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Authentic Learning with Skype

 students skyping
 

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 8, 2018) — Georgia’s barrier islands are comprised of beautiful sandy beaches, maritime forests, and coastal habitats filled with diverse species – all of which are impacted by a number of pressing environmental issues. During her Changes to Georgia’s Golden Coast unit, Ms. LaRuth Allen wanted her 5th grade students at Brookview Elemenatry School to truly grasp this key understanding about their home state. Yet she faced a major challenge – none of her students had ever seen the barrier islands in person. Through the power of technology, Ms. Allen found a way for her students to connect with the environmental issues at play in Georgia’s barrier islands.

Ms. Allen’s 5th graders began the unit by gathering some basic background information about the barrier islands. Each student then selected a key environmental issue, such as endangered sea turtles, rising sea levels and climate change, or wildlife being in jeopardy due to coastal development. Students used video clips, articles, and websites to research their chosen threat to this diverse ecosystem, and engaged in a creative problem solving process to generate possible solutions to the problem.

As a part of their research and problem-solving process, Ms. Allen set out to connect her students with a coastal expert. Using Skype, students met with Catherine Ridley, Vice President of Development and Communications at the One Hundred Miles nonprofit organization in Brunswick, Georgia.

Ms. Ridley shared information about her work in conservation and environmental issues that are important to her, then students had the opportunity to ask their own questions to aid in their research. Finally, students used what they learned during the unit to create billboards designed to persuade people to support their coastal cause. The students hope that their work to educate others on the importance of Georgia’s barrier islands will be featured on One Hundred Miles’ spotlight page.

This project is an outstanding example of how we can use technology to bring authentic learning experiences to our students. Through Ms. Allen’s carefully crafted unit, her students had an opportunity to engage in activities that have meaning outside of school. She connected her students beyond the classroom walls, allowing them to engage with a global community. Not only that, but technology helped her students build a deeper understanding, as connecting with an expert made the distant concept of the barrier islands more tangible and real.

“Education can change the world, but united with technology, it can transform the world,” Ms. Allen said, “Technology is the educational landscape in which students can make real-world connections, engage in creative problem solving and find answers to so many of their questions. Students are able to see the future through the lens that they create. My students rock with technology!”

If you want your students to rock with technology, too, here are some great ways to get started with using Skype to connect with experts:
Think about your own network – Do you know anyone whose profession or hobbies relate to a topic you are studying?
Reach out to nonprofit organizations related to the topic you are studying – They are full of experts who are eager and excited to share what they know!
Browse collaboration opportunities at: https://education.microsoft.com/skypeintheclassroom

Anna Bilyeu
KSU iTeach Instructional Technology Coach

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