Talking with Teachers

Yesterday I spent some time with two groups of teachers talking about videoconferencing possibilities. I heard some interesting stories.

One teacher participated in an Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum videoconference for the first time last year. Another teacher had signed her up, and I found out later that she had been so upset about it she didn’t speak to the other teacher for two days. But when she told me about the experience it was all positive. She came in saying, “I did one of those last year. It was better than a field trip!” She told about the hands-on activities; how the students were engaged, how she turned off the second monitor so they would behave; how she lectured them for days ahead on how to behave; how she thought the presenter might be a PhD but he interacted so well with the students. I asked her why she thought the videoconference was better than a field trip. “In a field trip, all the kids see are arms and legs.” A pretty apt way to describe the insanity with young students on a field trip. The videoconference was more focused and all the students could see what they were learning.

I talked to a group of new teachers yesterday. Usually I just give an overview of the possibilities, not really expecting them to use VC in their first year since it’s so hard for them. But this time we took half an hour to let them search and ask me about topics of study. For each topic I suggested possibilities. I did this with the Alberta Broadband Summer Institute on Tuesday as well. A “pick Janine’s brain” session. So many of the teachers were able to get specific ideas of programs to do. They sounded ready to sign up right then & there.

Another great story was from one of our local high school media specialists. She told me about two teachers she almost literally dragged into a videoconference with Global Nomads last spring. During the program, the teachers were watching interestedly. Pretty soon a question was asked, an answer given. The teacher turned to the media specialist, and said, “Are they over there [in Uganda] right now?!” “Yes,” came the answer. “You mean they are live with us RIGHT NOW??!!” “Yes,” patiently came the answer. Then the teacher hurries to the other teacher. “This is going on RIGHT NOW!! Come look at this!!! Can you believe it?” Two more teachers sold on the power of videoconferencing. And all because someone in the building convinced them to use it & supported them throughout the process.

Finally, I talked to a middle school computer teacher. My new beginning of the year greeting for teachers is, “Where are you going to connect this year?” We talked a bit about his idea for after school competition videoconferences, and my idea for a project for computer classes. I was reminded again that for middle school to use videoconferencing, the programs need to be (1) free; (2) easy to do / low preparation; (3) schedule-able for each section; (4) and always a tight fit to the curriculum.

What stories do you have from talking with teachers as the school year starts?

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