Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What Does 21st Century Learning Look Like?

Nicole Andresen, Innovative Learning Specialist

Virtual Lessons bring the world to the classroom and open new windows to the outside for our students.  This week, first graders at Jefferson Elementary were able to speak virtually with instructors from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California. They received instruction about the African Penguin from one of the academy’s experts and witnessed the Penguins swimming live.

A couple weeks prior to this lesson, first graders received a stuffed penguin in the mail requesting special care for him.  They immediately began researching and designing a penguin habitat suitable for him at Jefferson.

The students' research assisted them with specific questions they had about penguins and during the virtual lesson with the expert, students were able to ask and receive answers to their questions.  The teachers and I were so impressed at the fabulous questions the students asked our virtual expert! The information gleaned provided some great information for the continuation of our penguin unit. 

This was one of the most effective virtual lessons I've conducted. The degree of interaction and the level of knowledge that the presenter was able to communicate completely benefited our students and reinforced the teaching they had already been receiving in class. Each student was engaged as they listened, answered, and even demonstrated penguin habits like waddling and swimming.  The greatest moment came when one of our students, who rarely spoke in kindergarten, stood up and asked a question of the presenter. Such an amazing experience!

The types of experiences are a part of 21st Century Learning. These connections made through video conferencing tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, Cisco Jabber help to expand the learning environment by offering students a virtual window to a real world outside of their community.  

Content for these virtual lessons can be chosen to align with your curriculum and enrich the lessons with relevancy. With virtual connections, you eliminate time and distance.  You are able to tap into experts in that subject matter.  Students become more engaged and the relevancy solidifies the retention of information and content.

The people and places that can be accessed and leveraged using these types of connections are numerous.  Places like NASA and Yellowstone National Park have staff and content dedicated to educational presentations and experiences.  These connections allow teachers to create new experiences that, in the past, were not possible for some students. This technology is redefining the learning experiences of our students.

Think about how you could open windows to the world, right from your classroom by speaking with marine biologists, professors, authors, scientists, archaeologists, mathematicians, actors, athletes, and more. Teachers, talk to your Innovation Specialist or look for classes to be posted on My Learning Plan. Parents, talk to your student's teacher about opportunities you may be aware of to offer virtual lessons. 

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