Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Internet helps third-graders share ‘Sunflower State’ lessons

January 31, 2007

Monday was Kansas Day -- a traditional time to learn about the Sunflower State.

But third-grade students in the Tonganoxie Elementary School classrooms of Gail Kiefer and Chris Baska were sharing that information in a nontraditional way.

They were videoconferencing with third-grade students in Nortonville.

Students in both schools took turns standing before the monitor, which included a video camera, and giving a short lesson about Kansas.

Throughout the class period, students in Nortonville could see and hear what was going on in the Tonganoxie classroom, and the Tonganoxie students could see and hear the Nortonville students.

Kiefer said the idea came from Natalie Ball, who lives in Tonganoxie and teaches in Nortonville.

"She contacted our principal and wanted to know if anybody in Tonganoxie would like to videoconference," Kiefer said.

Monday's run was actually the second videoconference in which the schools participated. The first involved mock elections, with students running for offices, campaigning and voting for each other.

Standing in front of a video camera doesn't seem to be as intimidating as giving a speech in front of the classroom, Kiefer said. And her students are figuring out as much.

"The first time we did it we had a couple of kids that opted not to do it," Kiefer said. "But this time everybody wanted to do it."

One of those who participated in the first and second videoconferences was Jacob Tollefson.

"It was fun and kind of scary," Jacob said, "because we had never done it before."

And, Kiefer said, the classes are planning their next videoconference. It will follow an upcoming field trip in which her students will tour the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

Each student will pick a Negro League baseball player and make a baseball card for that person. They'll share information about that player on a videoconference with the Nortonville class.

Dakota Maas said he liked the idea of videoconferencing.

"It was fun and cool to talk to people from a different school," Dakota said. "Because we could see them while we were talking to them."

In the past, Kiefer said, her students have been pen pals with students from other schools.

"But this is kind of taking it one step further, where you can actually see the people you're interacting with," Kiefer said.

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