Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Ultimate Gift

One of our 8th grade classes participated in a wonderful ASK program this past Thursday. ASK, which is an acronym for Authors, Specialists, Knowledge gives students the opportunity to read a book and then ask questions of the author or in some cases specialists who are experts on the topic. Our videoconference this time was with Jim Stovall, an author, motivational speaker and media executive. He is also blind. He lost his eyesight as a young man. He discovered his love for reading books only after he had lost his sight. Now, Stovall starts everyday listening to a book on tape. He shared this fact about his life and others as he answered a wide variety of questions posed to him by students from six different schools. All together he fielded 36 questions about his book and his life. His accomplishments are very impressive. His Narrative Television Network has resulted in developing a second audio track on televisions for the visually impaired so that they can hear the actions and scene descriptions that they cannot see. Mr. Stovall has written many motivational books. His most successful book is "The Ultimate Gift". This is the book that was read by the students and discussed in Thursday's program. It also has been turned into a movie and is being released this month. I always find these ASK progrmas to be a great experience for the classes. First the students get to read a book and then meet and question the author. They also get to see and hear the other students as they ask their questions. It's an exciting event for all involved. It is inteactive videoconferencing at its finest.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

February and Freak the Mighty

A month has passed since I entered my last blog. February is always a short and very busy month. Throw in the fact that NYC schools have a week off for a winter break and it is easy to understand how a month can go by so quickly. But February was a very busy month for videoconferencing. On February 12th one of our 8th grade classes got to participate in an ASK program with Dr. Ben Carson. This was the second year that our students had the opportunity to read Dr. Carson's autobiography "Gifted Hands" and then meet with this outstanding pediatric neurosurgeon, author and motivational speaker. You can read more about the videoconference in Janine Lim's blog Videoconferencing Out on a Lim. There were also a couple of MysteryQuests in February. These videoconferences are always a successful experience for the participating classes as they race against time to find the mystery countries and cities from a bunch of clues presented by other classes all over the US. Even with Google the search is a real challenge! There was also a second NASA VC, about Rocket Science.

But what I really want to write about today is the wonderful "Read Around the Planet" VC that took place yesterday. This year "Read Across America" got aptly renamed "Read Around the Planet". Yesterday's Read Around the Planet or RAP as it is affectionately called was with a school in Alberta, Canada. The students in Canada had read the book "Freak the Mighty". In an interesting twist of retelling the story, the students in Canada chose popular music that best reflected the characters and mood of different chapters. Our students who are participating in a Poetry Slam program shared an original poem about New York with a promise to videoconference again to share their poetry from the slam. As always our New York City urban kids and the Canadian rural/suburban counterparts enjoyed sharing what they had in common and observed some of their differences. When asked by the students in Canada if they liked to dance. The New York students revealed that the entire class is taking a ballroom dancing class. They told the Canadian students that they were learning how to salsa, rhumba, swing etc. This prompted a discussion for a future videoconference of a demonstation of some of these dances. It always amazes me how this technology is able to form these wonderful connections between the students. The students really seemed to enjoy each other and are able to form a bond with each other. Now I have to figure out how to transform our media library into a dance floor. I just love my job. I will keep you posted.