My last day at JFK High School involved an elephant mystery and a real world application of science in the classroom. Linda Simmons was utilizing the iPads in conjunction with the Elephant Project Kit for two of her 10th Grade Biology classes and her Bio-Tech course. So in addition to the lab and discovery portion of that kit, she spent an extra day using some online tools to further investigate and expand her students understanding the elephants’ habitat.
Getting the iPads online at JFK is easy as they have built in wifi and it only takes a few minutes to enter the passwords before the first class. The filter on the internet is pretty minor, and hasn’t conflicted with any activities that we’ve attempted there.
Ustream is an app that similarly to Youtube allows viewers to watch content produced by other users around the world. The only difference being that Ustream allows people to broadcast their content live in addition to having prerecorded content. Linda wanted to use Ustream to stream a particular spot called Pete’s Pond in Chobe National Park located in Botswana. Here there are often many types of wildlife bathing and drinking water. While there weren’t any elephants present when we streamed during the class time, there were a variety of other wild animals, mostly nocturnal as it was night time. Since there weren’t any live elephants for viewing available during class, they students were also viewing previous recordings of elephant’s at Pete’s Pond on Youtube.
The student engagement level for this project was great. They were on task and not socializing too much, although some was required due to having to double up on the iPads. Linda Simmons, who’s gotten very iPad savvy in past months, also was able to get the students going within minutes, maximizing the time spent “in Bostwana.” The Assistant Principal sat in on one of the classes and took some notes. He is really forward tech minded and enjoyed watching these Biology students reaching “outside” the classroom.
A little excerpt of Linda’s reaction to the success of this project:
…the iPad lesson was a great culmination for the elephant unit. After identifying the DNA, locating the area from where it came, they were able to actually see the area and hear some of the sounds. It brought the whole picture together. I introduced the unit with the SEP video of the fellow going to Africa to study the endangered status of the elephants. The fact that we had to go to saved video for a large number of the observations didn’t seem to matter to them. I want to continue to explore this idea and use it again next year.
With this exercise SEP was able to re-enforce the idea the iPad is a great supplement to researching ideas in the classroom. It has a way of keeping students on task without giving them anything inherently exciting to do. Even the rowdiest of students will be working on their projects.
This was a successful chapter at JFK Catholic High School in which science education and technology prevailed. And as an added bonus, it’s always nice to see how excited the students get when they see me walk in the door, because they know that the iPads are in tow.