Ah the internet (or World Wide Web as the local newsman calls it...). I'm never surprised at the amazing networking opportunities it provides. I get tweets and emails weekly from teachers, students, and parents. Usually they are kind comments and questions. Occasionally, I'm asked to read and review a book (who doesn't love a free book?) - a few weeks ago I got a most unusual email.

Rachael Stefanussen, an Industrial Design student, emailed and asked if I would take a few minutes to look over her senior capstone project. Being the busy person I am (yes, the kids leave at three, but we all know how that goes), I agreed, but it took me a few weeks to give it the attention it deserved. When I finally sat down to view her project, I was blown away.

Rachael's video was entertaining, professional, and, most importantly, thought provoking. She has envisioned a Portal that would connect teachers across communities to collaborate on classroom management, lesson planning, and all aspects of teacher mentoring. After viewing the video twice, I emailed Rachael with my thoughts and ideas. What about crossing all boundaries and making this international? What about integrating Facebook and twitter and using the already built networks many teachers have created?

Part of what excited me about Rachael's video is the simple idea that someone is thinking outside the box and trying to push the teaching experience even further into the future. I love progressive pondering and Rachael has really impressed me with her ideas.

Rachael was very gracious and we had a nice email dialogue back and forth. I asked her if she minded me sharing her wonderful proposal with others... she agreed on one condition - she'd love feedback from others too. So here it is. Please take a few minutes to watch and leave a comment for Rachael.


LeeanneA / KMullally said...

What a wonderful idea - we all have different teaching styles and the children have different learning styles - finding a way to close the gap for all children and teachers is a positive step forward!

Elizabeth said...

I found the portal idea quite nice, especially sharing lesson plans and ideas around the world. Thought the second half of the video was a bit of a pitch for Xbox kinects though. Would have liked to see more on how you plan to get all those teachers to share their ideas. Teachers don't like to give up their lesson plans very easily.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a portal to connect educators across the country! I just finished my first year teaching a kindergarten class with 26 youngsters, and I am constantly looking for new ideas, lessons, classroom management techniques, etc. to enhance the learning experience for all of my kiddos. Sharing lessons and seeing videos of expert teachers would be a wonderful opportunity! Our district is eliminating our mentor program for the coming school year due to budget cuts across the state and I can only imagine the struggles new teachers will go through without a mentor to guide them. The portal would be a great resource for districts across the country.

Kim Meadows said...

What a wonderful concept! It would be beneficial to seasoned and new teachers alike to be able to share ideas. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Rachael's work here is phenomenal, I would never be able to put together something so beautiful, and I definitely applaud anyone passionate about making a difference in education. I'm jaded to a fault, though, having seen how companies pitch products to schools without addressing the real world issues of implementation.

There isn't anything in the portal that isn't possible with current technology, and several companies and groups have tried to create almost exactly this same concept. I'd like to see more about what differentiates Rachael's portal -- what problems have been identified and solved that will make it a success this time?

A motion-capture system with game-based learning presents some hard logistical problems: it takes up more space, fewer students can be engaged at once while others wait, and games help students learn a little better but at a huge time expense. Overuse of game-based learning will eat up classtime quickly and drastically limit the breadth of topics that can be covered. Is there a way that this could be more effective than, say, a 1:1 program that puts devices in the hands of all students? Can motion-capture edutainment compete against 1:1 for those technology dollars?

I see the beautifully produced video and I want these things as much as anyone. I want to say that if they were as easy as this, they'd already be done, but sometimes strong inspiration is what we need. Rachael's work might be an important piece of that puzzle.