I had a great experience yesterday. Once again, my Twitter alert brought opportunity knocking. Alice Barr and Cheryl Oakes, both of whom I follow, alerted the world to the Seedlings current streaming podcast with educators from New Zealand. The key part to the post was the inclusion of the website where they were broadcasting, and which chat room to join. I jumped at the chance to participate, putting aside my grading to join in this live conversation.
As usual for me, I started chiming in via the text chat. The teachers from the small Motumaoho School in Morrinsville, New Zealand were participating in an in-service day and started with this conference-Skype and broadcast with the Seedlings in Maine. The conversation focused on how to incorporate web 2.0 tools into their students’ experience. They had started using some of the tools, but using their network they realized that Bob Sprankle, Cheryl and Alice had a wealth of knowledge to draw upon. It made total sense to talk to them about how to proceed, and to use some of the tools in the process. The back and forth of ideas, methods and tools to try seemed, to this somewhat peripheral participant, to be informative on both sides of the conversation. Check out their Motumaoho School Blog to see what they did with the rest of their day – I would LOVE a workshop day like this one!
I was fascinated by the description of their school and the local control that they enjoy. The key phrase for me was the statement that they (to paraphrase) “teach students, not curriculum”. This is not to say that they don’t have outcomes at each level (not tied to grade level but performance levels – how lovely!), but that they have the flexibility to reach the standards with whatever tools they have at hand which best meet the needs of the individual students. At a time when our schools seem to be headed for greater uniformity, consolidation and teaching to whatever high stakes test is on the horizon, this approach from New Zealand was refreshing.
After a bit, the teachers at the Motumaoho School went on with other agenda items and dropped out of the chat, and Cheryl, Alice and Bob invited me to Skype in and join them. Wow! Ok, not only was it my first conference-skype, I was actually going to be on the Seedlings podcast! They were great at getting me up and running right away, and my built in mic on my MacBook Pro seemed to do ok. I definitely want to get a headset with a mic for better sound, though. I enjoyed talking with the Seedlings about my recent entrance on the web 2.0 scene, describing briefly how my initial network of 4, the three Seedlings and Vicki Davis, has now translated to a rich network of educators from around the world in just about a month. I also referenced the article that the Times Record ran on my classroom, which has had great responses. The best part has been running into parents in the community who saw the article and had favorable comments about it. Anything that gets positive parental involvement or interest in the schools is good in my book. Last but not least, I was able to contribute a couple of geek of the week links near the end of the podcast. I didn’t know where I found the links at the time of the podcast, but it turns out they were from the EdTechTalk delicious page, which is a great resource and is the foundation for the Ed Tech Weekly show on Sunday evening on Edtechtalk.com.
What a great way to use an hour of a Sunday afternoon! Big thanks to Cheryl, Alice and Bob for the opportunity to join their Seedlings podcast for the day, and for their ongoing outreach to those of us new to the read-write web.