Virtual Author Visits
Posted by Diane Griffin
This is my first post on the GLMA blog.
As I was thinking about sharing our library’s recent Reading around the World event, I realized I could not do that without including kudos for COMO. COMO, the combined conference for Georgia Library Media Association, Georgia Library Association, and Georgia Association of Instructional Technology members, is held every fall.
I have been attending this conference for about 5 years. One of the many things I enjoy about the conference is that I always learn something to implement immediately upon returning to my school. This past fall was no different.
I attended a session given by Kenyette Kilpatrick with Peachtree Publishers on planning Virtual Author Visits. Having a virtual author visit was on my goal list for this school year. After the session, I introduced myself to Ms. Kilpatrick and told her of my interest in their program and a little about our Reading around the World emphasis this year.
Now “Reading around the World” is not an original idea, but it does lend itself to a lot of creativity in supporting reading. Our school’s Performance Learning Coach and I planned specific “visits” around the world to help our students complete the Georgia Performance Standard of reading 25 books, to build a community of readers within our school, and to help students improve their reading comprehension skills. Twenty books are student choice guided by their STAR reading level and personal interests, while the other five books must include two titles that are social studies- related, two that are science-related, and one biography title.
While talking with the Ms. Kilpatrick about Australia being our next stop around the world, she mentioned that they were talking with an author who lives in Australia about doing some sessions with students in the US. She said she would talk with him and get back with me. Wow, was I excited! (Our students had never participated in an author virtual visit). Talk about perfect timing!
After some follow-up communication, she was able to arrange the virtual visit with the author during his scheduled visit to the U.S. in November. Perfect timing, again!! Our Australian celebration was scheduled for November, the same time the author, Martin Chatterton, was planning a visit to U.S. Mr. Chatterton and I communicated via email about our school, the students, and the schedule for the virtual visits.
We used Google CHAT for our session and it worked great, as that was preferred by this author. In a just a few easy steps, you can have audio and video capability. Ms. Kilpatrick from Peachtree Publishers was extremely helpful and fun to work with; we practiced together via Google CHAT the week before. I received great support from our County Media Services Coordinator and our technology support staff.
The fee for the virtual visit was very reasonable. It is handled between you and the author, but there is a contract to sign.
The students were very excited and seemed to really enjoy it! Two students told me they use Skype to visit with distant family members and were excited to see that we were using that technology at school. All of the students interviewed afterwards said it was cool ! Mr. Chatterton talked with the students about everyday life in Australia, as well as his writing, his illustrations, and future plans for his “Brain” series. He had a great sense of humor and related well to the 6-8th graders. He was brilliant in showing the students how to develop your character through drawings as he drew some of the students while in front of the webcam. Later, he mailed the drawings to us for the students!
Looking back, I went to the conference knowing that our Australian celebration would be here soon. I wanted to do something totally different from our Japanese celebration in September. There are other resources available for having virtual author visits; however, working with Peachtree Publishers was a great experience. They connected us with an author that tied in perfectly with our reading program efforts. So, if you want to discover great ideas to implement in your library program that will engage students and support learning, set a goal to attend COMO 2011 in the fall. I can’t wait until our next virtual author visit!!
Howard Middle School