Learning from Teachers Outside My Realm

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For once I found myself with a free hour just when Worldbridges was about to go on with the latest Edtechtalk, with guests Bud Hunt and Bob Sprankle, both inventive, grounded and clearly gifted teachers using technology in elementary and high school classrooms. I don’t get much chance to connect with colleagues in the lower grades–there just really aren’t many opportunities, or at least before now there haven’t been…

Since last April, Bob’s third graders have been making weekly podcaststhird graders. (In third grade I was copying letters, practicing times tables and trying to avoid getting into trouble with my oh-so-scary teacher. ) I love the way he has kids summarizing highlights from the week (Word-of-the-week ‘s use of interviews was terrific, for instance). Bob talked a bit about how devoting time to the weekly shows has helped his students develop their speaking and writing voices, understand the flow of sentences, and consolidate the learning for the week. It’s such a great and easy idea–what a natural in the elementary school environment! Imagine what students reaching my doors are going to be able to do and want to do if they are podcasting and making on-line newsletters in third grade. College teachers had better wake up!

Bud is an avid blogger and sponsor/keeper of a wiki being built by his students and anyone else who wants to contribute useful entries about blogging and blogging protocol, such as The Sample Blog Acceptable Use Policy. Here’s an example of a community-generated set of guidelines and examples, another model other classrooms could either add to or try out for themselves. His students are using the process to help others approach blogs and wikis–authentic, efficacious learning.

For me the highlight of the discussion came with the question (Jeff’s?) about what was the value of reflective blogging to the teachers themselves. Bud, Dave and Bob all concurred that blogging has transformed their classrooms–the way they approach teaching has shifted as they spend more time talking and learning and articulating their goals. Dave (I think it was Dave–it’s not so easy on a teleconference/webcast to tell who is speaking at any given moment) also mentioned the power of community, how he feels as though he has colleagues and peers through these connections. He listens in his car to podcasts and feels as though someone has reached right into his space and taught him something. I agree with the flow of ideas and comraderie in this connecting blog-to-blog, oidcast-to iPOD, chatroom-to-webcast. I commented on how keeping my own blog has made reciprocal apprenticeships (see Pierre Levy’s Collective Intelligence) in my classroom a reality, including me in the learning circle. Ever since my students first wandered onto my blog, leaving me some pretty remarkable comments, I have realized that indeed I am a guide and a mentor, a little more experienced, but truly a fellow learner. Of course the fact that I have to evaluate them creates a tension here and something I’ll blog about soon– ways of evaluating student work within a learning collaborative. For now, there’s some interesting discussion going on over on my students’ Blogging-the-World blog about their feelings about evaluation and grades. Conversing with a skype-room full of interested and accomplished teachers was both fun and instructive.

Just as when I was studying fiction writing I would hang around with the poets to hear how they put language together instead of my fellow fiction writers who were covering the same ground as I was–I think I should spend more time on the blogs of of high school and elementary school teachers–I have a lot to learn from them. It’s a bit like the collaborations I had my creative writers do with a local fifth-grade classroom–ostensibly it was my class doing the tutoring and mentoring, when in reality they were the ones reaping the enormous reward of being sent back into a time in their own lives when they had let their imaginations roam, when language was fresh and full of play.

We should do something about getting teachers from across the educational spectrum using social software and other Web technologies together in an un-conference conference, both via webcast and in person–I don’t know of any such get-togethers that are aimed at K-16 teachers, REALLY for us all to sit down together. At least we have venues like Worldbridges bringing us together, in a relaxed conversation, to learn from one another, share, and find this sort of community free from the kinds of boundaries we often find in other parts of the educational world.

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3 Responses

  1. Just let me know where and when…I’m there!

  2. I’m with Will, and with you. I’d love more opportunities for these conversations.

  3. Barbara,
    I found this blog to be very true of my experience this year.

    Bob and Bud are very good teachers and I follow their work enthusiastically.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences – they help me reflect on my own teaching.

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