The term “Homework Day” conjures up several images in my mind.
- Students with overwhelmed looks on their faces
- Bulging backpacks taking on rectangular shaped outlines
- Frustrated parents bent over kitchen tables helping their children
When I think of “Homework Day”, I definitely don’t think of the phrase, “Lights, Camera, Action”. But that is exactly what Wolfram Alpha’s Live Web Event entitled “Homework Day” had in mind.
Mom and I were lucky enough to be asked to participate in this live web event after word got out that we have been using www.wolframalpha.com in our classrooms with our students. Not only have we been successfully using this site with our students, we have had rave reviews about it from educators with whom we have shared it during our workshops and presentations.
We took a half day off from our respective 4th and 5th grade classrooms to drive to Wolfram Alpha Headquarters for our world-wide debut. Did I just type, “world-wide”? While we have done a ton of presentations for a ton of teachers, we have never participated in a global event. This was EXCITING!
After entering “The Set” I was immediately mic’d and placed in front of the SMARTBoard in order to go live within 15 minutes for a demonstration of how I have been using Wolfram Alpha in the classroom. It was just like I imagine TV personalities are queued. A number of cameras from a number of different locations all pointed and ready, a producer counting down, the host getting ready to hop in to crack a joke or ask a question, it was all surrounding me.
All of a sudden I didn’t feel too well. Nerves? Uhhhh….yes!
But something funny happened…as soon as the cameras started rolling and I picked up the SMARTBoard pen, it was like I was presenting at a workshop, or teaching my kiddos. I felt totally at home.
I was thrilled to show the ways I have been using this site with my students. I made sure to include a variety of examples for a variety of curricular areas…just like we do in our workshops. The host actually spoke with me briefly before we went live to make sure he knew what I was showing. “Math examples right?”
On a side note, the developers of Wolfram Alpha also happen to be the creators of Mathematica. This extraordinary software is used globally for upper level math. So obviously I would be showing math examples…right?
Wrong. Recess TEC prides itself in showcasing the use of technology across all different curricular areas, learning modalities, and ability levels…and I mean ALL. This demonstration was no different. I made sure to show how I have been using the site for Social Studies, English, Spelling, Reading, Science and Math. I even had a music example up my sleeve but didn’t show it only because they asked me to show how I use it in my class and I am not the music teacher. But if I WERE the music teacher, I would still be using this site…because there is something for everyone…which is truly the Recess TEC mantra!
After my demo, Mom and I were escorted by a young intern to the kitchen to make sure we had everything we needed.
Something to eat? Drink?
An autograph session with Richard Dreyfuss?
That’s right…not 10 feet from the potato salad bowl sat Richard Dreyfuss waiting for his interview segment.
Was this really happening?
I felt much better and my nerves were gone. I just had the residual high from presenting something about which I am passionate with anyone who will listen. What to do? Get something to eat.
I turned to Mom and asked her if she wanted to eat…the look on her face told me her answer. She was experiencing my same nervousness. Her interview was still an hour away.
During that hour, we had the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the friendliest people in education. It was fabulous…and sort of surreal.
I will let Mom tell you about her interview and experience during Homework Day from her point of view. But I can’t help but point out that she was awesome! The ever so calm and collected veteran educator who answers questions from the heart and continues to find new and exciting ways to motivate and challenge her students did just that during her Q and A session with Eric. (A.K.A the Conan look alike…according to the web chat that was rolling all day).
As Shannon described, this day was beyond exciting. It ranked up there above my skydive and… almost everything else. To sit and watch your daughter present at a global event and to feel the pride that only a parent would understand ranked up there with her birth. Shannon did a wonderful job and she did justice as a spokesperson for the “product” that is truly our future.
I did have a tiny butterfly fluttering before my interview, but I don’t think it was my nerves so much as the adrenalin that was picked up from the excitement that permeated the whole atmosphere. Even the “audio guy” who mic’d me up told me he was genuinely excited about the day, the event, and even seeing Richard Dreyfuss.
As I was placed shoulder-to-shoulder with the host on the “X”… even an “X” on the ground, “surreal” truly is the only word to have described it.
The host asked me if I was nervous, and I told him I was not.
I asked him if he was, and he said he was not.
I asked him if he was having fun, and he said he could not possibly be having more fun.
He asked me if I was feeling “anticipation” and I sang that one word of Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” because, as I told him, there is always a song in my head.
So it went as the producer with her headset and clipboard counted down to my global debut. And then the fun began. I was able to talk about teaching, my students, our passion for technology, and this wonderful new addition to our students’ lives and future.
I have always told my students that I will make as many oppotunities for them to present in front of their classmates, but to remember that when they talk about those things that excite them, they will not feel as nervous. They will only want to deliver their message. This was our day, and how could I have had, as the host told me, any more fun?
The next day I had to return to reality. My students knew where I was going. They had seen the Homework Day icon on Wolfram Alpha’s website, and I am not gone very often. They were mesmerized listening as I described my day and truly excited to see the pictures from the Wolfram Alpha’s site on the SMARTBoard.
My return day continued into the night as we are also in the middle of parent-teacher conferences.
Then it happened. That thing that summarizes the reason for the whole event.
One of my parents said that his daughter had asked him to ask me about my day with Wolfram Alpha. I tried to put it into words thankful I had a small break before my next conference so I could share the experience. Then he described to me the day his daughter had forgotten her Science book and he was concerned whether or not she would be able to complete her assignment.
“That’s okay, Dad. I can just go to Wolfram Alpha”.
She did and she did.
Wolfram Alpha, thank you for making all of this happen.
Wolfram Alpha’s Homework Day did not resemble ANY of the earlier images to which I alluded. This Homework Day was the essence of 21st Century tech integration to help students work smarter, not harder.
Homework Day – Now the teacher’s best friend, the student’s saviour, the parent’s support system.
It was an awesome day!