This semester I'm teaching a course in Curriculum, Instruction, and Environmental Design. This is one of the first education courses that our education majors take. The course includes a field experience component, which serves to expose students to diverse learning environments and provide them with authentic opportunities to observe what they're learning about in the course. I scheduled 5 school visits across the semester. Four of those visits were to local elementary, middle, and high schools, while one was a virtual visit to PS 10 in Brooklyn, NY. The purpose of this virtual field experience was to give these pre-service teachers a different perspective on teaching and learning through which they could apply and reflect on their learning in the course. Following each school visit, I ask my students to blog about their reflections from the visit. Each visit is focused on a specific concept or set of skills we're learning about in the course at the time, and their blog posts are focused in that way as well. Below are excerpts from my students' blogs following the virtual observation of a 4th grade classroom in Brooklyn. Big thanks to Chris Casal and Ms. McCormack for inviting us into their school.
"This past Tuesday, our EDU 241 class decided to take a class trip to a classroom in Brooklyn, New York. Through a webcam, of course. Our professor had a connection with one of the teachers in New York and thought it would be beneficial for us as a class to see her colleagues class as well."
"Our class was given a very interesting opportunity to be be able to skype with another classroom. It was a lot different then actually being there and it made me pay more attention to what was going on."
"Ms. McCormick also used questioning in a very positive way. Her questions showed what she wanted the students to get out of the lesson. She used all aspects of the lesson to question the students. She knew what she was going to do next and her questions flowed smoothly throughout the whole lesson."
"Overall, the virtual tour was a very good insight in how to implement instruction. I feel that Ms. McCormick was a very good example of how to teach in the classroom, and I feel that I really benefited from this tour."
"This visit was different then all the rest. Instead of being in person, our visit was done over a MacBook and iPad. The experience was an interesting but frustrating one. I did like not being in the classroom to see everything."
"I can tell she has very high expectations of them and she knows they are able to do it. She continues to remind them of the five parts of a story using five fingers and soon leads them to go to their desk and brainstorm their story ideas using the five parts."
"At first all of the kids in the classroom thought that it was so cool that they were able to see us while they were in class, they got a little distracted but then the teacher quickly got them back on task."
"Most of them didn't notice that they were being observed, which was better since we see their everyday, normal behavior. I liked everything I saw during the visit especially the teacher's transitions between activities."
"I would like to explore more into other school systems and hopefully find the place where I eventually would like to teach."
"While I was watching the classroom, the teacher showed that she was not just concerned with the answers of the math problems, but how the students got to the answer. She wanted to make sure students understood the process."
"Another great thing that I loved about Ms.McCormick was how she explained exactly what she wanted done carefully so that the students knew exactly what to do. She had the students repeat the instructions back to her for clarification that everyone was on the same page."