One of my mantras as a school administrator (and I don’t feel I have that many) is that the best teachers understand the experience of school from the students’ perspective. It’s one of the reasons I’m an advocate of shadowing – following a student’s day and getting a sense of the pace, structure and division of the seven, eight or nine hours per day that students are in school. Recently our school put on a highly effective faculty meeting that involved little more than a carefully planned sequence of show and tell presentations. Each presentation was about five minutes in length and although we did use the Apple TV and large display screen it was only because of the size of the audience. Any one of them could feasibly have been hosted in a classroom.
The sequence ran the gamut of the school – from Early Childhood to twelfth grade. teachers showed student-created work on iPads and explained the benefits of Edmodo, Showbie, Socrative, Explain Everything, Collabracam, Book Creator and so on. Teachers who hadn’t yet tried what was being presented took notes, asked questions and from time to time downloaded recommended apps. It was quintessential peer-teaching. With the exception of the downloading, the audience of teachers was set up to participate in the session in exactly the same way we assume students will participate. There was discourse but it was channelled. Most of the new information came from the presenter and then the audience shared their take on what was being presented. I was reminded of Robert Fulghum’s famous poem Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
When it came to the turn of the Early Childhood teachers, my own son’s former teacher (from last year) stepped up to demonstrate how his class of 4- and 5-year-olds had responded to their class readaloud, Jan Brett’s adaptation of the Ukrainian folk tale The Mitten.
The pre-kindergarteners had created PuppetPals shows to retell the story in their own ways – much as Brett had done with the original folk tale. This meant learning how to take a picture from a bank of images and insert it into the background menu and cast list that PuppetPals HD makes available to creators of new shows. With teacher assistance, even pre-kinder students could do this.
Here, for example, the student has reordered the visitors to the mitten so that the fox gets a turn before the badger and owl (who, for those unfamiliar with puppetPals, are seen waiting off stage in the edit mode view above, but who would not be visible to the audience watching in presentation mode). The students can also add new animals, provide a soundtrack or voiceovers or even change the ending of the story if they wish.
It’s a simple lesson to the veteran iPad user, but it engages these young students at an appropriate level of involvement in the story, and it sets them on the path that leads to mature reflections on reading as an active process that will inform their self-reflections in later grades. Although there were some fascinating presentations at the meeting, it was this one that perhaps provoked in me and many of my colleagues the most pause for thought.