Students at Dr. A.E. Perry were treated to a special visitor as a result of their outstanding literacy skills. The grade seven and eight classes at Perry investigated Regina’s hot debate regarding plans to possibly construct a multi-million dollar dome stadium. Students reviewed media releases regarding the dome debate, putting together a persuasive writing piece. The students then posted their opinion pieces on our classroom blog sites and Mayor Fiacco took notice, eventually agreeing to visit the students in person to discuss the city’s plan for a new facility.
Students at MacNeil School also read the blogs and became interested in the issues. Therefore we made it possible for the MacNeil students to view Mayor Fiacco’s presentation by streaming it live via a secure, password protected, synchronous communication tool called Ustream. The MacNeil students also had the opportunity to participate in the discussion with the mayor by using a process called back-channeling, a relatively new instructional tool in K-12 education. Basically, a back-channel is an online conversation that takes place during a live presentation.
In many ways, our project challenges the traditional ways that instruction is delivered and resources and knowledge are shared. Learning can, and should be, authentic, meaningful, and networked.
The following is recount of the Mayoral visit prepared by a grade eight student at Dr. A.E. Perry School:
On Tuesday, November 10th the grade seven and eight students of Dr. A. E. Perry School received a visit from Pat Fiacco, mayor of Regina. His visit revolved around the topic of the proposed new dome and around the ways Regina is changing. Dr. Perry students weren’t the only to benefit from the visit though. The grade eight students from McNeil also took in Pat Fiacco’s inspiring words through Ustream, an online tool that allows video and audio streaming. This allowed them to watch the mayor speak but to also ask questions through the embedded chat feature.
Throughout the topics we discussed the main idea and discussion of interest was about Regina’s plans for a new dome. We were made aware though that the “dome” wasn’t only dome but an entertainment facility with the ability to be used for all sorts of cultural and sporting events, concerts, and trade shows. Mayor Fiacco argues that building a dome makes Regina a city of opportunity. He says it brings employment options, housing which can be built where Mosaic Stadium is now, and an opportunity to put Regina on the move.
A common question asked at our visit was where will spectators park? According to Mayor Fiacco, a multi-level parking structure could be constructed and a public transportation shuttle service might be created. This would allow the inner city to be less busy with spectators’ vehicles attending the facility but to also save the Earth by having quite a few people transported by one mode of transportation.
The construction of the new facility also brings more hotels and restaurants to our city. As today’s youth, we will find out more about our future in January 2010 when we receive back the feasibility study stating whether we can afford this entertainment facility and whether this facility will really cost its pre-determined $350 million dollars. This project is lead by the provincial government and I am sure that they’ll make the right decision for our city and do what is best for us.
Overall, the visit from the mayor was greatly appreciated. It was amazing how he cared about today’s youth’s opinions and found the time in his schedule to come talk with us. It showed us what putting our opinions on a blog can do and shows us that we never really know who is reading and taking an interest in our writing.
Submitted by Courtney, grade eight student, Dr. A.E. Perry School
As you’ll notice in my two previous posts, I’ve been experimenting with backchanneling with my grade eight students. I’m using Cover it Live along with some Youtube videos about The Holocaust and WW2, our current inquiry topics. I have to admit I felt really silly at first using a chatroom in a face to face environment. I didn’t really understand how that would make any improvements. After all, a chatroom is normally used to bridge the physical distance between people. If you’re already sitting inn the same room, what is the need for using technology? While it is too early for me to make any decisions about the value of backchanneling in my classroom, here are my first impressions:
1) Students who normally are shy and refuse to participate in class discussions are given a voice, and, trust me, they are USING it.
2) Backchanneling allows me to assess and measure student understanding during presentations. It becomes very obvious where there are gaps in knowledge and understanding. I can either address the gaps right away or plan for further lessons or experiences.
3) Interesting inquiries have emerged from the sessions and lead the direction of the unit of study. For example, while I had not planned on taking up the chemical properties of the atomic bombs, my students want to learn about this BADLY. I would have passed over this had the chatroom wall not been filled with such inquiries. Hmm, maybe pre-planning is slightly overrated?
4) What a great way to involve parents either in the live session or by posting the session archives for review.
5) The archives can be reviewed by students later to review info or media included in the session.
More to come….