Anne tweeted out that she was looking for classes that might be interested in interacting with her class around Hamlet, and Laura Deisley – who’s the Director of 21st Century Learning at Lovett (great job title, btw) – responded that she knew a teacher that might be interested. Anne’s students are pretty comfortable using the fishbowl with live blogging method of discussing a book, but we wondered if we could make it work with two inner circles, one in Anne’s classroom and one in Debi’s classroom in Atlanta. As Laura writes:
after some traditional back and forth emailing and a Skype conference call, Anne, Karl, Upper School English Department Chair Debi Ohayon and I settled on a collaboration: two joint classroom Skype and live blog sessions on Hamlet.So, one inner circle of discussers in Anne’s classroom, and an outer circle of live bloggers. One inner circle of discussers in Debi’s classroom, and an outer circle of live bloggers. One Skype connection so the two classes could see (sort of) and hear (most of the time) each other and have an oral discussion. One CoverItLive blog so that the outer circles could discuss via live blogging. While the technology wasn’t perfect (pretty wide shot with the webcams and at times the audio broke up a little, but the students just asked each other to repeat what they said), it worked pretty well (see Anne's post for pictures from her classroom). As Anne writes:
Debi’s students rose to the challenge that the technology and new discussion method presented, and my students didn’t back down when discussing Hamlet with an advanced placement class. Both sides walked away commenting about how great it was to hear different points of view than from the students in their own class.And, on Laura’s blog, Debi reflects that:
Boy, am I glad my curiosity or sense of duty or both propelled me forward, as it has been a thrill to watch this pilot project become reality, despite the time commitment, logistical challenges, and alterations of my syllabus. The excitement that both my students and I have felt being pioneers as well as participants in a joint classroom experience across the country has been enormous. As Laura suggested, just the concept of kids in the 21st century talking in different time zones about an early 17th century text is intriguing. It's certainly not just about the fun (though it is really fun); the students agree that the Skype/LiveBlog shared classroom has enriched their learning experience. Meredith captured this sentiment today in class during our feedback session when she said, "We got to branch out beyond our own classroom and discuss similar ideas as well as gain insight about other ideas from students we didn't know." Furthermore, Mark said, "It was not only a blast, but a highly intellectual experience that I will always remember." I know many educators fear technology being pushed for the wrong reasons, but I'm quite convinced this was an example of technology enhancing pedagogical goals.We’re going to do this again on December 9th (over the entire play) and it will be interesting to see if it goes even better. I expect it will, as we’ll probably position the microphones a little better and certainly the students will have more experience under their belts and should be more comfortable with the format.
I think this was not only a valuable experience in terms of students learning about Hamlet, but also because of the sense of community that it engenders. As Debi said:
I'm pretty certain that the something special was a uniquely communal learning environment. Since I also have a personal invested interest in character education, I would be remiss not to note as a bonus what a delight it was to see teenagers from different parts of the country, representing both public and private schools, using literature to discuss timeless, universal moral issues.Yeah, it was a good day.