Electronic Learning Connects Classroom
and Real-World Experiences
Meyer Academy Middle School Humanities Teacher Gary Rickler, Information Technology Administrator Brian Brugger and Middle School Coordinator/Technology Teacher Carolyn Patrick contributed to this story.
This year's Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Academy 7th grade spring trip to Washington, D.C., where students learn about our nation's capital, our government and U.S. history, had a different kind of packing list. Along with clothing and a good pair of walking shoes, students were asked to bring along their iPads for an experimental learning experience (Meyer Academy middle school students are part of the school's 1:1 iPad initiative, where each 6th, 7th and 8th grade student has an iPad, and uses it daily in the classroom setting). Neither teachers nor students could have predicted just how much the use of iPads would boost students' levels of engagement and interaction!
Middle school teachers began preparing the students for this experiment several weeks before their April departure with a few assignments, such as creating a travel brochure about a specific site in Washington, D.C. and creating a 30-second video infomercial about the venue using the iMovie application, utilizing their research, writing, graphic design and computer skills. This made each student an "expert" on one site that the group would visit. As these brochures and movies were shared with classmates, interest in the trip began to pique.
Approximately three weeks before the trip the students were invited to join Edmondo, a free and secure online social network designed for teachers, students and schools. It provides a safe, easy way for teachers and students to connect and share content.
A truly inspirational and eye-opening phenomena occurred: The students began teaching one another about Washington, D.C.
"They posed and answered questions in a running dialogue at a higher level than we expected," said Carolyn Patrick. "It was like an explosion of knowledge."
Students asked each other questions like, "How far is Washington, D.C. from our home?" "What does 'E Pluribus Unum' mean?" "What's your favorite exhibit in the Air and Space Museum?" and "What are some of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous quotes?"
In Washington, D.C., scavenger hunts were part of the students' tours of different venues. The chaperones on this trip saw energized, interested and knowledge-hungry students, who were reflective of all they had seen.
Using electronic devices throughout the trip allowed students to take an active role in their own learning.
"When the group visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, we conducted a Skype lesson with our Hebrew and Judaic Studies Principal, Maya Scwartz, who was on campus and hundreds of miles away," said Brian Brugger.
The students' enthusiasm for learning became contagious as they watched each other blog and ask about their experiences. The teachers were able to connect with the students individually and follow-up on their questions and responses, and to challenge each student to think more deeply about the importance of the monuments and historical sites they visited.