Virtual travellers from the future…

I’ve had a couple of chances to model the value of a connected world to students the last couple of weeks.

Learners in the undergrad university education course which I lead were treated last week as fellow edublogger Jeff Utecht joined our class via Skype from Shanghai for a few minutes to talk about the impact Asia and automation will have on our global community. He gave us a beautiful view of the next day’s dawn sky from his apartment balcony while we sat in eight different classrooms throughout the provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec, still captured in the previous evening.

Utilizing a mixture of Skype, Polycom and Bridgit video conferencing, we were able to connect a number of different people located on opposite sides of the globe – all for the goal of learning. While our Polycom link froze before students could ask Jeff any questions (he had to run and catch his bus to work), they got the message – the world is flatter and more connected than ever before.

This week the scene shifted to our middle school theatre for another visit from the future, this time with a group of grade 8 students. Chad Ball‘s class has started a study of Oceania and the South Pacific. They have been working on Maori dances (teaching themselves the chant and movements from the Internet!), snow sculpture replicas of Easter Island (there’s always a benefit of this crazy winter!) and many other things.

Without a doubt the highlight of the week, however, was another “visit” from the future as Anne Mirtschin graciously gave us some of her time to share her school, community and country live from her home in Hawkesdale, Australia.

After herding three classes of Grade 8 students into our school theatre, Anne suddenly appeared on the screen via skype…literally larger than life (the screen is 12′ x 20′). Anne had prepared a wikispace with her slideshows for sharing, which joined her on the screen.

The neat part was that Anne and the kids could actually interact. Vidcams at both ends enabled interaction on the go. The kids learned much about life in Australia (Anne should get a salary from local tourism department) but, more importantly, I hope they grasp the increasingly small nature of the world.

The connected global community no longer requires encyclopedias, videos or classroom teacher presentations. Instead, primary sources and connections with fellow learners and experts will be how we learn in the future. The authentic narrative is just too powerful to ignore.

The kids didn’t stop talking about Anne’s visit all week. They loved her accent, her pictures, her stories and her interest in them. It was 8:30 am here, 9:30 pm same day for Anne in Australia…13 hours in the future! A true 21st century visit.

Added April 11 – Chad’s students were so excited about Anne’s visit…you can read their comments on the class facebook (yup…I said FACEBOOK!) site… 

tags: technology, education, whipple, jeff utecht, anne mirtschin

7 thoughts on “Virtual travellers from the future…

  1. That sounds so cool! Instead of just telling students about how to interact globally, you gave them first hand experience that they will never forget. I hope I can do something like this with the grad course that I’m teaching this summer. Good job!

  2. I had fun looking around Chad’s wiki and facebook page – interesting! Looks like I’ll be back for another 4 years…hope we can show off some of these projects to DEC.

    I’m hoping to get us all more involved in “student voice”, so it was interesting to see Chad’s students respond to his “stress” question on FB. We need to find a way to use these tools!

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  6. I cannot emphasise enough what powerful learning this is. With time, hopefully we can fine tune it so that I may be able to share my laptop contents directly as you did with brigid conferencing tools. At the end of the session skype wanted me to give feedback on the session, so voice breakup may lessen as they improve their service. Thank you for letting me part of this wonderful project. Would love to continue working with you. Our students may come back to school at night and be part of a 2way student interaction as well at the conclusion to your topic.

  7. I would be interested in watching the video if possible, was it recorded? Is there a link to see how everything was put together. It all sounds very good, I look forward to doing this in the future with my class.
    I read all the kids comments and realize how interested they are in the different cultures.
    Great way to learn.

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