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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Videoconferencing with S.T.E.M. Professionals

One of the best ways for kids to have a face-to-face experience with professionals in S.T.E.M. fields is through a live, interactive videoconference. Many schools now have room-size equipment and connectivity. The biggest challenge for teachers is finding content and access to people who are willing to participate.

CILC, or the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration, is an online, non-profit agency that provides a directory of videoconference content providers from all over the world. These providers are professionals in their fields who have been trained in the art of interactive videoconferencing with K-12 classrooms. There are providers for professional development for teachers and workshops and classes for students at all grade levels.

The CILC organization is offering an extensive S.T.E.M. planning, training, and coaching package for school districts. Most importantly, they offer access to affordable workshops and classes for classroom students. They can, through the magic of videoconferencing, interact with astronauts, surgeons, and scientists in a range of fields, in all kinds of engaging situations. And frankly, students are usually more interested in asking questions about the presenter's did they get to be an astronaut? How do they use the bathroom in space? Once they've had this interaction, the idea of being an astronaut or a doctor or a research scientist is real, not just a figment of someone's imagination.

Are you a classroom teacher introducing a unit on nanotechnology or robotics? It's likely that the CILC directory will offer a workshop or entire curriculum package in that area you could use as an introduction to the curriculum or as a culmination program.

Videoconferencing is one way to use digital technologies to bring S.T.E.M. professionals into the classroom. It's live and interactive and the impact on students is an authentic and memorable experience.

The picture above shows an interactive workshop taking place with a science teacher at the Columbia Gorge Museum, located on the Columbia River in Oregon.

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