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?

3 thoughts on “Learning from the back of the room…..

  1. While we, and I include myself in this, are awestruck and how amazing this is and it is, it’s really pretty natural and normal. Learning from anyone, anywhere and potentially anytime. This is what learning done right looks like. An expert teacher engaging students.
    As far as the off task student, while nice to bust her, no matter how engaging our classrooms there will always be those like that student but as you’ve so aptly described, the majority of students being engaged and working is in itself a testimony to good teaching.

  2. That’s so cool and for the students must be great to know that they are still able to connect with their teacher plus she’s showing she cares what is happening in her world.
    In thinking of setting up a web site on aquaculture and fish farming so that schools can learn more about the industry. The idea of skype conferencing into the classroom or using Ustream may be worth considering. Thanks for the idea.

  3. I have to educate my co-workers on ‘web 2.0’ etc, and this post definitely will help me. Thanks!

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