Connecting classrooms and culture: Redefining virtual learning across digital platforms

Technology enhances teaching, learning experience
Posted at 6:20 PM, Jun 19, 2018

We've heard about using computers to teach kids when they can't get to class; now technology is taking that to a whole new level and connecting classrooms, culture, and much more.

Arickaree, Colorado is a small town with a school system as small as you might imagine.

Shane Walkinshaw is the district's superintendent and principal.

"We're a very small one school building district K through 12 with 102 kids," Walkinshaw said. "When you are small like that oftentimes there's not in the budget to have a superintendent and principal so you normally have one person that fills both roles."

Walkinshaw says teacher shortages can often be an issue too. Right now they don't have a music teacher.

"My first goal is always to have a teacher in the classroom," Walkinshaw said. "But then doing, using synchronistic online learning to enhance what's going on."

Synchronous Online Learning, or SYNK,  is connecting students in the rural Arickaree School District to students at STEM School Highlands Ranch near Denver, and students at a school in Mexico.

In this session, they're collaborating to compose a song in English and Spanish. A 360 camera tracks students at the STEM school around the room by following their voices. And students can stream their phones and laptops to this main board.

All of what's happening is streamed to the students at the other two schools, and what's going on in their classroom is streamed in too. Which means everyone can communicate and connect in real time.

Dr. Gregg Cannady helped develop the program that reflects the way students are learning in his classroom at STEM School Highlands Ranch, and shares it.

"It's routine for them to collaborate with industry and to collaborate with each other to solve world problems," Dr. Cannady said.  "It's pretty incredible. So when we work at this school we say every student should have this."

As much as students at STEM School Highlands Ranch are giving, they say they're gaining.

"We are so we're blessed to have access to all this stuff," said student Alyssa Solano. "So it's really just like intermixing and learning from each other."

"You get to essentially live with them and like experience what's going on over there when you're thousands of miles apart," said student Jason Hristopoulos.

It's exposure that goes far beyond their virtual class period.

"I think this expands our knowledge of the world and not be like just centered around Arickaree," said  Arickaree student Cora Schrock. "I think it gives us a lot more opportunities in the future."

Connecting classrooms through teaching and teachers of the future.