Sunday, April 21, 2013

Collaboration is Real, Not Just an Idea

Committing to blogging every week has proven a challenge when in the throes of drying out a basement and trying to put up a sweet musical next weekend, but a promise to the self is a promise to the self.

The revelation this week is that collaboration is real and, with the right partner, it is fun and energizing and engaging and challenging and--

Over spring break, just two weeks ago, I made a Twitter connection with a Drama teacher from Illinois, Ms. Sukow (@Steph_SMac). It started like I imagine most Twitter connections do: one of us said something interesting, the other made a reply, and it ended with a statement suggesting we make a classroom connection. Though not through Twitter, this has happened before.  At conferences or at meetings, "let's connect" has been thrown around plenty without any intention of coming to fruition.

But, the two of us didn't stop there.  The connection continued with Twitter Direct Messages, emails, and Skype conversations.  Over the course of our discussions, we learned that we'd be teaching "the monologue" at roughly the same time.  So, we lined them up.

First, we'd have the students create websites that shared some basic information about themselves and allowed them to get to know each other (the whole time developing very important 21st Century literacy skills, but don't mention that to the students).  Then, we'd draft, share, revise.  After that, memorize and film. Post to YouTube. Link to the websites. Finally, leave comments on the results of the monologues.

(Check out our pages here: Mr. Theune's Drama Class Website)

Since Ms. Sukow and I have been working on this, our classes have Skyped two times and it's been great fun watching the students (at least on my end) light up.  Just minutes before the connection goes through: How are we going to present ourselves?  You talk, Jonah, because you'll represent us well.  Let's make sure we show them we're not creeps.  Be cool everyone, be cool.

And, BAM!  It IS cool!  It's fun.  And I think I speak for my students when I say this (I KNOW I speak for myself), this connection is making me be better.  I'm modeling the monologue for audience and purpose.

So, thank you, Ms. Sukow and class.

Because of you, I'm teaching with more clarity.