Making virtual connections

With just over 100 K12 students and the closest 1,000-student district nearly 100 miles away, Colorado’s Arickaree School District utilizes e-learning technology to create virtual classrooms.

In particular, it collaborates in synchronous online learning with the 1,800-student STEM School Highlands Ranch near Denver.

Link to main story: Sounds of STEM education

“When you are small and rural, you can’t provide all the amenities that the city schools have access to” says Shane Walkinshaw, Arickaree’s superintendent. “And one of the disadvantages of very small class sizes is the limited number of other students to bounce ideas off of and to collaborate with.”

A video and teleconferencing camera mounted on top of a mobile, interactive smartboard facilitates the virtual collaboration, which has involved coding, 3D modeling, music and technology-infused social studies.

In one recent class, students competed to build the longest aqueduct out of random materials provided. Logistical issues, such as coordinating virtual class time with the two schools’ different bell schedules, have been overcome. Future plans include students doing asynchronous work in their classrooms and then synchronous learning online a few times per week.

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