Online Video Conversation Educates Middle Schoolers on Climate Change


As part of an experiment in new uses of technology, a group of middle school students in Illinois recently used Skype in a research project to learn how their city could reduce its carbon footprint. Students in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 met with an assistant professor in the Geophysical Science Department at the University of Chicago via Skype video to view a presentation on climate change and ask questions.

Following the interactive session, which was transmitted to a Promethean interactive whiteboard, students were divided into groups and directed to do Web research. The research was added to a wiki page, which the students then used to put together presentations. Among the recommendations provided in the presentations were rooftop gardens and carpooling, solar panels, and government incentives to encourage environmentally friendly practices.

To gauge interest and understanding following the presentations, students used Promethean's "ActivExpression" student response devices to answer a series of questions. Responses were collated and also presented on the whiteboard.

According to coverage on a local Web site, this was the first time the university had participated in a program of this nature. District technology coordinator Jason Ewing said the district spent hundreds of hours preparing the program. That included setting up a monitoring system and simultaneous focus group discussions consisting of parents, teachers, and administrators who monitored the program.

Calling it a "successful program," Ewing told reporter Larry Gavin, "The program demonstrated that students can use technology, that they can interact with an expert in a respectful manner, that they can collaborate and work together in an online project, and that they can work in a condensed time frame."

He said the district would do a cost/benefit analysis to determine what pieces of the program could be feasibly implemented in the classroom to improve student achievement.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.