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Posts tagged ‘Classroom’

Special Needs in the Virtual Classroom

Ritalin (photograph)

Image via Wikipedia

My friend Ayala had Shabbos guests, a personable, intelligent couple named Yitz and Rivka and their young children. During the meal, the general prevalence of ADHD came up. Yitz started joking about it. My friend and her husband let it go. Then Rivka began joking that there really are a lot of people around with ADHD; the prisons are full of them!

Ayala placed a hand on Rivka’s arm. “Stop,” Ayala said, in a kind voice. Rivka brightened at Ayala’s apparent interest, smiled, and started elaborating on the humor.

Ayala looked into Rivka’s eyes, speaking calmly and firmly. “Stop. Stop.” Ayala’s hand remained on her guest’s arm.

After a moment Rivka turned a little pale and whispered confusedly, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Ayala’s son has ADHD and related behavioral and learning issues. She and her husband have had a lot of challenges with their son. Currently he resides away from home and seems to be doing well in a yeshiva that tries to meet his needs.

It’s disconcerting to Ayala to hear a Shabbos guest suddenly bring up her deepest fears.

You never know on whose toes you may be stepping.

Speaking of meeting the needs of special learners, I think that Rabbi Resnick, who runs Room 613, put it so well:

Students are able to choose their method of participation in the virtual classroom. As I remarked recently, for a student to use a smartboard, perhaps the ultimate in traditional classroom technology, they still have to walk up to the board. And that seemingly simple act can be a painful experience for some students.

Our format allows for so many permutations and possibilities for learning. Students can tailor their experience to their own comfort level.

Some of our students just use the chat feature – exclusively – to participate in classes. That means neither I nor the other students have ever seen their faces or heard their voices! Yet they are an integral part of classes, fully engaged and participating, offering their opinions and ideas.

Others choose to use a microphone, with or without a webcam. 

For the shy student, for the autistic student, for those who like attention, and choose to use the webcam and mic, I can’t think of a better way to reach, empower, and satisfy all types of learners.

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Undue Panic

1.2 L Super Big Gulp

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I am alerted that a lurker might appear. Apparently someone in the life of one of my students with a personal agenda has threatened – possibly as a bluff –  to infiltrate my classes.

Big gulp. This is uncharted territory.

I mean, do I want to be the smiling face welcoming a stranger into my classroom? What if this person poses as a guest student? My principal gives me a few safety tips.

Class starts. A lurker appears.

Guest 7 arrives late and soon changes his or her screen name. The “guest” cannot or will not confirm his or her last name or state his or her age. A student types into the chat that she thinks the “guest” is a real student, and she types in the name of the student she thinks it is. I apologize and quickly disconnect the unidentified lurker. After a minute he or she rejoins, this time using the name suggested by my student.

I tell the kids that I have to know who everyone is in the class for everyone’s safety.

I hope I am vigilant and not paranoid.

40 minutes after class ends, my “guest” is still logged in. I disconnect the intruder.

I contact Rabbi R. He writes back, that things check out okay. This “guest” seems legit.  It’s a student who either just walked away from the computer while logged in, or was hanging around the classroom. No big deal.

But in my vivid imagination, a little creepy.

For me, this constitutes a defining moment. My exciting new world is not exactly virtual, not a computer game, but real three dimensional life with debris to dodge on its paths of construction.

We’re building  a thing of beauty here, and so we will conquer obstacles that try to get in our way. Morah Elana will do everything in her power to see to that! And may Hashem help our efforts succeed.

Okay, chill Morah Elana. Caution will help my students, but undue panic has no place in our classroom. Room 613 is a safe, responsible community.

613: What’s this Room?

Hebrew Calligraphy

Image by Nir Tober via Flickr

When a child takes your hand, you never know where he may lead you.

I’m online, in Room 613, and it’s like an alternative universe. An all Jewish computer game where players act the roles of classroom students with names like Esti, Dena, Yair and Evyatar. 

The Dena character is drawing a ritual washing cup on the classroom whiteboard. Esti and Evyatar are collaborating on practicing their aleph-beis writing skills. Yair uploads an English chart of the Hebrew letters. “Morah,” he types into the chat, “thank you for the class. I loved it!”

“You’re welcome!” I type-chat back. Because Yair is real, and I loved it too. These are my students and Room 613 is far from a game. It’s a real classroom – mine.

You know you’ve really arrived in the 21st century when your students appear as half-inch wide images on a computer screen and teaching them involves an internet connection, an external microphone and headset, a plugin mini webcam and technological support.  

All because of Bentzi. Searching for enrichment for my bright four year old, search engines led me to the innovative, dynamic Room 613 classes. Rabbi Yosef Resnick courteously invited my son and me to sample a few. I asked if he was hiring teachers; I knew I would love to do this!

And here I am, two weeks into this breathless world of  exploring Torah topics with my amazing, motivated Jewish homeschoolers.  Stay tuned for a recap of all that’s been happening in Morah Elana’s room. It’s as vibrant as Creation here at www.room613.net!

To read all the stuff that happened next, see my RECENT POSTS at the upper right of this page 🙂