I designed a project from my high school, upper level physics class that will involve science career research, contact of someone in that career via Skype, and then presentation of their research and video to the class. This project will require quite a bit of time and effort by the students, but because my class is highly motivated, I think they can pull it off.
The idea for this project came from two places, one from a teacher in our district and secondly from one of the discussions on the PLN board. Last year, one of the middle school social studies teachers had his students Skype one of our state senators in his class. The project was hugely successful in the district and got the students involved in the material in a new way. Skype offers students a unique opportunity to connect with people outside of the classroom and outside of their city. The second motivation for this project was ignited through our class discussion about getting students not only interested in science-based careers, but also understanding how influential science can be in their society.
I was looking for a way to integrate Skype into my classroom in a meaningful way and what makes this project even more appealing to me is that students now have computer access daily in my classroom. Last year, another teacher and I wrote a grant for laptops and we now have a class set that we share between two classrooms. For our district, that is a big deal to have classroom computers!
My project uses technology and online resources at multiple levels. The first aspect of the project is to research a science related career. For most physics students that will likely be a engineer of some kind, but they will not be limited to that area at all. As long as there is some science involved in the day to day work, that career is fair game. I will introduce the project on day one and students will have that day and the following to research and brainstorm their chosen fields.
The students will then have 2 weeks to contact and Skype a person in the career that they chose to research. Sometimes I hesitate when giving so much time for students to complete an aspect of the project, but I think this time period is appropriate, given the nature of the assignment. At the beginning of that time period, students will practice mock Skype's and interview with their classmates to practice needed skills for assignment completion. We will spend 1 day of class time on that skill development. Skype has a really useful aspect that can be a great learning tool for teachers and students, the downside is that it cost money to use. But through research, I found that our school may be willing to pay for the option. Either way, through Skype you can purchase a application that allows you to record the video or audio from the chat. That video can be saved to your computer for later editing.
The third piece of this research project is the presentation of the material that students learned through this project. I am looking for evidence that students learned an adequate amount of information about the career that they chose to research. In addition to the discussion of the career, students will be given class time to create a presentation of their findings. Students should in their presentations include a video or audio clip from their Skype interview. Students may edit video through iMovie, a very user-friendly program that I have found students can navigate easily.
I realize that this project will take a lot of class time and resources, but I think also has some real value for learning not about a particular scientific concept, but science as a whole. I would probably use this as an end of the year project, or something to break up two heavy units, when students need a break from intense material and need to step away and think about why they are learning what they are!