Part 3 of 3: How Does “The World’s Youngest Teacher” Use Web Technology? An Interview with Adora Svitak
| Friday, October 09, 2009
|Below is the third and final part of my interview with Adora Svitak. If you want to watch one video that summarizes Adora and her influence, you might check out the one appearing in the center of her YouTube Channel at the present time. Enjoy....
How Does “The World’s Youngest Teacher” Use Web Technology?
An Interview with Adora Svitak
by Curtis J. Bonk, Professor, Indiana University, USA
20. CJB: Which place (or places) that you have traveled to impressed you the most about their use of technology to teach and learn? Please explain why.
AS: A few years ago, I went with my family to England, where I taught at the Burley School. I was very impressed by the fact that each student had a laptop, and was able to use it for school projects. I was able to conduct writing sessions very effectively when students were able to get their thoughts out onto a word processing document. I know that many children have difficultly writing quickly, and I think that giving students laptops is a very time-effective measure. Also, it prepares students for a future of which technology will be increasingly a part of.
21. CJB: I know you often read 2-3 books per day. But likely not ones like my book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education? What were 1-2 ideas that caught your attention when you were reading it?
AS: One idea in the World is Open that really caught my attention was the idea of alternate reality learning. We have all heard so much about technologies, such as Second Life, that offer alternate realities, but “education” is not the first word that comes to mind when I hear “alternate reality.” So this really opened up my mind to that possibility, as well as to the fact that some of the things we don’t automatically associate with education may be, in fact, very valuable in learning. Another idea I liked was the use, and the availability, of open-source software. I am used to using technologies that you have to pay for—Microsoft Office and Encarta Encyclopedia, for example—but as open-source software is becoming more common, schools have the choice to use open-source technologies like Google Docs, OpenOffice, Reference.com, or Wikipedia to address their schools’ needs.
22. CJB: How has the world become more open for learning during the years you have been a teacher? How is it different since you were 7 or 8?
AS: I think that definitely open-source technology has become more of a presence—companies like Google are churning out free software ripe for the taking. As a teacher, reaching out to the world has become easier to me through distance learning. When I was 7 or 8, physically traveling to schools to deliver workshops was the norm for me. Now, I use new technology to deliver my message. Students are connecting with classrooms through the internet, schools across the world are connecting with each other—the world has opened considerably since my “younger days.”
23. CJB: Do you think that the world of education is ready to be more open and online? What needs to happen to make parents, kids, teachers, politicians more aware of the benefits of learning online?
AS: We live and work in the 21st Century; it is time to learn in the 21st Century. Ample resources are available to create supportive learning environments. It is essential that leaders in education and government, parents, and families become aware of the need to use these resources. Leaders need to realize that schools must use technology to help students today become the leaders of a new and open world.
24. CJB: What do you think teaching with technology will be like in 5, 10 or 20 years or more?
AS: Considering the rapid speed at which technology has grown since I was 7 or 8, it is really difficult to predict what teaching with technology will become. I think that less influence will be placed on physical presence in the classroom and more influence on online learning. Also, I think that students learning at their own pace with the aid of technology will become the norm. Teachers may teach students who are more geographically diverse in their locations.
25. CJB: What has been your top or peak teaching experience in your life so far?
AS: Recently, I delivered a professional development session through Elluminate, an online conferencing tool, to hundreds of teachers and administrators around the world, from places as diverse as Brazil to the U.S., England, France, and Australia. This event showed me the great power technology puts in the hands of teachers as well as students—allowing the teacher to reach people across the globe, and allowing the student to connect with others outside of their own community to share learning practices and realize similar experiences.
26. CJB: Where can people go to watch some of your teaching episodes or read some of your work?
AS: People can go to my YouTube channel. You can also visit my TeacherTube channel; search Adora Svitak at www.teachertube.com. Also visit my website, www.adorasvitak.com.
27. CJB: What is it like being an author at such a young age? Are your books offered online? How might people find them?
AS: It is an incredible experience to have published books at a young age. It gives me another perspective that most of my peers do not have. My books are currently only in print form, but I am considering offering them as eBooks. They are available at my website, adorasvitak.com.
28. CJB: What are you currently working on in terms of books, projects, etc.?
AS: I have just released my third book, Yang in Disguise, a satirical coming-of-age fantasy adventure story, and I am working on composing and compiling poems for a second book of poetry.
29. CJB: When might you attend college? At what age? Will you go physically or attend virtually online or both? What might you major in?
AS: I am thinking that I will attend college in three to four years. Although my language arts and history skills are advanced, my science and math skills are still at or slightly above grade level. So it will take me perhaps a little longer than some would expect. I think that I would attend both physically and online. I would hope to double-major in literature and education.
30. CJB: Is there anything else I left out that an audience interested in the topic of online learning might want to learn from an 11 year old teacher? Or any final commends you would like to mention?
AS: I would say not to be afraid of the changing world of education and to wholeheartedly explore new, online solutions for learning. I think that it is also important that we keep in mind tried-and-true best practices from the “olden days.” Ultimately, educators must help the students of today learn so that they can become the leaders of tomorrow.
CJB: Thanks, Adora, for the chance to interview you in the midst of your hectic schedule. Your comments should be helpful for online educators interested in the perspective of young learners as well as young teachers related to technology integration in education.
Bonk, C. J. 2009. The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Corr, K. 2009. Is Adora Svitak the cleverest child in the world? UK telegraph, January 14. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/primaryeducation/4241402/Is-Adora-Svitak-the-cleverest-child-in-the-world.html (accessed August 29, 2009).
Sadovi, C. 2009. 11-year-old prodigy wows high-schoolers: Girl has had 2 books published and gives seminars around the world. Chicago Tribune, February 4, http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2009/feb/04/business/chi-prodigy-04feb04 or http://tinyurl.com/dlr3yp (accessed August 29, 2009).
Sivtak, A. 2009. The school principal just friended me? Social networking in education. The Educators’ Royal Treatment. August 4, http://www.educatorsroyaltreatment.com/2009/08/power-to-the-student.html (accessed August 30, 2009).
Curtis J. Bonk is Professor of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University. He has a popular blog called TravelinEdMan and is the author of The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education, Empowering Online Learning: 100+ Ideas, for Reading, Reflecting, Displaying, and Doing, and The Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs.