October 13 through October 19 is Earth Science Week. Earth Science Week, celebrated since 1988, is the opportunity to promote the understanding of earth sciences and every citizen’s role in stewardship of our earth. This year’s theme is No Child Left Inside.
One place to find many lesson ideas is on the Earth Science Week website. Their online toolkit includes a large number of lessons, printable posters, articles, and much more. Use the search features to narrow down information by core ideas, type of activity, and concepts. This is an excellent starting point to find quality materials for teaching earth science.
As you plan lessons and consider incorporating technology, it is important to keep in mind why and how you use the technology. One popular method to help teachers focus on the use of technology is the Triple E Framework. Learn more about Triple E at this recent blog written by Dr. Ruth Okoye.
One of the essential features of the Triple E Framework is the social aspect of learning.This social aspect enables students to enhance learning in ways that learning becomes more personal and meaningful to the learner.
When thinking about sites to share and incorporate as part of Earth Science Week and how to find resources that promote social learning the first thing I thought of was all of the many resources available on the Microsoft in Education website, specifically Skype in the Classroom.
Skype in the Classroom provides social interactions in several different ways. Take a virtual field trip, participate in a Skype lesson, collaborate with another class, bring a guest speaker virtually into your classroom, or learn through Mystery Skype.
As you consider some of the Skype options, also think about how they fit into the Triple E Framework. Let’s take a look at one of the activities and break it down to evaluate the effectiveness of using this online activity.
Incredible Insects is a virtual field trip suitable for students aged 3 – 10. In this activity, students explore some of the insects found on earth, learn the role of insects in the circle of life, and discover the physical characteristics and behaviors of insects. All information is presented by an expert at the Genovisi Environmental Study Center. To participate in this lesson, click the link to find available dates and request the virtual field trip. In addition to the virtual field trip, this site includes a link to an Incredible Insects Guide for Educators and a short video introduction to the Study Center.
How well does this fit into the Triple E Framework? Let’s take a look based upon the questions provided on the Triple E site. Answers should be yes, no, or sometimes. Yes is worth 2 points, sometimes is worth 1 point, and no is 0. The goal is to earn between 13 and 18 points to demonstrate an exceptional or strong connection to technology, instructional moves, and learning goals.
- Does the technology allow students to focus on the task of the assignment or activity with less distraction (Time on Task)? yes
- Does the technology motivate students to start the learning process? yes
- Does the technology cause a shift in the behavior of the students, where they move from passive to active social learners (co-use or co-engagement)? yes (assuming they interact with the presenter)
Students are motivated to learn more about the content through the interactions and presentation of the online expert. They also become social learners through their use of questions with the Skype presentation.
- Does the technology tool aid students in developing or demonstrating a more sophisticated understanding of the content? (creates opportunities for creation/production over consumption) no
- Does the technology create scaffolds to make it easier to understand concepts or ideas? yes
- Does the technology create paths for students to demonstrate their understanding of the learning goals in a way that they could not do with traditional tools? yes
Through the opportunities provided during a live presentation, students use the real-time information to relate their understanding to those shared by the expert. They also can ask questions to develop an understanding of insects they have seen both in and out of the classroom. Use of teaching strategies such as having students make predictions and reflective notebooks will also provide opportunities for enhancement.
- Does the technology create opportunities for students to learn outside of their typical school day? yes
- Does the technology create a bridge between school learning and everyday life experiences? yes
- Does the technology allow students to build skills they can use in their everyday lives? yes
As students interact with real-world information and data, they develop a deeper understanding of content vs. learning from a textbook or video. The connection with a real-world expert offers further opportunities for learning.
Based on my evaluation of participation in this Skype virtual field trip, this lesson scores a solid 18 points, demonstrating that this lesson offers a variety of benefits that engage students and extend learning. Although others may score it slightly differently, it is easy to see that participating in this type of Skype activity provides many opportunities for beneficial interactions through technology. These experiences offer a social learning experience that correlates to information students see in their everyday life both in and out of the classroom. Of course, keep in mind, the learning doesn’t stop at the end of the field trip. The goal is that students use their new knowledge of insects and apply it to what they find in your community and classroom.
After participating in this session, take students outside (or around your building) on an insect hunt. Think of students’ excitement about finding a spider and applying the learning from this session to the features and role of the spider to its habitat!
Educators are incredibly fortunate to have many opportunities to extend learning through the use of technology. Skype in the Classroom is an excellent tool for social learning and engaging students through opportunities not available in every classroom.
What are your plans for Earth Science Week? What technology tools will you use and have you taken the time to evaluate them using a framework like Triple E? We always love hearing your ideas and suggestions in the comments below.