Archive for September, 2009

You Say Potatoe…

Posted on September 23, 2009. Filed under: Elementary School, English/Language Arts, Foreign Language, General, High School, Mathematics, Middle School, Science, Social Studies/History |

by Tim Van Heule
Distance Learning Coordinator

Education always has some great buzzwords… developmentally appropriate, instructional time, differentiated instruction, etc. But what about virtual field trip?

As the economy continues its downward spiral, virtual field trip is a buzzword that continues to gain popularity. If you can’t take your students to a location, take them via a virtual field trip! But are all virtual field trips created equal? Are there different versions of the virtual field trip, maybe an e-field trip? Are they the same thing, or if there are differences, what are they?

The difference between the two is more a difference in the language. Both allow teachers to take there students to destinations outside of the classroom; however, one is highly interactive while the other is not. What I term as the virtual field trip involves the use of videoconference, incorporating live audio and video communication. This type of virtual field trip is highly engaging, allowing students to speak and interact with content experts (content providers). Does this mean that what I term is the e-field trip is a lesser activity? Absolutely not, both of these activities provide students with valuable  opportunities that enhance the curriculum.

This link (please note this video plays best in Internet Explorer) is an example of a virtual field trip that one of our schools participated in during the 2008-2009 school year. WYFF, our local NBC affiliate, produced this video as they highlighted how teachers are becoming more creative to provide opportunities in the classroom in light of a poor economy. The students connected with the Discovery Center of Springfield as they learned more about magnets during a program titled, Magnet Mania! While I agree that teachers are finding ways to be more creative in light of the current economic situation, I don’t agree that the use of a virtual field trip such as this is only due to economics. Through virtual field trips such as these, our students are able to connect with an expert in the field who reinforces the standards being taught in the classroom.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to this equipment that allows these connections to occur. You have to ask yourself, “What can I do with my students if we do not have videoconferencing equipment in my school and/or district?” This is where the e-field trip comes in. I’ve always been impressed with eFieldTrips. I think they do a great job of producing interactive web-based content. There programs contain great visuals, appropriate use of audio clips, and the content is appropriate in length. While doing a little research for this post, I also found the Utah Education Network and their Virtual Field Trips.  One thing I really like about this site is that you can tour anything in any of the content areas, and if the content you are searching for is not available, there are links and tutorials for you to create your own virtual field trip that you can share with others. This is a great project that students would find meaningful.

Again, this is just a difference in the meaning of the terminology. I don’t consider one to be more correct than the other. The important thing is that they both provide opportunities to enhance the curriculum while providing engaging opportunities for the students.

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How do I get students to read? Look no further, this is a great new site!

Posted on September 13, 2009. Filed under: English/Language Arts, General, High School, Middle School, Teachers |

by Cathy Arnold

Any of you that know me knows that I hate to read!  I know, I know…I’m an educator and I need to foster that desire to read and to learn in students.  We need to encourage students to read the great classics!  I agree, but for me this never came easy!  Ugh…I’m a math geek and I could never figure out why some people could sit for days and read those hundreds and thousands of pages of text called literature.  Reading is hard for me and frankly when I was young my parents had to practically bribe me to read (…or threaten …whichever way one looks at it!  🙂  )   Being mathematically inclined, everything is literal to me.  I absolutely cannot read between the lines.  Why then should I read something I do not understand?

Well, here comes Miss Havisham!   I came across this article in the USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-09-07-jenny-sawyer-60-second-recap-classics_N.htm which explains that a young, very tech-savvy and very smart woman is opening doors for those students like myself to actually understand the reasons behind those long, long novels.   This is a huge task to accomplish, but from the samples on her site that I’ve seen so far, this idea is a winner!   Hey…she even has tempted someone like me to want to read!

For almost all of the books listed, she has 60 second clips of the overview, plot, cast, theme(s), symbols, motifs and conclusion.  Unlike SparkNotes or CliffNotes, these clips do not seem to give enough information for a student to attempt to take a test without reading the book.  However, it does explain enough to entice students to read or clarify information.   It seems to direct students to the correct train of thought.  Of course, don’t listen to this non-reader, watch and listen to Gabby, a student, responding to Great Expectations on this 60second club recap –  ( http://www.60secondrecap.com/club/thread/50/  ).

Keep in mind, I’m not an English major and not a huge reader, so I would love to hear thoughts from those of you that are English teachers and/or avid readers.   Has Jenny Sawyer (Miss Havisham) created something that can be used in your classroom to entice young readers?  Is her information about the books on target?  Do you think this is something needed today?  Let me know. 

Visit the 60 Second Recap at http://www.60secondrecap.com/ .  

 

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