Skype in the Classroom: An Author’s Visit
Post by: Genna Rodriguez
I used Skype as a digital tool to extend the walls of our classroom. I had the same group of students in ELA 9 for the full year. In semester one we read The First Stone, and in semester two we read its sequel, The Fifth Rule. Students were so engaged in the story, that they were elated to have the opportunity to meet the author and questions about his works. Without Skype, this opportunity would not have been possible. The author of the novels is Don Aker—a Canadian author who resides in Middleton, Nova Scotia. I originally connected with him through e-mail, and he and I arranged to have the students connect with him via Skype for a one-hour chat. Being so invested in the story, the students had many questions they wanted to ask, and each student wanted the opportunity to ask one. We spent some time in class to generate the questions the students were curious about. Each student chose a meaningful question that they would ask.
During the Skype chat, the author created a very intimate classroom experience. He shared information about his background, what inspires him as a writer, how he became a writer, advice he had for students and their writing, how he decided on the covers of the books, how one of the novels was based on true events, a look inside the characters, some information about his upcoming book featuring the same characters, etc. The students were completely engaged in the activity, and most definitely inspired by Don. Don himself was a teacher, so he had very good advice for the students about writing and guided them though his writing process with these two novels. They got to hear firsthand that anyone can write a story. The students extended their learning on many levels.
The first novel ended on a sad cliff-hanger, so the students shared with Don how they would develop an alternate ending to the first book. Students also shared with Don some ideas they had for a prequel to the first novel. Students were very captivated when Don revealed that the first novel actually played out in real life post-publication, wherein a youth threw an item at a car windshield and nearly killed a passenger. The young offender had never read the novel, but it was very ironic that the author’s story very much mirrored this youth’s story. This inspired students to investigate the story further. They found news articles and drew comparisons between the two stories. The students did research on the Youth Criminal Justice Act and asked the author questions about the legislation as well.
My students still talk about their Skype chat with Don Aker. They continually ask me when the third novel will be published and if we can have an extra-curricular book club to read it together. Don inspired a group of students, who were non-readers in the past, to grow a love for reading and storytelling. I plan to invite more guests into our classroom via Skype in the future to create a connected classroom that extends its walls in ways previously thought unimaginable!