A World of Education; Students Share Lessons with Peers around Globe

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 2, 2007 | Go to article overview

A World of Education; Students Share Lessons with Peers around Globe


Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A group of high school students pouring chemicals into beakers in science class is hardly a unique event. What is unique, however, is watching those students from halfway

around the world and across several time zones. But that is exactly what happened as 10th- and 11th-grade students at the Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter High School (WMST) saw their peers in Minnesota, Japan and Taiwan perform live science experiments.

The students were participating in Megaconference Jr., a daylong event Feb. 22 that allowed elementary, middle and high school students from around the world to make presentations and interact in real time on the Internet.

Topics on the day's schedule included Indonesian culture, food and dance; a journey through Africa; family traits in various cultures; the physical science behind roller coasters; space exploration; and a math game similar to the popular "Deal or No Deal" TV show.

"My students are thrilled," said Cathy McQuone, a ninth-grade science teacher in Tallahassee, Fla., whose class presented "Students Journey Into Space With Astronaut Norm Thagard."

About 170 public and private schools from the United States and 16 other countries participated in the event, made possible by high-speed Internet, videoconferencing equipment and dedicated educators. About 20 schools led live presentations. Other schools, designated as active participants, interacted with presenters by asking questions, making comments or participating in games. For the most part, it was student-led.

The students from Washington, D.C., who stayed after school for the event, watched the jumbo computer screen at the front of the room as peers from Cambridge-Isanti High School in Minnesota created tall, orange flames by heating sodium chlorate and organic materials. Students from Dali National High School in Taiwan slept at school so they could join the conference at 5 a.m. to perform a science experiment for their U.S. peers.

As may be expected, some technical glitches arose. The picture was grainy at times, and it was difficult to hear when students at multiple sites spoke simultaneously.

Clinton Harris, a chemistry professor at WMST, said the experience connects students to the curriculum by letting them see "the chemistry they're learning here is the same chemistry .. in other countries."

The conference is in its fourth year and is spearheaded and organized by several institutions, including Ohio State University, the University of Pennsylvania, K-12 service groups such as Chester County Intermediate Unit in Pennsylvania and St. …

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