I arguably work in the “sticks” as I like to call it.
I’m multiple hours from a major city.
Many of my students are of low socioeconomic status and lack the much needed background knowledge when discussion different topics.
I am even working with a shoe string budget.
Unfortunately, my complaints are similar to most of the educators I know. However, each one makes it work. We attempt to go above and beyond for our students.If they lack something, we make it our personal mission to offer them the best education opportunities available. Therefore, it is necessary to harness the power of technology to enhance the the missing links.
Offering Many Opportunities
Our class tackled a pair of informational texts relating to the killer smog of London in 1952 and dilemma currently happening in China. One of the benefits of being in a rural community is the beauty of our farmland and beaches located throughout the county. However, it also limited their knowledge of city life and effects so pollution in high volumes.
As we tackled the texts, it became apparent many of my scholars were not able to relate to the topic by their level of simple questioning:
- Where does smog come from?
- Is this really a problem anywhere in our country?
- What’s the purpose of smog?
- Does smog exist around us?
To peak their curiosity, we resorted to videos and images of extreme fog. Next, we used a lot of descriptive phrases to allow for a better mental picture.
“The air had a sharp smell–a mixture of chemicals and rotten eggs.” (Scholastic Magazine Quote)
As the picture was becoming clearer, more scholars were understanding the way this could be harmful to the settings of the texts as well as their own communities. Ways to combat basic pollution were popping up like a dandelion in the meadow. Next thing I knew, scholars were doing their own research and giving me facts that I never knew before.
However, there were still some missing links.
One student joked about going to China one day; however, why couldn’t we bring China to the classroom?
Skype an Expert
Through my many experiences, a colleague of mine was teaching English in China. He was no official expert, but he offered a lot of knowledge because he too came from a rural, scenic area to the smog of China. Reaching out to my former colleague, he agreed to come to a Q&A session via Skype one morning (evening for him) as shown below.
Preparing for Expert – I Wonder Chart
After completing our research, students were given the sentence stem “I wonder…” and asked to finish the sentence with something they did not get a clear understanding after their research. The thoughts expanded over a 45-minute window and was overwhelming because my scholars were thirsting for additional knowledge.
To eliminate some of the questions, we focused on listing the questions from most important to least important. The process allowed to omit silly questions and allow students to demonstrate their expertise if they already knew the answer. Afterwards. we selected the number of questions (15) we were going to ask and practiced asking the questions into a camera (projected on the screen).
I wanted to make it as authentic as possible.
Connecting and Reflection
The day we connected to our expert via Skype the Internet was faulty at times, but only for a minimum amount of time. Many of the students were frantically taking notes while others sat in amazement that we were speaking with someone 12-hours ahead of us across the world.
As introductions were over, each student had the opportunity to ask a question and did exceptionally well speaking to our digital guest. Often, the speaker would give more information than asked and gladly accepted follow-up questions from the scholars. Overall, I think it was a great success and an opportunity to offer an authentic task that is often done in the business world.
I am looking forward to more activities similar to this one in the future.