Friday, April 28, 2006

Hosting MysteryQuestUSA

I have written in a previous blog about how much I love the MysteryQuest videoconference. So when I learned that MysteryQuest USA for 5th graders was taking place while our schools were closed for our spring break I was very disappointed. When I suggested to Janine Lim, Instructional Technology Consultant for Berrien County Intermediate School District where MysteryQuest is coordinated, that maybe I could organize and host a MQUSA she said "great" and I was off yet again on a new videoconferencing adventure. First came the flurry of interested schools. The spots filled quickly and I even had to turn away some very enthusiastic candidates. Then I had to confirm the lucky classrooms of their participation. Next I had to schedule test calls with the bridge. A class dropped out and another space had to be refilled. Another confirmation letter. 5 classes couldn't make the test on the day assigned so I had to reschedule those classes. In short coordinating MysteryQuest had become a quest of its own.

When MysteryQuestUSA finally arrived I realized I had two of the same states participating on the same day (a no-no). I didn't have a countdown clock but rather a digital clock that showed military time. And two of my own schools that had worked so hard to prepare for the videoconference had their network shutdown (I still had two other classes participating). I would be hosting two MysteryQuestUSA programs. They each had 5 participating classrooms. One of the classes in honor of National Poetry Month delivered their clues in poetic form. The class from Paris, Texas performed their clues with incredible background scenery that made us feel we were at a Broadway Show. St. Thomas School in Wisconsin had beautiful posters that were painted on both sides so they flipped them over to reveal their clues. They were the most environmentally friendly presentation.

As for how the classes did with their guesses, almost every group got the right city and state. Are the students getting smarter? Are the clues getting better? Or is "google" making mystery cities and states an endangered species? Whatever the reason for the student's success it still is a challenging and engaging videoconference.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Meet The Dooples

Today we had part two of our "Meet the Dooples" author's share. This wonderful duo of books brings to life a group of everyday writing tools. The characters of these stories are Pencils, Pens, Markers...Crayons and Chalk, not to forget Racer the Eraser, who helps out if the others "mess up". The children love these engaging stories of rhyme, rhythm and repititions. But best of all is the fact that the author of these two wonderful books, Dr. Lynn Hunter, hosts the videoconference. So they not only got to meet the Dooples but they also got to meet their creator. Dr. Hunter also works for the NYC Department of Education as a Distance Learning Coordinator. I met her a few years ago and we have collaborated on some very interesting projects together. When I learned she was also a children's literature author I couldn't wait for her to do an author's chat.
The first videoconference took place two weeks ago. Two second grade classes were paired up. One in one of Dr. Hunter's schools in Manhattan and one in one of my schools in Brooklyn. Dr. Hunter read the story to the children as a powerpoint displayed the illustrations.

After an animated chat with the students a surprise animation of the story was presented. This animation was done by a group of middle school students in a school where Dr. Hunter worked. To see the characters come to life in such a creative way was just great.

The videoconference ended with the children being asked to write their own Doople adventure. Today during our second meeting these budding young writers shared their stories with Dr. Hunter and the other second grade class.
Then Dr. Hunter shared her second story "The Dooples and the Shapes". The children really enjoyed participating in this videoconference. I really loved the fact that our "talent" was all so home grown. There is a lot in store for the Dooples in the future. A group of older students are working on a "sequel" and a musical component to the videoconference is being developed. If you're interested in learning more about the books or videoconferencing with the author contact or go to go to