Sunday, September 18, 2011

Video cameras at National Parks

If I could, I would bring video cameras into use at places like Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone National Park. The use of video cameras would enable the rest of the world to see the natural beauty and simply amazing things that these parks contain. I’m not certain if there are any broadcasts or live streams of places like these, but there should be. If there were video cameras to catch when geysers erupted in Yellowstone, or when waterfalls help to create huge double rainbows in the valley at Yosemite, it would make the parks that much more enjoyable for everyone. It would be an amazing thing to have video cameras involved at parks like these as well as smaller locations with beautiful scenery. If the video stream from these locations were accessible online, everyone around the world could enjoy the images provided. Also, guided video tours could be given to those who were interested. This would be especially beneficial for those who are unable to travel to these locations. Being able to visit a national park on a virtual tour would be a great experience for those who have wanted to, but are not able.

Ideas on video-collaboration

When I think about video-collaboration in a high school classroom, I can’t say I’ve talked with many people who have a lot of experience in the area. Like I’ve written about before, I had some distance learning experience while in high school, but that was six years ago, and technology has greatly advanced the possibilities of classroom video-collaboration since then. Plus, I wasn’t participating in the classroom that was learning “from a distance”. In the future, I would like to use a system like Polycom to interact with classrooms from different places. For example, I would link up with a classroom from an area that has a different climate, and have them help my students understand the variations in our two differing climates.

I never had the opportunity of participating in virtual field trips, but I will most definitely take advantage of this possibility with my students in the future. One virtual field trip that I would participate in is called “Classification”, and it would help my students learn how to classify major groups of organisms into the different kingdoms. This field trip is provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. This would be a very helpful field trip to participate in with my students because the professionals and staff members of the zoo and botanical garden would be able to answer questions from my students that I might not be able to. Having the assistance of professionals with a greater knowledge base than me would be a great thing when covering material in my classroom. By participating in this virtual field trip, my students would be able to, perhaps for the first time, visit a zoo and botanical garden. I would begin a unit by introducing my students to the topics we would be studying then at some point during the unit; I would take my students on this virtual field trip to enhance their learning. This would be an extremely beneficial asset to have for my classroom. 

If I had the opportunity to invite a visitor to video-conference with my classroom, I would invite Emily Young, General Manager of Environmental Communications at Sony Europe. Sony is one of the world’s largest media and electronics manufacturers, and is atop the list of companies who are committed to reducing the environmental impact of their products. By having a video conference with someone from a large company like Sony would allow my students to have a real-world experience of how one can make a difference when dealing with the environment. Mrs. Young would definitely help my students understand the importance of making environmentally conscious decisions.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Distance Learning

Technology is becoming more and more common in classrooms every day. For the most part, while I was growing up, there was not a large presence of technology in my classrooms. The most common item in the classrooms of my schools was the overhead projector. This projector, with its transparencies to write on, was how most of my teachers presented material to the class. 

I did have positive experiences involving the use of technology in the classroom. During my junior year of high school, my German class was held in a distance learning classroom. It was called a distance learning classroom because the video cameras and TVs in the classroom were used to interact with similar classrooms from other schools. So, for my German class, my teacher would not only instruct my class, but have another class connected with us who he would instruct as well. 

I feel the presence of another full classroom of kids had both positive and negative effects. First, having another classroom of kids took away from the time that my teacher could instruct us one-on-one. Also, it was difficult at times to establish and hold a solid connection with the other classroom, so time was taken away from the class period that could have been spent learning. On the other hand, when things ran smoothly, we could conduct group discussions that proved to be very beneficial. Having two full classrooms of students in on a discussion resulted in many great ideas being brought up. My teacher especially enjoyed when the students from each class could interact with each other and conduct a dialogue or discussion. 

Also, my teacher was able to focus a document camera on his desk and both classrooms were able to watch him on the TV screens. The audio was never really a problem for the other classroom, so this was a very effective use of the technology we had access to. I feel fortunate for always having our teacher there in our classroom, rather than just on the screen. I think I would have found it difficult to learn to the best of my ability if I had been the “distance classroom”.

During times when our teacher was not present, we were able to work on assignments that dealt with different videos we watched as well. Having an educational series that we would watch weekly helped us develop an understanding of the conversations we heard, aside from just hearing our teacher speak German.

We, the students, learned to have patience when dealing with setting up the connection with the other classroom. Also, we developed a better sense of understanding technology when it comes to cameras and audio feeds. I am glad I was able to participate in this unique style of classroom, and I hope to utilize some of the same technology in my class.