Sheryl and I have been corresponding and skyping since she helped me out with my Rip, Mix, Learn presentation in October. She's involved in some fascinating projects with her students (pre-service teachers) and she introduced me to a new web tool, Tapped In. I have to spend more time exploring its possibilities. Sheryl is also spearheading a technology integration initiative in Alabama.
Yesterday Sheryl did a presentation for 180 teachers in Alabama and invited me to join the conversation via Skype. It's not often I can visit Alabama over my lunch hour and be back in class in time to teach my grade 10 class. ;-) It was a real thrill. While Sheryl navigated websites in Alabama I took them on a tour of my classroom blogs and discussed the powerful impact these community building technologies have had, and continues to have, on my students and myself.
At one point I was discussing Aldridge's scribe post. He's done something that no one else in this class has done yet. He had his graphing calculator draw various graphs and downloaded them from his calculator to his computer. He then took it one step farther. He edited the graphics and labeled them with equations and other important features. Now a lot of teachers using graphing calculators know how to copy graphs into their computers and a lot of people know how to edit pictures once they're in the computer -- but Aldridge taught himself to do these things. The other kids are going to be impressed and this fairly quiet and reserved young man will be a star for a while as he teaches these skills to his classmates. More and more now, when students email me about how to work with digital images I refer them to other kids, sometimes kids in a different class. I told the teachers in Alabama that if the kids know the technology better than me then I don't need to know how it works. If any of you want to know how to do this stuff, ask them -- they're nice people, they'll tell you. It's incredibly empowering for a student to take on the role of teacher or expert with their peers; even more so with their teachers.
I also heard myself say: "If you see value in learning these skills for yourself you should see what happens when you put these tools in the hands of the students!" I was going to point them Sarah's Blog to underscore the point. If anyone from Alabama is reading this, check it out -- you'll see what I mean. Keep in mind Sarah does this because she wants to. It's not part or her course requirements; it's entirely her own initiative.
Sheryl asked me how I would respond to someone who says: "We don't have time for all this writing in math! We need to focus on teaching and learning so that these kids can learn more math." Well, that got me started. ;-) I pointed them to my earlier post here, The Scribe Post and then I said: "Anyone who looks at my class blogs can't deny that my kids are learning, talking about (in the chatbox at midnight on a weekend!) and writing mathematics. How do you find the time? How do you not find the time! Now that you know this technology exists you have an obligation to provide these learning opportunities to your students. You don't have to find the time, you have to Seize the Time!" and I pointed them to Anne's post. (I always direct people to Anne's work when this issue comes up -- thanks Anne; that post has become a powerful "learning object" for the people I meet in my milieu.)
Just before I signed off Sheryl asked me how I would feel if these teachers wanted to visit my classroom blogs and leave comments. I would LOVE to have them leave comments for my students. As I've said elsewhere, imagine the impact you can have on a young person you never met just by leaving them an encouraging comment. The role of a teacher has really gone global. Some of the Alabama teachers wanted to know if I would be interested in having one of my classes Skype one of theirs. I would be very interested! Email me and let's get it started. ;-)