Thursday, February 4, 2010

and the up side

This is part two of a two-part post:

The sims we work on are owned by the Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES district. Yesterday, the BOCES administrators had a meeting at which they saw a presentation on SL. Lynn (SL name)asked me if some of my students could come inworld so she could relay questions to them from the admins. Because of the timing of the meeting, I was only able to have three students there (one for only 15 min).

At her end, Lynn projected the SL image on the large screen so everyone in the room could see. She and her assistant (whom I've never met in RL, but have met in SL several times) split the duties, with Emilie asking the students questions and Lynn asking me the teacher-directed questions in IM so the converstations would be easier to follow.

Let me say right now, that when you give kids real-world tasks and ask them to step up to the plate...they do so with a panache that makes one proud. In the classroom, I was dealing with three different converstaions at the same time: the IM with Lynn, the kid's conversations in general chat and the rest of my regular classroom that had never seen SL before. Needless to say this latter group was enthralled by the fact that we were in a meeting with a group of people thirty miles away while still sitting there and talking to them at the same time. And to see their fellow students simply and easily step into these roles impressed the heck out of them.

Two things impressed me on the kids' end. The first deals with a student who, quite frankly, isn't all that interested in anything I have to teach her. She's unfocused and not always willing to do what needs to be done. But her demeanor and answers in that meeting bespoke a higher level of maturity than I'd seen in her before. Getting to see her in the role of teacher to the admins was an eye-opener for me.

The second dealt with the secret two of us had. I'm a female teacher, but play a male avatar. Reason? I was curious to see if the kids responded differently to me inworld than in RL. One of the students who partook in this conversation yesterday is a male student who has created an absolutely beautiful female avatar. Reason: it's role playing and he wanted to explore that part of his personality.

Partway through our coversation, it dawned on me that these administrators would have no idea of who was behind the computer. They wouldn't know our true genders. I brought this up to the three of us left in the classroom (my class had been dismissed for lunch and one of the students in the meeting had to go to geometry). We got a chuckle over it and continued to play our parts and answer questions.

At the end however, I asked them, in chat, if we should reveal our secret. Of course, the admins now all wanted to know what it was and my male student grinned in RL and said, "You bet!" So I told them I am actually a female teacher. That got a laugh from them and when I gave my reason, they thought that a cool experiment to undertake. Then my male student revealed his gender and Lynn told me later she thought they were going to fall out of their chairs. She said they roared and couldn't get over how they'd made assumptions based on what they saw on the screen. A good teachable moment that she used to great effect.

So as frustrated as I get with them sometimes, when it's truly important, the kids step up and make me proud. We had a good time with admins yesterday (turns out to be mostly Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Directors and various principals). It sounds as if they had as much fun as we did.


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