I was involved with a terrific webcast of teachers engaged in a far-ranging conversation about their new media classroom work and new literacy learning generally. The webcast is in advance of the National Writing Project’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia next week.
The program was started by Paul Allison, a high school teacher in New York City (Flushing, in fact, where I was born) and a member of the New York City Writing Project. (Eventually, the webcast will be available online at the Teachers Teaching Teachers website.) Paul acts as host – the Charlie Rose, if you will.
I love the program because like most things constructed by resourceful teachers, the webcast is put together in McGyver-like fashion, seemingly with two twigs and some chewing gum, and yet it runs and functions beautifully. TTT, as it’s affectionately known, uses Skype and an educator-centered online space and the wits and talents of Paul and teacher Susan Ettenheim.
I’ve known Paul for many many years and have seen him do some pretty far-out stuff – my favorite, authoring videocasts while going for long runs. You had to have seen them, believe me. He’s an amazing thinker and a true believer in a democratic classroom. Paul wants kids to push the boundaries and to make school interesting and relevant for them again. His latest project – to have his students call in book reviews from their cellphones to a number that will aggregate their work.
I’m enamored of Paul and his work, though, not because it is experimental, though I do appreciate the courage it takes to experiment in this day and age. Rather, it’s because he can provide sound pedagogical reasons for why he does what he does. And because he thinks very deeply about the art and craft of teaching with and in new media and is always apt to say something that makes you rethink your assumptions.
It was exciting to hear the work presented by the teachers on the broadcast – two elementary and one middle school, all from different states. Despite the pressures exerted on them to prepare their students for standardized tests, these educators – Robert River-Amezola in Philadelphia, Joe Conroy in New Jersey, and Chuck Jurich in Arizona – find the time to give their students the opportunity to become engaged, digital citizens.
So inspiring, really.