Sunday, 1 December 2013

Adventures in Mystery Skyping

The first time I read The Rez Sisters, I was in third year university taking the course "Modern Canadian Drama".  When I began teaching at ODSS, I noticed that we had a class set in our book loft.  I soon discovered that the play wasn't being taught in any of the courses, but I knew it would work in ENG3U1.

This semester was the fifth time teaching the play, and every time I teach it, I uncover more and more meaning.

This semester, however, I realized that I could "flatten my classroom walls" and extend my students' knowledge and understanding and that of my own of First Nations students.  Julie Balen is a member of my PLN and I remember her mentioning that she teaches First Nations students.  I am very thankful that she and her students were willing to Skype with us.

Getting Started.  Photograph courtesy Ben H.

As Julie wrote in her blog post, the Mystery Skype was more than just using technology in the classroom.  Technology was a method to expose our students to the experiences of other teenagers living different lives in the same province.  Many of my students made note that there were many similarities between their lives and experiences and those of the students living in Wikwemikong.

Mina noted that she had a negative view of First Nations people, but our conversation gave her a new perspective and challenged the stereotypes that First Nations people are subject to.  Riley detailed the traditions that the students from Wikwemikong practice.  Sam liked that he got to hear about the perspectives of First Nations students directly from them, not from a secondary source, like an article or documentary.

I asked my students to blog about the Mystery Skype, and to specifically answer the question, "What needs to be improved upon for another Skype?"  This forced the students to reflect on the experience.  For example, Hailey and Tristan noted that they needed to organize their questions better.  Mina made mention that they needed to maintain their assigned roles, and another student suggested that more roles be assigned.  I liked Helena's suggestion that we Skype in smaller groups, so that the conversations could flow more easily.  Jesse pointed out that both classes needed to be better prepared.

I loved hearing my students reflections and found it interesting that, for the most part, their areas of improvement aligned with the reflections of the students from Wikwemikong.  I loved that the student themselves were able to determine what they needed to do to improve; I didn't have to tell them.

Overall, the Mystery Skype achieved my goal of making the play more real for my students.  My one hope is that they will continue to connect with the other class.  Some students have already indicated that they have some more questions.

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