Friday, December 7, 2007


by Joe Makley

Here at Jay School Department, we've been teleconferencing, and I told Jim I'd report on it! We received some pretty fancy Tandberg MediaPlace units through a R.U.S. (Rural Utility Services) grant, and have held several sessions so far with places like the Smithsonian, etc. Today we took three fourth grade classes and brought them together to attend a virtual lesson from the Columbus Zoo, "Ocean Explorers." (It was the same lady as in the picture at the link.) Great lesson! (Yes, I know there aren't many coral reefs in Ohio. It didn't matter!) She could hear kids' questions and responded to them by name across a cafeteria. When we contracted the lesson, they mailed out some materials, which they used during "class." Teachers were very impressed, and kids were engaged. These were veteran teachers who can see right through razzle-dazzle. They were looking at the pedagogy, and the gears were turning. After eight years of ATM (essentially the same technology) this stuff is finally taking off. Providers are popping up and there are databases where you can see them rated. We are having fun, and the concept has grown beyond the expensive hardware. In January, we are doing an IChat between our first graders (3 sections together) and a group of first, second, and third graders at a school in Belem, Brazil. Based on how simple the testing was for that, I think we are going to be doing a lot more IChats! I am working on the high school teachers to connect with Global Nomads, and would like to hear from anyone who is working with this group. I put up a brief resource page for our staff. My sense is that we are really breaking out of the school door with this stuff. After all these years of half-starts, it seems too good to believe. As soon as they hear about something happening in the world, kids will say, "Can we talk to them?" They will expect it. And you don't need the fancy stuff to do an IChat. These are genuinely exciting times, and I'd love to hear what everyone else is doing to bring live exchanges into the school routine.
(This project includes Bingham, Dexter, Lewiston, and in the second round recently announced: Rumford, Bethel, and Dixfield.)

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