I have never seen the Grand Canyon with my own eyes. Other people who have tell me it is a “must see”. It apparently is not enough that I view it in pictures and video.
Certainly, I could look up many details about the Grand Canyon. If I were asked to draw a map of this grand landform, I would probably pull up Google Earth as an aide. If it were the climate and habitat I was asked to describe, surely my questions could be answered with the help of The Weather Channel and National Geographic. For a history of this famous site, I might check out Wikipedia.
But having all of these facts at my disposal does not mean that I have a complete understanding of the Grand Canyon. I couldn’t tell you what it smelled like there, what a person might hear as they enjoyed the view, or what it might feel like to be standing so close to something so immense.
This is why it is so critical that classrooms need to become more connected. And not in the simple digital sense that I previously described. No, I am talking about tapping into the different social media tools that can better bring these experiences to life. In today’s digital age, this is possible.
Skype is one tool that comes to mind. For example, a classroom in my school used this tool to host a video conference with a classroom in another region of the United States. The information that they could glean from one another, about the weather, the wildlife, or simply their way of life, is something that cannot be captured through a digital map or image. People on one end of the camera can share their experiences in a way that only people on the other end can appreciate.
When we talk about gaps in education, it is often about things beyond the school’s control, such as the achievement gap or the socioeconomic gap. These are important issues. Yet, we continue to devote an inordinate amount of time to these issues, which takes up precious thinking time that could be used to consider how we can provide wonderful learning experiences for the students that show up in our classrooms today.
So who can you connect with that will broaden students’ perspectives without having to leave the room? How will these experiences deepen your students’ understandings about the world as well as deepen their love for learning?
If you can answer the previous two questions, I have one more for you: What’s stopping you?