On April 23, education majors from Ball State University, University of New Mexico, University of Arizona and Simon Fraser University saw and heard a long-distance lecture originating from Redmond — and the presenter was just 10 years old.
Adora Svitak doesn’t think of herself as a prodigy, but she’s the spokesperson for the Verizon Literacy Foundation, has published two books and appeared on “Good Morning America” and “Oprah.” Since October, she’s been using Mediasite technology from Sonic Foundry (www.sonicfoundry.com) to inspire peers and adults via webcasts from a studio in her home. The programs for kids extol the benefits of reading and writing, while the adult programs offer tips to get kids excited about learning.
Paul Baumgaertner of Sonic Foundry explained that the programs are streamed live, then archived for later viewing, “like TiVo for a classroom.”
As Svitak began her lecture, she explained there’d be opportunities for them to interact with her by pressing an “answer question” bar.
“I want to give a kid’s eye perspective on how to avoid boring your students,” she noted. “I like to be able to USE what I learn. Facts are more relevant to me when I can incorporate them into a project.”
She encouraged the future teachers to have students channel research into something that gives them senses of purpose and ownership.
When studying a current or historic event, it’s fun and challenging to write about it in the first person and then maybe from other characters’ perspectives, she said. She also recommended “choosing a topic you want to be an expert in, and creating weekly blogs. … And I love it when teachers participate in a creative project. Writing activities are more fun and less intimidating when it’s a two-way street. You’re not just expecting them to share, you’re willing to share yourself.”
She asked the students to help her write about a conflict, using descriptive language. And she reminded them that kids love things that are “gross and disgusting.”
Bantering back and forth, Svitak and the students concocted a story about a food fight with spoiled meat, rotten tomatoes, rancid salmon and eggs.
A questioner from Ball State asked her if she thought technology would take over teachers’ responsibility of motivating students. She said technology is just a tool, the same as a surgeon’s instruments don’t replace the surgeon.
There were other questions about the lecture but also several about her personal life — such as what kind of classes she takes, what she does on a typical day, and whether she prefers the company of other children or older people.
She attends Washington Virtual Academy where she’s working on seventh grade curriculum — most 10-year-olds would be in fourth or fifth grade — and also has private after-school tutoring. But she said she takes naps, skateboards, runs around with her sister and does lots of other things you’d expect a kid to do, as well as things you wouldn’t expect them to do. For example, watching the nightly news on both ABC and NBC.
Hanging out with different age groups has different rewards, she concluded: “Adults don’t jump around in mud or let you spray them with a hose.” On the other hand, “the average kid doesn’t like to talk about politics.” By the way, she endorses Hillary Clinton.
For more information, visit www.adorasvitak.com.
Mary Stevens Decker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 867-0353.