National Conference Features Butler Class Skyped to San Diego

Students taught the teachers when Nichole Joiner, a sixth-grader from San Diego, Calif., and Megan Rogg, a senior education major at Butler, addressed the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) in Chicago Feb. 17-19.

Joiner may be the youngest presenter ever at an AACTE national conference. She and Rogg, a Cincinnati native, told about a cross-country learning experiment that linked their classrooms digitally last spring.

Connected via Skype video-teleconferencing, fifth-graders at Angier Elementary School in San Diego and Butler education majors learned to use animation software simultaneously. Working in groups, they then created stop-motion videos to demonstrate various concepts. [See sample videos on the digestive system and understanding “compare and contrast.”].The program is continuing with Joiner and Rogg as instructors.

The project started with Jessica Meier, a 2005 College of Education graduate who was Joiner’s fifth-grade teacher at Angier Elementary. Meier wanted her students to better grasp topics covered in standardized testing.

She turned to her former Butler professor Arthur Hochman. For years, Hochman has taught elementary education majors ways to use the arts and digital media to teach a number of subjects and concepts.

Hochman invited Meier’s class to join Butler students in his spring 2011 class — which included Rogg — to learn how to create stop-motion videos about the testing topics.

“For every fifth-grade group working on a concept, we had a college group working on the same concept,” Hochman said.”They had to know the concept and then illustrate it creatively with only a few frames. This forces them to focus.”

Meier said the project required explaining to her pupils what a “college student” is. The majority of their parents do not have college degrees, and higher education is generally not a household topic for them.

But once they understood that these were substantially older students with whom they’d be collaborating, they grew excited, she said.

“Knowing that college students would be seeing their videos encouraged them to do their best work,” Meier said. “It gave them a boost of confidence. They thought, ‘I can accomplish what college students can accomplish.’ “

Meier assigned Joiner to document the teaching process in a journal. Hochman had Rogg do the same.

“After the initial semester, Megan and Nichole became the teachers and helped the next group learn the technology,” Hochman said. “We are adding new wrinkles this year by getting the fifth-graders and college students to work on the same movies.”

Meier said that Joiner, currently enrolled in sixth grade at De Portola Middle School, has “taught with the same passion, understanding, confidence and articulation as any experienced teacher.”

Younger students love being taught by Joiner, according to Meier. “Being taught from a former student’s perspective seemed to make it more ‘real’ to them. They asked great questions about Nichole’s experience, that only she could answer,” Meier said.

Meier also learned from the experience.

“Technology can be scary for some teachers,” she said. “At first I was worried about teaching myself everything about the animation program. It only took about two minutes before I realized the students could figure it out with their teammates and teach me. As soon as one group made a new discovery, they would immediately teach it to the other groups.

“These students thrive on technology; we can’t let our own uncertainties keep them from using it.”

Last summer, Hochman, Meier, Joiner and Rogg submitted a joint proposal to present their experience at the AACTE conference; it was accepted in September.

“It is very rare for college students and unusual for classroom teachers to present at AACTE, let alone a sixth grader,” said Hochman.

Media contact: Mary Ellen Stephenson
(317) 940-6944