Today our school was closed due to the weather, so I decided better put my money where my mouth is and create an online lesson for the children whilst they were off. I decided to take the opportunity to try and make the lesson as ‘live’ as possible.

I know I started the wrong way round in looking at things (I should have started with what the children needed to learn rather than what tech shall I use) but come on, it’s not every day you get a snow day! I decided not to use the inbuilt chat in our learning platform, Studywiz, as I wanted to be able to try and use some of the same teaching strategies that I use on a day to day basis to see if they will transfer online. In particular, modelling the writing process through shared writing. I therefore needed a tool that would allow drawing and writing to be seen and used at the same time as audio and chat. For this purpose I decided to give Twiddla its first ever ‘work out’. Currently, you can register for educational use on the site and get a pro account for free, details at the bottom of this page.

So, I embedded a Twiddla meeting into a Studywiz discussion activity so that after all the fancy real time stuff they would be able to create their descriptive writing and post it onto the discussion. The lesson had to be very generic as I was opening it to anyone from year 1 to 6. I therefore planned to start by get them to share some descriptive language about an image then move on to discussing an existing text, shared write the start of a new one before they created their own.

So, how did it go? I’m going to keep it brief as you can click here for a replay of the lesson (starts at about 350) and there is an image of the #snowlesson twitter hash tag I used to keep track of my thoughts at the bottom of the page.

The collaboration they carried out in the chat was great, and i’m sure adding to the image and annotating at the same time was motivating for them. As for the shared writing, I had issues with audio (i.e. I couldn’t get it working!) so I could only use the chat. It was therefore pretty difficult to get the shared write going — I had to give up in the end as some other users could still see the image which was obscuring their view of the writing. However, if their had been no technical hitches then I think the shared write would have worked really really well with audio. It almost makes more sense than in a standard class setting. With all pupils able to comment and discuss in the chat the writing process that was illustrating, whilst it was occurring, it would certainly make it more overt. Finally, it is worth mentioning that this method also encourages Talk for Writing and AFL through deep questioning and peer reviews.

Here is a couple of amalgamated screen shots of the lesson mid flow — mixed with the first few replies in the discussion:

Here is a snapshot of the #snowlesson twitter hash tag. Alternatively, Click here for the latest.

Originally published at primarypete.net on January 6, 2010.