Innovate to Educate Entry
The Richland School of Academic Arts
Dan Jones, Teacher
What innovative technology initiative or project are you most proud of, and how has it improved teaching and learning in your school/district?I have created a distance learning program at my school that now stretches around the globe. I began this program because I knew that my students were not able to travel to many of the location that we studied in social studies, so I wanted to bring those locations to them. As we studied the Declaration of Independence, I contacted the National Archives in Washington, D.C. to see if they would be able to talk about the Declaration of Independence with my students. They were thrilled to have been asked, and we were the first school that they had ever Skyped with. The Skype session was AMAZING, and my students asked when we could do another Skype session. I began to think about people to contact for the other content that I knew we would be covering. My 8th graders would become the first class in the United States to Skype with The U.S. Capitol, The White House Historical Association, Mount Vernon, The Benjamin Franklin House (in London, England), Clemson University (Research Institute for the recovery and restoration of The Hunley), as well as Teresa Kemp (she is an expert on slave code quilts, and has been recognized by the White House for her efforts). My 7th graders have had the opportunity to Skype with The National Science and Technology Museum for Leonardo da Vinci in Italy.
Each of these Skype sessions allowed my students to ask leading experts from around the world questions about the content we were covering in class. Each student felt so proud of themselves when the presenter would say, â€œThat is a great questionâ€. I will never forget when a student asked Missy McNatt from the National Archives about what happens to the Declaration of Independence at night. Her response was PERFECT. She told the student that they had asked a great question, and that she could not tell us the answer to that question because it is TOP SECRET and considered a matter of National Security. After this my students because to ask better and better questions because they began to research more thoroughly before each Skype session so that they could ask questions that could not be answered on the internet. The students began to develop a real passion for history, and their ability to stand before a presenter and ask a question as well as their ability to take notes during a Skype session really improved throughout the year.
These Skype sessions have had an impact on other grade levels in my school. Over the past few years, teachers have been able to reach out to authors of books their students were reading to talk to the students about those books and answer any questions they have had. Our 2nd graders were able to develop a distance learning program through YouTube so that they could work with a 2nd grade class in Shanghai, China. They would make a video for students in Shanghai and post it to YouTube. The students in Shanghai would watch the video, answer and questions and then ask a set of their own. This went on all year and the students were able to learn so much about each other's culture, education, food, weather, and environment.
What were some of the biggest challenges to your initiative, and how did you meet those challenges?Some of the biggest challenges with a program like this is ensuring a strong internet connection. My school was able to increase our internet speed as well as put a router in my room to help insure a stronger, more reliable internet connection. Another challenge in developing a program like this is finding agencies that are open to distance learning opportunities. I was able to overcome this challenge by just emailing and calling them to explain what it was I wanted to do and how we had been able to set it up in previous sessions.
What are the three biggest components that need to be in place for tech innovation to succeed are:
One of the biggest components that must be in place is a strong, reliable internet connection.
|A second component, and often over looked component, is a router that can handle the amount of devices that will be used.|
|And finally, a component that must be present is a willingness to try new things.|