Friday, March 14, 2008

Texas and Florida: Students Teaching Student-Teachers

As teachers, we usually bring experts into our classrooms to bring content, motivation, excitement and real-world experience to our students, no matter what grade level. One videoconferencing exchange between Texas faculty and Florida sixth graders shows how the experts can learn from the students while the students learn from the experts.

Susan Williams and Linda Dombchik of the Hebrew Day School and the University of Texas at Austin write for Apple's Learning Interchange about a "field trip" by UT-Austin faculty and pre-service teachers to a sixth grade science class in Florida. The unit of study involved meteorology and hurricanes. Students were challenged to invent devices that could protect hurricane-prone Florida from yearly storms. The sixth graders presented their inventions and fielded questions from the faculty and pre-service teachers during a videoconferencing session.

For the sixth grade students, the pending videoconference changed their work from busywork for a single teacher to a real-life event with experts in science and education who would be listening to and evaluating their inventions and the presentation of them. The content and scientific procedures weren't the only things the students learned:
The experts’ questions served as an assessment of what students had learned in this unit. Could students explain their inventions and the principals on which they were based? How accurate was their understanding? Would they be able to use the computer technology to illustrate their work?
For the educators in Texas, the videoconferencing project was part of a new UT-Austin program that required all pre-service teachers to purchase iBooks for use in classes and in-the-field teaching. In visiting the sixth grade class, the pre-service teachers were able to "work with middle school students, to understand how they used computers to solve complex problems, learn science content, and communicate their findings, and to understand what students of this age can accomplish when technology is used effectively."

The goal was to make teaching with technology real and to give them practical experience with what students and the technology can accomplish. This program seems like an excellent one to duplicate in college education programs around the country as technology and its use in the classroom keeps rapidly changing and growing.

SOURCE: "iSight Connects Higher Ed to K-12 Classrooms" 2007
photo courtesy of justin, used under this Creative Commons license

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