When students participate in learning experiences where they can engage with authentic audiences and purposes, they see that their academic work has meaning beyond the walls of the classroom.
Because cognition and emotion are interrelated, using authentic audiences to help students make an emotional connection with content will also increase students’ ability to pay attention and retain what they are learning. Teleconferencing technology such as Skype affords teachers and students limitless opportunities to connect with real audiences and problems through virtual visits, field trips, and exchanges.
In this first post of our three-part series, HP Teaching Fellows share how they used teleconferencing to create authentic learning experiences for their students. Keep reading for inspiration on how to create authentic learning experiences with virtual communication in your classroom.
In her role as an instructional technology coach, HP Teaching Fellow Colleen McNerney collaborates with teachers throughout Elizabeth Public Schools (New Jersey) on projects that infuse technology into project-based learning. Colleen was asked by Francisca Alvarado, one of the teachers at William F. Halloran School No. 22, to collaborate on a project that would create an authentic learning experience for her preschool students. They decided to create a virtual field trip about pizza because it was a favorite food for the students, and they could make a connection with Mario’s, a local, family-owned pizzeria.
During the the Skype session, students drove the questioning, asking questions such as, “What ingredients do you use when making a pizza?,” “Why do you throw the pizza dough?,” and “What’s that thing you use to get the pizza out of the oven?” Colleen says, “One of the students was even given the opportunity to call in his classmates’ pizza order, just like he sees the grown-ups do at home!” At the end of the trip, the pizza was delivered to the school and enjoyed by the students.
“This integration of Skype in the classroom inspired and empowered these four-year-old students to make a clear connection between learning in the classroom and real life,” Colleen says. The experience was captured in this video by another Elizabeth Public Schools instructional technology coach, Omar Veloz.
HP Teaching Fellow Christopher Burica connected his sixth grade class with students in England to learn more about their culture. The two classes connected through the Skype in the Classroom website, and after initial discussions, students were surprised to see how much they had in common and began brainstorming ideas for a project through which they could learn more about each other’s lives. “My students were so eager to swap worlds and experience what life is like for our friends across the Atlantic Ocean!” Chris says.
The resulting project was a United States/United Kingdom Cultural Museum in Minecraft. Each student selected and virtually constructed a landmark that represented them (anything from their backyard, their favorite movie theater, or a park that they frequent), as well as a location at school that was meaningful to them. Students then wrote an imagery-based paragraph using thoughtful and elaborate word choice and creative, in-depth figurative language to help their peers visualize the landmark. Students also included why their landmarks were meaningful and best represented them.
“Building our international cultural museums was a powerful learning experience for students because it provided them with a truly unique, interactive way to experience the adage ‘Walk in someone’s footsteps to learn more about them,” Chris says. “Appealing to students’ varying learning styles, this lesson embraced the creativity of Minecraft Education Edition with writing skills that had been taught throughout the year. Students created a product that they could feel proud of while exploring a whole new world.”
In the following posts in this series, you’ll learn how HP Teaching Fellows Tiffany Correa and Glen Coleman at River Dell Regional School District in New Jersey have created authentic and connected learning experiences using Skype. You’ll hear how Tiffany engaged students in a mission project where they made personal connections with life in South Asia, and how Glen’s students connected with a nation in turmoil and were inspired to make a difference. You’ll be inspired to create Powerful Learning experiences for your students.
Are you ready to create more authentic and connected learning experiences for your students?