In my current GID unit, my 5th grade students are exploring the world around them. Over this unit, students will gain knowledge of Earth’s four spheres: hydrosphere, geosphere, biosphere, and atmospheres. The goal in this Next Generation Science Standards inquiry based unit is to lead students to an inquiry project about human’s impact on the environment.
Currently, we are in the Immerse phase of GID. This phase is all about building background knowledge, connecting students to content, and guiding students toward those inquiry based questions. Throughout this unit, I have specifically selected technology tools and resources that are highly engaging, fosters critical thinking skills and promotes communication with peers and experts.
Throughout this inquiry based unit, students are keeping digital inquiry journal. This will be a place where they will record their ideas about what they are learning and their questions that will guide research later on. There are many options for student digital inquiry journals. I work at a Google Apps for Education district, so a majority of my students’ work is housed in Google Docs and Google slides. For this GID unit, I wanted to introduce a new web tool. I decided to use ThingLink. I love this website! Students were able to take this image of the four geospheres and create an interactive image. Within the website, students can add images, videos, and audio to images and videos. Through this activity, students they are learning how to organize ideas, synthesize information, and create. In addition, they can take this with them as they move to ahead in their education, where they will develop even deeper knowledge of our world. That is way more powerful than a notebook that most students will throw away at the end of the year.
The most powerful technology tool that I have used, thus far, has been Skype for Education. A few weeks ago, my class was able to Skype with a ranger from Yellowstone National Park. He spent a half hour talking to my students about the geology and wildlife of Yellowstone. While being in Yellowstone would have been an amazing experience for my students, facilitating a field trip for thirty-two 5th graders Wyoming would be nearly impossible. Just because we can’t bring our students to the experts, doesn’t mean we can’t bring them to our students. Skype for Education is completely free for educators, and there are experts in just about every field who want to share their passion with students. This was the second Skype we did this year. The first was with author, Christina Farley, who spoke with us for almost an hour about the writing process. The process is so easy. Each time, I received a response in a matter of days. All you need is computer with a camera and microphone and a free Skype for Education account. It’s that simple.
My students may not remember every lesson I carefully planned, but I know they will remember the day we talked with a real Yellowstone National Park Ranger. They were completely glued to every word he said and had a ton of questions at the end of his presentation. Immersed in learning…I think so.