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Middle and High School Students Hanging Out... During the School Day

Waukesha West sophomores share in a literary mini-lesson with students
from STEM-Saratoga.  Their teachers, Fred Jonas, Beth Wartzenluft, and
Luke Christianson, organized the meeting using Google Hangout.
Last Friday (April 19), sophomores from Waukesha West and eighth graders from STEM-Saratoga joined together for a short mini-lesson focused on the analytical questions a reader asks when they read.  They did so without incurring bus travel costs, requiring field trip permission forms, or causing unnecessary stress for their teachers related to the appropriateness of their behavior.

Teachers Fred Jonas, Luke Christianson, and Beth Wartzenluft have developed a collaborative relationship that joins their students in the pursuit of developing strategies for meaningfully reading and analyzing text.  Each teachers emphasizes similar learning targets (properly scaled to the needs of their grade level) in their instruction, and they use that foundation to develop a working relationship between their collective students.

Through the power of Google Hangouts, a web conferencing tool that is part of Google+ (available for staff in Waukesha (@waukesha.k12.wi.us), but not available for students in Waukesha (@stu.waukesha.k12.wi.us)), the teachers bridged the gap of physical space to join their classes for a 15 minute collaborative mini-lesson.  Using on-board web cameras and microphones built into their laptops, the teachers planned a common meeting time and prepared students for the call.  Observing sophomore reactions to the web conference, the novelty of connecting with their younger peers captured the students' attention throughout the lesson.

The most important takeaway from the experience, though, was the simplicity with which the tools allowed the teachers and students to connect.  The meeting, which traditionally would have been an  logistical and financial headache to organize, actually took place because the technology made meeting efficient, unique, and effective.

Talking with Fred Jonas following the conference, he was inspired by the ease of use.  As Jonas stated, "When the technology makes moments like these happen, I'm all in."

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