As a first step in digital conversion, teachers in the Jacksonville City Schools received an iPad and MacBook to use in their classrooms. “Our Superintendent, Dr. Campbell, challenged our staff to use the technology to teach in new and innovative ways. He encouraged us to teach in ways that we couldn’t teach before,” said Nelson.
To meet this challenge, Nelson and Amy Clingan, the school media specialist, put their heads together to develop lessons that incorporate the new technology. Each month the pair works together to create engaging lessons that emphasize 21st Century skills such as communication, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. The lessons have covered a broad range of topics from artists to authors. “It’s not changing what we teach,” said Clingan, “but changing how we teach it.”
This month the teachers decided to take the learning outside the walls of the classroom. Using Skype, they connected with Margie Palatini, an award winning author of more than 35 children’s books. During the 30 minute Skype session, each student was able to ask the author a question. Palatini conducted the video call from her home in New Jersey. She answered a variety of questions from “What was your favorite book when you were little?” to “Do you get to pick the illustrator for your books?” The students listened intently as the author shared stories about her career. Palatini even offered the second graders some story writing advice. “A good story has a character that readers love or a villain that readers hate,” she said. Students will use her advice when they write their own stories.
“I’ve done author and genre studies for years,” stated Nelson. “This is an authentic learning experience. My students truly connected with the author. They cheered when she appeared on the screen. They talked to an expert and can use her techniques as they write their own stories.”
According to Dr. Billy Jenki ns, Assistant Principal, “It is very important for students to see the world beyond the classroom. Having access to technology allows our teachers to explore new and creative ways to help prepare their students for the 21st “Century and our students will engage in learning that they will remember forever. I am excited about what is happening in our school through our wonderful teachers and students.”
Next, Nelson and Clingan plan to teach students to use the new tools to produce a digital project. The students will use a Web 2.0 tool called Glogster to create a multi-media poster called a glog. Students will learn to add images, video files, sound files, text, and hyperlinks to a digital poster. Students will upload a video clip from the Skype session onto their glog. They will share their posters through a link on the school website and let others see what they have learned.
“The best part of using the new technology is seeing how excited the children are to participate in the lessons,” stated Clingan. “Every students is engaged and learning.”
“It was amazing to talk to her so far away and get to ask her a question,” stated student Kelcie Comisac.
“It was a once in a life time chance to talk to a real author. I like that she is an artist. I’m going to be an artist, too,” explained Gav Zenanko.
When asked if she was excited about the virtual author visit, second grader Madelynn Loss replied, “Yes! I told my mom I had to wear a skirt and curl my hair. I was going to talk to a famous author today!”