Hockaday English classes are reaching out to other schools with the aid of technology
Communication with other schools’ students has always been outside of school, usually in social settings. However, Greenhill Upper School teacher Joel Garza has set up a blog with Hockaday English Department Chair Deborah Moreland and Upper School teacher of The Oakridge School James Colley that will allow students to discuss short stories with each other.
“I thought such an exchange might give students a hint of the kind of fun a colloquium could be,” Garza said. “My hope was that by means of the doc, [it would] shape a multifaceted response to each story by assigning an Oakridge philosophy student, a Hockaday film/lit student, and a Greenhill AP student to each story.”
The schools were first brought together by an invitation from Colley to participate in a conference. The conference will focus exclusively on James Joyce’s classic collection of short stories. Oakridge decided to host this conference of Joyce’s collection of short stories called the Dubliners, since this year is the centennial celebration of the collection. The conference will be held in February of 2013.
“We will be hosting our first English Literature colloquium on James Joyce’s classic, Dubliners,” Colley said. “Students will present papers publicly at a conference gathering and share ideas about Joyce’s seminal text.”
Moreland, Garza, and Colley collaborated to create this blog for a commonplace area where all could focus their thoughts in discussions since talking about the short stories in real time was impractical because their schedules did not coincide.
“The face to face engagement of the upcoming colloquium will be an invaluable experience, for sure, but technological programs (such as blogger) made geographical barriers a moot point and made possible the meeting of minds from different campuses in ways more frequent,” Colley said. “It’s motivated me to seek more opportunities for more collaboration on even more expansive levels.
Thus far, the teachers have direct control of the blog; the students send the teachers their responses and the teachers, in turn, upload them.
“It’s a step in new learning,” Moreland said. “It’s giving the students new ideas from somewhere else and stimulating ideas from other sources.”
This blog led to the idea of incorporating technology more closely with the classroom. Moreland has set up a Skype Conference for students to discuss short stories together.
“We have exchanged opinions through different types of media,” Senior Greenhill student Andrew said. “The interactive units were pretty entertaining. The Hockaday class offered some insightful opinions and vantage points we had not thought about.”
The Oakridge students also felt the benefits.
“With a school as small as Oakridge, it can be hard to hear new opinions. Also, being with the same class for so many years makes one accustomed to hearing certain things from certain people, and we became able to predict our classmates reactions to different topics,” Oakridge senior Bessie said. “Blogging offered a clean slate, a way for us to access a new audience and see how people we have never met or seen responded to and interpreted the same topics we were studying.”
Moreland’s students will be making a video to post on the blog of their 10 minute discussion of a short story and then will receive a response discussion also through a recorded conversation.
“We really want to use technology as much as possible,” Moreland said. “We are in the process of trying to set up an Adobe Kinect so that students can talk face to face instead of posting videos to each other.”
Garza has visited Moreland’s English class to help teach and guide a discussion of two of the short stories: Araby and Eveline. The discussion was recorded and will be sent to Garza’s students who will watch the video and make their own video in response.
“One of the best things a teacher can do for students is demonstrate how you think about something that you don’t know,” Garza said. “This kind of collaboration allowed my students to see me take risks, wrestle publicly with ideas, and create conversations with students that I’ve never met.”
Moreland is planning to teach a class at Oakridge on philosophy.
“We are trying to get students to get new perspectives from not only different students, but different teachers,” Moreland said.
Garza hopes that his students will learn from this experience.
“I hope that they understand the importance of writing for an actual audience, I hope that they had fun collaborating, and I hope that they can see the merits of competitive reading–like they enjoy competition in athletics or arts,” Garza said.
Moreland believes that the conferences and discussions are a typical high-level academic activity in college and that this is good preparation for higher level learning.
“It’s an elevated activity,” Moreland said. “It’s very stimulating to be around other people who are interested in the same thing and see new perspectives.”