The Touring Teacher [TTT], created by Laura Alice and her husband Lars Quickfall, takes global cultures, concepts and places and brings them into the classroom for students to learn from and enjoy – without having to stamp their passport.
Alice is the creator and face of TTT, but she says it’s a team effort, with Quickfall taking on the filming, editing and release of each video.
Originally a teacher in Devonport, Alice says the idea for TTT came about when she learned about how the Eiffel Tower expands in the heat.
“I thought about this being a great science lesson, and how fantastic it could be if my class and I could go on a virtual field trip, to gather some prior knowledge.”
The couple decided to put their passions for teaching, filming and travel together, and thus TTT was born.
“Our goal is creating lesson videos in each place we visit, for them to be used in classrooms back in New Zealand, and around the world,” Alice explains.
“With videos, it can feel as if you have been transported to where the lesson videos take place, and students can come along for the journey.”
It took them some time to perfect the process of creating a video and sending it to classrooms back home and in other countries, but Alice says it now works smoothly.
“Before we go anywhere, I decide what the topic is going to be, that can then decide the curriculum area.
“I then do the research for what is going to be talked about, and the locations fit around what is in the script.
“Many times we turn a corner and see an incredible view and decide on the spot that this is the place to film.”
After filming, Quickfall edits the video and schedules it for release, while Alice puts together resources and lesson plans to accompany the video.
Then, thanks to the power of digital technology, the lesson gets shared instantaneously with followers around the world.
Alice says the best part of the job is that the couple gets to indulge in their love of travel.
“One of the great parts of this project is that we are still travellers, and often the locations that we film in are chosen because of what we want to visit as tourists.
“We get to travel the world, and see and experience so many different places and cultures.
“The most challenging part has been starting something that is brand new.
“Something like The Touring Teacher has not been done before and it has been difficult to market a new concept to schools.
“One of the biggest hurdles we faced was getting over the stigma of ‘online video’ use in the classroom, and encouraging teachers to try new methods of classroom teaching,” she says.
Alice is no stranger to digital pedagogy; in New Zealand, she worked in an iPad 1:1 classroom, which she said helped many students to improve their learning.
“Of course the students were excited about having iPads in class, but the real hook for them was that it was a different way of learning, a way to be more interactive with what they were trying to understand,” she says.
“This really consolidated the fact that education is evolving as times are changing.”
Alice bases her lesson plans on the New Zealand Curriculum, focusing on the same Achievement Outcomes that she used in the classroom.
She says the videos are designed to act as a companion in the classroom, adding depth to lessons.
“For example, I remember teaching a maths lesson about 3D shapes,” she explains.
“I had done similar lessons before, where you make a net of a cube, and then try and make up your own nets.
“It wasn’t the most riveting lesson I had done.
“So, when I was travelling to St Petersburg, I knew that the buildings of the city had many interesting 3D shapes.
“In the lesson video, I explain 3D shapes, and then we can see them in real life situations.
“I was picturing myself during my past 3D shape lesson, and wished that I had this type of resource then.
“That way, the students would have had a real reason to make the nets of shapes and it would have made the lesson more relevant and engaging.”
Ideally, the couple would like to see the videos incorporated into regular lessons rather than just being used as an extra resource.
In the meantime, Alice and Quickfall aim to continue their mission of “seeing as much of the world as possible, and bringing as much as we can into the classroom”.
However, the committed educator admits she does miss classroom teaching.
“I have been teaching in London in between our travels, I miss teaching in the classroom if we have been away for a long period of time.
“For now my focus is on this new way of teaching, but one day it would be nice to get back into a classroom in New Zealand.”