Becoming the Experts

I received a tweet from Michael Kaechele, Technology Teacher at Valleywood Middle School.

What an opportunity!

Michael and I set the Skype calls up for the following week. I had a meeting with our Judaica teachers to get them involved and Brian, the Social Studies teacher from Michigan, shared a Google Doc with the questions his students were interested in asking.

Our students were very excited in being seen as “experts” and talked with their teachers about the questions and how to articulate their answers.

Since there were three sections of Social Studies classes from Michigan, we involved our 6th, 7th and 8th grade classes to take over one section each.

After our Skype calls, I received the following email from Michael:

Just wanted to say thanks for the calls yesterday. It was a great experience for our students to learn from yours. The social studies teacher liked it and wants to try again. Quote from student “They are just like us”

That says it all for me-breaking down walls of stereotypes that they might have just because we do not have a large Jewish community here.

I could not agree more with Michael. Opportunities like these, facilitated by technology tools (such as video conferencing) and Twitter (to make the initial connection), are taking learning off the pages of a book for our students (social studies book in this case). They give young people the opportunity to articulate what they have learned and share it. It brings in a kind of authentic learning that ordinarily the students in Michigan might not have had (meeting and talking to other Jewish kids their age).

Is that what “transforming” learning is about? Not doing the same assignments… the same content…simply with a different tool…?

Is it being able to do something that was simply not possible before…?

Tom Barrett on his blog wrote:

transformative learning is what I am looking for, because replication offers no benefit to a teacher – all it produces is ostensibly a better presented piece of work and more of a headache to setup. The technology has to offer a whole new level of interaction […] that cannot be gained from the traditional method explained above.

The learning activity has to be transformed into something that provides a greater depth of learning and interaction. There has to be a pedagogical shift.

I am thinking that the above mentioned learning example could not have been possible “before”.

  • … before Twitter… most likely @concretekax and I would not have connected
  • … before Skype … we would not have been able to bring our students together. Video conferencing is the closest we have to a face to face meeting. A phone call would not have produced the same results of the feeling to be in “one” classroom.
  • … before…  our students would not have been called upon to be teachers to their peers across the country.
  • … before… students from Michigan would have learned about Judaism from their teacher, from the pages of their social studies book and quite likely would not know or meet anyone Jewish in their community.