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The Connected Classroom

Information on and from EducationPlus' Learning Division

Monthly Archives: May 2007

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Good news! The registration deadline for 123! VC has been moved
back to June 7. Please register at www.techd.com/register/index.asp.

Hollenbeck Middle students learning about Uganda

Here are some quotes from Andrea’s students (at Hollenbeck Middle) after the GNG Project UGANDA videoconference:
“It was really cool.”
“It was fun.”
“It was awesome.”
“I want to do it again.”
“We should do it more often.”
“It’s a lot better than reading from a textbook.”
“It was very interesting seeing what they eat and how they live.”
“I felt sorry for them because the little kids were afraid they would get abducted or killed.”
“I liked the fact that we could communicate with people around the world.”
“The information was more accurate than textbooks.”
“I think they’re lucky because they don’t have to use gas, because gas prices are so high.” 

A very interesting mix of observations!

carolyn-and-bear.jpgSt. Louis author and New Links to New Learning content provider Carolyn Lesser teaches students how to write nonfiction. Through customized videoconferences, she talks with students of all ages! Carolyn wants to create awareness in each member of any audience of the talents and aspirations they possess. Carolyn shares her passion for nature and her inspirations for writing with both teachers and students.This school year, Carolyn has connected to students in schools in Texas, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and New York, talking about subjects ranging from ancient China to Arctic trips to visit polar bears. While Carolyn can’t talk about her experiences in ancient China (though she definitely knows her stuff after researching!), the same can’t be said about the bears… 

December 2007 update- Carolyn is still available and ready to do videoconferences with your class- contact Rebecca Morrison at rmorrison@csd.org to schedule your program! 

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(flag of Uganda)

Today I watched some of African Village Life, part of the Project UGANDA videoconference series offered by GNG. I very much enjoyed it. Hollenbeck Middle in Francis Howell was one of four schools in the United States that participated in the program. Word from the students there is the videoconference was very meaningful and hit home in a way a textbook could not.

David Macquart, Director of Programs at GNG, facilitated the discussion from a village in Uganda, surrounded by many students and villagers. At first, he had each school introduce itself and talk about what their town was like. When that was completed, David spoke with the students about his visit to Uganda.

It was a bright, sunny day, and David and his guests sat outside and talked about life in Uganda and life in their village, discussing food, housing and schooling. At one point, David showed a video clip taken the day before of a group dancing to the music of a boom box which was being powered by a man riding a stationary bicycle.

There was a brief hiccup in the connection from the village, but the GNG crew in New York took that time to answer questions about GNG in general. After David and his guests returned to the videoconference, students were able to ask questions.

From the Global Nomads Group website, www.gng.org:

While Uganda is one of Eastern Africa’s most beautiful countries, it is also a land of suffering and conflict. In this program, students will explore Ugandan culture, examine the challenges youth face living in a conflict zone and learn how they can be “Agents of Change.”

From University City School District teacher Astra Alsobrook, who participated in a Project UGANDA videoconference today:

“The students and I enjoyed the videoconference. My students were so moved they have begun to plan fundraisers and opportunities to get the word out about what is going on in Uganda. Thank you for the opportunity and please keep me abreast of upcoming videoconferences.”

Mission accomplished! 

It is so exciting to hear how students react to GNG programs! Last week, a high school in Parkway joined a GNG videoconference about Burma. Guest speaker Cristina Moon spoke about her work with the U.S. Campaign for Burma to help draw attention to the human rights disaster in eastern Burma (now Myanmar), where over 3,000 villages have been burned or relocated by the ruling military regime in the past decade. Cristina answered questions about her work, engaged students on the human rights situation in Burma and spoke about what young people can do to change things. Here’s what Sheila Merrell said about the experience: “Everything went GREAT! The students were engaged and Heather [the teacher] was so very pleased. I took some supplemental material about Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese woman who has been under house arrest for around 25 years, and played the U2 video “Walk On”, written in tribute to her.”

Tomorrow, Hollenbeck Middle from the Francis Howell School District will take part in another Uganda videoconference.  As soon as I hear about the experience, I’ll be sure to share! Until then…

2006 123 VC!

Cooperating School Districts’ Virtual Learning Center hopes to participate again this year in a fantastic professional development course called 123 VC! Jazzing Up Your Curriculum with Videoconferencing. Last summer, we had educators from several different St. Louis area school districts participate. We then connected to other educators, in Michigan, Texas, New York and Ohio and we were off! In the week long class, we jumped into videoconferencing, learning about content providers, collaborative v/c projects, virtual field trips, wikis and blogs! Our team of St. Louis educators was then broken up into various groups, who connected to similar groups in other states. These groups then created a collaborative project together, using the technology I wrote about above.

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For instance, we had a great group of 4th grade teachers in Missouri that teamed with 4th grade teachers in Texas. The project they came up with was a “state exchange” of sorts- they proposed Missouri students share with Texas students the history of the state, famous Americans from Missouri, etc. Then the Texas students would do the same, telling Show-Me students about the Lone Star State. Easy, fun, and educational- fits right in with 4th grade curriculum!

This year, we have the chance to participate again- potentially twice! The course is being offered June 18-21 and then again July 30-August 3. We would love to get a new group of St. Louis educators involved. For more info, please contact me at rpolityka@csd.org! But hurry! The VLC deadline for registration is Tuesday, May 22. Don’t miss out!

the bookDeep in the Swamp, in the warm morning sun…

Yesterday, we had a wonderful videoconference- actually two- with St. Louis author Donna M. Bateman. Donna, along with Dexter the Alligator, talked about life in the swamp. For our first session, we had 4 kindergarten classes (at 4 sites) connect- two schools in the Francis Howell District, one in Parkway and the final one from Fox. The kids were fantastic! For the second session, we had 2 Francis Howell second grade classes connect from 2 schools. The feel was a bit different than it had been for the first group, but these kids were on top of it. At the end of the session, they asked Donna questions about writing a book, where she lives, and her inspirations. Donna revealed that Deep in the Swamp is her first book but she already has ideas for a second.One participating teacher wrote me a lovely e-mail: “You made it happen! My students and I thank you for this authentic and meaningful learning experience. Connecting and interacting with the author has brought this story to life. We continue to appreciate the opportunities for powerful ways to grow!” Another wrote, “Just wanted to tell you how wonderful the VC was yesterday. It totally fit what we’re studying and I was not expecting it too. Awesome! Everything was perfect!”

CONGRATS to COSI Toledo, voted New Links to New Learning Content Provider of the Year 2006-2007 by educators in St. Louis! Andy and crew were applauded by teachers for their interaction with students during videoconferences, for sending kits that go along with the programs, as well as their high energy and knowledge of scientific principles! Note: According to Andy Campbell, he and Trish love to work with CSD schools because the kids are fun and the teachers’ are always prepared!

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Teachers are under pressure to have their students perform well on high stakes tests and the test preparation takes up most of their teaching time, especially a month before the test. I hear this comment from teachers all the time. Many principals mandate that teachers not leave the classroom weeks before the test. My question is why aren’t teachers encouraged to use practice questions all year long so that students are well prepared for the test in April? Why do we wait and create pressure situations for teachers and students a month before the test? Why don’t principals, as instructional leaders, know that when teachers use researched-based instructional strategies supported by the appropriate technologies that students will be engaged in learning. They will be developing higher order thinking skills all year long.

My thought is that helping teachers learn to use technology in their discipline to engage 21st century students will increase student achievement. There are studies and data to validate my hypothesis. Why is it so hard to get administrators and teachers to learn technology skills? After all we live in a technology environment and we are in the field of education. I look forward to your comments.

Ruth Litman-Block
Virtual Learning Center Director
www.csd.org/vlc

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The last few weeks, several teachers, from more than one district, at all grade levels, have been asking me about videoconferences on dinosaurs. There are plenty of options out there, including, but not limited to, COSI Toledo, Center for Puppetry Arts, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, and Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal.

Programs range from talking about fossils, making puppets, examining dinosaurs’ representation in movies, to meeting a paleontologist. New Links to New Learning members, if you want to arrange a videoconference on dinosaurs, let me know!

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