Giggling and Poetry across the Atlantic

Janine in the HatThere are no words that can properly describe the joy, giggles, and unbridled learning that takes place during a videoconference. You just have to experience it, and that’s exactly what I had the opportunity to do this morning. On my way to Advanced Googlology, I met Janine Lim in the hallway on the way to my session (fully decked out in her Cat in the Hat outfit) and couldn’t resist sitting in on her TWICE session. I’m glad I made the switch, because I got to see a videoconference between a fourth grade class from St. Joseph, MI and a Year 7 class in UK, Wales.

Kids in WalesIt was a special videoconference for the classroom in Wales as it was there very first experience with videoconferencing. The class from St. Joseph shared pictures from their lake-side town and included information about Michigan’s fruit-growing regions. They also performed several short poems for the kids in Wales. The classroom from Wales shared a very special song about rugby that they recently won a cultural competition with during an annual celebration.

The children then had time to ask questions of each other, share a few interesting facts about where they lived, and the Head Master in Wales even “crashed” the session so he could say hi to all of the kids in St. Joseph. Towards the end of the presentation questions were opened up to those of us sitting in on the session watching. Janine Lim asked the students in St. Joseph what they liked about videoconferencing (since they’ve done many of them). One of the students replied that they enjoyed being able to talk with other kids around the country and the world.

And that’s what videoconferencing is all about; showing learners the wider world. Talking about other places in textbooks and pointing out locations on a map will never garner the engagement or inspire like the live video and audio interaction that videoconferencing provides. Today those students will go home and be able to tell their parents “we learned from kids in the UK today” instead of just, we learned about kids in the UK today. A much more powerful learning experience was witnessed today, and I’m personally inspired to begin pursuing grants and/or money to startup videoconferencing in my district.


  1. For Read Across America, my school teamed up with another school a few hours away to read and share books with students via video conference. All went well using Skype however, until last week, we were mandated by the district that we could no longer use Skype to Video (skype) cast. It appears that we were the first in our district to do this. Can you share with us, the program used at St. Joseph? I am very new to this and would like to see video conferencing continued!

  2. Sounds like you had a great program going, Cosey. Until they shut it down of course. I’m curious, were you given a reason as to why it was shutdown? Bandwidth? If it was some knee-jerk reaction to unplanned videocasting going on in the schools, you’d have a strong argument for reinstating it, especially if you mention what the cost of other videoconferencing equipment would run (more than $4,000 for a professional setup).

    However, there is a wonder lady by the name of Janine Lim (she’s the one in the Cat in the Hat suit) that works at the Berrien County ISD here in Michigan. She runs the Videoconference program, and LOVES to help other districts around the world get setup with what they need so she can make more videoconference connections to them.

    Here’s the website, check out the resources she has there, or send her an e-mail (she’d love to hear from you). There’s also a huge list of videoconferenceing databases of connections and more. Janine might even be able to help you get setup with an open-source videoconference solution. Similar to Skype, but completely open source.

  3. I am a poet, and write mainly for children, but adults love my poetry also. I have provided a website with 230 poems with added voice recordings in my clear English voice to help students both learning English in England and across the world. I also visit classrooms via Skype, read my poems to people, talk with them, listen to them. It is excellent. I do this because, unlike children in the schools etc where I live, who see me often, people abroad often do not have the opportunity to meet a living working poet. Rhyming words in English are difficult. They may sound alike but are not spelt alike: eg: off/cough; too/blue/grew/through – – – see what I mean. When people meet these words in a short rhyming poem, they are likely to remember them. Please do go to my website and get back to me. I have been an ESL teacher for many years (but primarily I was a teacher of business studies, and English was a very important subject). So a teacher and a poet combined is worth inviting to your classrooms. (Don’t go across the Atlantic. Stick with an English accent, ha ha).

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