skype chat between students happened on the final Term 1 day of school for St Augustine’s College students.

Setting up Skype

Chris (kneeling), Liam (standing) and students prepare for the first live Skype chat

Chris Egger’s Year 6 students created a video tour of St Augustine’s College and the local Northern Beaches of Sydney which was used during this live Skype chat between the students of each school.

Tour of St Augustine's College - Sydney

Video Tour of St Augustine's College - Sydney

The students from both schools had to make some personal sacrifices in order to make the live Skype chat happen. There was a 15 hour time difference between Sydney and Iowa. This meant that students in Sydney had to come in to school at 7:30am on that Friday morning to connect with their new friends who had stay at school late for the 4:30pm start on their Thursday afternoon.

Skype Chat

Van Meter students on the screen enthusiastically interacting with the students of St Augustine's College

When the connection was established it was clear that the students in each school wanted to learn more about their new friends in a different country. As it happened, Liz and Andrew were working on the “Australian Identity” component of the “Multi-Culturalism” section of the Year 5 Humanities syllabus with students at St Augustine’s College. Their students were making advertisements to showcase Australia to would-be immigrants and visitors. ‘Come to Australia’ became the first part of our connected project. For more details about this project view the detailed view of this voiceThread project in its own dedicated page.

After the St Augustine’s College students received their quality feedback from their friends in Iowa via voiceThread about their Australian ads, it was time to reciprocate the good will. The second component of the project saw the 5th graders at Van Meter create poetry and art which they shared with the St Augustine’s College students. View the details of the “Poetry voiceThread” project on its dedicated page.

Students from both schools are looking forward to reconnecting in August when Van Meter students return for their new school year. Vicki Lewis (@pacifica53, librarian/information services) at St Augustine’s College has some exciting reading projects in mind for the reconnection.

Groups involved

  • St Augustine’s College – Sydney, Primary School

    • Liam Dunphy, Teaching & Learning Technologies Coordinator
    • Andrew Allmark, Year 5 Teacher and his 5A class
    • Liz Armenio, Year 5 Teacher and her 5L class
    • Chris Egger, Year 6 Teacher and some of his 6E students
    • Vicki Lewis, Librarian / Information Services
  • Van Meter Commmunity Schools

    • John Carver, District Superintendent
    • Deron Durflinger, School Principal
    • Shannon Miller, Teacher/Librarian
    • Shawn Hyer, Senior English teacher
    • Janelle Thompson, 5th Grade teacher
    • Van Meter 5th grade students

Technology used for collaboration

    • Skype
    • Google Docs
    • voiceThread
    • edmodo
    • twitter
    • email

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