Group visits GHS & Virtual Classroom with Jason Horne; Launching A Learning Moment
The GCS Education Foundation Board of Trustees today launched a new feature of their monthly board meetings called A Learning Moment. A Learning Moment will become a regular item on the board's monthly agenda, and is aimed at focusing attention on a teacher or a school's accomplishment, project, or program, by hearing a "testimonial" from an involved staff member, or by visiting a school and seeing the program or project first-hand. The latter took place today.
The GCS Education Foundation normally gathers at the Kathryn W. Leonard Administration Building for its monthly meetings. Today however, the group convened at GHS for a tour and demonstration of the school system's first Virtual Classroom.
After a brief business meeting, Professional Development Center director and Education Foundation trustee, Robbie Mitchell, introduced tour guide Jason Horne. Horne is the French teacher at GHS and GMS, and the school system's Virtual Classroom "expert".
Horne invited the Education Foundation trustees to assume students' roles in the Virtual Classroom. Once they were seated, Horne demonstrated some of the capabilities of the classroom's impressive state-of-the-art equipment. Horne used the equipment to link to Scott County School System's Technology Director, Mike Lay, who presented an interactive overview on the ways his school system is using similar Virtual Classroom technology.
Horne explained that presently, GHS offers students an opportunity to take French I & II through the Virtual Classroom experience. After receiving Virtual Classroom Teacher certification, Horne began videoing (archiving) his French class lessons last spring. Those archived lessons were made available to his French students through internet access. Students could retrieve Horne's lessons via their home computer, and even download lesson videos to their iPods.
Beverly Miller, GCS Chief Technology Officer, was also on-hand during the demonstration. Miller announced that plans underway to expand the Virtual Classroom course offerings to include Spanish I, II, and III, Latin I and II, and hopefully Mandarin Chinese. She added that there were plans to offer Economics and Government as Virtual Classroom courses, possibly as soon as summer of 2009.
In addition to course instruction, Horne explained that the Virtual Classroom technology could be used to provide students with learning opportunities that otherwise would not be attainable. In a few days, his French students will convene in the Virtual Classroom to participate in a tour of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, PA. The students will be interactively led through the museum's exhibits by a museum docent. The museum charges $100 per class for the tour - obviously a fraction of what it would cost for that class to actually visit the museum. Horne said there is a library of experiences available, similar to the museum tour, to which he and other soon-to-be certified Virtual Classroom teachers have access.
Both Miller and Horne elaborated on the possibilities for stretching the use of this technology, by partnering with colleges and universities locally, and across the country, to offer a myriad of instruction and unique learning experiences to students.
The GCS Education Foundation plans to take more field trips to see the system's schools and experience the learning environments. The group agrees that the best way to become effective advocates for their school system is to make an effort to visit the facilities, meet the teachers, and experience programs offered.
For more information about the Virtual Classroom at GHS, contact:
GHS Students Visit Great Barrier Reef - Virtually!
A Virtual Classroom outfitted with state-of-the-art technology enabled Gemmer, and Jason Horne - Virtual Learning Coordinator for the Greeneville City School system - to provide a class of AP Biology students with an interactive field trip to the world's largest living coral reef aquarium - ReefHQ - located in Queensland, Australia. ReefHQ is the Reef Education Centre for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
The virtual field trip was made possible through a grant from the Greeneville City Schools (GCS)Education Foundation. Horne, who is also an Instructional Technology Coach for the Greeneville City School system, was recently awarded $1,000 from the GCS Education Foundation's American Education Week Grant program. The GCSEducation Foundation's American Education Week Grant program annually provides a total of $5,000 in award money to Greeneville City School system teachers who develop winning and innovative educational programs that serve to enhance students' learning experiences.
The virtual field trip originated from the school system's only Virtual Classroom, located at Greeneville High School. Gemmer's students gathered there on August 20th at 7PM (Australia is 12.75 hours ahead of US Eastern Time) and took seats in a classroom which is designed somewhat like a theatre.
"The technology used in this Virtual Field Trip Program is so state-of-the-art that our students will be able to see and talk directly with scuba divers as they explore the creatures of the Great Barrier Reef, and swim through an exhibit of natural sea predators" Horne explained. "The students are encouraged not only to listen to the information, but to respond to it by asking questions. They can ask their questions directly to the diver, or the aquarium docent, and engage in real-time dialog. This program is a great example of how educators can use technology to foster engaged learning experiences."
Gemmer said that the virtual field trip to ReefHQ in Australia will serve to enhance the AP Biology curricula and provide her students with an important connection between the environment in which they live, and one that exists clear across the globe.
"One of the major focuses of the AP Biology fall curriculum is biodiversity of organisms on earth in relation to population characteristics and the response of organisms to their environment" explained Gemmer. "Students in our geographic area are fortunate to live in the biologically diverse southern Appalachian region, and it is our goal that students will study the reef ecosystems, gain additional information from this virtual field trip, and be able to correlate and compare local ecosystems for a more global experience."
Gemmer said she hopes to be able to take a group of interested students on a real field trip to visit a reef aquarium in Key Largo, Florida this spring.
Horne will use the remainder of his GCS Education Foundationgrant award to fund several additional virtual field trips, which he plans to schedule during the current school year. Newly acquired portable equipment will make it possible to take the Virtual Field Trip Program to students in each school throughout the Greeneville City School system.
For additional information on the Greeneville City SchoolsEducation Foundation: