Saturday, December 15, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now?

Last summer I had the opportunity to videoconference with a group of educators from BOCES, which stands for the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services and provides school districts in New York State with a program of shared educational services. about 123 Jazzing Up the Curriculum with Videoconferencing. "Jazz" is an intensive week long professional development where the teacher participants model the actual activities and videoconferences their students will be doing. At that time they invited me back to be a presenter at their two-day modified "Jazz" on December 11th and 12th. They wanted me to talk about Poetry Slam and how we were utilizing videoconferencing in the program. They wanted it to be as interactive as possible. So, I recruited 5 of our last year poetry slam students to come and perform their poetry and field some Q & A from the grown-ups. We were all ready to proceed for our 9 AM start when the dreaded "we can't hear you" rang out from the various sites. I wasn't on mute, nor was it that the volume was low but rather it was that pesty microphone that was dropped last spring. I had been jiggling the connection for months and always had success but now it just wouldn't cooperate. "Can you hear me now?" (I felt like that Verizon guy.) Finally they decided to move on with their conference and I offered to try and get another vc unit from a nearby school. Global Nomads who were suppose to follow my presentation were able to take my place. I got the other equipment and was able to follow at 10:30. Unfortunately I lost 3 of my student poets along the way but I was left with two troopers who did an amazing job performing their poetry and answering several questions from the adult participants. Their teacher told me later that when they came back to class they were "elated". Videoconferencing gives students such unique opportunities and experiences. Ones that they will remember all their lives. I will remember that old adage "don't put off till tomorrrow what you SHOULD do today". The next order of business is to order a new microphone.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Planet Hopping With Mathematics

Did I ever tell you how much I love NASA? I am sure I have but yesterday's videoconference "Planet Hopping Through Mathematics" just reaffirms my affection and enthusiasm for the NASA Digital Learning Network. With over 50 free programs, all supported by excellent online lesson plans and activities it is no wonder that the NASA Digital Learning Network's schedule fills up fast. By this time of year it is more challenging then a space launch to find a spot in one of their videoconferences. However, if one is persistant and you have some time on your hands you can probably still find a spot or two. The best advice, book early in the school year. Now back to Planet Hopping with Mathematics.
I am always interested in videoconferences that relate to mathematics. So, this program looked perfect. The desription of the program asked "How high can you jump on Mars?" and in this highly interactive session students used mathematics to explore and learn about the planets in our solar system. The students had to complete equations that required both multiplication and division and decimals to the nearest hundredth, to determine which planets they can jump the highest and lowest on.

The program came from the Langley Research Center, in Hampton, Virginia, one of ten NASA Centers. The students learned that there is more to NASA than just Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas and Cape Kennedy in Florida. The Langley Research Center's ultimate goal is to stimulate interest in science and math fields.
The 6th grade math class that participated in yesterday's program were given a real treat. Dan, the expert and presenter at Langley had a wonderful personality and was chock full of planet facts and information. The multimedia style presentation really enhanced the program. Our thirty students were broken up into groups of three, and using a meter stick they calculated (in inches) the height of their jumps on Earth to the nearest inch. They then calculated their jumps on the seven other planets (remember Pluto has been booted out and is no longer a planet) by doing different equations. Throughout the program each planets characteristics was explored in great detail. I don't think any of the students will forget the red spot on Jupiter, the craters on Mercury or the storm that is no more on Neptune. I found this program to be excellent and as always learned a great deal too. How high can you jump on Mars? You take your jump on Earth, multiply it by 5, and divide by 2. You do the Math.