Yesterday a student changed the way I think.
Allow me to explain. I was being a dutiful sports-mom and was a sideline official at my child’s sporting event. One of my duties was to ensure that the score sheet was correct. As I was verifying the visiting teams’ roster, I was surprised to notice a familiar name: Hubert Smith.
Hubert is a part of the Connected Classrooms project. He lives in a different community geographically distant from my home and both communities are in the same school district. Furthermore, both Hubert’s class and my class are a part of the Connected Classrooms project so, everyday when the classes connect using the latest video conferencing and desktop sharing software to teach and learn collaboratively across the district, Hubert sees me as one of his teachers. Some days I’m teaching his class a lesson through a video camera, other days I’m a supporting teacher guiding my students through the other teacher’s lesson activities.
Also, Hubert is reading the novel I am teaching in our Online Literature Circles. Every week I post a deep thinking question to our Connected Classrooms Moodle site and Hubert, along with all the other students reading the novel, posts a response to the forum. We’ve had some good discussions online and Hubert even took the initiative to post a music video relevant to our novel. He and I have built some student/teacher rapport within the Connected Classrooms environment. I have never met Hubert face to face but, as one of his teachers, he has been learning from me for over three months now. This is something I’m sure distance education teachers are used to, but not me.
After the sporting event mentioned above, when it was finally time to leave and go home, I looked up and saw a boy walking out of the changing rooms with his mother. The way he looked at me, I instantly knew that it was Hubert. He smiled, tentatively, then, after I smiled tentatively back, his face transformed into a full, happy smile of recognition and he waved. He mother came walking over and introduced herself, starting our conversation by explaining that Hubert had said I was his teacher.
It was the coolest and oddest experience I have had in a long time as a teacher. Here, before me, was a student of mine that I have been teaching for over three months. We know one another as student and teacher and have interacted as such in a variety of ways but always through a virtual connection.
I am still amazes at how powerful the actual face to face meeting was. It was so nice to put a face to the name and be able to chat with him in person. We talked about the game and his team, we talked about school and we parted saying ‘see you next week’. Meeting his mother was wonderful, too. I love meeting students’ parents for many reasons and she was so warm and seemed genuinely happy to meet me.
The chance meeting with Hubert, and the power of the experience, was timely. I’m currently finishing my research proposal for the Masters course and I’ve struggled to find the exact words with which to frame my inquiry. My inquiry is centered around arts-based methods and advocating for visual arts. I also feel a need to research indigenous worldviews to more fully understand hidden perspectives that I bring into the classroom each day. And, somewhere, I was hoping that those two topics would intersect and enlighten me with their connection.
I have constantly thought that those two topics are enough and should be the focus for my research but the unique learning environment that is the Connected Classrooms keeps creeping into my inquiry. I have purposefully tried to leave the context of teaching through new technologies out of the inquiry for simplicity’s sake.
But the reality of it is that, everyday, when I turn on that video conferencing equipment or login to the Connected Classrooms Moodle site, I am teaching in a radically different way than I have ever taught before. I can’t remove that from my inquiry. The way that my pedagogy is shifting as a result of the Connected Classrooms is profound and effects everything about my teaching practice, including the research for my Masters Degree. While I would like to leave the complexities of teaching with these new technologies out of my research, I can’t, and I shouldn’t.
Hubert reminded me that the context of the Connected Classrooms is effecting who I am as an educator, how I teach and what I believe about teaching and learning. He reminded me that the students are at the center of my inquiry and that I have entered into a teaching position which fundamentally changes the connection between student and teacher. And while I’m fascinated with the arts and intrigued by indigenous methods, I can’t ignore the environment in which I’ll be exploring those ideas.
Which takes me to a whole new level of thinking in this inquiry process…can I connect all three? I thought I’d tried, but really I was just asking separate questions that didn’t connect. Now I wonder, can I make meaning and create knowledge about using arts-based methods while gaining understanding of inherent indigenous paradigms in a technology-rich learning environment that is innovative to the point of fundamentally transforming teaching and learning?
The more I write, the more I think, the more questions I have…all thanks to Hubert.
Soccer game by RaeA from Flickr.com, Hands 2 by A Taridona and Camera equipment by me.