This has been a great term for our students to be able to use ICT to access expertise. Here are three stories.
Story 1 - The scientist, the biology teacher, and the immunology competition
When one of our Virtual Experts, the fantastic Dr Krystal (a microbiologist in Melbourne) alerted us to an immunology competition, I popped it up onto our forum, not expecting anyone from our school wanting to enter (particularly as our focus is on history at the moment). Two of our top students showed an interest, and so began a curious thing to watch - two students, doing something totally separate to the rest of the class, with me only overlooking - the students were using Dr Krystal and Fiona, a Biology teacher on maternity leave, as virtual teachers. The students organised their own videoconferences using Skype, as can be seen here:
It was quite remarkable to see how students, if supported, can learn almost totally independently of the teacher, and use people they have never met in real life as teachers through private messaging and videoconferencing.
Story 2 - The Castlemaine Historical Society
I must admit, when I'm wrong, I'm really wrong. And I was wrong about the Castlemaine Historical Society.
As I visited the old court house in Castlemaine to try and tee up a Virtual Collaboration, I wasn't feeling so confident. When I was told by my hosts that there was no computer with internet access at the Historical Society, I felt even less confident. And yet, when I showed how our kids used a simple private messaging system within our online space to contact experts, they seemed open to the idea. I left my hosts with written instructions, and held my breath.
The next day, I told our students doing their history inquiry that if they had questions about Castlemaine, they could contact our newest Virtual Expert - the Castlemaine Historical Society. A few kids asked some questions. Later that evening, I saw the CHS had been online, and minutes later, they had responded with some amazing answers to their questions in detail I could not hope to offer them. Ever since, they have been diligently responding to any questions our kids have had. And while there are no bells and whistles, it's been a great example to me of how actually meeting with and spending time with the people you want to be a part of the online collaborative effort can yield results. The CHS too have won out - they have helped the kids who have really wanted the help, when they have wanted it, and the Society members did it when it suited them, and didn't have to leave the building.
Thank you, Castlemaine Historical Society.
Story 3 - People Pictures
A little while ago, I wrote about getting my kids to produce a 'story' about an object, and telling a history through that object. I offered up my own little effort...
Small Object, Big Story - The Serbian Cigarette Box from Castlemaine North PS on Vimeo.
Last year, the parents of a student of ours offered their services as independent filmmakers to help our kids create vignettes about their schooling life before they became 'big kids' at the Secondary College. I gratefully accepted, but thought about if and when we could tie in their skills with what we do in class; after all, video is such a big part of using ICT.
Six months later, and I contacted Cath and Stewart at People Pictures
to see if they wanted to run a couple of workshops with our kids and then follow up with being 'Virtual Experts' online. To see these guys in action, and to see how they can bring a totally new spin on what we were doing, was both humbling and gratifying. As they took my film to pieces in front of the kids, I tried to get over my discomfort and focus on the fact that I was modelling for our kids - we, as teachers, need to model using others to improve ourselves; we, as teachers, need to model learning in the 21st century. Now, our kids are uploading their videos to our Vimeo channel, messaging Cath and Stewart, who are providing feedback online to our kids - when our kids need it.
(The title of this blog post comes from the first song on a great album on Jamendo)