Teach With Video is a blog to help teachers integrate technology, especially video projects, in the classes they teach. If you would like a step by step guide to help you plan and implement movie projects in your classroom, go to www.teachwithvideo.com
*This is the third post in this series. All of the 21st Century Pygmalion posts are here.
This is a short bio of Dr. Tibbie Lynch, written by her husband, Harry Grzelewski, who also happens to be the high school principal. I should note that Tibbie, Hary and I are very good friends. We enjoy talking about educational issues and pedagogical improvements. We have collaborated many times over the past three years, all with the goal of improving our effectiveness as educators. This is the first time any of us have blogged about any of these experiences.
Dr. Tibbie Lynch, 60, has been an educator for over 30 years, first at the college level and then in independent high schools in the United States and Latin America. She has published articles on Ralph Waldo Emerson, H.G. Wells, Evelyn Waugh, and Walt Whitman when she was a professor and scholar at Texas A M and the University of Hawaii. As a high school teacher she has taught all grade levels and, relying on her knowledge and love of history, helped develop curriculum for several integrated studies courses, most notably American Studies. She joined a group of teachers interested in critical thinking and participated in the development of a curriculum for teaching students how to think about literature. Her experience led to her being invited to help teach other instructors how to re-tool favorite lesson plans into critical thinking activities. An avid reader and writing instructor, she managed the writing workshop as a professor in college, she helped train teachers in the use of a variety of writing rubrics, and has worked with teachers across disciplines to use writing as a tool in classes as diverse as math and physical education. Dr. Lynch has been a fan of pen and paper, and received a $2000 IBM Selectric, self-correcting typewriter from her parents when she received her PhD. She uses the computer as a word processor, to send emails, to shop, and as a news source. She professes to be intimidated by technology, but is convinced that if she can learn how to integrate tech into her classroom, anyone can learn.
Today was the day we introduced the project to students. I went to the class armed with my laptop, LCD projector, and video camera. The class is set up with all desks in a circle facing each other, with a desk for the teacher, Dr. Lynch, as well. I started with an explanation on what social media is, and told the students that Dr. Lynch was “going to bring Brit Lit into the 21st century.” I explained that they would not use notebooks to write their assignments in class, but would be doing everything online, in a social network that would be like “Facebook for Brit Lit.” The students seemed intrigued, probably in part because of the Facebook comment, and in part because they all know that Dr. Lynch “isn’t very good on the computer.” Dr. Lynch is known on campus for not allowing students to take their laptops out of their backpacks during class.
I explained to the students a little about social media, and about how we would be using a social network to create a community of learners in the school. This was also the perfect opportunity to give them a lesson on internet safety while I explained to them what they should and shouldn’t include on their profile or posts. Then the students joined the ning, me approving them one by one while Dr. Lynch began approving their membership to the “Brit Lit” group. I should note that I created the ning with the vision of the entire school eventually using it for various groups and classes, including a learning community for the teachers. I should also mention that we haven’t worked out all of the details about how the assignments will be completed. Tibbie and I had not found a solution to how students could post privately with the teacher still being able to access the post to grade it. We mentioned this to the first class and one student responded in a matter of fact way, “Why don’t we just send the assignment to Dr. Lynch’s inbox?” Problem solved.
Dr. Lynch was having a lot of trouble navigating the network. This issue was compounded because she was working on her new laptop that she wasn’t very familiar with. The trackpad was a big challenge for her. The computer was “acting crazy,” going to links she hadn’t clicked on, or returning to the previous page for apparently no reason. She is going to get a mouse. I was helping her throughout the day, and a couple of students came to the rescue also. Tibbie and I explained to the class from the beginning that this would be a learning experience for us too, and that we are challenging ourselves. Tibbie, with the technology integration, and me managing the ning and trying to bring the course and the technology together.
Tibby posted the first discussion topic by the end of the second class. By the end of the day there were several posts. We were both impressed with the caliber of the students’ comments, already above the level we know them to work at.
In January I was given the job of Director of Educational Technology at my private school in Costa Rica after teaching there (and helping teachers integrate technology on a part-time basis) for five and a half years. The Country Day School is a private American school with a population of about 900 students K-12. I was appointed to this newly created position to help the teachers integrate technology, to improve student learning. I have worked in various capacities in educational technology throughout my career, and was very excited to help the teachers to integrate technology in a full-time position.
In May, the high school principal approached me with an idea. He wanted to help his wife, a high school English teacher, to integrate technology into her classes during the next school year. Actually, his idea was much more ambitious than just integrating technology. His idea was that all work could be done digitally, and would include blogs, threaded discussions, and in-class chat rooms to replace traditional hand-written or typed assignments. I told him that I thought it sounded like a very interesting idea, especially since his wife is “technologically challenged.” I thought it would be a very challenging year-long project for the three of us to collaborate on.
We had several meetings between May and the start of school, and decided that the best solution would be to create a social network (using Ning). This network would become the home for the classes involved, and hopefully develop into a learning community where the students continue to learn from each other long after they had left the classroom for the day.
Harry, the high school principal, also suggested that we document this process using video, as this would be a significant change in teaching style for his wife Tibbie. I will be filming the classes and some interviews with Tibbie, and also plan to blog about the progress throughout the year. I am encouraging Tibbie to blog about it also. She’s not up for it just yet, but will hopefully be able to add the blog to an already full plate of change sometime in the future.