Along with a whimsical name, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan boasts a Canadian Armed Forces Base that serves as a NATO training base. I’ve enjoyed working with a number of young people from Europe as a result. They come and go. One girl returned to Denmark last June. We corresponded in fragments using Wikispaces over the summer. Two days ago she initiated contact with two former classmates currently in Room 7 while we were in the computer lab. The girls were very excited so I asked if she had Skype. Her father installed it quickly and within half an hour an inarticulate, somewhat repetitive conversation was in progress. Yesterday my young Danish contact phoned again. As I went off for lunch the girls and boys were back in conversation.
Location, location, location the real-estate agents are said to say. Location factors are still critical but not so much. I shifted my point of reference from “Mr Stange’s Class” to “Room 7”. It is one way to share ownership and reduce my primacy in the room. The name works but it references learning to a single room in a suburban school. The import of Web 2.0 is that location is increasingly irrelevant for many activities. Before Room 7 switched to what is laughingly referred to as the teacher’s computer, one boy tossed his Sony game into the center of the group. He had Skyped with their Danish friend himself. Not only is the technology in our classroom, it is also in my students hands. Skype is in five classrooms in our school at this point. It should be in all of them.
I am not a mathematics specialist but I am learning. Math manipulatives are one of the new learnings. When I introduce a new one in my room, I allow some time for play. After the possibilities have been explored, they can focus. I’m working for that with Skype. I want it to be a prosaic feature of learning; just part of the cloud of tools we reach for casually because at that particular moment it is the right tool for the job. Hand helds with wifi, iTouch, and smart phones are part of people’s lives now, dear God, why can’t they be part of learning?