At the beginning of the school year, I emailed the Salem Historical Society in Massachusetts in the hope of inviting one of its historians in my class via Skype to discuss the reality versus the fiction captured in Miller's The Crucible, the first text we study in the fall. I was fortunate enough to be contacted in return by Maggi Smith-Dalton, a member of the board and one of the society's directors, who was not only willing to Skype with us, but has also given my students new avenues to explore their learning.
This adventure began with research based around some of the central questions and curiosities behind the Salem witchcraft trials and some sources that she, as a historian, deems authoratative on the subject. After reaidng The Crucible and a couple days of researching, my students Skyped with Maggi today about those same questions and my class also shared inquiries the play and their research inspired for them. The next step in our adventure begins tomorrow with extending our learning; Maggi offered many suggestions for projects the students can do with a focus on revealing the discrepancies between this period's fiction and its reality. Not only did she pose these project ideas, she has also kindly and generously offered to exhibit their creations on the Society's website as a means of connecting their learning to some of the society's other members.
Not only do I feel the kids have learned and will learn a lot from our connection to Maggi, I've also learned a lot about the assets technology can offer as well as its potential ease. After years of admiring my co-workers who make similar connections, I learned that it can all begin with a simple email and one's willingness to try something new. Yesterday I set up a Skype account, and today I brought another instructor into my classroom. I am certainly no expert, but am more than glad I was willing to give the technology a try.
I am so excited about Maggi's willingness to help us learn about Salem and, further, about the exuberance toward learning she has helped cultivate for the kids. I can't wait to see what they come up with and will be sure to post a link to their work when it's complete.