Farmington School District is making the world a much smaller place as students embrace technology to explore the world and meet people outside of their community.
For many classes in the district, the use of Google Hangouts has allowed students the opportunity to visit foreign countries, talk to famous authors and engage in some friendly competition with another school across town.
“Google Hangouts have allowed our students some really incredible experiences,” said Educational Technology Facilitator Mindy Southern. “They are able to participate in events with students from all over the world or even in our own district, and they never have to leave their classroom.”
According to Southern, Google Hangouts brings conversations to life with photos, emoji, and even group video calls all through the use of the district’s Chromebooks.
In one recent hangout, seventh grade students at Farmington Middle School, along with schools from New Jersey, Texas and Canada, were able to talk to Daniel Devost, the director of science operations, with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope that sits atop of the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano.
During the hangout, students were able ask the Devost questions about the various functions and uses of the telescope. In fact, students from Farmington were able to ask the director questions about the telescope and his career as an astronomer.
“In a way, hangouts are like field trips,” said Audra Redmond, a teacher at middle school who has incorporated Google Hangouts into her curriculum. “It allows our students to experience the world without ever leaving the classroom.”
Before the participating in a hangout, students must prepare themselves for the video call by doing research so they can contribute to the conversation with whomever they are talking to at the time.
“They must research the subject, prepare questions and present those questions to the host,” Redmond said. “The students are engaged during the hangout, and they seem to really enjoy participating in the programs.”
The advantage of the hangouts, according to Redmond, is it allows students an opportunity they may never have the chance to experience.
“Google Hangouts help our students connect with people outside of our community,” Redmond said. “This gives students the opportunity to meet people and see things they may never have a chance to experience.”
According to Southern, students at middle school will soon have another once in a life time experience afforded them as they share a Google Hangout with a class from Russia later this school year.
Google Hangouts also allow students a hands on opportunity to incorporate their projects into a hangout session and seek advice from professionals. Soon Redmond, along with her teaching partner, Jill Braddy, will be hosting a session with an engineer with Graco, a U.S. maker of children’s car seats.
“As part of our students study in force in motion, they will be designing their own car seat and comparing U.S. standards to other countries,” Redmond said.
Hangouts are not just for science and math. The concept can be used in any concept a teacher can imagine.
Braddy and Redmond’s students recently held a hangout with noted young adult author Susan Beth Pfeffer, who penned the “Life as We Knew It,” series – one the students are familiar with.
“She was very engaging with the students,” Southern said. “The students asked her about character development and why she did certain things to certain characters. The student thought it was an incredible experience.”
After Christmas break, students at Lincoln Intermediate will be using a session to learn more about music when the Army Field Band.
With technology becoming even more a part of everyday lives, Farmington School District’s goal is to make sure its students are ready for the world that awaits them.
“As a teacher, we get to expose our students with technology today that will have an impact on their future,” Redmond said. “It also allows us to show them how to use technology in a useful manner.”
Craig Vaughn is a reporter with the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3629 or at firstname.lastname@example.org