Ten days ago we had the opportunity to link up for an interview with the 8th grade students in Lee Baberâ€™s class at YouthBridges in Virginia. The participants included Leeâ€™s class, my class in Sparks, Nevada â€“ Elderbob Brannan in Texas, and Celest (a student in my class that has leukemia and attends class via video Skype) from her house. We were scheduled to begin at 9:30am Pacific time, but everytime we all got on â€¦ the Skype call dropped. Lee finally figured out that it happened every time Celest Skyped in â€“ so she just Skype called her â€“ I got her Celestâ€™s phone number and Lee called it using Skype â€“ problem solved. This was not terribly interesting for my students â€“ but was a great lesson for them how things donâ€™t work and you problem solve (or at least try) and just maybe you get things to work. Elderbob has posted the interview as a podcast if youâ€™d like to hear it.
Update: Lee Baber has posted the podcast at YouthBridges too.
Leeâ€™s students had written questions and sent them to us days before the interview so that my students could consider answers beforehand. This should have worked well, and it did, just not in the way I expected. Most of my students are second language learners and one of the things we have REALLY been working on is understanding a question before you try to answer it â€“ ask about what you donâ€™t understand. My students did not do a good job of this and they realized this after the interview when we de-briefed about it. They felt the questions were hard to understand â€“ and I asked them why they didnâ€™t notice that beforehand â€¦ they finally realized it was because they didnâ€™t think about the questions deeply enough when we went over them in class and it wasnâ€™t obvious to them until afterwards when they knew they had had difficulties answering them.
This is true â€œMessyâ€ learning. Now I can remind them and â€œbeat them over the headâ€ with what happened and they will have the schema to know what I am referring to and hopefully become better thinkers â€“ and this is just about as important a skill as I can think of â€“ being aware of what I know and donâ€™t know which is such a common issue with elementary students and even more so with kids of poverty and second language learners like my students. They will also be able to notice themselves that they have improved and that awareness is key. Lee and I have already talked about another possible Skype discussion and I hope we really mange to follow through so my students (and hers) can use what they learned from this experience.
Elderbobâ€™s audio recording will be something we can go back to as a benchmark â€“ what was good and what wasnâ€™t. We already have reaped the benefits of this experience. We have been working for quite awhile on stories about being our shoes for an entire day. This week we read them aloud to the class and we reminded ourselves about how much easier it is to listen and enjoy an oral presentation when it is read with feeling. They did a great job.
Weâ€™d like to thank Lee and her students at Hillyard Middle School and Elederbob Brannan for getting us together.
I am posting below the debrief notes my class recorded immediately after the interview:
What was hard?
Set-up took a long time â€“ tech issues. Made it boring at first.
Hard to hear.
We were just sitting and listening.
Not that many questions and the questions were hard to understand.
Too long between questions â€“ dead air
What went well?
The Youthbridges students got it to work!Lots of students got to say something.
New way to use Skype â€“ more than one person.
Got to talk about something good we have done.
We got to learn about other people in other states.
The experience of getting to talk to people we donâ€™t know.
Felt like people were interested in something we had to say.
What could we do to improve the experience?
Work on giving more detailed answers, more articulate â€“ explain more. People will find that more interesting to listen to.
Be more willing to answer â€“ just try.
Speak-up â€“ talk louder.
Think more about the questions and ask about what we donâ€™t understand â€“ ask for clarification. Give more thoughtful answers. This would make it less boring â€“ be active thinkers/learners.
Have a better way to get students to the microphone more quickly.