Chick Cams: Inviting the World Into Your Classroom!

I work with some wonderful people. I am going to say this in many of my posts. One person in particular is Akio Iida. He is one of many persons who make me re-think my role as a Technology Integrator. You see, Akio is a teacher that tech people ask for in their nightly prayers. He regularly allows me to try new ideas in his room and often,  I am only a sounding board for the models in teaching that he comes up with. I re-think my role because he doesn’t need me to hand hold him. Times have changed and hand holding is becoming less a part of my function.  Akio represents the new innovative classroom teacher. He  has the technology skills to do things on his own and I have to be comfortable with not controlling his experience but supporting his ideas as he shines. Also, when I bring him ideas, he adds his classroom experience to make the unit more meaningful. Akio understands how technology can enhance and extend content for students and never would use technology frivolously.

Every year, our science department coordinates with first grade teachers on teaching the life cycle. The way they do that is to put incubators into each first grade classroom, have students be part of the 21 day hatching process, witness the joy of life and the naturalness of death. Akio wanted to have the school community watch this process too. After all, the chicks would most likely hatch at night and the lesson would be lost forever unless we found a way to harness this opportunity. So that was the birth of the chick cams! (No pun intended)

We placed a camera on the chick incubator. Akio opened a free UStream account to stream the video live. I suggested he video the footage and add a computer with the Gawker application as well. The Gawker application is a free downloadable application that would take a picture every few minutes and create a time lapse film, making an eight hour video show in minutes!

Since we use Google Apps, Akio posted all the links and embedded the Ustream on a Google Sites. Parent could access the site and see the chick cam easily. But there still was an issue. How could we have students and parents comment and students respond to the comments to create an open dialogue and teach students that the internet is global? Students and parents would have to create Google accounts to comment which seemed complicated. Solution? Create a Google Form with guiding questions and paragraph text boxes and embed both the Google Form and the Google Result Spreadsheet on the site! Every morning, as a class, the students answered questions from each other, parents, faculty and visitors allowing for connections to be made, the sharing of knowledge and opportunities for students to show their understandings of the content area. Plus it was really fun to watch the chicks from the chick cam on the Smart Board!

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Summary of Tools:
You Need:

  • 1 to 3 Computer(s) with Camera
  • Free Ustream Account
  • Gawker Application
  • Google Apps account
  • For extra flexibility, an iPevo Document Camera — relatively inexpensive and you get so much bang for the buck!
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