Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bruce Hale: Skype School Visits

Bruce Hale wears a lot of hats, literally and figuratively. He's author of the Chet Gecko series and SNORING BEAUTY. He sings jazz, acts, and gives seminars on storytelling. And he can make illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka (don't miss his LUNCH LADY books) do his bidding. More or less*.

Bruce gave us a detailed overview of how to use Skype to bring your book act to schools.

Skype is free software that you can use for video conferencing. When the session began, we saw Bruce on stage, in front of a screen with a picture of Bruce on stage, and in that image was another picture of Bruce on stage. In other words, it was like looking at a Russian nesting doll, but one with a cool hat and a waistline. Also? Surreal.

Using Skype, Bruce and Jarrett demonstrated the things that could go wrong in a school visit. It took several minutes to actually connect--some of which was planned, some not.

It eventually worked, though, and Jarrett swore us to secrecy as he revealed a small disaster that occurred during his first school visit via Skype. I have censored this so that Jarrett doesn't hunt me down, which he promised to do should the vow of secrecy be broken.

So, Jarrett was waiting for his session to begin. The tech guys could hear him, but they couldn't see him. As he waited for a solution, he let rip a thundering fart.. They were too polite to comment on his flatulence, but everybody knew what had happened. They knew. The bottom line, so to speak: anything you say or do can be transmitted, he said. And then he farted.

Moving on.

Bruce gave some excellent, practical advice about using Skype for school visits. Among the gems:
  • Be visual. Gesture lots, and use props.
  • Prepare the students well beforehand (send them to your website, etc.)
  • Pile on the Q&A, but let the teacher run that session
  • Wear something suitable. No crazy patterns.
  • Get feedback afterward, and use testimonials for your site.

* Jarrett did more, specifically, he ate Tostitos during the Skype, which gave us an enhanced sensory experience.

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