This week I attended a live webinar from Classroom 2.0 titled Teachers Teaching Teachers. It is a weekly installment webinar that you can find here every Wednesday. Webinars are great ways to increase learning from the comfort of your home. You can choose how involved you want to be. Do you want to use your voice to share your opinion or do you want to observe and learn from others? Unless you are doing it for credit, most webinars won’t require you to participate using your webcam or microphone.
As with anything, there are benefits and drawbacks of this sort of blended learning. One strength of this particular webinar was that because it was through an established PD outlet, the content was of high value and the presenter was professional. One drawback was that I didn’t realize I had to download special software (this may prove tricky if you are using a district computer and you aren’t allowed to download programs without special permission) so I was late to the show. It didn’t matter to anyone else, but it mattered to me. There were many participants (I lost count as they came and went) so there was good dialogue that was highly structured. I’ve attended some webinars before where there was less structure and people were allowed to interject whenever they wanted to – which led to us not getting through all the content. Due to the high structure and preparation of Classroom 2.0, though, I would definitely attend another one.
In older grades, this type of platform could be incorporated into learning if students created or attended webinars of buddy classes (especially if the buddy class was located somewhere other than their own city or school.) It would be great for students to create a presentation around their knowledge or subject area and take turns presenting to other classes. For kindergarten, we’d only be on the viewing end of this, as it is just too much for a little 5 year old to do. We could, however, create pre-recorded presentations as opposed to live webinars and share those out.
It would be great to be used in upper grades, but I’d be sure to add an engagement component to it. It is all to easy to log in to a webinar and show attendance, but then walk away from your computer or become engrossed with something else. With older students, I’d be sure to have requirements for participation and perhaps a short write up afterward.
I’m more likely (and have in the past) to use Skype or video conferencing with professionals in my kindergarten classroom. The two-way communication is a better fit for our age and we can adjust the time better for kids who have a shorter stamina for sitting still. Many webinar platforms are pretty advanced for such young students when it comes to understanding how to turn on and off the microphone and video camera, when to interrupt with a question (or a story, as most likely the case in kinder), and how to stay engaged. This way it is more of a show and tell than a true webinar. But, as for many things in kindergarten, this is a baby step towards full technology implementation that can be achieved in later grades. It is better to attempt to start kids along this road than to wait until they’re older and further behind the technology curve.