Student Engagement at its best!

The sound of the low flying planes created noisy distractions in the classroom and made it difficult to hear our guest speaker. The ‘funny’ part was that these planes were flying low over a house in New York, where Christopher Herz was presenting to our class as part of Children’s Book Week and Numeracy and Literacy Week. Christopher is an author in New York. Our class was in a small rural school in country Western Victoria, where there are few, if any external sounds and noises. This class consisted of 50 or so students from age 12 to 17.

In boredom one day whilst trying to think how I could engage my year 11 IT class this week, I put out a tweet seeking an author to present virtually to the class, encouraging them to read and write. This class is techno savvy, easily distracted, reluctant to spend a lot of time on theory and only ever writes the ‘barest of material”. Not expecting a response, I was delighted to get a response from Christopher. (@herzwoods). (See Learning of Harlem from Twitter). The connection was made and communication continued.

Prior to our linkup

  • we communicated via twitter and email
  • we tested our skype connections, webcams and audio and discussed the format for the session
  • agreed on a time:- 11:30am our time Friday, 9:30pm New York time Thursday.
  • agreed to revert to gTalk video should skype cause audio or video issues.
  • invited students who had attended the Melbourne Writers Festival to also participate
  • booked the library and its interactive whiteboard for the linkup.
  • setup a google doc for students to add their ideas on a character for a potential story writing activity, as Christopher is keen to continue working with the interested students.
On the day
    • checked the library
    • discovered a teacher had booked it for reading with the year 7 class. (So they came too) This meant there were more than 50 students in the audience
    • Right on time, Christopher logged in to skype.
The video and audio were clear and skype did not disappoint at all. It was as though Christopher was in the same room as us. He presented in a passionate, informed and engaging manner to students aged 12 to 17. For 50 minutes, he spoke and interacted with the students, watching his audience closely through the web cam and commenting on what he saw. Friendly waves were sent across the 22,000kms, with applause, comments from the student body projecting across the microphone.

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Christopher talked about his school days, how he started writing and how he got his work published. But best of all, he spoke of his passion for writing, encouraging the students to get involved in writing whether it be for magazines, blog posts, advertisements or publishing novels. He writes down ideas as they come to him -this could be a serviette, his hand or pen and paper. I was fascinated with his use of old and new technology – typewriter, facebook, twitter, paper, computer etc. Christopher talked about characters, ideas for stories and the two books that he has written. He engaged the students totally and completely for 50 minutes solid. Students were able to come up to the microphone and ask questions. We learnt of the budding writers amongst us.
The students will tell you more if you go to my year 11 blog posts and read what they thought:-
  1. Linkup with Christopher Herz
  2. Linkup with Christopher Herz – Catei
  3. Linking up with Christopher Herz
  4. Linkup with Christopher Herz – Chloe
  5. Our linkup with Christopher Herz
  6. Linkup with Christopher Herz
Thank you Christopher for inspiring, motivating, challenging and engaging our students. May the conversations, sharing and writing continue! Imagine what we can ‘dare to achieve’!

4 responses to “Student Engagement at its best!

  1. Hello Anne,

    What an inspiring post and wonderful example of ways technology can make learning more engaging and authentic.

    As a follow-up to your virtual meeting with author Christopher Herzwoods, I thought your students might enjoy an interactive tour of the Harlem Renaissance: Drop Me Off in Harlem.

    I also have a question about how the “interactive whiteboard for the linkup.” How did the IWB add to the conference experience?

    Looking forward to following your year/e-journey,

    • Hi Gail Thank you for your comment. Loved the link that you provided for us. Our students have heard of the Harlem Globetrotters but that is as far as their knowledge of this area goes. The IWB provided us with a big screen in which to view Christopher. As Christopher used his web cam to good effect, it felt like he was in the room with us. It also allowed us to have 50 plus students in the audience and that meant a wider audience could get involved. We did not use the interactive features of the whiteboard, but maybe that is something we could consider next time. Love the sharing and learning that can take place when we are globally connected. Hope your new school year goes well.

  2. Pingback: Student Engagement at its best! | On an e-Journey with Generation Y | Pupil Engagement |

  3. Pingback: 10 ways to take skype beyond ‘meet and greet’! | On an e-Journey with Generation Y

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