Learning from the back of the room…..


I am sitting here watching our history teacher, Katie, teach her class via Skype. She is home with a new baby, but she wanted to help her kids with a particular unit, so we decided to try this.
All I can say is "amazing."
She sent a slide show ahead of time, so the students are taking notes as they listen to her. But it’s a conversation. A real conversation. She stops, asks questions, jokes with them, and even corrects them–all from the screen in the front of the class. The class is small–12 students–so they are all sitting around the front tables, fairly close to the laptop with the mic, but she can hear and respond to all of them.
The students are engaged, they are thinking and discussing, and I love it.
"The loss of life is extreme," she says about a battle in WWII. "Yes, good answer," she says to one student, adding, "hey you did a great job in the play last weekend." Big smile.
When they all start talking at once, the substitute asks them to raise hands so she can pick one to answer (so they don’t overwhelm the mic), but otherwise they simply talk.
"Yes, and Trent just brought up something I was leading up to," she says.
And off they go on another topic. She calls them by name, recognizing their voices. Makes them laugh. Grins when she hears them articulate a difficult answer.
She’s a wonderful teacher anyway, which makes adding this technology component simple.
It works.

My head is spinning, thinking of all the people we could invite to our classes to talk with our students. I’ve read of others doing this, and now I understand why.

Powerful stuff.

Ahhhh. Not perfect. Just as I was about to end this, I looked up and noticed one student playing a game on her laptop. She’s listening, sort of, but when Katie said, "do you see this map?" she just nodded her head and kept on playing, knowing Katie couldn’t see her.

She forgot I can. Busted.

mage: ‘What is Skype?

A second look

I am sure Karl Fisch must feel the same way–if I never see Did You Know again, I won’t mind.
Not that I have anything particular against the video. Initially, I was inspired and motivated by it; now, I’m simply tired of references to it. When I hear the music, I almost feel dread!
However, this teacher’s post caught my attention. I’ve been enjoying Dina’s blog. Powerful writing. Thoughtful. Engaging.
Today, she writes about her visit to a conference in New Orleans, her need to put it in writing, but her decision to do it visually instead:

However, I also cannot deny that for me, the experience of New Orleans,
and the questions it raised about the responsibility our society has to
answer the basic needs of its people before anything else, do stand in
stark ironic contrast to the juggernaut spread of “Do You Know?”.

Go. Visit. Watch.

Chocolate Thoughts

I can always tell when I shift into my "need more time to read and figure out what to do with the information" mode.
The bag of dark chocolates in my desk starts emptying. It’s not me, mind you. I have no conscious recollection of grabbing, unwrapping, and sticking in my mouth the hundreds of pieces of sweet, bitter chocolate squares that seem to disappear during the day.
After sharing, showing, and collaborating with teachers and students the past couple of months, this week has been quiet. Grades and comments are due, and teachers, understandably, don’t have me on their minds.
So I am catching up on my reading, and when I do that, I eat chocolate.
This morning, for example, I skimmed DyDan’s blog to discover Patrick had a new post I hadn’t read yet. Good stuff about motivation and world domination.
But there was also a new read, and what a powerful voice she has: I am bound by law to have a sugar-bombed beignet and chicory coffee on Sunday morning at the Cafe Du Monde this weekend…" And that’s her writing about food. Wait until you hear her voice on teaching and homework….and she mentions Tom whom I read and follow. Gotta go there now….
More chocolate.
That post sent me to the ASCD website, where various bloggers summarize the recent conference…and link to things like "what the best teachers know and do." Save to read later.
WHY didn’t I think about going there? I wonder, as I take another piece of chocolate from the bag.
My Google Reader still open, I see Kim Cofino has shared a post–Arrgghhh, a new blogger, at least for me. Do I click and add yet another read? Skip it? No, Ok, ok, I say to myself, as I unwrap what I determine will be the last piece of chocolate this morning and read more on the McKinsey report and Finnish teachers.
My mind is also thinking back to the SOS podcast I listened to this morning, where I bumped into Sheryl….which reminds me, I gotta call Hiram to check on the PLP progress…..just one more piece of that blasted chocolate.

Something tells me I need to get back in the classroom or switch to apples.

Image: ‘Fairtrade chocolate pieces