Here’s one way to cut travel costs for field trips. A dozen broadcast-journalism students from Howe, Oklahoma, public schools made the forced migration of Native Americans come alive earlier this year for youngsters 1,600 miles away in Irasburg, Vermont. In an award-winning 50-minute virtual tour of the Fort Smith [Arkansas] National Historic Site, the Oklahoma 8th and 9th graders combined prepared video with live, on-camera filming from 10 locations. Using Moodle to make the tour interactive, the student guides answered questions and joined the Vermont students in making haversack military purses and singing a popular Civil War–era song.
“The broadcast students had to become immersed in the topic to be able to present the material to a live audience,” says teacher Tammy Parks. “It’s a dynamic and engaging [learning process]. They loved it.”
Videoconferencing in Howe has progressed from simple how-to equipment basics to a district-wide professional-development tool for extending educational resources (shared teachers, for example), enhancing education (virtual field trips), and delivering specialized training in topics like Audacity and Facebook.
The Howe students’ virtual tour of Fort Smith won third place this year in the second annual Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CLIC) competition. Their project included not only the filming and discussions with the Vermont students but also student-written pre- and post-trip quizzes and tests that could earn the Vermonters badges as junior rangers. The six-week project required Parks’s students to develop skills in research, project management, and public speaking. Although they made three 40-mile round-trips to Fort Smith to do research, they never got bored.
“This is a great way to get kids engaged and drive their own learning,” Parks says. “It’s exciting for me as a teacher. I can’t imagine teaching anywhere without this.”
Tools you need:
Tandberg Edge 85 videoconferencing screen and camera
Tandberg Mobile Commander (satellite-based for wireless Internet connectivity)
Tandberg Profile 3000
-- Pam Derringer