Stereotypically, sharing and collaborating are not behaviours that teachers do especially well. Most of us are self proclaimed “control freaks” and do not relish of giving up control nor sharing what we are doing in our own classrooms. However, one teacher is breaking this mold and I had the privilege of visiting her classroom this week.
Zoe Branigan-Pipe, ( @zbpipe ) facilitates one of the most engaging and exciting classrooms I have ever observed! We visited during her “literacy” block and it was really quite inspirational to walk around and talk to her students who were all engaged in different activities. Most of her students were focused on writing on her class’s Vancouver 2010 Olympic Wiki, however, their individual groups were all completing different tasks. One group was using Google Maps to map out and measure the torch route, one group was researching the Myth of Prometheus and then creating a Bit Strip comic to explain why the Olympics have the torch relay, while a third group was researching the mascots of the various countries and creating a Glogster poster to post on their wiki. The rest of the students were working on creative writing or their own personal blogs and while many teachers would feel that this has the potential to be a classroom of chaos, it hummed along beautifully.
It was pretty amazing to see the collaboration in that classroom, but the most impressive aspect of the day was listening to her students speak about their learning and share their work with us visitors. Zoe’s students are in grade six and I was in awe of the poise and confidence her students displayed while explaining their work to us. I was really over-whelmed with the depth of thought they displayed through their mini presentations to us and the ease with which they could discuss their work. The students were also very willing to put their products on display and in fact wanted us to look at what they were doing because they were proud of their accomplishments.
After seeing the wonder that is her classroom, I’m inspired. She and her students completely and utterly shatter the stereotype of a ‘typical’ classroom.
They share – she welcomed us with open arms and I know we have not been the first visitors to her classroom nor will we be the last. The students demonstrated their transparent learning through mini presentations as well as through the positive digital footprints they are developing.
They collaborate – Zoe is an extremely active educator on Twitter and is constantly sharing her innovative ideas with her PLN. The class regularly engages in Skype conversations with a couple different classes around the world. Some of the students were telling us how they are teaching an American class a French song and the American school is teaching them a Spanish song.
Needless to say after that visit, I’m inspired. Thank you, Zoe, and your grade six class for showing this high school teacher the 21st century possibilities. This is why they are no longer “pipe” dreams for me.