Monday, September 16, 2013

Not so flat classroom

The sounds of my daughter and her dear friend chatting in the kitchen gives me great comfort. I know that while I work away the hours each weekend on school related projects she is not being ignored, she is engaged and thoughtful. She is happy. But this weekend was different. Her dear friend was actually 1,500 miles away in West Palm Beach even as they baked apple crisp in the kitchen. FaceTime chat changes everything.

Sunday was a slow day for us. I was cooking and baking to get ahead on weekly meals. A frost was on its way so I quickly harvested our backyard garden. Plums, apples, squash, tomatoes were piled around me when Kata's friend from Florida called. They play all summer while on vacation in Vermont. Kata set up the FaceTime and we all gathered around to wave and say hello. Usually the girls entertain each other by holding up their pets or zooming in on facial features. They both occupied themselves with coloring until Kata took out a kitchen knife and some of my apples. She listened to her friend and quietly sliced her apple into minutely diced pieces. She was absorbed in conversation and in her designated project.  Her friend became curious and inspired. She too found apples in her own kitchen and as they chatted, diced apples in a similar manner. Hours went by as they chatted and diced. I did chores and watched as they two girls stayed engaged in conversation and self appointed tasks. They were together, perfectly happy and enjoying simple task mastery.  Never before would I have allowed or afforded this long distance engagement. Nor could they have practiced something in tandem. Internet tools link us in ways I never really thought possible.

My teaching brain began to wonder- what if we tried something new next weekend? What if both families agreed to buy cookie ingredients for the girls so that they could both make cookies? What if teachers could send students home with kits for particular studies. Students and teachers could connect through Google chat or FaceTime simultaneously constructing, designing or creating a project while discussing instructions?

Baby steps have me looking forward to reading recipes and making cookies next week. The cookies will not be virtual which makes me happy.

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