So, here’s the problem. Once your students find out that we have the capability to blog and/or videoconference with authors and professionals from around the world, they think we should do it all the time. Imagine that.
I blogged earlier about needing virtual school board members, as our students will be making their cases about whether certain controversial books should be approved – or not – by the school board. (Again, to review, this is simulated, they are not actually taking this to the school board, we’ve just invited our school board – and some of you as virtual school board members - in to be an authentic audience, and most of these books are on our approved reading list already.)
One of the books the students chose was Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow (some of you may also know him from Boing Boing). It goes along nicely with other books they read as part of our curriculum (1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, etc.). Well, one group of Anne Smith’s students promptly emailed him to ask him some questions about aspects of his book that might cause a school board not to approve it (underage drinking, drug use, a sex scene, conflicts between adults and children, etc.). Mr. Doctorow replied with several thoughtful paragraphs about each of their questions. They replied back to him, thanked him, and then said, “Oh, by the way, any chance you’d like to Skype with us?” (Well, okay, they said it more formally – and much better – than that, but you get the point.) As you might suspect, since I’m blogging about it, he said yes.
The only catch was finding a time that worked for everyone (our students’ schedules, his schedule, the fact that he’s in London – seven hours ahead of us, our final exams are coming up, etc.). We finally came up with May 18th, at 9:15 am Mountain Daylight Time, UTC/GMT -6. Oh, you’re welcome to join us (assuming all the tech works), as he gave us permission to ustream it as well (primarily for parents to watch if they want, but you can as well on our ustream channel).
I really like this on several levels. First, obviously, the ability for students to converse with an author about his work is powerful. Second, it demonstrates how easy it is to connect with others, no matter where you – or they – live. But third, and perhaps most important in the long run, I love the fact that these students knew a capability existed, assumed it was their prerogative to take advantage of that, and then took the initiative to contact Mr. Doctorow. If we not only enable our students to be connected learners, but also change their mindset so that they expect to be connected learners, we’ve done a good thing.