On October 4, 2011 the following tweet from Mariette DiChristina (@mdichristina), Editor in Chief of Scientific American, appeared on my Twitter timeline.  The message was simple:

Calling All Scientists to Collaborate Tweet

After reading the short article Calling All Scientists, I was inspired.  Scientific American magazine is calling all scientists who are willing to volunteer to advise on curricula, answer a classroom’s questions, or visit a school in their geographic area.  Also, Nobel laureates at the Lindau, Germany meetings are extending a special invitation to its scientist attendees to be a part of 1,000 Scientists in 1,000 Days initiative to get scientists involved with schools.   This comes at a wonderfully appropriate time.

In the article it says, “The U.S. ranks 27 out of 29 wealthy countries in proportion of college students with degrees in science or engineering.”  This is not the first time, nor the last, that we are faced with the harsh reality of our nation’s competitive educational edge in science, or lack thereof.  Our politicians have written legislation, thrown money at the problem and neither has worked toward significant improvement.

It makes me proud to see Scientific American establishing a free and fun way to bring science to our schools like never before.   It makes me wish I was in sixth grade again.

Although the initiative is admirable and has the potential to be highly effective, it is being promoted during our nation’s greatest and longest recession in history.   And, unfortunately many schools have been asked to continue to cut costs.

Enter Collaborate.  All schools with an internet connection (that is ALL of them, right?) can participate, bringing in scientists in the neighboring county or across the globe using Blackboard Collaborate’s web conferencing and voice authoring. Your school doesn’t have a Collaborate license yet?  No problem!  CourseSites has Collaborate’s web conferencing already built in.  CourseSites is a free, hosted online course creation and facilitation service that empowers individual K–12 teachers, college and university instructors and community educators to add a web–based component to their education initiatives, and even host an entire course on the Internet.  CourseSites lets schools interact with students and promote collaboration anytime, anywhere, 24/7.

Using Blackboard Collaborate, be it from your district license or the free CourseSites, can help all schools gain access to scientists in your area and around the world.  Here are a couple of my bright ideas on how this could play out:

  1. Auditorium – An auditorium full of 300 students in Wisconsin sits captivated by a NASA scientist in Florida who is joining via Collaborate web conferencing and is being projected to the front of the room.
  2. Simulcast – Students sit at their desks in 49 science classes in Utah where Collaborate web conferencing is projected on the chalk board or Smartboard and they are joined by the recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Daniel Shechtman who discusses his discovery of quasicrystals.
  3. Individual Class – An online science teacher invites the scientist who inspired her to speak to her science students using Collaborate web conferencing.
  4. Interview for school newspaper – Students running the school newspaper interview Neil deGrasse Tyson and shares it with the entire student body via Blackboard Collaborate’s voice authoring.
  5. Science Fair projects and judging – Make this year’s science fair one to remember!  Students can interview scientists in the field that relates to their project and share it via voice presentation.  The school can invite students to show their projects to scientists via Collaborate’s web conferencing for judging.

These are just my own bright ideas.  It is my hope that all of our Collaborate users will be inspired.   Please comment below and tell us how you are using Blackboard Collaborate in creative ways to expand access to teaching, content, thought leaders, community programs, etc .

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  • http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Collaborate/Overview.aspx Sharri Godard

    Shannon,

    What an exciting read, full of great ideas and I agree with you that I’d like to be in 6th grade again!

    As an educator I understand the constraints of a 30 x 30 classroom, and with the dwindling budget it makes it increasingly harder to reach, challenge, and inspire student to learn in any subject. Collaborate allows the educator to take students to endless possibilities and expose them to resources and experts that they would never be touched by in a normal brick and mortar setting.

    I love your bright ideas, and let’s not forget that a USB microscope can be used in the Collaborate Video window so that a virtual experiment could take place, even though participants could be hundreds of miles apart! The possibilities are endless as educators bust out of the classroom and venture into uncharted territories!