Thursday, April 23, 2009

Looking for Virtual School Board Members - Are You Interested?

Anne Smith and Maura Moritz are having their ninth graders choose a book, read it, and then discuss it in small groups. That’s not all that different than what has been going on in Language Arts classrooms for quite a while, but they’re extending the idea just a little bit. The students chose books that are somewhat controversial (1984, The Fountainhead, I Robot, Little Brother, Anthem, I Am the Cheese) and have either been challenged or banned by school districts around the country (to be clear, not necessarily our school district). The students will read and discuss the books and then have to prepare a presentation for the school board arguing either in favor of approving the book for use or defending blocking its use. They’ll follow our district’s process for book approvals (pdf). In Anne’s case they are also using a Google Site with integrated Google Groups to help organize their thinking and collaboratively plan their presentations.

When the presentations are ready, the students – for their final exam – will actually make the presentation to selected members of our own school board that we’ve invited to hear the presentations. The school board members will listen to the presentation, ask questions, make them defend their positions, and generally be – well, school board members.

There’s only one problem with this plan. Some of our school board members already have commitments during our final exam times (pesky little things like graduation ceremonies for our sister high schools, for example). Hmm, what to do? I know, invite other folks in to be “school board members.” What other folks, you ask? Well, you, for example. Anyone who’s interested and is available at the times the students will be presenting (more on that in a minute) would serve as a “virtual school board member,” watching and listening to the presentation via ustream (or MeBeam, or Skype, or . . . tool to be determined based on participants) and then providing feedback/asking questions via Skype/MeBeam/whatever (again, tool to be determined based on participants access). (As a side benefit, parents can tune in to watch their student's final exam live.)

Just as regular school board members have not always read the book in question, you do not have to have read the book (although if you have, or if you’re willing to try to read one or more before then, that would be excellent). You would be responsible for generally being prepared to participate as a “serious” school board member (review these two (pdf) documents) to get a feel for our process).

So, if you’re interested in participating, we’d love to have you. You need to send an email to me (karlfisch {at} gmail {dot} com) as soon as possible with the following information: name, location, position, digital footprint information (blog, wiki, twitter, etc.), skype name, and the time(s) you are available (chosen from the list below). Please keep in mind we do have limited spots so – if we happen to get a ton of responses (unlikely this time of year, but you never know) – we may not be able to accept everybody.

Here is the list of times (all times Mountain Daylight Time, UTC/GMT -6) and the books that will be presented during those times (please keep in mind that times are estimates, some groups may go over and some may end early – you’ve done this type of things with students, right?). It would be great if you could sign up for an entire class period, but if you only have time for a partial period, we’ll try to work it out.

Friday, May 15th - Need Participants (last day of classes, 59 minute periods)
Period 2: 8:25-9:24 am
Anthem / I Am the Cheese (approx. 8:25 – 8:45)
I Robot (~8:45 – 9:05)
1984 (~9:05 – 9:24)

Period 3: 9:29-10:30 am
Little Brother (~9:30 – 9:50)
1984 (~ 9:50 – 10:10)
I Robot (~10:10 – 10:30)

Period 4: 10:35- 11:34 am
Little Brother (~10:35 – 10:55)
1984 (~10:55 – 11:15)
I Robot (~11:15 – 11:34)

Period 5: 12:14-1:12 pm
Anthem/ I Am the Cheese (~12:14 – 12:34)
I Robot (~12:34 – 12:53)
Little Brother (~12:53 – 1:12)

Monday, May 18th - Do Not Need Participants, but will ustream 10:35 am – 12:00 pm

Tuesday, May 19th - Do Not Need Participants, but will ustream from 9:00 am – 10:25 am

Wednesday, May 20th - Need Participants (Final Exams, 85 minute exams)
Period 4: 7:25- 8:50 am
1984 (~7:30 – 7:50)
Little Brother (~7:50 – 8:10)
Anthem/I Am the Cheese (~8:10 – 8:30)
I Robot (~8:30 – 8:50)

Period 5: 10:35 am - 12:00 pm
Anthem/I Am the Cheese (~10:40 – 11:00)
Fountainhead (~11:00 – 11:20)
I Robot (~11:20 – 11:40)
1984 (~11:40 – 12:00)

Thanks in advance to those that are willing to participate. Even if you don’t want to formally participate, you’re welcome to watch the ustream if you have time. And, even if we end up with no virtual participants, I still think Anne and Maura have a great activity here.


  1. This looks great, Karl. MQM

  2. LPS Board DOES read "books in question." Just a clarification for real life situations.

  3. @Renee - Thanks for the clarification - not all school boards do. I wasn't aware that you read every book that's up for approval, though. I'm assuming you mean you read anything that's "controversial" - correct?

  4. Thanks for the invite Karl, I'm sending this info to our faculty ... it's a great model! I'm checking my calendar and hope I can find a time to participate!

  5. @Charlene - Thanks - I hope it works for your calendar - email me if it does.

  6. Great idea and model (for your kids) of using technology to collaborate. Kudos.