Voice Q&A: Journalism teacher Wojcicki introduces new book

Adele Bloch and Aidan Maese-Czeropski

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Paly journalism teacher Esther Wojcicki speaks about her book “Moonshots in Education: Blended Learning in the Classroom” on Jan. 24 in the Jewish Community Center. Wojcicki’s book describes her goal to change the culture within classrooms. Her passion for teaching stems from how “amazing it is to see students develop.” Photo by Lee Hochman.

The Paly Voice sat down with Palo Alto High School journalism teacher Esther Wojcicki to discuss her new book “Moonshots in Education: Blended Learning in the Classroom.”

According to Wojcicki, her book strives to encourage a more collaborative environment within classrooms by minimizing the number of lectures. She also believes that integrating technology will help to create an enjoyable classroom environment where students can thrive.

Wojcicki hopes that other teachers will adopt her methodology for changing the classroom set-up.

“My idea is to give other teachers ideas for how they can do the same thing in the classrooms,” Wojcicki said in an interview with The Paly Voice.

The Paly Voice: Could you give us a brief description of your book?

Wojcicki: It is basically how to teach [and] how to change the culture of a classroom. [It’s] how to teach 21st century skills without lecturing to students. The reason it’s called “Moonshots in Education” is because it takes a tremendous amount of energy and conviction to actually do it. I think it’s even harder than a moonshot, because teachers don’t typically want to change the culture of their classroom.

TPV: What inspiration did you have for writing the book?

Wojcicki: The main inspiration are my classes and my students, because over the years I see what a difference it [the journalism program] can make in the lives of students. And not just while they’re in my class, but after they graduate from high school and even after they graduate from college. Many of them come back and tell me that this [journalism] was the single most important class they ever took. So then I thought, maybe I should share this with other teachers. What am I doing that is so unusual? So I had to go back and look at what I was doing to try and understand what was so unusual about it, because I didn’t really know at that point.

TPV: How have your ideas on blended learning influenced how you teach in the classroom?

Wojcicki: In most of my classes, I do more than the average project-based learning. … The reason I adopted blended learning is because it’s a movement that says that approximately 50 percent of the class time should be devoted to the [project-based] collaborative work while the other 50 percent of the time is devoted to lecturing.

TPV: What is your favorite part about teaching journalism?

Wojcicki: Well, first of all, my favorite part is the students. … Every year they are different and I learn a lot from being in the classroom with them. A journalist is supposed to be able to be the first one to tell everyone what’s going on. So if more people can get information and analyze it correctly and think about it, the whole society will be better off. I think journalism is the best training that a student can have.

TPV: Where can we buy the book?

Wojcicki: It [the first round] is already sold out, but it should be on Amazon. Also they’re bringing in 200 copies at the JCC for purchase. Also, there will be a Kindle version if anyone wants to read it in that form.

TPV: What would you say your favorite publication at Paly is?

Wojcicki: That’s like asking who’s your favorite child … It’s hard for me to say. They’re all great. I hope no one will get offended that I didn’t pick them.