A Cultural Collaborative Unit, Part 2: Choosing Technology Tools

This is the second of my 3-part series on building a Cultural Collaborative Unit using technology. To recap the first steps I took to get this project started, I have included the following 3 bullet points from Part 1 of this series (the planning stages), below:

1) Come up with a plan as to how you will conduct your cultural collaborative unit.

2) Inquire with a teacher from another district to see find another educator that is interested in participating in the project.

3) Communicate with your participating teacher, and their class (if possible).

Now that you've reviewed, let's dive into Part 2!

Part 2: Choosing Technology Tools

1) Choose a means of communication for the project. In order to communicate with your participating teacher and their class, you will need to choose a technology tool that allows for video streaming. The best communication technology for this project is Google Hangouts. In Google Hangouts, you can video call the teacher from the other school by simply inviting them to the room via email. Once they open the email they can connect to the video conference. Hangouts also allows each teacher to share their computer screen- a feature I took advantage of (I will show you how soon).

Once connected, both teachers must arrange their computer so the web camera is facing the students (I actually used an external document camera so I didn't need to move my computer). In addition, I would suggest both teachers plug their computers into the projector or TV in their classroom so students can clearly see the students from the other class as they talk. Some other options for web video are Skype or FaceTime (on iPhone/iPad).

Important Tip: I advise you talk to the IT department at your school to let them know what you are doing. Also, it is best for an IT member to come into your room on the first day of this project to help troubleshoot any problems. Your participating teacher should do the same thing.

2) Additional software for the project (Paid and Free). We've discussed communication software, but once your classes are connected you will need to choose additional tools to ask questions and assess learning. I used Peardeck to ask questions of students and to assess their learning. The paid version of Peardeck offers neat features that allow students to drag a dot on a screen to answer questions (I will mention a free option below). It also allows you to teachers to ask questions and view student responses in real time.

As for a free software alternative, Today's Meet was a wonderful choice for online discussion boards, but it has shut down. Check out Go Soap Box instead. The full feature subscription to Go Soap Box is free for up to 30 students at a time. Check out more free alternatives to Today's Meet here. Whatever the software is, just make sure it allows students from both schools to answers questions and communicate with each other online. PollEV is another free option that allows teachers to ask questions and conduct polls.

Still interested? Look for the last installment of this Cultural Collaborative series soon! In the next blog post, I will discuss how I actually implemented the project.

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