From Edgard to Cooperstown

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 30, 2009

By David Vitrano


EDGARD – Some lucky second-graders at West St. John Elementary School went on a field trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., Thursday. That’s quite a journey to complete in one class period, but the students were able to make the trip with the help of technology.

West St. John Elementary is one of two public schools in St. John Parish equipped to take “virtual field trips,” in which the students get to connect and interact with students and other people from far-off places from the comfort of their own classroom.

According to Shayla Guidry, technology master teacher for West St. John High School, “We can even communicate with people in other countries.”

The main advantage, though, she says, is the ability to collaborate with students and teachers from across the parish or across the country.

Bonnie Dinvaut, coordinator of educational technology for the St. John Parish school system, said the district plans to have video conferencing technology installed in every public school in the parish by next school year.

Such collaboration introduces students to new learning techniques and environments.

During Thursday’s video conference with the Baseball Hall of Fame, the students got to experience the exhibits and setting of the hall but came away from the session with much more.

Using the game of baseball as an example, an employee at the Hall of Fame was able to introduce Newton’s Laws of Motion to the young scholars. That she was able to impress upon their young minds such advanced scientific concepts is a testament to the power of this particular form of technology.

“These are the ways we can really connect baseball and science,” said the faraway instructor. In so doing, she turned what likely would have been an interminable experience for the children into something enjoyable.

Although the most popular part of the session was when the students got free reign to ask the Hall of Fame employee whatever questions they liked — all of them about baseball — some of the day’s lesson had clearly stuck with them.

“I learned the laws of Isaac Newton,” said second-grader Michael Powell.

His next comment, though, really got to the heart of the matter as far as video conferencing is concerned. “They have a lot of things we don’t,” he said.

This innocent remark shows the power of video conferencing to open up new worlds for today’s students.

Ireail Baker, another student, said on future virtual journeys she would like to go to Tennessee, and her classmate Janira Washington said Texas and New York City would be her destinations of choice.

With the current rate of technological advancement, even the sky may not be the limit.