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Teaching whilst eating ice cream! March 19, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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The latest installment of our remote teaching, ‘dial an expert’ initiative has just taken place and how different this lesson was from the last four.  How far the students have come, how more relaxed we all were at using this method of instruction.  Helen and I have spent the last couple of Friday evening/mornings (depending on which time zone we were in!) ironing out the wrinkles in my real time teaching experiment, where the students would not only hear and see me and me them, but see the program being demonstrated in real time too.  We still have have a few image quality issues to resolve, but in essence we have proved, even if it is a little clunky that we can teach via this method.  It just needs refining a little more before we launch the procedure on a live class.

Tonight’s lesson was a cracker.  We had to use the method that we developed last year, but that was not a hinderance.  The students by now have got used to the whole method of me teaching them from afar, although the music teacher who came in to claim a few students was amazed that this kind of teaching could happen at all.  It helps that by now the students have mastered the basics of Inkscape and tonight we were able to push on and do some more interesting design work.  You can see the resources used in tonights lesson at my latest skrbl page.  What really impressed me most about tonight’s lesson was the students.  They were coming up to the microphone and webcam and asking questions and further supplementary questions just as they would to a physical entity in their class.  Crucially I asked them to give me feed back, ie come back to the camera to let me know that what I had told them had worked and that they had understood it.

Virtual teaching will never replace teachers in classes, but it does have its benefits.  Virtual teaching will not enable the education of masses of students for the price of one teacher, but what I hope that it does blossom into, is the whole ‘dial an expert’ model.  If you have a skill, why should it be locked up into your classroom so that  only 30 or so students are exposed to that skill at any one time?  If you have a skill, be it musical, artistic, whatever and you want to share beyond your current class/ school/ district/ country then let me know, I am sure that we can set up a directory of skills and teachers that can be accessed to benefit students no matter where they are….  Oh and the best bit, I was eating ice cream as I taught!  Try doing that in the class!

Czech Summer – Prague Beckons March 3, 2008

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The 15th century Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square, Prague.

Taken from: Prague Picures

Last year an e-mail arrived in my in box from the ICTRN Becta list serv out of the UK. I dip into and out of links and mail that arrives and follow the threads and discussions as my whim takes me. I often contribute but the traffic seems decidedly one way. Still it is a good way of keeping track of trends in ICT in Europe. The specific mail in question was a request for papers for a conference to be held in Prague in June 2008. I followed the link and the conference focus intrigued me.  I was particularly fascinated by the focus because the tohatoha blog was really gathering momentum and Helen and I were planning to do something for International Education week later on in the year.

As I cycled home that evening I began thinking.

I cherish my time on the bike, I am able to get clear headed thinking time as I cycle and some of my most adventurous, innovative and some would say hairbrained ideas for ICT have been hatched whilst grinding the gears on my Avanti Hurricane over the years. I reasoned that Helen and I had a story to tell about the success of our collaboration, which was and still is, going from strength to strength. What especially fascinated me was the strength of our virtual relationship. The fact that we have never met, yet have created something very successful and work very well together is so full of oxymorons, that on paper the partnership between schools and colleagues was almost bound to fail from the start, yet it has not. I pondered:

Why has the partnership succeeded?

What are the ingredients of this collaboration, with no common grounds and a completely randomly created partnership, that have ensured success?

How have the students regarded being taught by virtual teachers?

Just what do the students gain from virtual collaboration?

What are the benefits/pitfalls for students accessing specific skills and talents from a global network of teachers?

What might be the potential impact for educational delivery if students could access JIT skills/training/information that this model implies is possible?

It seemed to me perfect that we share our findings. Later that evening I suggested to Helen that we had a story to tell and that we should put a proposal together to speak in Prague based on the success of our blog collaboration. We wrote a proposal over some days, again via Skype and Word’s track changes facility to come up with a proposal entitled:

Collaborative Triumphs and Planning Tensions: Using a blog to enable classes separated by time zones and hemispheres to work together, the Tohatoha story.

This morning I received a mail from the organisers and our proposal has been successful. I am over the moon! Now the reality hits. This trip needs funding the paper needs to be written Helen is approaching the British Council in the UK and is fairly confident that she can get funding. I too now have to find the cash. There is a delicious irony in the fact that the first time that we shall meet will be in a city that neither of us have ever been to, talking about a project that has been conceived, hatched and executed entirely through the virtual medium of the Internet. June can not arrive fast enough.