Debra Schneider, aka Magistra Schneider, put together an excellent presentation that opened a door on her world as a teacher this year and the difficult obstacles she had to overcome in favor of her passion for teaching Latin.
I first met Debra back in 2011 on the Rome In Situ program. She has a quite lovely personality; always uplifting and always quick to sing a song. Literally – she was signing when we visited the archaeological parks of Cumae and Baiae! Great acoustics but a terrific voice! No wonder her students adore her.
Which is why this past year for her was quite difficult as she was out on indefinite medical leave. Her school was supportive of her leave and was able to hire a substitute teacher to manage her class while she was away. Yet, this was not enough for Debra as she didn’t want her students to miss out on a year of Latin due to her medical issues – so she created a solution.
It took a lot of effort and “front loading” but in the end, she was able to teach her students from home while she recovered. Basically, Debra and the substitute team taught; the plan was for Debra to introduce lessons and concepts which would enable her substitute, really a co-teacher, to manage the day-to-day operations in the classroom.
Debra shared with the audience a series of tools that she used to achieve this. Originally she was going to consider a flipped classroom model but she was also concerned with the logistics of her school – too many students, not enough access to computers. So bringing her presence into the classroom was a must.
Debra focused on three basic resources – Skype, Facebook, and Twitter. She relied heavily on Skype as a portal to communicate with her students in the classroom. She would do fun lessons via Skype, even dressing up like a gypsy in a darkened room with a flashlight in a fish bowl to teach the future tense. So Skype became the main focal point of communication to the class.
She was able to find a way for her students to access Facebook from school (one of the reasons why I recommend private social networks like Amicitia) and would use her page on Facebook to field individual questions. She also stressed that teachers should place parameters on their help – she wouldn’t take any questions after 10pm (!). Twitter, although she admitted it was useful, was not something she accessed a lot for her classes.
Debra also pointed out the usefulness of YouTube for helping students with concepts. There is a lot of resources and content created by teachers out there to help with difficult grammar (she also advised to be careful about pre-screening videos because some have very little credibility while others are terrific).
She reviewed several sites and apps to help, too. Debra liked StudyStack and Quizlet to help students with vocabulary and spelling. She also like Prezi for student collaboration on projects and said it was “more fun than traditional power point”. She also mentioned that her students really like the Sock Puppets app on the App Store but it is only available for the iPhone or iPad.
For more information on the different resources she used, check out her webpage over on TeacherWeb. She gives further instructions to access her portal there – you need to go to the bottom link entitled “Teaching From Home: Resources” and enter “Latinteach1” when prompted.