I had the amazing opportunity to spend several weeks in Alaska this past summer through a grant program for professional development offered by my school. Since I'm currently based in Florida, this trip was an escape from the summer humidity and heat while also offering a multitude of learning experiences to bring back to my classroom.
This trip pushed me to grow both personally and professionally. Hiking and camping in Alaska seriously challenged my inner strength, resolve and grit, but the awe-inspiring beauty and wild places made it worth it. I have hiked hundred of miles in the lower 48 with little fear, but hiking in the back country of Alaska left my heart thudding, and my sympathetic nervous system in overdrive. The hair on the back of my neck seemed to constantly believe there was a brown bear around every bend. In Denali, we rounded a bend to find two grizzlies fighting - I didn't know if I should retreat or take pictures (I opted for both at the same time).
Professionally, Alaska enticed me to develop my photography and ultimately video-making skills. I wanted to bring Alaska into my classroom for my students. Moreover, I wanted my students to build their own video-making skills as a way to encourage summary, organization, critical-thinking, and effective communication.
My school is a one-to-one school, so embedding technology to support student learning is a primary goal and as a teacher I find it a novel way to keep things interesting. So, I created a number of case study videos from the media I collected in Alaska, both still and video images of wildlife, the Alaska Pipeline, salmon fishing, tundra, and glaciers. Each case study connected to either an environmental or biological issue such as fossil fuels, climate change, adaptations, and biomes.
I used the video case studies as a jumping off point for class discussions and research projects throughout the year. As we head in to the final quarter, students will now be making their own video case studies. For some it will be their first foray into iMovie and film-making. Creativity and innovation, research and analysis, organization and summarization, and effective communication through current technology. Students are currently working on storyboards and I'll be sure to keep you updated on how the projects progress - I'm excited to see what they design.
For a little teaser of my Alaska trip, take a peek at my trailer for Teach Into the Wild. Might I suggest you take your summer travels and turn them into inspiration? Or ask your students to get outside, take photos or video and make a connection to a core science concept. Stop summer brain drain while letting students do something fun. This summer I'm heading back to Maine and hope to spend some quality time on Mt. Katahdin - I fully intend to have my camera in hand!
What's your latest technology-based project?