By Jayne Clare
Jayne Clare, Special Education teacher, and Anne Rachel, artist and Early Childhood educator, co-founded Teachers With Apps. These two lifelong educators are committed to “… helping parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators and anyone else, wade through the vast number of educational apps being introduced on a daily basis. Remember, not all educational apps are created equal.” A few weeks ago, at Jayne’s invitation, I visited with her 5th graders via Skype. First time I’d done it that way and it was a total blast. Here’s Jayne’s report from her side of the giant screen.
Electric Eggplant just recently released Middle School Confidential Book 2: Real Friends vs. the Other Kind to the app store. I’m a new teacher to this age group; twenty plus years in an elementary school simply can not prepare you for the hormones raging in the intermediate school setting! So glad that I came across this awesome resource when I did, February with 5th graders is an eye-opener! I’d been sharing MSC with small groups of tween students and using the Smart Board with larger groups by hooking the iPad up with a cable. This was part of the field-testing involved prior to writing a review for Teachers With Apps (TWA). Although I had worked with several grade levels, it quickly became obvious that our 5th grade students were really benefiting from spending time with this app. The experience helped the students with their growing pains by opening up dialogue that may not have taken place otherwise.
It started out innocently enough, I emailed Annie with some positive feedback after field-testing the app and we exchanged a few emails. David Fox, her other half, asked, “What do you think of the idea of doing a Skype call with Annie during class time? The students can interact with her, ask questions, etc…” Of course my answer was an emphatic YES, but being a public school teacher meant that I would need permission from administration. That was easy to obtain, so back to Annie to set a Skype session for Friday at 1:00pm EST.
As the week progressed, my students continued to become more familiar with MSC characters and had even picked their favorites. Friday arrived! For morning work, the kids all wrote out questions and/or comments to share later in the day. I scrambled to get the technology in place for our Q & A with Annie. Nervously, as one always is when using technology for a lesson, I practiced a Skype call with my TWA partner and got the lay of the land set up for the students. They were going to be tighter than a can of sardines, if they were all going to be seen. I wondered how they would sit so closely without some kind of problem erupting.
One o’clock arrived and somehow all the kids managed to squeeze into the allotted space as they waited anxiously to meet the author. The computer rang and there she was, Annie Fox, bigger than life on the Smart Board! The first question was asked and in the time that it took to respond, the room became silent. You could have heard a pin drop. One by one the students took turns asking questions and Annie answered with clear, concise, commonsense answers. She shared some of her own insecurities as a child and you could still hear a pin drop. More questions were asked and answered.
The woman on the screen, who so gently and so naturally took in all their woes and comforted them with sound, soothing advice, mesmerized the group. Out of all the responses given, one resonated with me; she told our most mature student that she should take a vacation from that friend, which was such simple yet profound advice. As our session came to a close it was evident it had gone extraordinarily well. The kids sat through the first bell of 9th period as they said their goodbyes, only to find out that Annie had grown up and gone to school not far from where we are in the “Hamptons”! There were hoots of “Go, Long Island – Go New York!” as the students filed out of the classroom.
“Awesome. That was awesome,” my co-teacher Maggie exclaimed and yes, I agreed, it certainly was!
Thank you Annie, what day works for you next month?
UPDATE: Through the end of March, I’ll do a free Skype classroom visit, to any school that purchases Middle School Confidential books and/or apps.