Friday, 25 November 2011

Bridging Classrooms and Cultures

Last week, I had the opportunity to join a few online sessions that were part of the Global Education Conference. I found these sessions to be quite informative and a convenient method of learning. The session used Elluminate, which allowed participants to view a common whiteboard as well as the speaker and a chat room.

One session that I attended was called “Bridging Classrooms and Cultures” hosted by Robin Dirkson, a teacher at Lead-Deadwood High School, Lead, South Dakota.

Robin spoke of a collaborative project that she is conducting with a school in Uganda. At Robin’s school, her students are collecting information about native plants and their competitors, and are applying treatments to reduce invasive species. They have called this the “Englewood Springs Botanical Area Project”. These students are also investigating the environmental requirements of many unusual native plants, in a groundwater dependent ecosystem. Using this information, they are creating a virtual herbarium online.

Robin has been able to establish a connection to a school in Uganda, in which students are also participating in the same project, calling theirs “Plants of the Gulu Region”. The students at the Lacor School, Uganda, are collecting images, tying the images to GPS coordinates and sharing what they know about the uses of their native plants, thus also constructing a virtual herbarium.

In true collaborative form, students at both schools are getting to know each other as pen pals and are sharing information about their lives and their data. Together they are investigating what plants they have in common, which ones are native vs. cultivated and what the plants are used for.

I was extremely impressed with this project! Robin has been able to integrate many different learning goals from biology, math, geography and information technology into one project while taking her students outside of the classroom to investigate and research the plants in their community. By collaborating with the students in Uganda, all the students involved are learning from each other and discovering another culture, making new friends and sharing their knowledge and learning experiences. This is possible via technology such as wiki sites, Skype and online platforms like Elluminate. What an amazing experience this must be for these students!

I would love to be able to incorporate something like this in my class in the future. The use of Elluminate alone is revolutionary and is a great method of allowing global collaboration and communication in real-time. I have now participated in quite a few of these online discussions/presentations and am impressed with how easy they are to join and how they truly bridge the geographical gap between participants. It is quite amazing to be sharing ideas and chatting with people from around the world with such ease. As teachers, I feel that if we can incorporate this technology and collaborative projects such as this one in our classrooms, it would be very beneficial to our students and their learning.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Shailja,

    I am so incredibly inspired by your passion for learning. It is that that will make you a fantastic teacher. I read this post...and smile. I wonder how long it will be before you will be giving presentations like that. Probably not long. What a great write up.