Technology Fosters Learning Beyond the School Building
In researching online collaborative projects, I looked more closely at what students at my school are already doing: Journey North, for the past two years, and on alternating years the NESA Virtual Science Fair. It is amazing to think that students can collaborate with students and educators from around the world, with the only hindrance being time zones!
Middle School Science students at my school participate in the Journey North: A Global Study of Wildlife Migration and Seasonal Change both in tracking the monarch butterflies as they travel to and from Mexico and in the Mystery Class, where students follow sunlight clues to pinpoint 10 secret sites around the world. In fact, my school was one of the 10 mystery sites last year. The students were required to write clues to lead students around the world to our location here in Sumatra. The clues started out broad and then increasingly became more narrow as the weeks progressed. We have continued this year and the Middle School students are making their final guesses for this year’s Mystery Class.
The NESA Virtual Science Fair brings students and e-mentors, experts in science, academia, and professional life together, to work collaboratively on completing a research based science project. They can work in groups or individually. In the past students have worked on finding plants in the jungle around our school that could possibly have medicinal benefits, natural ant repellents, and natural ways to speed up decomposition of newspaper. Throughout the time students are working they correspond with their e-mentors, from around the world, getting feedback on the progress they have made along with guiding questions.
Technology has opened up the ability to engage with people around the world to meet the needs of students at the moment they need it. When we are discussing compound words during a Real Spelling lesson, we can schedule a Skype meeting with Pete Bowers on Wolf Island in Canada to explore the topic deeper. That’s the beauty of technology today. I don’t have to be the expert; I just need to know who the experts are.