Technology Turns Students into Educators in Distance Learning Program — THE Journal

March 8, 2010
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Videoconferencing is something you continue to hear about, and I think we can all agree that it continues to create opportunities in education.

But this program in Rural Texas really has a great application of the technology.

The main project that elementary students use is a presentation about cotton.  The Texas students are living in a town where cotton is their main crop.

These kids’ life experience is rich with expertise on the growing of cotton.

So their teacher offered that expertise to the rest of the United States.  The Texas students present to young people form around the country about cotton.  The majority of people in the United States have no idea what is involved in the growing and harvesting of cotton, but these kids do.

And the students from Texas learn from their peers across the nation.  A subway is not only a sandwich,  it is mass transportation.  And what do you do in the snow?

This is a great way to use develop empathy.  As Dan Pink argues in A Whole New Mind, empathy will become increasingly important in a global economy.  And these  students in rural Texas are getting that chance.

If you have not tried to videoconference in your classroom, it is well worth the effort.  And there are a number of price points that are available.  You can spend $20,000 on a videoconferencing system, or just use Skype for free.  I have used both and there are advantages for each type.

It is always a risk to base a lesson plan around technology.  But think of someone you might know in another region of the country.  Maybe a friend or family member.  see if they will set up a Skype conference with you and your classroom.  This is how I did my first conference.  There were some glitches, but I knew the guy on the other side, so it was not an embarrassing situation for me or my class.

Videoconferencing can be a cost-effective and powerful method for enhancing empathy.  You should take some time and read the article.  I really like the approach they are taking in Texas, and I plan on using it in my classroom.

Technology Turns Students into Educators in Distance Learning Program — THE Journal.

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