The student in Special Education teacher Keri Kephart’s class in Hilton wasn’t afraid of spiders or scared of participating in the interactive videoconference focused on the little creatures. Like his classmates, he was simply curious and eager to ask questions about tarantulas, scorpions and other arachnids. Kephart’s group of students, ages 9-12, with varying grade levels of ability, was one of a handful of interactive sites for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s Scientists in Action Program lesson on spiders. The museum program facilitates communication between students and scientists. It has online attendance from all over the country, and in this case, even students from Brazil.
“It can be difficult to teach science curriculum appropriate for everyone in a mixed age class like mine,” said Kephart. “Online interactive classes like this make great science opportunities. We prepare with a lesson before the experience, and then discuss it afterwards. Kids like the interactivity, and it gives them a chance to practice social skills. Each of my students went right up on camera and asked a thoughtful question, loud enough for everyone at the other locations to hear. They enjoyed seeing themselves on the screen and seeing all the other kids, too.”
“It was amazing to see the students engaged with the topic, wait patiently for an opportunity to ask a question, walk up to the speaker to clearly state their question, and listen and discuss the answers,” said Instructional Support Specialist Debbie Mannix. “It was evident from the questions generated that they understood and critically thought about the content they were learning.”
The videoconference was facilitated by CaTS Distance Learning Specialist Donna Farren, who helps to take the fear out of both spiders and new technology. Farren has been helping teachers around our districts use technology to connect their students to global resources that might otherwise be inaccessible.
“There are many virtual field trip opportunities for kids of all ages and learning abilities available now,” said Farren. “We can help teachers find just the right ones for any subject matter. We’ve gone to art museums to see private collections, studied Japanese puppetry, learned about D-Day, heard from well-known writers and poets or scientists and mathematicians. Many of these lessons are free or we can find grants. Even the paid ones are aid-able through BOCES. If a teacher wants to open this door for their students, we can make it work.” (Distance learning services are available to all Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES districts and teachers. Contact Farren at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.)
CONGRATULATIONS! As a member of the BOCES NYS Distance Learning Consortium, BOCES 2 CaTS Distance Learning Specialist Donna Farren was part of the team recently honored with the prestigious International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Interactive Video Conferencing Network Award for 2019. The group was recognized for their work on the NYSDLC Distance Learning Day last November that connected over 1,500 students in 300 classrooms across the state in an effort to introduce teachers to the opportunities available through interactive videoconferencing.