This year, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in a Virtual Mentorship Program with Dean Shareski (@shareski) and two of his wonderful Faculty of Education students at the University of Regina. In my eleven years of teaching, I’ve been the associate teacher for many Faculty of Education students, but this virtual option is a very new one for me. In the middle of January, I took part in an Elluminate session with Dean and his students, and after the session, two students contacted me about being their Virtual Mentor.
One of the students has a Primary/Junior background, but the second student, and the one that my students interacted with yesterday, has a high school background. Her interest is in math though, and she heard about my own personal math goals, and wanted to participate in the math portion of my classroom program. Wow! I give this student, Sara, a lot of credit for applying what she’s done in the high school setting to a young, elementary setting.
Yesterday was the 100th day of school, so Sara and I decided to have her Skype into the classroom for a special math challenge. Sara met my whole class, and then she worked with a group of three, as they completed one of my many math challenges for the day. The students used the document camera and the screensharing option on Skype to show Sara their work. Their challenge: make a shape picture using 100 shapes that is also symmetrical. Below are some videos of Sara and the students as they work together, problem solve, and discuss their thinking. You can also hear me in the background, as I chime in with some questions to further the discussion:
This experience really made me think. Do student teachers really need to be in the classroom to teach the students? Can they work virtually with other teachers and students, as everyone learns together? With this experience, Sara had a chance to interact on her own with a small group. She also had a chance to listen to the questions that I ask the students. The two of us could work together with the small group. Watching these videos and seeing the children in action in the classroom, I noticed that these students responded to Sara just as they would if she was standing beside them. Classroom management can happen through a computer and from miles away.
What are your thoughts on the virtual student teaching experience? Could it work for more than a couple of lessons? Would it be successful regardless of grade? I’d love to hear what you think!
As for seeing what my students thought, have a look at the chat that they had with Sara after the Skype call. The top “thank you” is from Sara, and the other ones are from my Grade 2’s:
I think it’s fair to say this was an awesome learning experience for everyone. What do you think?