Saturday, December 13, 2008

Leadership Summit

The fourth grade Leadership Summit was on Friday, December 5th and it was a success.... mostly.
We had about 65 fourth graders answer the following questions via blog, Twitter and WizIq:
1.  What qualities do good leaders have?
2.  What problems exist that require good leadership?
3.  What obstacles stand in my way that prevent me from becoming a leader?
4.  What goals do I have to set to become a leader? Our Central Idea was:  Individuals impact society through their roles as leaders. 
We had 12 participants on the 90-minute WiziQ session, many from in district at the ESS building, a few classrooms and teachers in district and one fourth grade classroom in Beaufort, SC. We ended the day with about 220 comments on our blog. We had 2, count 'em 2 replies on Twitter. 

There were some technical issues on WizIq.  Nobody could use the whiteboard feature, participants who tried to connect with a mic and/or webcam ran into
problems.  I wrote to the WizIq help desk to ask about connection problems and the annotation feature and their reply was: 
"Regarding the connection, we generally recommend a connection with minimum bandwidth 512kbps for a good experience in a 2-way video session and around 256kbps for a 2-way audio session.. Each individual sees screens/ videos based on their bandwidth and only if they are active [speaking/ broadcasting/ writing] are others affected. 

The Annotation feature works if you transfer audio control [even in free version] to the participants."
I didn't have the audio control transfered, but it seemed to work fine on a couple of practice sessions we had before Friday.

I was passing the mic around to students, but it turned out that the audio was being picked up by the webcam, not the other external mic.  This is why people who joined us could hear me fine but not the students, I was standing right by the webcam, moving it from student to student.  

Twitter was a bust!  I'm a big fan of twitter but we updated around 98 times in 90 minutes and only got 2 replies!  I don't expect people to drop everything to reply and I know that mid morning isn't exactly high traffic time but 2??  I think I am trying to fit twitter in to a format where it doesn't fit.  I am wondering if I could set up a "chat room" type of space where kids sign on and discuss leadership in more of a live session.  As I looked at the tweets and even some of the blog comments, that is what kids were trying to do.  Any ideas of how I could do this?  Chatterous?  G Talk?  Skype?

I was pleased that all four fourth grade classes participated, but logistically it was tough to have that many people in one room.  They were in groups of about 10 and it was a little tough to have all students feel like they could just "act natural" and just interact in the WizIq session.  Last year I did this in groups of 7 and it was much easier.  I talked too much during the session, I would much rather have them lead the conversation.  Is this too much to expect from fourth graders?  We are going to try another "Summit" - type of activity in the spring around a different IB unit.  That will be a good opportunity to tweak some things. Students were unaware that there were any technical problems and were generally excited to share their knowledge with the world.

The conversation continues... My students are doing leadership actions such as helping students in other classes, reshelving books in the media center, a couple of students are planning on planting plants in our courtyard in the spring.  They are earning red "I am a Leader" bracelets for their efforts.  If you or your students would still like to comment on our blog, please do so.  I am also uploading pictures of the session on the sidebar of that blog.

(Thanks so much to those who attended: Joe, Kelly, Liz, Kate.  Thanks Dave for all your help in the days leading up to and during the Summit.)


Mrs. Heaton's Class said...

My class was the one that participated from Beaufort, SC. I appreciated the invitation to participate from Jeff, whom I originally contacted about starting to blog with my students in general.

This is my second year of teaching and I am interested in trying to integrage technology more with my students (I teach math, science and writing). Last year I was in a IB school and I have done some subbing in IB schools and I like the global connections that are promoted in integrated units.

I had never heard of WizIQ but I was excited to try it (particularily since the district doesn't have it blocked and our IT person just got webcams). I would have liked to Twitter with the students but that is blocked. I think my students would have liked to Twitter better then blog...the posts are immediate, short, and more like an IM situation. We participated in Jeff's two practice runs (one time just to observe and post on the IM portion of WizIQ and the other to try out our webcam).

The dry run with the webcam worked fine but completely failed us the day of the event. We are having a lot of broadband issues in the district and I am not sure if that was the case or not. My IT person was also having a hard time trying to get it working and she couldn't get to me until almost the end of the session. The whole event has made me want to get my own webcam (only $39) that way I can be a bit more self reliant in the future. Our IT saff is pulled thin and we are at the mercy of their schedule a lot. While I wish that wasn't the case, it has forced me to be more self reliant in the technology department (which is a slow process since I am starting at just about zero knowledge).

My students loved the idea of communicating with other fourth graders in another state. Normally they are not all that excited about writing but somehow the computer aspect makes it more enjoyable (hence my desire to blog). They were very excited about the event. I had to get creative about our computer usage since our only computer lab was reserved for MAP testing. I basically farmed my students out to other classrooms and the library to do their blogging (we had worked on leadership packets that addressed the questions so the students had that with them to refer to when blogging). I told Jeff that my students liked going away from the classroom to use computers in other classrooms and come back. I think it gave them the sense of trust and responsibility that children don't often feel. I was very happy with their attitude and behavior and the helpfulness of the teachers I went to for help using their computers (this was the first "school wide" SOS message I sent out).

This project was our first blogging/WizIQ experience. I was using it as a selling tool to my adminstration (as in...look what we can do with blogging!). It was great despite the technical glitches. We were trying to hear what the students in Mr. Lewis class were saying but again we had problems with volume and background noise (both in Mr. Lewis room and my own).

Some things I would do differently:

1. I would start the leadership packets a week earlier then I did and tie it into some type of project where students picked a leader to research. I would like to focus students on making connections between something they did and something they are talking about.
2. I would probably have students work in pairs to check each other. I had a few students helping others and their posts were very good...because I felt they had another set of eyes on the posts (my kids HATE double checking their work with a passion!). If someone else (a peer) does it with them and then they have to do it to the peer's post they might learn what to look for better when self checking.
3. Schedule the IT person weeks in advance to make sure they are on hand to work out technical glitches.
4. Make sure we had a pass around microphone (ours is part of our webcam) and probably wouldn't have been all that effective if we had managed to link through.
5. Arrange some kind of follow up to the summit. I felt that it was all good and well we posted but I should have made time in my lesson plans where students could review and reflect on the posts of others.

I am looking forward to the spring summit and the opportunity it would bring for our classes. I am grateful that Mr. Lewis seems excited about getting our two classes together again between now and then.

Eve Heaton
Mossy Oaks Elementary School (blog link is posted on my website)

Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA said...

A very cool idea - keep up the good work.

Liz Springer said...

Jeff, I think the wizIQ session was more meaningful that you realize. While you and your students were conferencing about leadership, I used this opportunity to show administrators in my building how video conferences can work across the district and across the country. I think they were blown away at the possibilities as we move into a more tech savvy age. Ok, so maybe the mics didn't work as well as hoped. But the potential was there, and I think it was a big success for opening some eyes around this district! Thanks for all the hard work and dedication you put into this porject with your kids. We learned a lot!