Room 208 Comes Home (Part II)

(Note: You’re probably going to want to going to read Part I, which can be found at “Bit by Bit” HEREor at Tech&Learning HEREbefore you dig in on this Part II.)

It was, in short, one of the greatest nights of my life.

12 of them came: Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. I really had no idea how many were coming, or even who was coming. I thought they would plan this all out on the Facebook Event page that one of the students had set up. I was wrong. Instead, they “shouted out” to each other in the High School hallways. They made plans the “old fashioned way” by using phone calls (not texting, but actual phone conversations).

Students from my old Room 208 classroom, created a “Room 208 Reunion” with no help from me, and came back to our old room on December 4, 2012, to make one more podcast (it can be heard HERE). The conversation is about an hour long, which was way too short and not nearly enough time in my opinion. There were so many more questions I wanted to ask them. There were so many more memories I wanted them to share. There was so much more about the “media tools” that they are using that I wanted to investigate. But these are, after all, High Schoolers; they had places to be.

I realize I was treated to something rare: reconnecting with students that I had as 3rd and 4th graders — having a gathering years down the road in our actual old classroom — is not something that many teachers get to do. It was nothing less than magical as I got to witness the amazing young adults that they have become. These students are, and will forever be my heroes. I have no doubt that they are going to be the leaders and “change-makers” we need in the near future.

We began by reading the excerpt about them from Alan November’s new book: Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age. They enjoyed the fact that people are still writing and talking about their work and loved that their section was called, “How the Students of Room 208 Conquered the World.” But they received the acclaim with modesty, as I remember them doing when they were 3rd and 4th graders, and reporter after reporter descended upon them, showering them with headlines and radio interviews and television segments.

We then dove into a conversation that became more and more salient as the hour passed by. At this point you’ve probably left this text and have headed over to listen to the podcast. If not, SPOILER ALERT for the rest of this article as I share some of the more salient quotes and discoveries from the discussion:

First, what they remembered from our “Room 208″ podcasting days:

  • “[It] kind of revolutionized our classroom because it was like the first time that we got to do something technologically advanced.” —James
  • “We were doing something cool and making headlines and stuff.” —James
  • “We knew what we were doing and it gave us skills that we could use later on in life.” —James
  • “It taught us to be creative and explore the world around us to find out what was going on.” —Mary
  • “It gave us the opportunities to learn new things and figure out for ourselves how to write or how to set something up or find out what we’re good at or find out what we enjoy and put our hearts into it.” —Mary
  • “It helped me talk to people.” —Bryanna
  • “We learned how to work in groups and take responsibility for our own projects. And that carries through to everything, especially in today’s world where so many people are working in groups.” —Zoë
  • “We do so many group projects now… and I really think that [it] gave us an advantage learning how to take a leadership role and really push to get projects done.” —Zoë
  • “We had to write each of the podcasts ourselves so all the writing content came out of our brains.” —Cami
  • “I believe it helped with my writing skills because we had to do it all ourselves; and we really didn’t have any help from you.” —Cami
  • “It improved us all as writers because we had to do this on our own and it was just so much more writing than most fourth graders were doing and we knew that other people were going to be hearing us… and so we worked harder than we would have if it was just for [the] school.” —Elizabeth
  • “I remember our class motto: ‘Do our Best’” —Zoë

Wow. That’s about all I can say. Wow.

Then I asked them, “What’s been happening since?”

I was, to be honest, both happily surprised as well as equally dismayed by their responses. Happily, they are in fact allowed to use their cellphones in some classes (many teachers encourage them to take a picture of what’s on the board so they can study at home). Unfortunately, they also reported that they don’t have the proper resources they need in the upper grades. However, I was encouraged when I found out that they are able to bring their own devices (i.e., computers) from home and that most of their teachers are using Google Docs with them. And Facebook is open at their school (sort of)! Unfortunately, teachers aren’t using it as a classroom tool.

I was surprised by what media they are using these days, and as mentioned above, they feel like they utilize “Face2Face” interactions more than digital. I was a bit dismayed that they reported that they no longer really thought much about the media that they are subjected to and how it affects them. They reported that they thought more about how media is made and it’s power of manipulation when they were creating their podcasts than they do now.

Oh yeah… another bummer I learned was that I failed them in the art of learning cursive…

There’s so much more… but I’ll stop spoiling it for you. Go listen to the podcast. Or, better yet: go dig up some of your own former students and have a reunion!

Again, I count it as one of the greatest moments of my life; I’ll bet your own reunion would feel the same. But more importantly, we need to hear more from those students who were the first adopters of Web 2.0 Tools. They have so much to tell us; an hour was simply not enough time.

We need to encourage them to keep blogging, keep podcasting, keep creating, no matter what course(s) their current or future teachers take them on.

My hope is that you share this post with your students and that they respond to some of the same questions I asked in the podcast. I also hope the Room 208 students add on to this post.

I also hope that you have a wonderful New Year and find ways to help your students change the world.

Thank you in advance for comments.