A cool chat with the “Cool Cat”

Reader’s Note: this post is about my reactions and impressions from my interview with Vicki Davis, the “Cool Cat Teacher”. To watch the full interview, visit the Vimeo channel at http://vimeo.com/channels/223778.

I recently interviewed Vicki Davis, global collaboration guru and bonafide social media superstar with nearly 22,000 Twitter followers, and over 23,000 blog subscribers to date. Best of all, she’s a teacher, just like me! Her followers know her as the “Cool Cat Teacher” and co-founder of the Flat Classroom™ project. To promote her upcoming book release, Vicki graciously agreed to an interview with me at ISTE 2011. A family emergency prevented us from meeting up at ISTE, but we were able to video-chat using Facetime soon after. Besides being totally starstuck, I truly enjoyed our conversation and found Vicki to be be more than anything, inspirational.

Backstory
I met Vicki for the first time at our state technology conference in December 2010, where she was the keynote speaker. At the time, I was so impressed by her keynote, that I wanted to attend her session on the Flat Classroom™ Project. I was not the only one! I waited in line for 30 minutes just to get in to the session. Then I sat on the floor in what were literally “standing room only” conditions. I wanted a chance to talk to her then, but it just was not going to happen! At the time, I knew that the best I could do was snap a quick pic for my blog, and make it my mission to reconnect later…and, so, here we are!

About Vicki
I prepared a few questions for our interview, and of course, we chatted about unplanned topics as well. To start, I asked how her journey as the “Cool Cat Teacher” began. Interestingly enough, she went all the way back to when she was 8 and her dad bought a TRS-80 computer that she figured out how to use. I had to Google this, since I had no idea what a TRS-80 was, and found out that TRS = Tandy Radio Shack, which I totally remember! I think a Tandy was the first computer in my house, too! She also shared how her students came up with her name: “..we’re the Westwood Wildcats, and you’re pretty cool, so why don’t you be the Cool Cat Teacher?” …and the rest, as they say, is history. I love it!

“Flattening” Classrooms
As our conversation progressed, Vicki began to talk about the Flat Classroom™ Project and how her upcoming book became a reality. She defines a “flat classroom” as a classroom that can “work and co-create with anybody, anywhere, anytime” using synchronous and asynchronous forms of communication. Since our first encounter, I wondered how I could “flatten” my own secondary math classroom. Here’s what Vicki offered:

In this segment, Vicki suggests several ideas for flattening the math classroom, some I’ve thought of and tried, and many that I never even considered. I have had several professionals who use math visit my classes over the years, but never thought to compare and contrast problem solving-techniques across countries!!! I was recently offered a membership to the Math Forum Problems of the Week site in exchange for my tweeting and blogging about how I use it. I am now very excited about trying some of Vicki’s ideas with these problems!

The Book
Here is another part of the interview in which Vicki discusses her upcoming Flat Classroom™ book:

I particularly like this segment because you can really see how passionate Vicki is about the work she’s doing. Here she also talks about how the Flat Classroom™ project has helped “unleash excellence” and “break cycles” for students with mental and physical disabilities, and low socioeconomic status. At one point, she even tears up while talking about a particular student who cited the project as the catalyst for his attending college (on a full scholarship), as the first in his family to do so. In this video, Vicki also talks about how the book is written, full of QR codes the reader can scan to connect with online interactive content right away. I am intrigued and curious to see a book written like this, as it is definitely a break from the norm, to say the least! At a time when many book publishers are fearful of all things technological, I am impressed that Vicki and her co-author were able to get these cutting-edge techie tools included in their text.

Final Thoughts
I will not include the entire interview in this post, since I chopped it up into 7 videos which are about 5 minutes apiece. I think the vids speak for themselves. I did a lot of listening and absorbing throughout the interview and came away from it inspired and energized to do more in the coming school year. Here are a few more memorable things that Vicki said during our talk:

  • “You can’t do everything, but you can do something.”
  • “Principle of Transference: If they (students) love chocolate cake, and everyday they go to math class, and you have a chocolate cake in the front of math class, what’s gonna happen when the bell rings and it’s time to go to math? They will be running, because they have transferred their love of chocolate cake to math! …now what do they enjoy? They enjoy social media…they love to connect with each other.”
  • “Blogging is first person-‘I’ is in there, blogg-ING…we’re hungry for a real person. It’s OK to say I think _______.”

When I think about how Vicki and I met at a time when she was literally untouchable, it really underlines the beauty of online communication and collaboration. Someone who was impossible for me to get to in person was in my living room just a few days ago! This is truly powerful, and I have to share this power with my students and peers! Vicki and I have decided to continue having these conversations, so stay tuned for the next time we get together. For more info about Vicki and her book, visit http://www.coolcatteacher.com. I’ll leave you with my favorite video from our chat, which I’m calling “1-minute inspiration”.