Never done a virtual visit before? Until January 2013, neither had Theresa Kemp, computer teacher at a K-8 school in Glen Cove, NY. She graciously agreed to be interviewed about her experience for OnlineAuthorVisits.com. There are 10 fantastic authors on this site to choose from. So what are you waiting for? Read about them and their books, contact the author of your choice, and get started skyping!:
Why did you decide to try a Skype visit?
We decided to try a Skype visit because we just received new smart boards and a digital webcam for the school. We wanted to test our new technology.
How did you choose which author to Skype?
We took several approaches to finding an author to Skype. First, I worked with the teachers in my school to see what the children were reading and then I researched the authors of those books to see if any of them could schedule a Skype visit. Some of the middle school students were reading Goddess Girls by Suzanne Williams. Next, I checked with a librarian who gave me a few websites help me find an author who does virtual visits. Ultimately, we chose Mrs. Williams based on a recommendation from a teacher in another school where Mrs. Williams conducted a Skye Session.
How did you prepare students for the virtual visit?
The librarian in our school read a few books by Mrs. Williams to our students. Library Lil and Mommy Doesn't Know My Name were two of the books that were read and loved by our students. Our middle school students discussed the Godddess Girls books and we displayed books by Mrs. Williams in our library so students could check out the books and read at home.
We also had the classes prepare questions to ask Mrs. Williams. Two questions per class were selected for the Skype Session which was six questions in a 30 minute virtual visit. Students who read the questions to Mrs. Williams were selected ahead of time and they were given the question ahead of time so that they could practice. In addition, we emailed the questions to Mrs. Williams ahead of time so that she had an idea of what to expect from our students. I think this worked well.
How did the actual visit compare with you expectations beforehand?
The actual visit far exceeded my expectations. My main concern was the technology. I was not sure how clear the Skype would be on the Smart Board, but the picture was very clear. I was also concerned about the bandwidth and the delay considering we were Skyping from the West Coast to the East Coast. However, we experienced minimal delay and no problems with the bandwidth.
Regarding the visit, the children connected immediately with Mrs. Williams, she had their full attention as she shared stories and answered questions about becoming an author. Mrs. Williams was very relatable and the children thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
What did the author do/talk about that students seemed to enjoy most? What do you think/hope students will take away from this experience?
Based on feedback from our students, they seemed to enjoy seeing the illustrations that were not used in the book Library Lil. They also enjoyed hearing how Mrs. Williams came up with the idea for the story Library Lil and Mommy Doesn't Know My Name.
Students also enjoyed having the opportunity to ask questions directly to the author. I think and hope that all of the students came away from the experience with inspiration to do well in school, to be better readers and/or better writers.
Will you try a virtual visit again? If so, what would you do differently next time? (Please include what you might ask the author to do differently.)
Yes! Absolutely! In fact, I would like to invite Mrs. Williams back again to discuss the Goddess Girls books with our middle school students.
I think it would also be interesting to have a book club with a small group of students in which we read a book and have a book discussion via virtual visit with the author.
I don't think I would make any changes to the virtual visit we had with Mrs. Williams. I thought it went extremely well and the children took a lot away from the experience.
What I would do differently is schedule a second Skype session that focused on a literacy connection with the author. In a literacy connection skype session, I would ask the author to ask our students about the story. For example, what was your favorite part? Or how do you feel about a certain character or how do you feel about how the story ends? Can you think of an alternative ending? Did you make predictions, were they accurate? I would ask the author to have a book discussion with our students.
Matt Rosebrough, a Teaching Specialist at Willard North Elementary in Missouri put together the "how-to" video above showing Ms. Weis's second grade classroom preparing for and visiting with Skype Authors' Suzanne Williams. If you've never participated in a virtual visit before, this video will help!
What to do in a Skype visit:
The content of a Skype visit is really up to you and the author you choose, but here are some ideas of things you might want to include:
--Author read-aloud of a short picture book or an excerpt from a novel or a work-in-progress.
--Author sharing about the writing process, how she/he does research for a book, and/or unusual experiences while writing a book.
--Q & A: It usually works best if students prepare their questions in advance and write them out on cards. Have them come up close to the camera and microphone when they ask their questions so that the author can see and hear them clearly. Authors love questions that show students have read their books and have done some research about the author prior to the visit. They also like questions about the writing process. What are some things students grapple with in their own writing? They can ask how the author has solved similar problems.
Getting started with Skype:
If you've never used Skype before, it's easy. And best of all it's FREE. The first thing to do is to get Skype. Once you have it (you'll need to use an email address and set up a Skype ID), the video below shows how to video skype:
You'll probably want to try out your video skyping skills with a friend, family member, or co-worker to get familiar with how it works before skyping with your first author. When you feel like you're good to go, check the author info and author books on this site, choose one of us, and send an email requesting a skype visit. Be sure to mention you are coming to us through the SKYPE AUTHORS site since we have pledged to contribute 25% of our Skype speaking fees (listed with our author info) for all visits booked through this site to Camfed for 2011-2012. If you already have some dates in mind (or a range of dates), be sure to let your chosen author know.
As soon as a date and time has been set up (check for differences in time zones below), your author will send you a Skype ID so you can contact her (or him) on the day of the visit. Also, please let your author know if you'll need an invoice. And if there are any forms you will need the author to fill out, please send them in advance of the scheduled visit.
In the days and weeks leading up to the visit, let your students get familiar with your author's books. You might have them check out the author's website for additional information about the author. If there is a particular book (or books) you want your author to talk about, let her/him know that before the visit date. You can even send questions you want the author to talk about in advance of the visit too.
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Need advice on how to set-up a book club for kids? Look for info on the KidsReads site. You'll also find advice and suggestions on eHow.
YA librarian, reviewer, and blogger GreenBeanTeenQueen runs a Skype book club for teens at her library in Missouri. After a 15 - 20 minute discussion about an author's book, the teens then skype with the author. To learn more about her program, click here to go to her post.